I just watched Stevelikes2curse’s video of the same title, and I thought I’d provide my five things I hate about church. Now, while some of you might think that I have no experience to draw from, as an atheist hardened in the cauldrons of Hell, but you would be wrong. I grew up in the church, and as an atheist, wound up in church quite a bit trying to balance things with my then-wife. I mostly sang in the church choir because it was a way for me to not totally hate my time there. I’ve also been to my parents’ church in Lotus Land more times than I can shake a crucifix at. I have been, it turns out, to many churches in many states of my own journey to faithlessness.
#5. Making Christianity Hip
I’m with Steve on this one, church isn’t hip no matter who you are. I get that they think they’re hip with their contemporary music and their youthful pastors with ponytails, but to those of us who don’t buy in, these are the creepiest type of people there are. That was the first massive change I noticed when I went to a more evangelical church, the music was so gross. I admit to having some small amount of warm place in my heart for the classical Christian music in the big red book we used to use in church. It was simplistic, it was generally very lame, and it was right.
Now, I can see why you want to get rid of the music. Watching church congregations, particularly from the choir loft, you realize just how boring those songs are. Everyone in the room is half-hearting it at best, and the most reverential song winds up sounding like a dirge about your dead cat. But the problem there is your congregation, not your content.
My real hate with the music, though, is that it’s sinister. It’s all written so that you are singing typically at a higher part of your register than you are used to, and you are forced to really push it because you’re so bloody into the groove, and the band’s playing, and everyone around you is just full of that holy spirit. You’re holding notes, you’re singing loud, and you’re singing high in praise of your creator. You know what else you are? You are messing with the oxygen level in your brain. That feeling you get, that glowing feeling that comes after the eighth song in a row? Yeah, that’s not God. That’s hyperventilating. And they do that on purpose, knowing that the more of a frenzy you get whipped up into, the more pliant you are.
The attempt to make church more fun is understandable, but church isn’t fun. Paul’s letters aren’t fun. Listening while someone gives you their opinion about the words isn’t fun. Totally ignoring the Bible six and nine tenths of your life isn’t fun. Being spoon-fed your theology isn’t fun. Singing until your head feels funny is fun, but the songs still suck. And when did church have to be fun? Aren’t you there to be enriched with a greater understanding of your faith? As Steve points out later, you have the incredible good fortune of being able to understand the words in the book, a feature that has been almost universally not true for the duration of the Christian faith. But how much time do you put in on understanding this thing you claim will grant you eternal life? The songs aren’t doing it, all they are is an attempt to ingratiate yourself with God by telling him how awesome he is and how crappy you are, and how you’re so glad he continues to rain down blessings on his otherwise underserving flock.
I cannot think of a time in my entire life where we covered the darker parts of the Bible in church. And remember, I’ve been to a lot of them and I’ve gone a lot longer than many. But I’ve never heard a single line from Revelations. I’ve never heard the pulpit jockey (I call them this because it’s true of all of the figureheads, be it priests, ministers, pastors, or what have you) talk about the fact that Genesis 1 and 2 tell the same story wrong, going through the ugliness of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, talking about Onan, really getting into the story of Lot or Job… My experience with all the churches I’ve been to is that they want to talk about the parts of the Bible that fit their personal opinions and are likely to not generate discomfort in the pews, and that’s that.
The dark bits aren’t hip to today’s cool Christian cats, so they glom over them. That’s not a good thing.
#4. One Sided Conversation
Aside from the occasional “YES!” and “Praise Jesus”, this is a one-sided affair from soup to nuts. Oh sure, there are responsive readings, but you’re not thinking about what you’re saying, you’re just reciting words and watching along for where it says (cong) or (all). The minister starts his sermon, and he goes on about whatever topic, and not only does nobody question any of it, but if someone did question it, they would be in the wrong.
Maybe this harkens back to the good old days when the Bible was in a language nobody understood and they all just sort of sat there wondering what the hell was going on, but that always offended me, even as a kid. When I heard things that didn’t make sense, it didn’t mean the speaker was wrong, just that I wanted to understand better what he meant. Or maybe the speaker was wrong and I wasn’t allowed to know that.
I remember sitting in church around the time of my fall. It was the part where a member of the congregation comes up and talks about some upcoming thing. In this case, it was a woman talking about a fun run or some other such nonsense that she was putting together to end violence against women. I remember thinking, “Why violence against women? Why not just violence?” but I couldn’t say anything. Later, I talked with the people in my life and asked that question. They said that ending all violence with a fun run was preposterous. I said that ending violence against women with a fun run was equally preposterous. They said that violence was just too broad a topic. I said that violence against women was just too broad a topic. They said they didn’t know. I said that all violence was wrong, and that the Bible was clear on that. Then I realized my mistake. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. The Bible is a very violent book. The Bible details the violent escapades of men like Samson and King David with great relish, bragging about their might as worthy defenders of the faith. The Bible loves violence. And it’s even good with the total domination of a woman by her man.
#3. The People
God, I hated so many of the people in church. As a kid they were judgemental hens gossiping about all of us and tut-tutting whenever we did anything they construed as wrong. There were no secrets in our church, and anything bad I did was spread around quickly and thickly throughout the congregants.
When I got older, I was not like the other people. I am the sort of person who likes anyone and will gladly converse with anyone on any number of topics, and I spent most of my adult experiences in church (even churches I would regularly attend) on the fringes of everything. These were not, to me, welcoming environments. These were not, to me, places to meet my peers.
When I became an atheist, I found a surprising number of Christians truly closed-minded. The fact that I had strayed from the faith was enough to make me unworthy of their attentions. When I tried to speak to them on unrelated topics (it should be noted that it was a long time before I was comfortable enough in my atheism to defend myself against religious attack) I was quickly cold-shouldered out of the conversation or the conversation would slip by their hand to my lack of faith, and they would verbaly lash me for it.
Now, that is a generalization, and I gladly admit that some of my favorite people are people of faith. I can thoroughly enjoy discussing their faith with them and can do so in a respectful, intellectually stimulating fashion that I truly appreciate. But I would say that in my experience, they are by far the exceptions.
I am also in agreement on this topic. Donations. I could never get over how much of a push there always was for donations. The idea that there is an expectation there alone disgusts me. The story of the widow’s mite appears to have been lost on them. I would regularly be told that I should be tithing as a kid, and as I grew up I began to periodically receive breakdowns of what I should be tithing. That really offended me. I’m barely scraping by and the church has a hand out to me? Encouraging me to give is one thing (although that would annoy me), but actually telling me how much I should be giving? That was way more prick pride than I could accept.
#1. It’s Just Another Business
I’m so tired of people pretending that churches do good works for the people. They don’t. They do good works for their people in return for getting more donations. Sure, they might open a soup kitchen or an outreach center or a hospital, but how often do those activities not involve their dogma being shared to the masses?
A guy I know, a Christian who I respect very much, told me a story about going to a local church to hand out pizza to the homeless. He was really annoyed when they started preaching before giving out the pizza, and after the event was finished he asked about it. The preacher said that if they gave them the pizza first, they wouldn’t stay to hear the sermon. So? Are you there to bribe them into hopefully converting, or are you trying to end their hunger?
The church is a business, and business is only good when there are asses in the seats.
I now understand why Steve always ends these videos with the phrase, “The hardest part is only picking five.”