Saturday, December 8, 2012

Church Sucks

This is not an atheist rant. I've held this position as a Christian before, and I stand by it now as an atheist. Church sucks regardless of whether or not its teachings are true, and here's why:

Imagine a Venn diagram of a church. Each bubble represents the beliefs of a member of the church. It's a messy diagram, with hundreds of bubbles, and right in the center there's just a tiny speck where all the bubbles overlap. That sad speck represents the pastor's entire repertoire, the range of ideas that can safely be discussed in church. Step outside of it, and someone gets offended.

This is why sermons are boring.

Sermons are boring because they have no substance. They are vacuous and redundant because the pastor is not allowed to tell his congregation anything they don't already know or believe. Though it is never explicitly stated, learning is basically forbidden in church. That is, if you define "learning" as the acquisition of new knowledge and ideas.

So what's up with all that talk about learning? We have Bible studies and classes and workshops. There are Christian bookstores loaded with books about the bible: study guides, concordances, valley girl translations, you name it. But there's no real information in them, just a million reiterations of a couple of ideas. We spend hours and hours scouring the scriptures for some tiny morsel of truth and always come away empty handed, but never admitting this even to ourselves. If we're bored or confused or if we can't even remember what the lesson was about, we assume it's our own fault. Chalk it up to ADD. Next time concentrate harder and maybe you'll learn something.

So we pile on more books and seminars and study groups, hoping to figure out what the Bible really means. We try in vain to discover the true nature of God, but there are just no solid answers to be had, at least nothing that fits within the confines of the speck. It's a mountain laboring to produce a mouse.

And what for? In the unlikely scenario that anything new is produced, it is immediately dismissed as heresy.

All new ideas are dismissed solely on the basis that they are new and unfamiliar. So why do we pretend to be learning if we're really against it? Do we just want the respect and credibility that comes with the appearance of being intellectual, without actually doing anything intellectual? There is no learning in church for anyone but the newest of Christians who haven't already heard the parable of the sower or the story of David and Goliath a thousand times. For the veteran church attendee there is nothing to look forward to but the continued repetition, reiteration, and repackaging of the same tired old lessons. This will never change until the church overcomes its fear of new ideas and its fear of offending people.

"I'm offended." With those magic words, any dimwit can shut down an idea and ban it from ever being uttered again, and they can do this without bothering to provide a rebuttal. The real problem however is that everyone else jumps when they hear those words. We're all supposed to drop what we're doing and rush to see what the matter is. The offending idea is then exorcised, never to be uttered again. By tolerating this, we have effectively surrendered control to the lowest common denominator. The most hypersensitive dullards in a church community have absolute veto power.

This is not an environment conducive to learning. Learning can only occur where there is freedom to explore and consider new viewpoints. You won't find that in church. Instead you'll find a stifling, suffocating atmosphere of censorship smothered in superficial politeness. It's an intellectually stagnant pit of boredom.

I stopped going to church long before I became an atheist, and if for any bizarre reason I ever become "born again" you still wouldn't find me there. If there is a God, the last place you're likely to find him is in a church.