I do not like going to church. I do not like preachers. I hate church music. I am so glad that I can choose to not go to church as an adult.
These statements are sacrilegious to so many Christians. Why would you not enjoy going to church? In fact, is not liking church an actual option in life? How could someone admit this hatred of their christian upbringing?
Growing up, I would not ever consider making this statement. Not only was it not expected to come out of anyone’s mouth, it was not expected that you would even consider the possibility. But from the time that I was in junior high school, I realized that this institution in which I was expected to attend multiple times a week and in which I was to take an active role was one of the main problems in my life, not one of the main solutions.
I’ll break each of my statements down and explain myself.
I do not like going to church. It’s true. I do not like the physical act of getting ready for church by dressing up (which we used to do until the 1970s). The “going” took hours–one hour to get ready; 15 minutes to drive from the house to the appointed house of worship; one hour of Sunday school in which I sat around with the same kids every week, then completely ignored or was completely ignored by the rest of the time (well, not in all cases, but in most); then, one hour sitting in hard pews, quietly sitting, then standing, then praying, then singing, then listening to a crap choir, then listening to some guy tell us that we were sinners, that we needed to give more money to the church, that Jesus loves us, that God loves us, that God will tell us what he wants us to do, then get all emotional and go down to the altar and give our life to Jesus while the audience drones on with, “Just as I am without one plea….” Repeat at least one other time during the week and, often, multiple times. For me, there was nothing intellectually stimulating about this continued exercise that I had to repeat over and over and over again. By my calculations, from the time that I was two years old, when we moved to this dusty west Texas town, until I was 17 when we stopped the insanity, allowing for two weeks of vacation, at an average of three times per week, I showed up at this church 2,250 times and wasted AT LEAST 12,937.5 hours of my life going to this building and listening to all of this crap that I felt was less and less relevant to me the older I got.
I do not like preachers. That’s right; I don’t like preachers. And we have numerous ones in the family. There is a very particular way that MOST preachers preach. Each denomination has its own preacher-type. They can be almost a caricature at the podium, with a speaking rhythm all their own. This has, of course, changed over time. I grew up in the era of the fancy-haired, slick talker. You’ve seen them–full head of coiffed hair, rather like Donald Trump.
Clockwise from top right: Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton, Pat Robertson
Most do not preach prophesy, as do the televangelists. but their sermons are designed to scare you, keep you in fear, and make sure that Jeeeeeezus comes into your life so that you can begin to experience MIRACLES all around you–all the time–every day, prayers answered. Or, maybe your prayers are not answered because we don’t know the Lord’s ways. He (always HE) remains mysterious to us, but you MUST believe that you are being blessed, even when your prayers are being answered, OR when your prayers are NOT being answered. Wait, WHAT? That makes no sense. It is not up to us to understand HIS will, so we are just going to accept the consequences and agree to this rather bizarre arrangement? Why do bad things happen to good people? Because it’s God’s will. Wait, WHAT? No. That’s frankly stupid. Oh, and by the way, we need 10% of your money to do the continued work of the church. I don’t want to be here in the first place, so why do you want me to give you MY money to perpetuate something I loathe?
I hate church music. When my sister asked me which music I liked the most, I told her–rock. She said that I really needed to like church music the most. Then everything could follow from that. But I don’t like church music. It is bleak and sad and is like a child asking an adult if the adult would just please love them and tell them what to do. The music we sang was usually written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley. Charlie was prolific in his hymn writing. Charles Wesley was the Bob Dylan of his time. Who among us cannot wait to belt out A Charge to Keep I Have or Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus. So we sang the greatest hits of the 18th century church over and over and over again, always standing up at attention, facing the pulpit–sing, sit down. Over and over and over again. Then there was Fanny J. Crosby, the most prolific songwriter of all time. Fanny J., though blinded an an early age, cranked out over 8,000 hymns in the 19th century, which, to me, spoke of whining, childish calls to give your life to Jesus, over and over and over again. Nothing can give me an earworm like Blessed Assurance and Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior. Over and over and over again. Then there was that Sunday evening church favorite, The Church in the Wildwood. For the evening service, the preacher could take music requests and the teenage boys would suddenly become crazy-animated. “We want The Church in the Wildwood!!! The preacher would be so pleased to get that tune rolling. The chorus has a riff that all the bass sing, that goes, “Oh, come, come, come, come, ad nauseam. Yea, those guys couldn’t stop singing about “come.” Well, you get the picture. Then the older kids would tell us to take the title of any hymnal, and put, “between the sheets” after the title. So, you see what was going on. It was bad enough to be a teenager listening to something that I did not believe in, then playing stupid hymnal games to pass the time so I could get the hell out of there as soon as humanly possible.
I am so glad that I can choose to not go to church as an adult. That’s right. As an adult, I can look at my life and understand what and where I derive joy and pleasure. I LOVE learning and being at an institute of higher learning. It is stimulating. It is thrilling and it is not church. Well, not unless you are at a religiously-oriented “university” where school is basically an extended version of vacation bible school and/or Sunday school. When the bible is taught as fact and reality, the environment simply becomes a larger cluster of church buildings, filled with preachers masquerading as professors. I LOVE traveling and meeting people from all over the world. I also enjoy learning about the native religions of a country. The way religion and spirituality develop in a country can help to understand the culture of the country. It is fascinating and insightful. I enjoy the academic study of religion–why it developed, how all types of religion have evolved over time to attempt to stay relevant. I also enjoy exploring the archetypes of individual cultures and how they are similar in so many cultures that may or may not have ever had contact with each other. This is much more interesting to me that spending hours listening to the standard droning-on of preachers trying to justify the superheroes that they worship and the miracles that such superheroes are said to have performed. Finally, I find the arguments of why we must believe, in the form of the apologists for each religion, fascinating and delusional. Feel free to believe that your god, your superhero, your deity defies gravity, physics and death itself, but don’t expect me to buy your impossible story.
And just like so many people who decide that they are atheists, I realized that I felt…nothing. Nothing from all of this weird expression of emotion, this mystical hour where we were suppose to get all emotionally and spiritually worked up, then pray and pray until the answers magically came to us; when Jesus would reveal how much he loved us. No magical answers ever came to me. And the original premise was simply too unrealistic. Maybe you need that mysticism in your life; I don’t. It does absolutely nothing for me.
I hear it all the time: you have to have faith in God. No I don’t. I don’t have to believe a word of this, because it is unreal, unrealistic and, frankly, just too bizarre for me–not just bizarre, but highly, highly disturbing.
So this is one of the many reasons why I just stopped believing. Who wants to be somewhere that makes you miserable? I don’t. So…I won’t.