My name is Barry.  Not too long ago I was on here after having suffered a crushing blow at an SBC church as a former associate pastor.  I actually came across this site looking for people who had been scorned by the church in their past.  My scorn was in regards to child safety.  There were serious safety issues in the children's program run by a very prominent family in that church and when I went to address them under the direction of the senior pastor, I was quickly threatened and intimidated to keep my mouth shut if I valued my job.  They also tried to force me to make my children part of their program even though I was not confident in it at all.  This left me with a choice: either tow the church political line and act as if nothing happened, or stand up for children whose safety and well-being was put at risk.  The experience left me so emotionally bruised that I wound up resigning in disgust of the church - especially since the senior pastor quickly betrayed me and sold me down the river the moment things got to politically hot for him.  His famous last words to me were "Barry, this church is dysfunctional; it's not going to change."  This was my cue to exit.

Any way, what I wanted to ask was for a few good atheists to give me their take on the institution we all know as church.  If you have roots specifically in the SBC, that is a plus.  The reason why I am asking for you to do this is that I intend to start writing about it.  There are many problems within the church - starting with the fact that it is an aging, irrelevant, and corrupt institution that is more concerned with power and control than it is with providing freedom, salvation, and enlightenment to humanity.

Oh, and if you are wondering as to whether or not I am a theist?  The answer is yes - just not the same one I was several months ago or even years ago, and I am not a pastor anymore.  I am not here to debate whether there is a God or not; nor do I wish to convert anyone - the reason why this site exists is because many of you on here have already made up your mind definitively and I would rather respect your position than attack it.  You are welcome to ask any question you may have of me if you are skeptical. 

Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Church, Control, Corruption, Freedom, Hate, Institution, Power

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Strega:

Thank you for this posting! Very similar to a few convesations during my stint at PSU, and our atheist group there. A few of us were less about a theist/atheist war, and more about finding a way to move on into something more positive, sadly that was about 32 years ago. Nice to review the reasons....;p)

Strega,

I will let you know.  I have been swamped a bit to watch the videos, but I will find the time.  Thank you.

Let me pose another question along a similar vein to the last:  Should the church be dissolved?  If so what do you think should take its place (if anything at all) since, naturally, there would be a vacuum of empty space in terms of societal structures?  This is much like the last question, but cuts through the language I used in the last one that may have thrown some of you off.  Ultimately, in many ways, this is already taking place with people leaving the church and replacing it with activities that involve family and friends as a support structure.  What are some of the things you have all done?

I expect that the 'church' might die, but the catholic ideology would continue with a 'reminent' of true believers. Remember, many people think that Christ is still with us, surely a pope could have a similar existence in the abstract. How long the reminent would last is unclear. They might get more desparent to maintain some existence, and become deeply radicalized. Resenting the culture around them, believeing that humans are corrupt and sinful, seeing every indication for themselves that virtue has died, surely would be atleast a little off putting. 

I quess, I do, a little, want to look back to my catholic days, I do like the smell of sandlewood...

I'll start with your previous question which I'll paraphrase as (and which may not be what you were looking for): what would you replace churches with?

It's something I've thought about for awhile. It's a pipe dream if you will: a free academy of learning. I'm inspired by the places of learning of old like the library of Alexandria. So much knowledge was stored in one place. I'm also inspired by maker spaces, the hacking movement, open source technology and sustainable practices. It would be a self-sufficient community that would use open source technology to teach mathematics, engineering, coding, mechanics, agriculture, natural sciences, philosophy, ethics, and literature. It would be a place where people could come and work, learn, build, and just enjoy life. The realist in me says that there is so much that could make this be completely infeasible, but I'd love to see it happen. After all what is a church, but a place of learning and community? Granted the learning is about a mythology and depending on where one goes, it's more akin to indoctrination than learning, but one is still taught something. The rituals, hymns, even the preaching becomes a way for people to build social cohesion. By participating, one belongs. A church minus the theologically inspired parts would be a place of learning and community. That's why I see an academy that inspires cooperation as the best candidate.

Should the church be dissolved? Well, that would pose an unprecedented situation of epic proportions. Talk about an existential crisis! Dissolved from without, no. Allowed to fall apart on its own, yes. Some people are simply not prepared to drop their religious beliefs right at this instant. One of the most common questions I hear is how do you find meaning and purpose as an atheist? Many say that they wouldn't know what to do with their lives with out the meaning that their faith gives them. Some people are so entrapped in their beliefs that it would be akin to operating on an inoperable tumor if those beliefs were taken out from under them. It's better to try to treat it than to go an cut it out. You may not succeed, but at least you aren't responsible for what happens if you don't.

As for your original question? My personal experience as I was growing up int eh Catholic church was excellent. I was surrounded by great people. My family was ten times the size it is now because we all felt so connected. I still am close to many of them and could talk to them today as if the ten years that passed hadn't at all. Unfortunately, not all stories are as good as mine. Religious institutions as a whole are bound to a code and a doctrine that can change only as much as literary criticisms and social thought allow. They can try to base it on reason as the Catholic church, but then they are caught building an arcane framework of logical leaps and bounds that is completely unyielding to the needs of the times. The social power that religion wields is as dangerous as the economic and political power that they can gain. They can and have in many ways suppressed thought and knowledge in favor of toeing the line on religious dogma. That being said, they can manage the resources to create monetarily efficient charities. That happens when your people work for free based on principle. Those charities do help those in need around the world in great numbers, but at a cost: acceptance of the beliefs and the spread of it in the communities and the consequences there of. Personally, I see religious thought as a stepping stone to a greater view of reality, one that many people get caught up in and don't escape. In a sense, I see them as a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon and they claim that's all there is. I suppose as a deconvert, I can appreciate how I would not be where I am today if it were not for religion. I learned some useful things such as self-control, wisdom, a sense of justice for instance. At the same time, I wonder if it was a necessary stepping stone or if I could have done as well as I did just as easily without the supernatural trappings. I imagine it's possible, but I don't think I can really know for sure. I like who I am now, and if religion had a hand in shaping that, well, I can't consider it all bad then can I?

"It's a pipe dream if you will: a free academy of learning"

I have found it rather odd, that we must 'pay' for education. I do expect that it needs to be 'funded' from cultural assets, but should the individuals pursueing that path be the ones footing the bill? The culture around us does receive the results of education, in more ways than can be counted. I see education as more a utility or mineably resource, but one that does not pan out, unless be stop valueing it. It seems rather clear, that some theist beliefs, if generalized, would gut our education system and reduce the chances of social advancement. I expect that that would be their 'desired' result.

A few years ago I set up a Facebook working group for 'Microbial Fuel Cell Design'. As of last count there are 28 members, most international. The members post papers, interesting ideas, help with questions and design issues. A few will be posting the results of conferences soon. It is rather clear, that at times, some members are not as forthcoming with data from their experiments, but I did post about 1 MB of data from from first design to help seed the 'willingness' to share. We seem the adding one new member a week now on average. 

"Personally, I see religious thought as a stepping stone to a greater view of reality, one that many people get caught up in and don't escape. In a sense, I see them as a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon and they claim that's all there is."

I consider 'religion', as a means to grow abstract reasoning and visualization skills. It is unclear how it might improve mathematical skills, but attempts at 'logical' thought seem obvious. From my readings, it seems clear that some church intellectuals did carry on classical logic and mathematics explorations, Decision analysis as an example. Genetics, Astronomy, and Palaeontology, can also be added. I expect that the desire to understand and pursue 'truth', as a 'sacred' activity could inform such explorations. Seeking the 'hand of god', in nature, can still yield results that might see 'science' as an end in itself. 

While many present attempts by Creationists, or Intelligent Design folks, seem rather immature and a betrayal of the method of science, they still, in their small way, desire a science, albeit, only informed by their ideology. If they can pursue an honest science, I expect that they could 'self correct'. Sadly, I and many others only see a retrenchment...   

While religion   

@ James Cox,

I enjoyed reading that...

...but...

While religion

...was there more?

When I posted the text, I noticed the 'hanging words'. I expect, that since it was at the end, that it was an idea, that I thought latter to be unimportant. Sometimes, if I seem to have a good chain of thought, I will do a rough outline, then flesh-in as I write.

Sadly, in hindsight, that might be a dead end with no recovery, since I cannot find an association to remind me. Anyway, it might be a bad generalization not pursued!

I know how you folks can chase a quarry, once you smell even a little fresh blood in the water...LOL

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