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.
It could be. I, myself, was a literature major - have my BA in it. It provides a wonderful depth of understanding written word in many ways that other majors cannot. It allows you to ask more questions and go deeper in interpretation than most people can ask or are willing to go. That young man's father, was out of line, but sadly there are many people out there like that.
The good book is not good at all and encourages this "holier than thou" game, where everyone from angels and saints to "former" sinners are competing to be seated at the right hand of god. Why would you expect a church to be anything other that that?
Because there are churches and people out there that are not that way. However, your point is a very good one, and well noted. If you care to expand on your particular comment, I encourage it. If such thought is too long in writing it out on this thread, I can supply you with my email. Thank you.
Well, specifically speaking, I am looking for instances of hypocrisy, ignorance, and all of the above that you may have encountered specifically from a Christian church or individual. An example that I have is that I had a discussion with a senior deacon who participated in the church's food pantry program for the poor and homeless. This was supposed to demonstrate his compassion for others, but I soon learned that it was all an act, because he revealed the true nature of his heart to me in the conversation we had. He found homeless people and the poor to be worthless, and despised encountering them on the street. He often ignored them and did not show any compassion towards why they were homeless or poor. So his compassion was simply an act to keep up an appearance of having a heart for such people.
Ok, got it. I have a few personal tales relating to church and hypocrisy. I'll go chronologically. Won't give details because this is the third time I've typed this--my new tablet is taking a while to adjust to!
*Dad's childhood church (some flavor of Baptist) had a deacon who stole thousands upon thousands of dollars from the church coffers. *I was told my gender disqualified me from being called by God to the priesthood as a little girl...just how do we know who is or isn't being "called' by God? *I noticed the social hierarchy of the congregation was identical to that of "evil" secular populations. *Many Xtians I knew held a scornful, pitying attitude toward the members of other sects than theirs, Jews, Muslims, heathens, etc. *Went to a Bible Camp in elementary school with protestant Christians--friends and friends of friends--where I was treated so cruelly I left in tears within several hours to drive across state again in the same day. Could not understand how "Christians" could be so nasty, to one of their own, even. A good lesson to learn. *Our Bishop lived in a three story home in the nicest neighborhood in the city--a lot of house for a man vowed to piety and poverty. *The Vatican is the most disgusting display of misplaced wealth for an entity that claims its mission is to help the poor. I was ashamed to be Catholic after seeing it. *My dad was told he could not partake in communion after expressing anger about the behavior of pedophile priests to our Bishop. That is a fairly serious punishment if you are Catholic. We all know of the pathetic, criminally abetting response of the Catholic leadership to the actual perpetrators. *Have family members who are over-the-top Baptists, totally committed to their church community, completely agree with that value system...ironically they are the most materialistic people I know! Worse yet, when another family member needed their help, they suddenly didn't have enough money to help them. Several months later, they bought a new luxury car.
That's all I've got for now. :-)
Hello Barry. I suspect your instinct to come to this community for a critique of churches is a good one. Certainly we look at churches from the outside without being personally invested. Our observations may be more accurate than believers. Or, that could just be my personal bias.
I agree with Reg that churches are political institutions. My sense is many people need to band together in groups with like minded people. Dependent personalities need the reassurance of belonging to a group and have a stronger drive for affiliation. An idealistic view of religions and churches would have them provide comfort and answers to people who want to be told what to think and have their questions about the unknown answered. But as any organism or organization ages, it becomes increasingly more bloated and corrupt. That is true of the human body and political institutions such as governments and churches. I think that is what you are finding, isn't it?
The pure and noble intentions become petty and base as interactions become power plays. The will to dominate over others becomes a driving force for a few. From your description, I would say that your church is just going through that maturation process where it becomes more corrupt. It is, after all, a human institution based on a mental construct. I also see your Southern Baptist Church as the modern day Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages. They want "group think" and if it wasn't against the law, I have a sense that some of members of the SBC would be OK with stoning, burning at the stake or boiling in oil. The blind allegiance to a book written for a bronze age people by bronze age writers amazes me. The insecurity demonstrated by those who have to tinker with a school science curriculum so it doesn't threaten their mental paradigm rivals the author of the ten commandments, so desperate to secure worshipers he has to order it. One is hardly the action of a all-powerful being. The other betrays and sabotages children's education. But I digress
You asked for my take on churches. I avoid them like a cold. To continue that metaphor, I stay away from people who are infected because I don't want to get sick. While I appreciate that some people need to belong, I celebrate my independence and take pride in thinking for myself. I know I'm not in the majority but I'm all right with that. I don't waste time dwelling on it. I enjoy this site because I enjoy reading the thoughts of bright people. I hope you can successfully break with that church. There has to be a better way to live.
The old guard is indeed corrupt.
Barry you are most welcome to TA. All the atheists I know here are quite nice especially to nice visitors like you who state their intentions and beliefs so clearly and am sure you'll get a lot of opinions from the members.
I don't distinguish between churches to the extent they peddle god belief as the prerequisite for salvation and that the pastor is the representative of god and that only them know what this god wants, no, they are not any different. One argument against one church can apply to the rest and I think as a member of the SBC you are better placed to write about it than I could.
True, but I like diversity of opinion.
Welcome Barry - I would like you to question and analyse, that is a good start.
For me, a group, any group is the same, if is hierarchical as all religious groups are. They have a leader, then second in charge then third in charge etc. When the head honcho's position is threatened, if he is questioned about judgement etc, he will go on the attack, and cover up indiscretions, bad judgements, violence, bullying or pedophilia etc. It is all about power and in most cases, money.
That is why there is no actual 'Atheist Group', lots of different groups, but no one in charge or head of such a group, and that works well, as nobody's power is threatened.
Atheists can and do disagree about a myriad of subjects, the only thing we agree on is there is no proof of a god or supernatural being. We question everything, do research, and come to conclusions that are right for us.
For me as an Atheist, all religions are based on fear, not love of one's fellow man. not protecting the children put into their care.
There are good theists, just not enough. Look what happened to you when you questioned an authority. He was simply protecting his turf. Same old, same old. Look to the lengths the catholic church has gone to protect it's power, kudos and money. Covered up the worst crimes in modern history, in supposed civilized countries, and are getting away with it, that is the power they have. Criminal.
Is this man who is in control of your group, doing anything that is illegal?
If he is or was doing anything specifically illegal, it is not known to me. All I know is that I got burned and got burned pretty bad - to the point my confidence in him was not violated once, but twice. Usually, that would be grounds for dismissal in other denominations, but SBC is very different structurally speaking.
I am simply happy that my family is out of that situation.