August 29, 2016

Re:Atheism

I received two letters this week from friends/readers asking for input and advice on relating to atheists in their workplace/families. It brought to mind a number of things I’ve been wanting to say about evangelicals and their take on atheism.

When I was growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist church, the face of atheism was Madalyn Murray O’Hair. I knew three things about O’Hair: she had taken prayer and the Bible out of our public schools, she was trying to get religious programs off of television and she was a weirdo.

For years, O’Hair provided the face of atheism to America: an angry, ranting, God-hating, bitter old woman who wanted to force her bitterness on the rest of the country. The way to defeat O’Hair was simple: Christians needed to sign a lot of petitions and vote the right way when elections came around.

It was safe to say that few people wanted to be like Mrs. O’Hair, no matter what their case against God and religion happened to be.

In my collection of videos I have another face of atheism. It’s a “debate” between Frank Zinnser, an atheist and geologist from Chicago, and Dr. William Lane Craig and his three Ph.ds. It takes place at Willow Creek Community Church in front of a massive crowd of Christians. Zinnser is awkward and amateurish, raising freshman level objections to the Bible that have nothing to do with the case for atheism. Craig, polished, erudite, prepared and pracitced, mops the floor with Zinnser’s bad toupee and worse presentation. It’s a demolition job that’s hard to watch.

At one point Zinnser notes that there’s a bigger crowd for this debate than the usual attendance at the atheist luncheon. I’m sure.

The message for evangelicals: atheists are clowns. We can defeat them in any arena. We need not fear them because our team can eat their lunch.

I have a shelf of books responding to atheism. Ravi Zacharias. William Lane Craig. Tim Keller. No one can accuse evangelicals of ignoring the subject. Many of these books are written in response to the publishing onslaught of the new atheists: Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and many others.

One way the game has changed is that when you proclaim yourself an atheist today, you aren’t signing up with O’Hair and Zinnser and the atheist luncheon in the Chihuahua Room at the Peoria Super 8. Now you are identifying with respected scientists and journalists. Whether you agree with the new atheists rantings about the threat of religion to the world or not, it’s a lot easier to be an atheist. When John Lennox debated Richard Dawkins in the Birmingham Civic Center, Dawkins was cheered like a rock star by a very young crowd.

But I’m convinced the game is not primarily about arguments any more. As grateful as I am for Tim Keller’s great book The Reason For God and his two hour presentations on You Tube, and as happy as I am that David Bentley Hart and others have convincingly demonstrated the fallacies of the new atheist arguments, the truth is that the contemporary atheist doesn’t plan to play a game of 21 with our NBA All Stars. No, he/she is going to sound more like Ricky Gravais in the video above.

Atheism is just….easier. Occam’s Razor. Theism is too much trouble. It starts to sound like someone is trying to sell you something sight unseen. Isn’t your best move just to hang up the phone and ignore the call?

Douglas Wilson may be witty and William Lane Craig may be brilliant. John Lennox may teach at Oxford and Ravi Zacharias may be able to quote a dozen philosophers, but most atheist young people today are like Brad Pitt. Pitt was a kid walking the aisles in Baptist revivals, trying to find God in that mess when he met a Methodist preacher’s daughter who told him it was OK to just say no to it all. He didn’t have to live like that. He could call the torture sessions off and just be himself.

That’s what’s going on, my friends. I’m not zeroing out the big gunners, but I think it’s time to stop running from your kid’s professor and start thinking more about his friend who recently left his youth group and stop believing anything except the joys of rock climbing.

One of my letters this week stated that a 17 year old raised in an evangelical family was now an avid atheist, with many of the hijinks of evangelicalism as evidence of manipulation and control. He couldn’t mean take off your shoes and spin your socks over your head while singing “Jesus mess me up?” Why would that bother anyone?

Write this down: When the coming evangelical collapse happens, and especially when thousands of our young people bolt for non-believer status, a lot of it will be COMPLETELY DESERVED.

We addressed atheism with the wrong arguments. We didn’t ask ourselves how it looks to a young atheist. We never stopped to notice that if you are a 17 year old with serious questions about evil, miracles, prayer and the Bible you’ve got small chances of getting any help from most of evangelicalism. We’re having too much fun squalling at the President and feeling good about ourselves . By the time you find that book, talk, ministry, etc. that might help, you’re already beginning to suspect that this is the emergency room where doubters are taken for emergency injections of how powerful anti-atheism drugs and then sent back to the “Bless Us Real Good” Game.

Even traditions with deep and serious reflection on the issues that erode faith often keep those resources tucked safely away in a closet on the fourth floor of the house of faith where you have to ask permission to see them. Senior Youth Group: Visit atheists for a conversation or play Goofy Golf? Duh.

Our team looks good to us. Trust me, they don’t look that good to atheists. If you applaud the point-scoring at debates, you’re missing the point entirely. The fact that someone like Dan Barker (and there are dozens more) is out there at all, making it plain that the Christian journey has brought a crowd of people just like YOU to the point where atheism looked far, far better than what you were hearing in church and trying to live is all the ammunition that’s needed for thousands of people.

You see, evangelicals have made such outrageous assumptions and promises about happiness, healing, everything working out, knowing God, answered prayer, loving one another and so on that proving us to be liars isn’t even a real job. It’s just a matter of tuning in to an increasing number of voices who say “It’s OK to not believe. Give yourself a break. Stop tormenting yourself trying to believe. Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God.”

You can send an army against an army. What do you send against a group saying “None of this has any point. Give it up and go have a coke.”

Don’t think I am avoiding the case the new atheists are making. I take it very seriously. My students learn the Dawkins and Hitchens arguments by heart. They are deserving of the best responses we can put forward and we need to know what they are saying.

But I don’t believe the new atheists are making converts because they have a better argument. I think they are making converts because the fruit is ripe to fall from the tree, and we have little or no idea it’s happening. We’re setting up for the great ideological debate and the kids have found that it’s just more fun to have a drink with the non-religious crew.

Keller is still great. C.S.Lewis is still helpful. Craig is still impressive. But I’m not sure their arguments are on the right channel. Vast numbers of people aren’t asking for philosophy. They are asking what will let them live a life uncomplicated by lies, manipulation and constant calls to prefer ignorance to what seems obvious.

What we’ve said and written is fine. What we’ve lived in our homes, private lives, churches, workplaces and friendships has spoken louder.

We are the ones who appear to not believe in the God we say is real. We are the ones who seem to be forcing ourselves to believe with bigger shows, bigger celebrities and bigger methods of manipulation.

You can’t understand why some people just say atheism has about it the beauty of simplicity? You don’t see why Occam’s Razor is so powerful, even among students who have no idea what it means?

Pay closer attention. The game has changed.

Comments

  1. quote: “And really, who is the more moral person, the theist who is following a doctrine of reward/punishment, or the atheist who acts morally because he chooses to do so with no fear of punishment or desire of reward?”

    First, mature theist, or at least Christians seek to act morally because they love God, see him as their heavenly father and seek to please him as such. They act out of love, not obligation or following a check list of rules. Sadly, some Christians aren’t very mature on this matter. Second, I agree that many atheist act morally. But if God does not exist, what reason do we have to believe that good and evil exist in any meaningful, objective way? I’ve asked this question to atheists on numerous occasions and have yet to receive anything approaching a logical answer. Heck, read Dawkins and he gets angry that the question is even raised in the first place, responding that those who raise the question automatically show themselves to be immoral. This simply doesn’t make any sense.

    Many atheists are good in the general sense. But to me, all there concern for morality when they can’t offer any reason to care about morality in the first place is little different than an adult saying they really believe in Santa Claus.

    quote: “There is one more thing to consider: the Enlightenment lifted western civilization out of the Dark Ages that were primarily caused by the Catholic church. What you are witnessing with your youth turning to atheism may be the start of the second Enlightenment.”

    I’m a European historian. This is a profoundly inaccurate statement. It is common among atheists, but has no bearing in historical reality. It is an atheist myth, or propaganda as it were. First, it simply isn’t correct to label the Middle Ages “the Dark Ages.” No medieval historian worth his or her salt, whether they are religious or not, would label them “the Dark Ages.” The Middle Ages produced a number of things the modern world takes for granted such as the first parliaments, universities as well as technology such as the printing press and gunpowder. Later, many important scientists of the Scientific Revolution such as Issac Newton were in fact devout Christians.

    Finally, the Enlightenment, which did play an important role in shaping the modern world, has a very dark side. The bloodshed of the French Revolution, with the Jacobins massacring Catholics was very much a product of the Enlightenment. Many twentieth century historians have noted that both Nazism and Communism were bastard children of the Enlightenment. Nazism was based on eugenics and “scientific racism” (which were all the rage among scientists from 1890-1945) as well as Social Darwinism. The Bolsheviks saw themselves as later-day Jacobins and viewed Marxism-Leninism as “scientific.” As a whole, certainly the twentieth century, which was a very secular one in Europe, was incredibly violence (two world wars, the Holocaust, Communist atrocities) . None of the this would have been possible without the Enlightenment and modern science. If human beings ever manage to destroy the planet, modern science (e.g. the atomic bomb) will almost certainly be the cause, not religion.

    I can’t do all of this justice in this post. Irregardless, the idea of historical progress since the Enlightenment that atheists like to float around simply can’t be taken seriously in light of the horrific events of modern history. The idea that abandoning religion and “the Dark Ages” for “reason” and “science” should mean that we moderns should know better than to kill people by the millions in wars, government oppression and even genocide. But clearly we don’t. We aren’t more intelligent or more wise than people in the past. We are only more prideful. If the Enlightenment and atheism is supposed to have lead to a more peaceful, tolerant future as atheist propaganda likes to maintain, it has failed and failed miserably.

    rr

    rr

    • Do Christians act out of love because they always acted that way, or because they were told to do so by their dogma? That’s the point he was trying to make.

      • “Really, there are only two kinds of people: those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.” — G.K. Chesterton

    • I, acting morally as an atheist, do so for the betterment of all of mankind – whatever their religion. When humans realize we control our own destiny, then we have the opportunity to realize our potential.
      Do you subscribe to the idea that your god is the only god?
      I thought religion was supposed to lead us to a more peaceful, tolerant future. But we’ve seen how tolerant the religious are – tolerance to other religions? (no) – tolerance to other sexual lifestyles? (no) – tolerance to other’s views on abortions? (no).
      Oh, one more thing. “Irregardless” is not a word.

    • Bravo, you have presented the argument I would have if I had been inclined to address the matter here. YOU get it. But very few do — and this includes so-called believers.

      God bless

    • “Many atheists are good in the general sense. But to me, all there concern for morality when they can’t offer any reason to care about morality in the first place is little different than an adult saying they really believe in Santa Claus.”

      Okay. First, many atheists can offer reasons, you just don’t agree with them. You don’t have to, but that’s not the same thing. Second, think about what you’re saying: you find someone’s worldview ridiculous BECAUSE it leads them to value goodness even when they don’t have to.

      Think about the contrasting exchanges.

      Christian: “I believe in in an all-powerful, all-knowing god who was born of a virgin and died and came back to life and ascended to heaven and if I believe in him I will go to see him when I die, and he teaches that I should do good things and love my neighbor.”
      Atheist: “That sounds foolish.”
      Christian: “God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.”

      versus:

      Atheist: “I don’t believe in God. I choose to do good and love my neighbor because I think those are important parts of being human regardless of whether someone tells me I should.”
      Christian: “That sounds foolish. What, do you also believe in Santa Claus?”
      Atheist: ….

      It seems like you could disagree with an atheist’s perspective while still honoring their desire to care for others.

    • I’d like to take a moment to address something:

      But if God does not exist, what reason do we have to believe that good and evil exist in any meaningful, objective way?

      Now, I can tell you firstly that there are a few reasons that all the atheists you ask this are going to give you different answers: because atheism is not a worldview or a belief system. However, it is an amalgam of worldviews and belief systems that simply do not include a god (kinda like how theism is an amalgam of worldviews and belief systems that do include god or gods)…

      So, I wouldn’t argue for objective good or evil…because I personally do not care about these things. (basically, even if there is objective good and evil, humans do not care about them, and our evolving senses of morality, even in religions, seem to show that we aren’t really gunning for anything objective and constant or, if we are, we aren’t very good at it. You already note this historically. While some people believe in this “never-ending progressivism,” it’s not at all true that we are necessarily progressing toward an objective truth or morality.)

      Instead, I would argue that your question is loaded. You place “meaningful” and “objective” next to each other, as if they are coupled together. I do not think so. I think that good and evil and be subjectively meaningful but objectively meaningless and absurd.

      So, why does good and evil exist? Because we exist, and we project it onto the world. So, it need not be something “objective” like gravity, which exists and influences things regardless of whether we are here to feel and monitor its effects. Rather, it can be meaningful purely because of how humans are (evolutionarily) wired.

      Does that make any sense? It probably isn’t satisfying to you, but I would suggest that the morality religions offer do not actually differ. Yes, they *say* they have an objective source and they *say* they are objective moralities, but in actualities, they are also subjective moralities parading as objective.

    • “Many atheists are good in the general sense. But to me, all there concern for morality when they can’t offer any reason to care about morality in the first place is little different than an adult saying they really believe in Santa Claus”

      It is silly to say atheists “can’t offer any reason to care about morality”. I can’t speak for all atheists but suspect most care about morality because we want to see a better, fairer world.

      It is interesting to note that, by rejecting healthcare reform, many evangelicals are saying that they don’t want a fairer world.

  2. You write, “We’re setting up for the great ideological debate and the kids have found that it’s just more fun to have a drink with the non-religious crew.”

    You’re implying that people choose athiesm as an alternative to thought. You’ve got that entirely backwards. It’s often rational thought that leads people to athiesm as they recognize the fraud of most religion. It’s religion, not athiesm, that is overrun by non-thinkers.

  3. Autymn D. C. says:

    How about one antitheist’s work on theologhy, against scripture and Kristologhy, in the last comments of http://anatheist.net/2009/06/michael-jackson-goes-to-hell/.

  4. I don’t like getting into religion arguments with people but there was this one time I was working with a guy. He’s an atheist and just plain thinks any religion is pointless. We’re smart animals, we came from nothing and going to nothing and the goals is to have some fun before you die.

    Well he found out after i started working there that I’m a Christian(not a good one, you want perfect call God)but i try to do my best.

    So he came to me with the goal of charging in, showing me how stupid i am, and how pointless all these things i’m doing for and about God were and how I would be a better person for leaving it all behind. Not that i’m at work preaching fire and brimstone all day and night.

    He boiled it down to this. “How can you, a seemingly intelligent person, believe in something that ridiculous. It has no logical basis of any kind.

    So I said, “Ok, let’s look at this logically. We both go across the street to the sushi place and gobble up some sushi right?” He responded with, “Yea.”
    “We both live with our fiances and plan on getting married?” “Yea.”
    “We both work in computers and like playing video games right?” “Yea.”
    “We both work at the same place, for the same pay and live in the same town.” “Yea yea so?”
    I continued, “So our lives are not that dissimilar, by those standards right?”
    And he said,”Yea but you believe in crazy spirit bullshit made up by some nutjob thousands of years ago.”
    “So what you’re telling me, is you believe that none of it is real and that makes your life easier?”
    “Well yea, it’s just a waste of time.”
    “Ok, i believe it’s real, and it makes my life better because it’s not about my life here, it’s about what happens after. Let me put it this way, if you are right and there is no God, and we both died we’d go back to nothing cause we’re just dumb animals. Seeing as how we don’t exist in any fashion, none of it matters anyway and you couldn’t exactly brag about being right could you?”
    “No, i guess not.”
    “Now, if I am right, one of us is in deep shit.”
    “Yea, i see your point, sushi?”
    “Sushi.”

  5. Interesting read. One strategy that might work to combat atheism could be to take the stance recently adopted by the Catholic church and endorsed by either this pope (or the last; cannot remember, sorry) that some parts of the bible are not to be taken literally. I’m not sure if there are enough willing to do this, but as a scientist it makes sense to me.

    Thanks for the read

    • Daniela Berger says:

      “One strategy that might work to combat atheism could be to”… leave the atheists alone, and accept the fact that they have other plans for their lives.

      Just a thought.

  6. Christian_intellectual says:

    Faith I think is what you are talking about when you say it’s easier. I read several comments from atheists that were offended because you said it was just easier to be an atheist. The way I read it, it seems that you are talking about faith. Faith is why I go to church, read my bible, and pray. Faith is believing with out seeing and I think you are right it is easier to do research and read documents that can give some hard facts about what and why about this life. I think that it takes a lot to go everyday and not understand everything and have faith that you are being taken care of by a higher power. I will tell you it burns me up that I am lumped into a group and called stupid and naive and just plain idiotic because I have faith and someone does not understand how I can do that, I think that it is kind of crazy that atheists lump Christians together and then get angry when they are lumped with O’Hair. I thought it was a great post either way and you have earned a new reader.

    • It’s just that people who rely on “faith” do not make sense to people that like facts, science, proof. What if our courts were based on “faith”? Would you like to be on trial for murder with a jury who were “believing with out seeing” that you were guilty, based on some faith?

  7. I was thinking last night at work about Ricky Gervais’ story and was somewhat saddened by one aspect- his statement that his mother only “lied to” him about one thing- i.e, God/Jesus. If she truly believed in God/Jesus, then from an atheist viewpoint, she did not “lie” to him, she “misinformed” him. If she did not believe but just thought it was a convenient thing to teach him (the clever comment about Jesus being “an unpaid babysitter”), then yes, she “lied”.

    Now, I am not an atheist, so this is how I would respond to him- If indeed R.G.’s Mom was a believer, I would clarify the “lie/misinform” issue, then I would ask say this~

    Your Mom taught you about God/Jesus while your brother questioned your faith & caused you to question & then disbelieve. You said your Mom only lied to/misinformed you about one thing. How many things did your brother lie to/misinform you about? If he’s the typical big brother, I would bet it was a lot. How trustworthy and how right about life was your mother contrasted with your brother? So why default to your brother’s disbelief instead of your mother’s faith?

    Btw- after I thought about that, I realized that was the Professor’s question in NARNIA I: The Lion…,

    Who is more trustworthy? Lucy or Edmund?

  8. LapsedEverything says:

    Recently I listened to an evangelical speak publicly. His argument was, “Sure, you could listen to the science about evolution, but there are greater rewards for not listening.”

    That’s my problem with religion. It asks that I stay uninformed and undereducated, that I not think critically about things I hear and take outrageous claims “on faith”. I don’t know about you, but I can’t knowingly stay ignorant, and I can’t worship any deity that would ask me to do so.

    So it’s time to join an Eastern religion, where the existance of deities is irrelevant to one’s personal journey towards wisdom and enlightenment.

  9. quote: “Okay. First, many atheists can offer reasons, you just don’t agree with them. You don’t have to, but that’s not the same thing. Second, think about what you’re saying: you find someone’s worldview ridiculous BECAUSE it leads them to value goodness even when they don’t have to.”

    No, I find it ridiculous because they have no reason to believe that “good” and “evil” exist in any meaningful, remotely objective way in the first place. It is ridiculous to value goodness if you can’t give any reason why “good” and “evil” even exist in the first place, especially if you dismiss theist for not having any proof of God’s existence. For example, if human beings are not made in the image of God and are simply animals, products of the uncaring forces of evolution (*FWIW I don’t have a problem with evolution per se, but I do believe in God) , why is murdering, or even cannibalizing another human being wrong? What if it brings one pleasure, as indeed it does to a few humans?
    Obviously, any meaningful, objective sense of right or wrong can’t simply be based on preferences or feelings as some people take pleasure in helping others while others take pleasure from killing them.

    Christians define good and evil by God. On what basis do atheist define it? Quite frankly, beyond sentimentalism and utilitarianism, I don’t see much of a basis for it under atheism. That is one of the reasons the moralistic tone of the so-called “new atheism” (Dawkins and Hitchens) strikes me as intellectually vapid.

    rr

    • No, Christians define good and evil by a book, part of which was written thousands of years ago and has subsequently been rewritten, translated and re-translated by humans – a book which, incidentally, sanctions murder, slavery, and subjugation of women, amongst other things.

      Good and evil existed before this book was ever written.

  10. Faith–imputed by God–trying to inject one with faith is about as effective as one trying to find it. Neither is successful unless God determines to give it.

  11. I want to thank everyone for their participation. I think we’ve heard plenty of points of view. I’m shutting down comments for a while.

    Again, thanks.

    ms

  12. ^^ Atheism is just….easier. Occam’s Razor. Theism is too much trouble. ^^

    I couldn’t disagree more. Theism is easier. Trust in God. Atheism requires one to believe in people and ones self. It would be easy to accept bad things happening to good people as “God’s will.” It’s much harder to admit that events are somewhat random, affecting believer and non-believer with equal probability. It’s very a very sober thought the evil men do does not necessarily come back to them, ever.

    ^^ He could call the torture sessions off ^^

    Are you talking about God (capital H?). That’s one thing about believing. You have to accept that the things you wish weren’t happening are willed upon you by the almighty. If not, and God does will your suffering, then he must be ignorant of it or powerless to stop it. That’s a tough god to worship.

    ^^ start thinking more about his friend who recently left his youth group and stop believing anything except the joys of rock climbing ^^

    That is a HUGE fallacy. Atheist BELIEVE very strongly; just not in your gods. For example I believe we are imbued by millions of years of evolution with the instinct to leave the world better, more habitable place for future generations. This is really the source of what you might call moral behavior. A world of cheats, liars, and thieves does not have the peace and stability to be the better habitat for future humans, so it hurts emotionally to misbehave.

    ^^ brought a crowd of people just like YOU to the point where atheism looked far, far better than what you were hearing in church ^^

    Oh, it’s so silly to think there is a choice; this or that. It is NOT about rejecting the church for something better. It’s about lack of evidence to support every single thing the church puts forth. If you read scripture carefully like I have you will find the lack of evidence.

    ^^ Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God. ^^

    OK, now you’re making sense.

    ^^ We are the ones who appear to not believe in the God we say is real. We are the ones who seem to be forcing ourselves to believe with bigger shows, bigger celebrities and bigger methods of manipulation. ^^

    Well said.

  13. Atheists:

    I’ve really enjoyed the many kind notes, but there is one thing I keep hearing over and over that I’d suggest you take a second look at.

    I keep getting atheists carping at me for various things I am saying about THEM when I am describing a DECONVERTED EVANGELICAL TEEN….Not an atheist.

    You continually keep saying I’m wrong about x and y as it pertains to you as an atheist, but I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the evangelical kid going from belief to professing atheism.

    I would NEVER try to describe who you are and what you think. I have more respect for you than that. But I know evangelical teenagers.

    peace

    ms

    • Peace be unto you also,

      I suspect some are reacting because they are or were evangelical teens who are now atheists. Though admittedly when people become atheists varies (I know one person who switched from Presbyterian to atheist at the age of 70, he is now 90+ and still sharp and active in the Humanist community). Admittedly I was never an evangelical teen or even officially a Christian though I flirted with the faith.

  14. So a great portion of evangelicals have a faith they themselves do not understand and cannot explain, and deal with that by not thinking about it, and not trying to teach it. As a substitute, they offer refreshments and raucous entertainment.

    Therefore, youth get a finely cultivated course of instruction where they learn little to nothing about the faith, since few know it, and even fewer can explain it. Instead, the youth get an exhaustive list of rules they are supposed to follow. Also they get lots of even more raucous entertainment and refreshments, and fun activities so they won’t want to go do things that might break the rules. If they don’t follow the rules, supposedly, bad things will happen to them. And while the bad things may not appear actually to be happening, don’t worry, evangelicals are working hard to get laws passed so that bad things do happen to people who break the rules.

    And if rule-breakers manage to live their whole lives without bad things happening to them, don’t worry, God will send them to hell. And people who follow the rules will go to heaven. Except that it’s not really about rules but faith. So if you break all the rules but have faith, you go to heaven. Unless you break too many rules.

    Oh, and sometimes people follow all the rules, but bad things still happen to them. This is because God is testing them. There probably is a rule they were forgetting to follow, or maybe a rule they aren’t following hard enough, or maybe they don’t have enough faith. Because having faith is kind of like a rule.

    If this doesn’t make any sense to you, you just don’t have enough faith apparently.

  15. Dear imonk:
    Your arguments should be heralded as a wake-up call to the American church. I was raised in the evangelical church (my mom was saved when I was 11). As a grew older, I became disillusioned by several examples of hypocrisy in the movement: the articulation of “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” by those who not only hated the sinner, but actively capaigned against his rights; endless sermons on tithing to God, but few sermons on charity; three new pastors in a row who started a ‘special collection’ for the “new building fund’ which needed to start from scratch every time; the hour-long planning of the song service to ensure that the music program followed the emotional arc that would bring the congregation to a joyous and relaxed frame of mind to receive the sermon; being told to reject historical facts which did not match up with the pastor’s understanding of the bible; and the condescending sense of self-congratulatory “righteousness” which accompanied every deed. The modern evangelical movement is based purely upon how the God makes the congregation feel as opposed to trying to make sense.
    I have become a much kinder person since I have left the church, and a more compassionate person who is more willing to forgive the sins of others. I have found it is much easier to forgive others their faults when accepting them as flawed human beings, not obsessed with thier potential as future converts. I would suggest that any church which would like to retain its young membership should -perhaps- try to reflect the actions of Jesus (compassion, mercy, charity, kindness) in order to get people to listen to the teachings of Jesus (faith, hope, love).