Jump to content

Is It A Good Thing For People To Influence The Church?


Recommended Posts

This came topic came up to me on another thread.

 

Basically, decades ago, everyone went to church. People who grumbled and worked to change their church out of discontent, as well as hard-headed traditionalists who wanted the keep the status quo. 

 

So now, it's pretty acceptable not to go to your local church anymore when Sunday comes around, and so the only people left who go... are the die hard Christians. Mostly Bible literalists, the close-minded people who never have their beliefs challenged. All the thinkers and questioners left. 

 

I have a sister who is a Christian, but very progressive / liberal in her thinking, and she is comfortable in church but works to change close-minded statements whenever she hears them. Some part of me wishes I could do that--try to open people's minds, not just be part of the congregation that nods and agrees and validates all the close-minded stuff they all agree to. 

 

And yet... I can't go back to a church. I don't like it, I don't believe any of it, and I don't miss it. I don't want to go in there and be a member and try to be the voice of dissent. I'm free of that obligation, and I don't want to go in there on Sundays and sit through a sermon.

 

But I still appreciate those Christians who do. I appreciate my sister being able to stay a part of that church community; she doesn't believe in hell, she's coming around on evolution (at least she admits it might have happened that way, Probably did, and no problem) and she is in favor of gay rights, pro-choice, fights for minority rights, economic and opportunity equality, involved with charity, etc. She's pretty amazing. I like that she can stay within a church and move the church forward, evolve it with her. 

 

By leaving the church instead of attending and talking to people there, are we letting them all stay in the bubble unchallenged? I mean, it's our tax dollars filling in the blank for churches, since they don't have to pay taxes, so it's our right to attend without any financial offerings, isn't it? We have a right to go and talk and be a part of it if we want to. 

 

Is it okay that we let them stay inside their bubble without ever hearing anything from us?

 

Where else can they hear any voice of dissent? They'll go home and listen to Fox "news" and chat up their Christian neighbors and family members, and they'll never hear any voices that bring up an opposing viewpoint. 

 

I mean, it's okay. It's not our JOB to give them a counter-point to their world views or anything. But I think with the rise of atheism and people leaving churches comfortably... are we abandoning the people who are then comfortably locked into their belief system? Does this contribute to the polarization in our country, in our politics?

 

I've never felt like it's my duty to reach out to people who don't want to change, but the way people interact with their own kind only now--online, their favorite news station, their churches... who IS going to ever be a voice of dissent, who ever contradicts their view of the world? 

 

I still have Christian friends and family, and I do talk with them about all this when it comes up, but I don't ever force it or try to make it an issue. But in a church, it's already the topic. If you stand around afterwards and chat, it's going to come up. 

 

I'm not saying we should or shouldn't share information, truth, and knowledge. I'm not saying it's a responsibility or an obligation. I'm just pointing out that before all the technology (online, TV, etc.) neighbors chatted and knew each other and it was easier to interact and be acquainted with other people who weren't just like you, just like them. Now it's so polarized and segregated. Should we actively try to stay in better touch with each other? Or is it better to just trust that the truth is out there, and anyone who really wants to find it can do so?

 

Sorry. This is long. But I'd love to hear what everyone thinks. Do you speak up? Do you associate with Christians and stay quiet about it? Do you have an entirely different set of friends now that you're out of Christianity? I'm just curious about the interaction you have with Christians and whether you've kept friends, and whether you feel open and comfortable discussing spirituality or if you avoid it like a hot potato. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Note: All Regularly Contributing Patrons enjoy Ex-Christian.net advertisement free.

You've brought up an interesting question.  When I attended church I would sometimes hear crazy things (i.e., a woman saying how she is not an organ donor because when the final judgment comes and god brings her out of the ground, she doesn't want her kidneys missing, because obviously her omnipotent god couldn't locate her kidneys for her) and I just couldn't even respond to stuff like that.  To try to talk rationally to a completely irrational person is a waste of breath.  Plus, if you just listen quietly, some of those crazy things are extremely funny!

 

It also seems useless for me to try to debate someone who can twist anything to fit their god concept.  If every argument ends with "because it's in the bible" or "then god does a mysterious thing and something magical happens" there is, again, no rational answer.

 

When I went to church, I didn't bother getting into conversations with others about my growing disbelief because I already knew their answers, I already knew I "just needed to have faith" and "god is mysterious" and "his ways are not ours."  Those are not real answers.

 

I deconverted myself while listening to sermons and thinking, "That doesn't make sense."  If people want to actually wake up and think, they can take care of the process themselves.  If they want to stay deluded and never think deeper than "just have faith" and "everything in god's time" and "it's better to believe and go to heaven than not believe and go to hell" then those are people that simply can't think deep.  Or maybe they don't truly deeply believe, but go because of family or societal pressures and aren't concerned much either way.

 

I generally have never discussed xianity with anybody, when I was a xian or now I am not.  That's just the way I am.  I'm actually enjoying being on this site and getting to let some of my thoughts out!  I truly have no urge to try to talk xians out of anything.  If they bring anything religious up, I smile and say "I see" or "that's interesting" or "oh my!" a lot.  I do have it easy in that I have an extremely small (maybe four people?) agnostic family, and since I work seven days a week I don't have many friends left.  Ok, that just sounds pathetic!  I just have found in life that if I like somebody because they are fun to be with, I don't care what their religious views are.  If they are not fun or nice or enjoyable to be with or are openly racist or homophobic, then I don't associate with them -- anyone rabidly religious or non-religious to the point of it becoming a ranting conversation every time you see them, well that is just tedious.

 

If someone was up to the challenge of  respectfully debating xians (especially in a church setting) and trying to get them to see an alternate point of view, I would think highly of them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Live and let live is my policy. If the other person is open minded and wants to hear about it sure. I have some christian friends, but if they don't want to talk about it I'm not going to push it. The Christian friends I have are pretty liberal in their beliefs.  One of them is even dating an atheist. Another is more stricter in her beliefs, but she isn't the pushy type.  I wouldn't debate either of them unless they bring it up or start shoving it down my throat. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I decided to take the lead and attempt to change some of the more draconian thinking and teaching traditionally associated with the Church of Christ when I was serving as an elder. My attempt ended in failure with me resigning from the eldership and leaving the c of C.

 

 

 

My experience indicates the thinking and traditions associated with religion are so deeply ingrained that only moderate changes implemented over a long period of time have any reasonable chance of success. And those changes are often developed at the college level and from there gradually seep down into the congregations over an extended period of time.

 

 

 

In retrospect, I now believe the best course of action for an individual who has evolved, where their thinking is no longer compatible with the group they affiliate with, is to find a different group that is more compatible with the adherent’s new way of thinking.

 

 

As Seeker001 noted, until an indoctrinated person develops doubts on their own they are simply not going to be receptive to a critique of their beliefs and traditions. In their minds critically analyzing their beliefs and traditions is the equivalent of saying god is wrong. That approach just isn’t going to work and will lead to an argument not a discussion.

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator

The Bible says what it says, denominations believe what they believe. If it doesn't suit you, get out and move on. 

 

I have more respect for the snake handlers who put their money where their mouth is than I do for CINOs who claim the culturally popular religion but don't actually practice it and usually know nothing about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a while I tried to discuss my change to agnosticism with others who were Xtian. Not only was

it a waste of time but it cost me friendships. Nor only that,it was extremely frustrating to the point

that it finally penetrated my thick skill that it was useless. They think that even to consider a non

christian view is a deadly sin.

 

Nevertheless, I wonder whether talking out might be the best thing to do. That's because the more people who do the more likely the extreme versions of Xtianity will grow which as we all know is terrible for

society.There is strength in numbers. But I have yet to actually convince myself to do so. After all, we have only one life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for all the good points. 

 

Well... there are more non-believers and people with no strong church ties than ever today in the US.

Maybe the internet will reach more people with the tools and information they need.

 

I don't have any intention of going back to a church myself, aside from the occasional wedding, funeral, etc. 

 

I'm thinking through my own evolution: From super fundie to progressive Christian to believing in God but not taking the bible literally to a New Agey sort of spiritual to atheist. Some people can stay at progressive Christian, but for others it's just one step up the rung of the ladder leading out of there entirely. So the fundies outnumber the progressives in church. And they're the ones backing Rick Santorum and other loony politicians as well as legislation that restricts birth control or abortion rights, etc. 

 

While I was still in the progressive Christian phase, I remember having more discussions about some of those strict Christian ideas, and I shared some information they probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. (Their Fox talking points don't hold up so well to facts.) 

 

Mostly, I've been thinking lately about how segregated our society has become, because we do tend to seek other like-minded people and leave behind the ones who we no longer agree with.

 

I'm just kind of tracing through why our country seems so polarized today. Maybe it always was, but it seems much more extreme now. 

 

Any thoughts on other factors that might contribute to this deep rift? It still feels like rural / Christian / white / Republican people have found a way to isolate themselves from any opposing viewpoints, and without any accommodation of new ideas, they become more and more extreme in their views. I'm not saying we ought to go invade the churches and try to de-convert them. (Just that I'm sort of glad there are still some progressive Christians attending church and maybe keeping the insanity from getting even more extreme than it already is.)

 

Actually, I have hope that humans will keep progressing, slowly but surely. In the meantime, I wish there were more moderate voices out there. I wish the news media didn't interview the most extreme points of view people from both sides of issues. The idea of middle ground, compromise, reasonability... it all seems like a quaint old-fashioned concept today.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi RLeah,

 

  I can relate.  Your story in essence is the same as mine. Perhaps it would help you to separate first the church from the bible and then People from the labels Then look at them separately. These days what being a Christian is, is claiming to be a Christian.  Primarily from the bible​ .Being a follower of Christ is actually following Christ's teaching. The church is a man made institution that has become a self serving entity.  Somewhere along the line people stopped making the church and the Church started making Christians.

 

 

Actually, I have hope that humans will keep progressing, slowly but surely. In the meantime, I wish there were more moderate voices out there. I wish the news media didn't interview the most extreme points of view people from both sides of issues. The idea of middle ground, compromise, ..reasonability. it all seems like a quaint old-fashioned concept today.  

 

  I don't see the world at large as progressing. I see it more as a free fall.I wish there was more moderate everything out there. We are in a time of extremes,  This world is dividing and  polarizing on almost everything    Everybody fears everything. No way to find common ground when every one turns their back to each other.
 
Cliff
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it a good thing to for people to influence the church?

"

IMO

​From inside or outside? Doesn't make any difference, really.  It's not possible either way, Not enough to make any difference. The "church" is going down hill at an ever increasing rate. .

 

Socialism is on the way in, Take from the working class and give to the rich or poor, makes a body wonder what the hell they're a working for..

 

 U S A wasn't founded on Christian principles . It was founded on compromise, Majority rule. and a rebellion against the power at that time.,.  "Christianity"

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Hi RLeah,

 

  I can relate.  Your story in essence is the same as mine. Perhaps it would help you to separate first the church from the bible and then People from the labels Then look at them separately. These days what being a Christian is, is claiming to be a Christian.  Primarily from the bible​ .Being a follower of Christ is actually following Christ's teaching. The church is a man made institution that has become a self serving entity.  Somewhere along the line people stopped making the church and the Church started making Christians.

 

 

Actually, I have hope that humans will keep progressing, slowly but surely. In the meantime, I wish there were more moderate voices out there. I wish the news media didn't interview the most extreme points of view people from both sides of issues. The idea of middle ground, compromise, ..reasonability. it all seems like a quaint old-fashioned concept today.  

 

  I don't see the world at large as progressing. I see it more as a free fall.I wish there was more moderate everything out there. We are in a time of extremes,  This world is dividing and  polarizing on almost everything    Everybody fears everything. No way to find common ground when every one turns their back to each other.
 
Cliff

 

 

Thanks, Cliff.

 

I guess what it boils down to, is that you can focus on the positive, areas where you can make a difference, areas where society is actually getting better. Yes, I know this is very far from a perfect world. But in some ways it IS getting better. It's slow progress, sure, but it's progressing nonetheless.

 

I could be bitter about all the ways it's still a mess. I could feel angry about things I can't fix. But that's not a healthy way to live life, and it doesn't help anyone. Being angry about injustice and the bad things that happen doesn't solve any problems, and it just results in me feeling gloomy and hopeless and defeated. 

 

I'd rather focus on the progress, what I CAN do to make things better, what is within my power to make easier and happier. 

 

If I look for the downside, I'll find it. If I look for the bright side, I'll find it. I'm of more use to the world and myself when I look for things I can help make better. Focusing on the bleak things and throwing up my hands and saying it's hopeless will only depress me and prevent me from having the energy and enthusiasm to contribute to the progress we're all making. 

 

Can we fix all the ills in the world? No. Can we easily make better changes? No. But can we do some good and nudge things in a better direction? Sure. But it's a long project, slow to build, but certainly worth the effort. We may not even see the results in our lifetime. We're paying it forward. And we'll trust the next generation to do the same. 

 

I refuse to be a pessimist. I can't just say, Look how terrible everything is, and it's just getting worse. Sure, I see the areas that need work, but I remain optimistic these things will be solved, if not in my lifetime, then somewhere down the road. 

 

I don't believe that the world is getting worse and worse. Look how much progress we've made just in the last few hundred years! Slavery is abolished, we all agree that it's wrong. Slavery happened throughout all of human history and we've worked to get rid of it. Female genital mutilation is getting stamped out. Women in China no longer bind their feet. We are becoming more enlightened and compassionate as information grows. We're more connected in a global way than we ever were before.  

 

And I refuse to give up on trying to help make the world a better place. Is it futile? Who knows. But have we made progress? You bet we have! But I won't stop trying or believing that each person can make a difference, however small. And that's worth striving for.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it a good thing to for people to influence the church?

"

IMO

​From inside or outside? Doesn't make any difference, really.  It's not possible either way, Not enough to make any difference. The "church" is going down hill at an ever increasing rate. .

 

Socialism is on the way in, Take from the working class and give to the rich or poor, makes a body wonder what the hell they're a working for..

 

 U S A wasn't founded on Christian principles . It was founded on compromise, Majority rule. and a rebellion against the power at that time.,.  "Christianity"

 

I am part of the working class, the middle class, whatever that means anymore. I worked two jobs to put myself through college, and I work hard now. (And when I was under 16, I babysat and raked leaves for money. Then when I was a teenager I worked as a waitress and temped in office jobs.) I've always been working, never stopped, and I'm 38, and I'll keep working as long as I am able, and I'm not sure whether I'll get to retire with social security the way my parents did. (I'm saving money and hoping it will be enough. But pensions are gone, and the 401k isn't offered in many jobs.)

 

But I'm not mad at poor people. I grew up in Kentucky. I have 36 cousins. Some of them work in grocery stores or restaurants, office jobs, construction, retail stores, whatever they can find. And it takes two incomes to just barely support a family with nothing left over for retirement or their kids' college education or anything extra. And yes, I have relatives who take disability, and they have to--they got injured on the job (in one case fell off a ladder and broke their spine) and I don't begrudge them that. I also have a cousin with an autistic son, and boy is that a handful! I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it isn't her fault. I'm glad there are some programs there to support her and her son and teaching him with special education so he can function independently as an adult some day. 

 

I hope I never ever have to take any unemployment money or disability, but I'm glad it's there for the people who need it. Why on earth wouldn't we want that? A country as wealthy as ours? We CAN afford it. We can. I'm so confused by people who think of the country as takers and makers, as people who are earners, and anyone who is down on their luck is some lazy freeloader. I have seen first-hand what poverty looks like. NO ONE likes being poor. No one likes relying on food stamps. Most people are so embarrassed to take govt aid that they will put it off, long after they qualify, until they are desperate and have no other choice but to apply for the aid. 

 

We aren't a socialist country. Many other countries are more socialist than we are. But we DO already have a mix of capitalism and socialism. What do you think Medicare and social security are? Those are socialist programs. And they work. But we're more capitalist than socialist, especially compared to Canada, the UK, western Europe. 

 

You can't really hate on socialism unless you want to get rid of Medicare and Social Security. And if we did that, we'd have a lot of elderly people on the streets. I, for one, do not want that. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I hope I never ever have to take any unemployment money or disability, but I'm

glad it's there for the people who need it. Why on earth wouldn't we want that? A country as wealthy as ours? We CAN afford it. We can. I'm so confused by

people who think of the country as takers and makers, as people who are earners, and anyone who is down on their luck is some lazy freeloader. I have seen first-hand what poverty looks like. NO ONE likes being poor. No one likes relying on food stamps. Most people are so embarrassed to take govt aid that they will put it off, long after they qualify, until they are desperate and

have no other choice but to apply for the aid."

 

RaLeah, You are absolutely right. I truly don't understand the resentment of the

poor which is so ubiquitous in this country. What an irony. The rich resenting

the poor. Seems reversed from what one would expect. Not that many of the the

poor don't resent the rich, but they don't have or know how to use the power to do anything about it.

 

I think this attitude that all the poor are takers and are simply lazy is a

survivor of the frontier days when such a philosophy was necessary for the task at hand. Or more likely it was an unintended spin off from the good philosophy

that one must work hard to succeed, resulting in the illogical conclusion that

those that don't succeed must be lazy. Of course, the real problem is those in

control don't want to loosen their vice-like grip on there power. bill

 

Joseph Campbell wrote that we need new myths. Well, here's a good area to start.Make economic fairness a new myth. It can never be fully achieved. I recognize

that. But as a goal it is appropriate. Now, in a nation with a predominately

Xtian citizenry, that should't be a problem. Should it? Not when Jesus himself

said we should take care of the poor.I mean, Xtians really mean to follow Christ

don't they? bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Isn't charity, compassion and sharing positive things?

 

I always thought that caring about those who are in need is a sign of progression in our species. I do think we need to find better ways to empower people to help themselves, but I don't resent my taxes going to help people, at all. It's a tough world out there and it's not like most people can grow their own food like they did 150 years ago. The Industrial revolution messed that up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To make one more comment on the original question of influencing the church:  I don't think it would be a great idea, or well received, to burst in the front door of the church exclaiming, "I'm an atheist!" HOWEVER, if you were still involved in the church it just might be a great idea to openly ask questions and gently push for logical answers and admit doubt.  I don't believe you can influence the person who "knows" all the right answers, BUT maybe someone else would hear you who had similar questions and doubts, and that might make them feel less alone and might lead them to want to question, too.  I do remember when I was involved in the church, I seriously wondered if everyone else believed everything they heard.  I kind of assumed everybody didn't (I always attended stodgy, polite, middle-of-the-road churches, def not fundy), but nobody wanted to be the one to say "the emperor has no clothes!"  But I honestly didn't know.  When I was involved in small groups or Sunday school, everyone always answered with the "right answers," and if anybody had a question there was always someone ready to jump in with the right "god" answer (with whatever twisted logic it took) and then everybody would get quiet and just nod in agreement.  I never knew if those nods were in total agreement, or just "I'm nodding quietly to be polite and not rock the boat, and maybe we can get to the coffee and cookies quicker."  So perhaps if an agnostic or atheist kept gently pushing at those answers and kept questioning and even admitting to some doubt, would that possibly help the couple other people in that group that have similar questions feel like FINALLY they're not alone?  Perhaps that would help lead some of those people to explore their questions more, learn more, and come up with their own opinions?

 

I very much believe it would have helped me back when I was involved in the church to hear someone's questions and doubts, and not immediately bow down to the "correct" answers.  I would have felt like I could have had a real conversation with that person, which I never felt when I did attend church.  I never made friends in church (I was polite and everybody was polite, and that was that) because I never felt like they actually knew me and I never actually knew them because I was sure that there were at least some agnostics and questioners out there like me but we all hid it!

 

Just a thought.  I no longer have time to attend church, or the inclination, so am not willing to try out my theory.  If anybody else wants to give it a shot, let us know how it goes!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.