I was walking my dog on the beach today when I met a lady who was strolling along picking up garbage. As I passed, I commented that this must be her Sunday Service.
She responded, “Yes, this is my church.”
Which got me thinking about church, the declining numbers of people attending, and the disaster that organized religion has perpetrated by messing with the political system in our neighbors to the south.
Full disclosure; the organization with which I am associated is the United Church of Canada, one of the most liberal and progressive of religious denominations. This group has been allowing women to remove the pledge “to obey” from the marriage ceremony since 1946. (I happen to know this because my mother-in-law was the first woman to require this change. I am not the only religious rebel in the family.)
I have been lucky enough to know two exceptional ministers in my life, Glen Watts in Burns Lake in the 1960s, and David Wood more recently in Prince George. Both of these religious men treated their church service much more like a university seminar than the usual laying down of cant. They talked about things the congregation was interested in. They invited thoughtful responses.
Even then, I never really enjoyed church. And I finally figured it out.
My problem with organized religion is the organization part. Every time I sit in church I hear a minister start to pray with, “Oh, Most Powerful Heavenly Lord. We poor sinners abase ourselves before Thy puissance…” and end with, “…Thy will be done.” (Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit). And I picture all the churches back in Europe for about a thousand years, with the minister up at the front spouting this sort of obsequious rot while the guy the peasants call “Lord” the rest of the week sits in his special pew, glowing with virtue.
There is nothing wrong with a like-minded group of people getting together once a week to support each other and reaffirm their common goals and beliefs. It’s the glue that holds societies together, whether it happens at the church on Sunday, the Rotary meeting Tuesday morning, or the pub on Friday night.
I just object to being bombarded with the leftover crumbs from a discredited political and social system, disguised as morality. And it makes my blood boil that the population is still being continuously brainwashed to kowtow to the ruling hierarchy.
This sort of training from childhood is insidious, getting deep into our subconscious. The unwavering belief that the person in authority is infallible may be comforting to those who worry that they cannot fend for themselves, but it has also led directly to the atrocities of sexual abuse that have been occurring for the last several hundred years in our society.
A benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship. The word “paternalistic” is a revealing adjective. In a paternalistic system, average citizens are kept in a sub-adult state, always looking up to leaders to make their choices for them.
The biggest argument in the Christian religion has always been whether humans have free will or whether there is some fate pre-ordained by God for everyone. This argument mirrors the struggle between democracy and autocracy in the political and social sense. The real argument is whether people should think for themselves or whether ourleaders have the right to choose everyone’s fate.
If they want to function in a democracy, I suggest our religious institutions start to slant their sermons a little more heavily towards people making choices for themselves and being willing to accept the consequences, instead of someone deciding for us and someone else atoning for our mistakes.
It’s time for humans to grow up. As long as our most common prayer starts out with, “Our Father…” it ain’t gonna happen.