Sunday, November 17, 2013

Going To Church During Skepticon And The Thoughts That Provokes

What's a trip to Skepticon without also going to church?  I had wanted to go to a Mennonite church, but they were all too far out of town (imagine that) to make it fit into my time restraints.  The one I found instead immediately looked like it would make up for it.  Their website had 5 tabs.

I couldn't pass up going to the place that loved disc golf that much.

Pulling up to the church, I could immediately tell blending into the crowd & going unnoticed was not going to be an option.  There were barely a dozen cars in the lot, the building wasn't large, the people walking in were wearing t-shirts while I was in a button down collared shirt, and I was from out of town.

The place looked even smaller on the inside.

Taken from the back row
I was amused by what they called the place they had the coffee.

It was a friendly atmosphere, much like I'm used to at gatherings of Omaha Atheists.  Although, just like at every other church, I got random dirty looks when I didn't contribute when the collection plate went around.  At least I learned a new euphemism for it.  Before it got passed around, the preacher said to their god that they were going to "worship you with our finances".

It certainly was not as creepy as Gospel Satellite Church was.  Here, I sensed genuine sincerity.  And the average age was definitely much lower.  This place actually had teenagers, who appeared happy to be there.  Possibly because they had friends there.

The pastor, who had what I think was a Boston accent, didn't start with the kind planned opening I'm used to at these things.  He went up to the front and began joking with the congregation on a personal level.  He was lightly teasing some of them.  He joked about the 2 boys in the band who were running late and gave them a hard time (in a fun way) when they showed up.

He did eventually get to the standard stuff.  He made the announcement for a spaghetti feed they were having.  When mentioned why they were doing it, he said it was because people are hungry and the money raised could help feed them.  He also mentioned that they were collecting school supplies for a local elementary school.

In announcing both, he never mentioned Jesus.  As far as I could tell at the time, they weren't proselytizing in the process of either project.

After announcements, it was time for the concert portion.  This was my first time encountering this in anything other than a mega church.  It made me feel like I was in a miniature version of a mega church.  They even had the people putting their arms in the air like it makes the Jesus music work better.  By why shouldn't they copy the format of the places drawing people in by the thousands?  It certainly worked for this small church, where one member in the front row was so into it, she was practically crawling onto the stage.

Also similar to the mega church concerts, the songs were mostly unremarkable.  Although, one line did get my attention.  "There is power in the name of Jesus."  This is a true statement.  There is power in the name of Jesus.  Well, in the story.  They think the name has power.  It's that belief that gives it that power.

And, contrary to what some silly atheists may say, these people definitely believe their religion is true.  The story of Jesus has a hold over them that isn't easy to break.  If they dug deeper into investigating the truth of the Jesus myth, their faith would be at risk of falling away.  But we can't always expect them to want to dig deeper when they so many reasons not to.

At church, they have a strong community, but it's entirely dependent on them continuing to believe.  Loss of faith means loss of that community.  Sometimes worse.

For many Christians, fear of hell is a big motivator.  Of course, there is good reason to not have this fear, but fear doesn't operate on reason.

Loss of faith would also mean losing their story to easily answer life's I don't knows (as long as you don't dig deeper).  They lose the option to say "God did it".  They're left admitting they don't know where the universe came from.  They're left not really knowing what happens when we die.

And there's the stress relief that comes from fantasy.  The teenage girl singer talked about the struggles of life and how she thinks it's Jesus getting her through it.  Of course, the fantasy does indeed help relieve the stress of those struggles.  The fact that it only helps with how she feels about her troubles, and not the actual troubles, is easily overlooked.

Jesus may not be real, but the consequences of losing faith are.  Faith in Jesus is an incredibly held tight belief.  But it's also a fragile one.  It's an interesting combination.  Although, it explains the trauma that, for many, comes with lose of faith.  Maybe I should start carrying cards for Recovering From Religion to this stuff, for the inevitable time I encounter someone who needs to know they exist.

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