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Most atheists and even many believers have a problem with organized religion, whether that be a church in general or something like the Catholic Church. My question is WHY is organized religion bad and how do you define it.
I ask this for a couple of reasons. First I want to point out that I do understand the problems we have had in the past, as well as current issues. I do certainly believe it is a problem when the Church is seen as a powerful political leader, like the Catholic Church used to be. The Catholic Church literally used to control Europe. Then of course we have the Church of England to a lesser extent and things such as Islamic governments in the Middle East. I doubt very many people would agree with the power and influence of those I listed above, except for the extremely religious, and of course they would want it to be their preferred faith. I think we can agree this causes major problems.
I guess what I want to focus on is a particular denomination or branch of a religion or even a specific Church. We certainly have issues with priests, and people in leadership positions, raping or molesting young children. This is always a problem. We also have bad denominations, such as the FLDS (Fundamentalists Latter Day Saints,) which could be considered a cult. I guess I want to randomly mention the Church of Scientology, which is a cult and does horrible things. There are also single Churches that are problems, such as some of the mega churches or churches like Westboro Baptist Church (which is unaffiliated with the Baptist Church.) We also read a book about Pentecostal snake handlers, which I have a serious problem with due to them allowed children near dangerous animals and teaching them that screwing with these animals is okay. Once again, I do not think anyone will agree these things are good. But does this make ALL organized religion bad?
The reason I bring up this topic is because of currently experiences as well as my upbringing and studies. As many of you know, our children are baptized and will be raised loosely Christian (meaning at a Liberal church that doesn’t pound it into their head so bad they will never recover.) Many atheists disagree with this and do not understand how I can do this being a non-believer. First, I am not religious, I do not believe in Christ as my personal savoir, so rubbing a little bit of water on their head does not mean anything to me. Most important, it is important to my wife and her family and since I do not believe, I do not care. I also plan on telling my kids the story of Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and I assume there will not be any long term affects.
Anyways, my son is currently going to pre-school at my wife’s church (Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church) and everything about the place makes me feel good. Everyone is friendly and happy. One of the staff members is the sister of one of my wife’s best friends growing up. I like her very much and my younger son has a crush on her. Nearly all of my son’s friends are from this church. When we go there for his different preschool events, they are always a positive experience. We had one recently where we went around and did different activities and finished in a room with one of the pastors leading the kids in singing. My younger one, the one not actually in the class was the star of the show and made everyone laugh. It is true they sang about God and Jesus and guess what? I did not melt…nor did I leave a brainwashed believer. Everything about the place makes me feel good. We have donated food to their box for the food shelf. Nearly every time I go in there I wish I could work there just because of how the place makes me feel. The problem is I have that little not believing in God problem…
Besides this experience I have extensive experience in dealing with many different religions and denominations. I was raised loosely Lutheran Christian (I did Sunday school and we went to church on the holidays.) I went on a number of church trips and camps. I asked for Jesus into my life and for a sign. I never got one. Yet I only have good memories. The church I went too was fairly Liberal though I think they did lean Conservative on a few things, such as evolution. There were a couple other minor things but overall, it was mostly positive.
I was also a Chaplin’s assistant while in Tech School in the US Air Force. While in Basic Training I went to Mormon services. Both were positive experiences, especially going through those tough conditions.
Between my wife going to an all-girl Catholic University and my major in religious studies, as well as traveling to Europe and the Middle East with the Air Force, I have been to large variety of services and gatherings of many different religions and denominations. Nearly every single one was positive…or at least not negative. I always found the Mormons to be very friendly and I like their family aspect. I also appreciated the lack of judgment by the Catholics. I have gone to Catholic services more than anything else, at a number of different churches. I never take Communion, especially at Catholic churches because to do not allow non-Catholics to take Communion. Here is the thing though…not a single place ever asked people if they were Catholic or not, in addition to that not once have I received a dirty look, or even a look, or NOT taking Communion. My favorite was the Baha’I gathering. Their policy is that they can only accept donations from members. If a non-member donates, it is given to charity.
This has been my extensive experience. So I ask…do you simply dislike organized religion because you dislike religion or the way the media has portrayed it? Do you simply dislike it because the particular church you were brought up in was one of the “bad” ones? Do you believe not all organization is the same and some groups are not only not harmful, but positive? Or are they all bad? Is it the organization that is bad? I ask that because many atheists organize into groups…How do you define organized religion and what are your objections?