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21 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    Most of the people I know who have left the Church have done so for one or all of three basic reasons:

    1. Dogmatic absolutism

    2. Self-righteous judgmentalism

    3. Triumphalistic sectarianism

    All three are palliatives, not cures for the pain of narcissistic alienation.

    However, I would not write the Church off as irredeemable. A Catholic priest once told me that the Church was usually about 100 years behind secular society when it comes to progressive change. Here in the South it is probably more like 200 years. I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where *evolution* is a debatable issue! The immutable law acknowledged by evolutionary thinking is *adapt or die.* When it comes to that, the Church will change. Even the Vatican has admitted that it is more than just a *theory* and Rome is not exactly a hotbed of theological liberalism.

  2. Christine says:

    Carol, if we accept the church will always be centuries behind, then we accept it will cause horrible pains and injustices to linger centuries longer than they otherwise would. If we resign ourselves to this fact, we should indeed write it off and dismantle the whole project. We should have more hope than that.

  3. Helen says:

    re: leaving the church for the three reasons above. Carol do you mean this is how the church has treated the (former) attendee, or this is the attitude of the (former) congregant? Yes, I’m all for dismantling the project – no more ‘holy General Motors’ (an apt term quoted by Wilbert Rideau).

  4. Doug Sloan says:

    So what is for sale?
    The Cross?
    The Church?
    Both individually?
    Both bundled?

    Let’s be clear
    once I have bought them
    I can
    display them
    package them
    advertise them
    resell them
    any way I choose
    and with complete impunity
    because this is God’s work

  5. Sabio Lantz says:

    Even as an atheist, I find it sad when churches close. Some become bars and some become parking lots. To me it is a symbol of loss community.

    Of course I don’t regret the loss of exclusive communities, but I wish we could find a substitute which build communities without the need for tricking the religious part of our mind and a need to commit to some ancient text from some part of the ancient world.

  6. Sabio Lantz says:

    If it a church is sold, how would you like to see it used?

  7. Carol says:

    Sabio, are you an atheist or an agnostic?

    If I thought that God was anything like Calvin’s Cosmic Bully, I would be a militant atheist. Why would anyone want to worship and obey a God who is less merciful than oneself?

    An Adequate Faith

    “If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

    My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less.”
    ~ From “Apologies to an Unbeliever” by Thomas Merton

  8. Carol says:

    Helen, we are experiencin a period of rapid historical change.

    “The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything or nothing.”
    –Nancy Astor

    In the beginning the Church, which like all institutions tends to be “conservative”, prevents those who want to change everything from completely destabilizing our socioeconomic/political life. Anarchy is the only thing worse than despotism!

    Eventually, a transitional point is reached where the Church becomes less of a steward of wisdom from the past and more of an obstructionist of new wisdom. That is probably where we are now. There has always been conflict between the priestly and the prophetic religious traditionbs.

    When a tipping point has been reached among those who can embrace the new, deeper vision, the Churches will embrace the deeper vision or die. At least that is how the historical process has always played out in the past.

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead;
    traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
    Tradition lives in conversation with the past,
    while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever
    be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”–Jaroslav Pelikan

  9. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol,
    I am not invested in the debate of “Atheist vs Agnostic”. Words are funny things– they can be used as trojan horse by any user. So for some Christians, there is a vested interest in making all Atheists into Agnostics so as to say, “See, there could be a God — you should stay more open minded.” And some Atheists there is a vested interest into making Agnostics into Atheists so as to say, “Common on, sure there may be a super turtle flying around the sun that is the source of all happiness, but we don’t believe it is possible enough to grant the least credence, so we are A-Super-Turtlists in the same way we are A-Theists.” Those atheists don’t want the already priviledged Christians to have any escape. But I am not interested in these controversies. So yeah, I am an Atheist in some senses and an Agnostic in others but mostly, I am just a guy trying to get by. 🙂

    BTW, as I left Christianity, Thomas Merton was one of my favorite authors. He had his career tied up in Christianity so he only changed his Christianity enough so as to keep his job and keep a continuity of his long establish way of relating to his insights. My livelihood was not invested, nor did I have a long history of using Christian notions to organize my thinking, so I could leave more freely. I still think Merton’s insights are fantastic, even if I did not enjoy his persistent religious attachments to Mary and other Christian elements. If the world’s Christians shared Merton’s stances, I would not be an Atheist. But the vast majority of Christians do not share his ecumenical universalism and so I stay atheist for them, while for the others I may be an agnostic.

    But for the non-religious, I joyfully remain “Sabio”.

  10. nakedpastor says:

    I love that quote Carol. Thanks for providing it for the rest of us.

  11. Mad =^..^= (AKA ccws) says:

    Some old churches have the most amazing acoustics! I’d like to buy one, live in it, and convert the sanctuary into a performing arts space.

  12. Carol says:

    Sabio, your response makes me think that your problem is more with Christians than it is with God.

    If I thought that Calvin’s Cosmic Bully was God, I would be a militant atheist, too!

    I love Jesus, it’s his fan club that freaks me out!–Blog Post

    Over the last 20 years, God has taken me deeper and deeper into His own heart. He has transformed me (and has promised to continue that!) with revelation, by lavishing His Love, and sometimes by saying, “this one will now suffer for a season”. I know Him, trust Him, and love Him. So excuse me when I find it funny when some Facebook person questions my “salvation” because I don’t line up with their exact doctrine. ~ David Wilson

    The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. …. Without doubt those who willfully try to drive God from their heart and to avoid all questions about religion, not following the biddings of their conscience, are not free from blame. But believers themselves often share some responsibility for this situation. For atheism, taken as a whole, is not present in the mind of man from the start (Atheismus, integre consideratus, non est quid originarium). It springs from various causes, among which must be included a critical reaction against religions and, in some places, against the Christian religion in particular. Believers can thus have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.
    –Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, 19

  13. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol

    Imagine these sentences:
    Sabio, it seems your problem is more with Muslims, than with Allah
    … more with Greeks than with Zeus
    … more with Hindus than with Kali
    … more with Mormons than with Moroni
    … more with Shintoists than Amaterasu
    Since I don’t believe in any of those imaginary entities, so none of these sentence make sense.

    I am glad you find solace in your religion. For me, there are only people and all of us have strengths and weaknesses.

  14. Carol says:

    For me, there are only people and all of us have strengths and weaknesses.

    Well, Sabio, then you are an atheist, not an agnostic. Which makes me wonder why in the world you would want to hang around a blog where the primary subject for contemplation is God.

    That just doesn’t seem logical; but, then, a fundamental error of the Enlightenment is believing that, given the necessary knowledge, people will always behave logically.

  15. Sabio Lantz says:


    I think you may be disappointingly surprised to find that there are many atheists that visit David’s blog. Many of David’s messages transcend religion and god-belief. Do you feel a person without any belief in gods or spirits can have an inner life anything like yours? Is god-talk, spirit-imagination and prayer necessary to be fully human, loving, and vibrant? (or whatever other qualities you value)

  16. Carol says:

    I think you may be disappointingly surprised to find that there are many atheists that visit David’s blog. Many of David’s messages transcend religion and god-belief. Do you feel a person without any belief in gods or spirits can have an inner life anything like yours? Is god-talk, spirit-imagination and prayer necessary to be fully human, loving, and vibrant? (or whatever other qualities you value)-Sabio

    I believe in the essential goodness of creation, that “evil” is an aberration or disordered *good* having no substance of its own. I also believe that all people and even other sentient animals have a spiritual nature that reflects that of the Creator. I also believe that there is a natural intuitive faith that can be and often is corrupted by formal theological instruction.

    However, I do not believe that theistic, agnostic and atheistic spirituality are identical even though all may be authentic forms of human spirituality.

    “Those who are pursuing Love are pursuing God. Through His grace, this allows them to partake as they are able in the divine life and thus also partake in the redemptive work of Christ. It is not necessary for an individual to outwardly profess a particular set of theological dogmas for Christ’s work to be effective for redemption in that individual.
    This is what a comprehensive contextual reading of Scripture leads to, instead of having to balance apparently contradictory texts against each other when they are plucked out as “proof texts.”–Paul Sauberer

    Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.–Simone Weil

  17. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol
    Thank you for all your cut-and-paste witnessing quotes to those of us fumbling through life without grace.

  18. nakedpastor says:

    Actually I do entertain atheist ideas. I have my own inner atheist, although I would not claim to not be a Christian. There is quite a variety of readers on my blog, from atheist to fundamentalist christian. I like the variety and would like it to stay because I think it represents healthy community. So I appreciate what Sabio has to offer, as well as Carol, as well as Steve. Well… usually 😉

  19. Carol says:

    No one is “without grace.” “In him we live and move and have our being.” But many are without a conscious awareness of grace.

    However, if you are determined to twist everything I write into a personal affront, there is really not much chance of our having an honest dialogue, is there?

  20. nakedpastor says:

    Carol and Sabio: I agree. I have found over the years that the best way to dialog is to keep it in the court of our ideas and opinions. We all know how difficult this is. It is so tempting to take things personally, especially if they take on a personal tone. It’s one thing to call an idea stupid. It’s another to call the person stupid. The strategy I always try to use is that the person didn’t mean to attack me, even if it sounded like it. I presume they meant the best and try to keep the conversation going with that attitude. Doesn’t always work, but it often does.

  21. Sabio Lantz says:

    Good points, Naked Pastor.

    Carol: If “grace” is everywhere, why is it important to be aware of it or put it in terms you are familiar with?