Why I don’t go to Church Anymore and Why You May Also Want to Stay at Home this Sunday
Writing about this subject is no easy thing. People are very sensitive when it comes to this subject. This is because we tend to get very emotionally attached to our image of ourselves, to our persona. Our religious or spiritual identity is also a big part of this image. So no wonder then that we tend to get very defensive when other people express opinions that differ from ours in this area.
Religion is a big part of who we are. Whether we are religious or not now, makes little difference to this fact. Religion deeply shaped the structure and fabric of our society. The way Western society is structured now is largely due to Christianity. But this is also true on an individual level. Even if you consider yourself to be an Atheist, you can do that in relation to the religion you were born in, to the religion of people around you, to that of your ancestors.
Practicing a religion has its benefits. It can comfort oneself in times of distress, it can offer hope when things don’t go according to plan, it can offer certainty while navigating this chaotic social world and it can offer support through the help of the community in times of need. All of these things are not something to take lightly and can make a world of a difference to someone who needs them.
To be fair, I grew up going to a Baptist church in Romania. I kinda’ liked going to church on Sunday mornings when I was little because they would have different rooms where children of similar ages would gather to play, sing and listen to stories. I enjoyed that period quite a bit. The toys were pretty cool (they were received by our church from the US mostly) and which 5-year old doesn’t enjoy singing and making funny gestures with their hands? It was also nice for adults to pay attention to you for once and tell you all those uncanny stories… [The years after the revolution which overthrew the communist regime were characterized by a great striving to work as much as possible to get ahead and the young children of those times were either neglected or passed on to their retired grandparents.]
Oh, but how I hated Sunday evenings… Going in a room packed with adults sitting on chairs, all faced towards a quite high stand on which sat a TV. Through that TV spoke an utterly boring gentleman, dressed in a black suit and a white shirt. His monotone voice was only rarely interrupted by gradual shifts in loudness when he thought he was saying something of greater importance — as he was probably taught in seminary school. This guy knew how to put an audience to sleep if it weren’t for those unnecessary changes in volume. Those two hours definitely sucked the joy out of me.
The experience was still quite bearable while I was little and could get away with playing with the toys I brought from home and did not have to put on a frown and mime an interest. But as I grew, it suddenly became unacceptable to fall asleep during the pastor’s well-studied and utterly dull monologues. Who would willingly put on their best clothes and tidy up so as to look their best only to go some place where a dude stands in front and scolds everyone for a couple of hours every week. It just made no sense to me. It still doesn’t. I get the singing. What I don’t get is the unnecessary flattery addressed God and the unasked-for proclamations of self-loathing.
What you hear, see and feel with regularity becomes your experience. Why the hell would you put yourself through such experiences? Going to church is not a necessity. It is a nurtured addiction. People feel an immense fear when they are about to leave the church, even if they notice and intellectually understand how going to church can negatively impact you and how the mechanisms that keep you coming for more operate.
We have a saying in Romanian, “Repetition is the mother of learning”, but it is also the mother of brainwashing because you can learn things that damage you or are even outright untrue. I’m not saying that all places and communities are the same, I don’t want to make blanket statements, I’m just putting my experience into words.
Because neo-protestants have primarily a talking religion, and because I have ‘forced’ to listen to countless hours of somber babbling, I have learned to poke holes in the flimsy ‘biblical’ arguments. In other words, I have learned to think critically. I have the church to thank for this and for my distancing from it.
Because I distanced myself from the church for long enough, I managed to form my own opinions and views of the world based on my experiences and the teachings I gravitated towards. I really feel no need in going to have my brain examined and rearranged by an opinionated well-meaning and ill-informed person.
[I also recorded a podcast episode where I talked a bit more analytically about this subject. If you know Romanian, I recommend you have a listen :)]