What You Hear In Church May 21, 2011

What You Hear In Church

David Hayward isn’t exactly sure who the singer in his own cartoon represents.

Is it the pastor?

The people who sing horrendous worship songs?

The church as a whole…?

I’ll assume it’s all of the above.

What I like about David is that he just gets where a lot of us who don’t go to church are coming from:

What gets me is when churches intentionally employ these methods. It’s one thing when someone craves these. But it’s another when another offers them knowing they are just addictive tactics and gimmickry. The dealer is worse than the user. I know one pastor who has since left the ministry who was told by his authorities that his worship music must always be positive, optimistic and celebratory because that’s what people want, that’s what will keep them coming, and if you provide it consistently they will become your strongest supporters. Especially financially.

Another pastor told me during the whole praise music renaissance to hurry up and write worship songs… any old crap would do… because they were selling like hotcakes. There was money to be made!

Religion is so vulnerable to the temptation to be exactly as Karl Marx described it: the opiate of the masses. And it isn’t just from the top down: powers and authorities realize how easily it can captivate people. It’s also from the bottom up: people want to be captivated and will pay through the nose for it.

Even if the pastors weren’t selling out to get more donors, though, the things they say in many churches — not the inspirational, cheesy stuff, but the Bible-is-literally-true stuff — are still lies. Some pastors know it but say it anyway. Some pastors lie by not doing the proper research and ignoring the critical questions. And some pastors just get sucked so deep into the Church World that they end up believing the lies.

(via nakedpastor)

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  • Richard Wade

    All the conscious lies, all the semi-conscious, willfully childish, negligent fostering of falsehoods, and all the sincerely believed nonsense have a single root, the Prime Untruth.

    In the beginning there was the word, and the word was God. And that’s all it has ever been, a word.

  • Brian

    Faith is our enemy as much as poverty, cruelty, fascism, et. al.

  • Megan

    Ahhh, but not all “worship” songs are horrendous 😉 I’m an atheist but also a professional vocalist. I sang for an Episcopal church for years and years (paid position of course, and hilariously the priest was one of the coolest old dudes I ever met) and sang some of the best music ever written. The choir director was also an atheist, with a MM in composition from an amazing school.

    I’m sure you must be referring to either some old-timey baptist crap music OR some of the equally hideous newer, “contemporary christian” stuff. Yes, that stuff is hideous. But Bach… not so much. Oddly enough, many of the great classical composers were in my very position – produce your music for the church or don’t get paid 😉

  • Zac

    I once spent a day working at a vendor at an Arts festival in hippy country, right next to the stage. The first two hours was non-stop evangelical songs.
    There were belly dancers afterwards though, so that made up for it.

  • Erp

    I know one church music director who is quite openly non-Christian. He says his religion is Bach. Admittedly the older music has been winnowed by time so mostly the good is left.

  • BoomerChick

    Did you ever notice the Alphabet Song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

    Did you just try singing these two songs?

    I can be silly… the rapture is coming… heathens like me are in big trouble anyway.

  • people want to be captivated and will pay through the nose for it.

    This is the part that I think is most important and most often overlooked. It goes along with the throw-away dismissals of “stupidity” and “fringe-groups” and so forth. I think many of us (atheists and humanists) ignore, or at least underestimate, the deep-seated hunger for this nonsense that underpins so much of fundamentalism.

    I am convinced that the lucrative business of church depends upon the demand of its consumers for its persistent survival and repeated resurgences throughout history more than anything else. It isn’t simply credulous followers duped by cynical leaders. The “followers” create the megachurches themselves. They want the mythology and the false certitude. They enable these powerful entities to exist and prosper.

    And I think there is more to it than mere comfort and need for belief. It is power of a majority that is the true goal sought. It is the almost overwhelming psychological need for community and belonging,yes, but most people want not just any community. They want a community that is large and powerful. A community that can whup ass. That can impose its will on the “others”. We see it all the time. Every single bloody day.

    I am sure there is an evolutionary explanation – no doubt long ago explained or at least hypothesized by the great minds (Dawkins, Dennett, et al) who dare to speak of such things. (ETA) Oops! Hit submit before finishing this thought! Anyway, I am sure I am not breaking new ground here in thinking about religion’s apparent stranglehold on the masses, but I sure wish it didn’t seem to be such a primitive “tap root” kind of thing. 🙁 I guess the hopeful part is that so many of us appear to have evolved slightly apart from that – though given the history of savagery of the religious toward the areligious, it is hardly surprising that we are so much int he minority! Cases like young Damon’s are clear evidence that the danger for the areligious and nontheists is as real and present as ever!

  • seasicksquid

    Interestingly, the only reason I really went to a youth group when I was a teenager was because I enjoyed performing. I got a chance to be part of a band that performed to rapt audiences. It was a great, easily accessible activity that satisfied my need to perform…for a while.

    That, and this youth group played some pretty kick ass games of Capture the Flag, and I LOVE a good scavenger hunt.

    The rest of the time it was just me convincing myself that I could “feel” some kind of spiritual relationship. That lasted all of 2 years before I called it quits and told them all I was atheist. THAT was fun. Harassment encouraged by an adult.

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