Why atheists should go to church

Yes, it may surprise you, but even we atheists might just have reason to visit church every once in a while. The reason: free stuff and some decent stimulation. Eternal life isn’t the only thing that’s free! The church has always been in big business. Now it’s time we put it to work for the godless!

1) Scratch paper: that soon-to-be-thrown-away piece of trash you get handed to you when you walk in the door called a church bulletin, it can serve some practical uses, like being folded up and put under the leg of a wobbly table to level it. Who knows how many other odd uses junk like this could have if we really put our minds to it?

2) Free note cards: upon being seated, there will be attendance cards in the pews in front of you and nice little half-pencils that could be used to make out a grocery list or a “to do” list for the coming busy week.

3) Soft-core porn: church provides views of pretty, revealingly dressed young women with parents who don’t seem to mind their college-aged daughters dressing up to become eye-candy for the congregation. Not many of us will let this go unnoticed!

4) Potluck meals: nothing beats potluck Sunday! Show up then and you’ve got a belt-buster meal and the generosity of strangers encouraging you to eat it all. Go on…eat it up; they’ll be offended if you don’t!

5) Canned foods or bags of groceries: poor? Nothing wrong with being the subject of a little charity now and then—at the church’s expense, no less! Who said a church can’t be useful?

6) Bill pay: having hard times? Can’t quite make ends meet? Don’t mind using an organization for strictly financial purposes? Well, then let the church help you out. They may be willing to pay a bill for you, freeing up some money to get cable TV turned back on.

7) A place to send the kids away: church can also be a place to send the kids away on camping trips for a few days so you and the spouse can have some good, old fashioned, conjugal fun. *Of course, you’ll want to do a background check on whoever’s heading up the camp first. The clergy doesn’t always have the best track record when it comes to integrity and young people. It is also good to warn the youngsters not to believe the lies they will be told while they are there.

8) Good horror stories: an unexpected treat! Freddy Krueger doesn’t have a thing on Jesus Christ and his hot-tempered daddy. In the Bible, you can find more stories of unsurpassed cruelty than in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Amityville series, and every Friday the 13th movie ever produced. Murder, rape, incest, torture, slavery, cruelty to women and children, witchcraft, angry gods, lighting bolts, natural disasters, plagues, wars, duels, mutilations, crucifixions, more blood than you can shake a stick at, and of course, eternal torment! Freddy Krueger? Jason? The Nightflyer? Puh-leaze!

9) Free stand-up comedy: whereas in a secular comedy club, it would cost you upwards of $20.00 to get in. In the church, the comedy is free, plus you get a read-along script called the bible to stay up with the action yourself. It sure is a riot to hear the funny things these preachers are willing to say from their pulpits! And the comedy doesn’t end there either. Debating people who take this humor seriously is also funny. To see them affirm with a straight face their belief in a Noah’s ark, or that the sun was “stopped” until some Jews won a battle, is hilarious! Yes, churches can provide hours and hours of knee-slapping entertainment!

10) Free bibles: to serve as classical ancient literature, not to mention funny papers and comics.

(JH)

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Now that's some straight up hate and bitterness, but yet you do show the goodness of the church, and do show how constrast the difference is between love and hate.

Susan (Ayame) said...

Free coffee and donuts, too, as one of our local churches advertises.

Another church advertises air conditioning. It's hot here in Texas.

Gosh, free donuts, air conditioning, who can ask for more? :)

I don't think your post was hateful, either. It was sardonic--and funny. :)

Anonymous said...

Ya, and the reason they do that is to try and share the love, and you're making fun of it. Isn't that what fools do? Make fun of people who try to do good things?

billf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ya, but what's the point of this post? It might be just me, but it seems like lets take shots at churches time.

John said...

Oh, SNAP!

That's was so sweet - you totally Debunked Christianity! Bertrand would be so proud.

Anonymous said...

Pretty wierd though, fleeing Christianity for being "persececuted" or "treated badly" and you just turn around and bash it and its people. Seems hyprocitical to me.

Joe E. Holman said...

Oh come now, those of you who find this pointless and hateful. It's no different from any other "you might be an atheist if" article by JP Holding, or some other theist who employs lightheartedness to make a point.

This is a reflective piece for us heretics. ;-)

(JH)

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Joe: I'm sorry, but while much of your piece is pretty innocuous, the sections on charity, potluck suppers, grocery bags and bill paying, and the tone of them made me as annoyed as it did Mr. Anonymous.

The difference between me and, I'd guess, most of you here, is that I have been poor, and homeless. Not for 20 years, but I know what its like. I got most of the help I needed from the state, not the church, but there were days when those bologna sandwiches on church handed out made a big difference. And I know people who have needed the grocery bags, the other help that churches provide.
And y'know, if I'd gotten on line for those sandwiches wearing a t-shirt reading 'member, Athiests against God" they would have given me the sandwiches anyway, and the church that did provide a cot and a breakfast for a couple of weeks never asked me my beliefs or preached at me. And I hope I never will come close to needing the groceries, and I probably won't, but I'm glad they are there for people who do.

Blast the churches for their beliefs, their sermons, or whatever, but when they do something unselfish, don't mock them.

Adam said...

Jim Benton said: "Blast the churches for their beliefs, their sermons, or whatever, but when they do something unselfish, don't mock them."

The church is not acting in an unselfish manner, they have an agenda to fulfil - to promote their belief system. Everything they do is driven by their desire to lift themselves to the moral high ground for the ultra-competitive market of unbelievers.

Next you will be claiming that Mother Teresa acted unselfishly…

Susan (Ayame) said...

I agree with Adam. It's about agenda. Offer something so that they can preach and change people's minds about things.

I always think of it being like those time share pitches that you hear about. They offer something (like a TV or a dinner) and then try to sell their time shares.

Time shares in eternity really isn't much different. ;)

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Adam:
There is a certain type of cheap cynicism that always can get applause from the crowd, the cynicism that can find a 'selfish' reason for every action. Believers love to use it against us. We, they love to say, aren't athiests, don't write here because we believe what we say. Oh, no, it's because we want the chance to 'sin' without the guilt we should feel, or because we want to show how much smarter we are than believers.
We hate it when we hear this, because we know better. We know we do believe what we are writing, how we are living our lives. (Most of us do, at least, but there are a few who do act the way the cynics claim.)
But I don't like this tactic any better when 'our side' uses it. I know damn well that most believers are as sincere as we are -- though there are hypocrites among them as well. I know that many of them do good things -- and some things we consider bad -- because they want to be good people, as they define the words.
They make sacrifices, they do things for other people, they deny themselves pleasures, they even suffer mockery not to 'claim the moral high ground,' not even to 'gain heaven or avoid hell' but because they think acting this way is the right way to act. (Oh, they may expect a 'heavenly reward' too, but there are much easier ways of getting that in their eyes.)
It's always easy to mock idealism, to find those feet of clay -- and yes, we all have some clay in us. But it is also juvenile, insulting, when used by us or them, and only makes us look bad.

Grow up.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Susan:
Your comment appeared as I was writing mine. In my initial comment, I specifically stated -- accurately -- that the people I mentioned did not 'preach' to those they helped, that I could have worn the most offensive button or t-shirt available and would have still got their help. The church i stayed at even removed the religious imagery from their walls when they set out the cots -- I think it was Catholic, but I'm not even sure about that. They didn't do what they did to 'sell me time shares in heaven.' They did what they did because they, like most people, were good people who knew they were part of the human race and cared about their fellow 'club members.'
And to add a bit of 'selfishness' from my own atheism to this rant, this sort of cynicism gives nothing but support to the believers who claim that atheists can't be ethical, that only God provides a reason for ethics or unselfishness. It isn't true. An ethical sense is a part of humanity, for believers as well as unbelievers.

John W. Loftus said...

You'll never see me mocking Christians in general in front of Christians. That's just not my style. I try to be respectful to those I disagree with as if they are friends of mine, or as if they were sitting with me in the same room. That's my style, even if I have been personally mocked, belittled and lied about by some Christians on the web.

I can see where there is a place for skeptics to laugh together at what we find utterly foolish and backward, though, just as preachers make fun of us skeptics in their pulpits.

I just won't do that here at DC. That's not my style.

King Aardvark said...

Joe, I thought your post as a whole was funny in tongue-in-cheek way, but I also don't like making fun of people for the genuine good that they do. It's one thing to make fun of the potlucks, quite another to make fun of feeding the homeless. The potlucks can be blattant bribery, and the summer camps are usually all-out brainwashing, and I've also noticed the girls dressing to attract attention. That's fine.

Re: them trying to do good by whatever their own views of good are VS. the agenda - there are certainly elements of both here. Just like in sports: is it a business or is it a passionate competition? It's both, too.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Thanks to John and King A.-- who made my point beter and more concisely than I did.
I agree that there are things that believers do that are 'utterly foolish and backward.' But not the work they do in all sincerity for the poor.

Sandalstraps said...

As someone who is a part of a church who works with at risk and marginalized populations, I can say that our "ministry" to these persons is almost entirely material. We provide meals six days a week, and many, many other services, not because we think that in doing so we may be able to covertly convert, but because we simply think that this is our moral and spiritual duty.

This sense of duty does come out of a theological belief system, but it does not necessarily have an evangelical component. We are called to reach out and materially aid those who are most vulnerable because we see this as the greatest concern of God, whom we understand to be on the side of the oppressed.

I understand that fleshing out the theological component of Christian charity in an atmosphere like this one may open me up to some decidedly uncharitable criticism. I recognize that among those who see Christianity as a monolithic religion with a single (and rather stupid) belief system, saying that we identify God as being on the side of those most dumped on by the powers of this world creates an apparent logical contradiction that those who wish that I were totally absurd will be more than happy to point out:

If God, it could be asked (and rightly so, I might add), is on the side of the oppressed, then why are they so oppressed? If God is for the poor, then why are they poor? If God is for the hungy, why are they still hungry?

There is no simple answer to this very live theological question, but that there is no simple answer does not make the faith of those who fell called by God to minister to the physical and psychological wounds of those at risk and marginalized persons absurd or ridiculous. Nor does it make those of us who do our best to honor our concept of God by salving the wounds of the poorest of the poor disingenious or dishonest in our service.

I appreciate Prup's comment, especially because, in my experience there is a great deal of truth to it. If, in his time of trouble, he were to come to my church, it wouldn't matter what he said, believed, or wore; we would feed him. And we would feed him hot food without that distressing side-dish of luke-warm guilt.

We would feed him for theological reasons, reasons that derrive from our faith. But these reasons would not necessarily be evangelical reasons, as I've never seen anyone associated with any of our more social ministies try to convert any needy person. Frankly, those persons have far greater concerns than their religious affiliation.

This does not mean that all forms of social ministry are without evangelical purpose. I have no difficulty believing that some churches, who see their primary duty as one of ushering souls into heaven, would try to pair meeting the material needs of the poor with converting them to a particular religious expression. But I strongly doubt that this form of Christian charity is the dominant one.

As a scholar of religion (trained in both secular and religious settings) I can say that it is very, very difficult to understand a religion entirely from the outside. That difficulty is made even greater by a lack of charity, a willingness to assume the worst about "the other." Christians are often guilty of this when they look at other religions, so often failing to understand the religion they encounter because they are judging it against their own. I see that same error many times when I visit here. If your foundational assumption is that the "other" that you encounter - in this case those "Christians" - are either stupid, evil, or at least dishonest with themselves and with everyone else; if you begin by assuming the worst (to wit, they "only" do works of charity for selfish and dishonest reasons) then you will never properly understand them. And, failing to understand them, you will look as silly in your opposition to Christianity as many Christians you oppose do in their opposition to everything else.

Adam said...

Hello Prup,

Call it a duty to fulfill, a moral framework to follow, or whatever you like, those who attach themselves to a particular ideology and then go and act in a charitable way are, on the whole, not acting with the sole interests of the recipient alone. These people, as pointed out earlier, are acting the way they do because they are fulfilling a duty, or following a framework of living. Why else, then, do these people do this charitable work and at the same time profess their allegiance to their particular ideology, if they only have the sole interests of others in mind?

Sliding up the scale of less selfless acts are those who act as an individual or an organization with the sole purpose of helping others purely based on the premise that there are those that need help simply because they need it, not because it’s the right way to act, or what is expected. I have a lot more respect for those in this category than I do with those who profess an allegiance to a particular ideology and then act (or profess in retrospect).

To me, and at the top of the scale of the least selfless acts there can be, are those that are done anonymously. This, by virtue of the fact that the ‘self’ has been removed from the act, is the most noble to my mind. Of course, one could always argue, as pointed out earlier, that there is no such thing as a completely selfless act, and this would be tedious debate to have. However, as far as my opinion matters, the least selfish acts are done by those who gain (such as furthering their cause, or pleasing their God) nothing and give as much as they can without making a noise.

Kind regards

Adam

tobe38 said...

I think a lot of commenters have missed the fact that the post also jokingly mocked atheists, by implying that we would fit the immoral sterotypes in which we are cast by exploiting others people's kindness for our own ends.

I don't there are any completely selfless good deeds, and I think people who act with care and kindness, no matter what their motives, deserve at least some credit.

Having said that, and not for one second belittling any hardship or misfortune that anyone else here has endured, I think this post was harmless, and very amusing satire.

I wrote an article on my blog about the importance of satire, which will explain my feelings about this in more depth, here:

http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com/2007/03/27/the-importance-of-being-satirical/

Joe E. Holman said...

Tobe38 said...

"I think a lot of commenters have missed the fact that the post also jokingly mocked atheists, by implying that we would fit the immoral sterotypes in which we are cast by exploiting others people's kindness for our own ends.

Having said that, and not for one second belittling any hardship or misfortune that anyone else here has endured, I think this post was harmless, and very amusing satire."


Thank you! Thank you!

Finally, somebody notices this angle of the article!

(JH)

Anonymous said...

While I've enjoyed reading Mr. Holman's contributions and find his humor striking, one might consider some sensitivity before approaching a crowd on a popular website with such writing. It could be considered an act of protective love where others courageously brought to light a different perspective to increase awareness about the use of humor here in a public forum.

Anon 1035

Kyle said...

I think a lot of confusion arises due to a misunderstanding of ethics. Good actions are not good because someone denies themselves their own good and brings hardships on themself to serve someone else. Someone who merely does their moral duty in helping someone else is not acting from a good motive. Good actions are good for the person doing them as well as the recipient. A Christian may serve food in a food pantry for the joy it brings them to honor God and help others. Should we consider this person selfish if they find pleasure in doing good deeds? I think such a person worthy of praise rather than being suspected for having selfish motives. Heavenly rewards are promised to the person who serves God faithfully. Since the reward is delayed until after death they display true faith in denying themselves of immediate pleasures in hope of future reward and as a result gain joy in their lifestyle of goodness. It is a mistake to define good actions as being a denial of all self interest. In the Christian view, self denial involves denying sinful impulses for long term benefit, not living a joyless life of grudging obedience.

Stew said...

JH - I laughed at all the points you made. And that doesn't mean that I would consider doing any of them. It must surely be obvious to reader that freeloading is not something you are seriously recommending to you readers.
The essence of much comedy and satire is to take a situation and inverse it, to say "what if . . ." And also by the time you've had to explain a joke it's no longer funny.
*Sigh* It's a tricky thing satire. You made me laugh tho'

Calvin said...

Love is the pursuit of our own joy in the Holy joy of the beloved. There is no way to exclude self-intrest from love, for self intrest is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness seeks it's own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved that it's joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved. Christ gave Himself for the church but He did it for the joy set before Him. That He might present His bride to Himself in splendor. Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others.

vjack said...

Excellent post! I loved it! None of this is enough to get me to go, but at least it would make me feel better about having to go once in awhile if I still did have to go once in awhile. I can't deny #3.

Anonymous said...

Good post Prup. I know that you may not agree with what we believe, but at least you are truthful and honest. It's the same thing for me and Mormons. They believe many different things than Protestants, and quite huge differences at that, but they try to do good things and you can't mock or judge them for that. But above all, I am not to judge anyone.

S.A. Tire said...

Joe-

As a Christian I found your post to be rather funny. I read it as satire, and as such allow me to offer my own little bit of satire here in hopes that some of my Christian brethren will lighten up a little.

Top ten reasons to go to Free Thinkers meetings:

1. Reclaim recycled Church bulletins.

2. Random sized note cards. Hey in a chance universe, who wants uniform sized note cards

3. An opportunity to Thank God that our women are better looking than atheist women (too many tatoos)

4.Survival of the fittest meals: Unless you are the fastest running to the table you don't eat. Unlike Church dinners, Free Thinkers conventions require skill and cunning to even get to the table.

5. Poor? Well, in a few years we will be rid of you and your impoverished family. Thus, ensuring the survival of my family.

6. Having a hard time paying bills? See #5

7. A Place to send the kids? Well careful, at Camp Darwin your kids will be required to reconstruct whole transition species from minuscle bone fragments. Some atheists have even been known to lie. Although we have no reason to condemn this.

8. Better horror stories. Imagine the horror you will experience when you find that atheism offers no hope beyond the here and now. All the supposed horror of your former "religious" beliefs should pale in comparison to the realization that there is nothing beyond this life.

9. Comedy, well atheists deserve a good laugh now and then, just look at their epistemology. Reruns of Mike Wallace interviewing Ayn Rand should offer hours of side-bursting fun.

10.Free copies of Voltaire. Remember Voltaire once quipped {"Christianity will be dead and gone within 100 years of (his) death} and yet the Geneva Bible Soceity used his own printing presses to print the bibles that the churches are giving out.

Well, mine is probably not as funny as Joe's but it's offered in good clean fun.

King Aardvark said...

Hey, Mr. Tire, your list wasn't bad. I thought you could tear into us a little more though (it was a little tame).

To my embarrassment, I have actually had random sized note cards for a presentation. They are very tricky to use in practice.

Joe - I've reread the list, and really it's just the two mooching items that can be particularly offensive. I guess the problem was that these two are more harsh satire than the others. That might have thrown people, including me. Upon a second read, it really doesn't sound bad at all.

Anonymous said...

Tire, that was good. Some parts made me laugh, but most didn't, because most of it is sadly true. :)

Joe E. Holman said...

LOL! Nice, S.A. Tire!

I appreciate your good spirit. Some parts were funnier than others. I give it a 6.2 out of a possible 10.0.

(JH)

Joe E. Holman said...

Damnit, I should have added...

1) coffee and donuts
2) free AC

(JH)

Anonymous said...

Bibles are also useful for kindling

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I found it very funny. What's not funny is when I do have to go to church I become angry and riled. Church also makes me feel depressed.

e said...

HAHA, that's funny shit, I'm gonna go to church on Sunday now..... well, maybe not, HAHA.