A General Response

So, I was picked up by several forums and other blogs yesterday and overnight last night, and wow, did I get a lot of visits to my blog.

I also got a lot of feedback, and since I promised to respond to respectful messages if I could, I’m going to do that here.  There are just too many to respond individually, especially on one particular topic.

Which is this:  Boy did you miss the point.  (Paraphrased slightly).

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Folks have told me that they disagree with my methods, over and over again, because it doesn’t grade the intent of the church.  I’ve also been told that going to a church on just one single night, listening to just one sermon won’t give me any insight into that whole faith, nor will it tell me much about that one church.

You’re all right, of course.

But I don’t want to grade a church’s intent.  And I don’t want to get a sense of what the faith is all about, and I don’t want to know much about that church.

I want to know what they actually say when they’re saying it.

In the places I’ve been, I’ve always talked with folks before the sermon to let them know that I’m paying particular attention to the message.   I don’t always tell them I’m blogging about it, but I do try to convey what it is that I’m listening for.  They tend to tell me that those things will be there, and often they aren’t.  Then when I point that out, they tell me that I’ve missed the point.

To my way of thinking, it’s the opposite.  That’s exactly what makes my point.

As an atheist, skeptic, and “free thinker” kind of guy, I don’t take it on faith that your church is going to be a good place, that encourages people to be good and do good deeds.  I mean, I certainly hope it is.  But I have to experience it myself before I can make a judgement.

I try to shed any preconceived notions I might have about a place before I go in.  That’s really hard, by the way.  We humans are a prejudicial lot.  Knowing too much about Judaism or Catholicism or Whateverism before I go in could instill in me the very same bias that you yourself are experiencing.  And I’m trying to be fair, to the extent that I am able.

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7 thoughts on “A General Response

  1. I was kind of thinking something similar, but had not gotten around to commenting. Many sermons will only cover one topic. For example, being good to your neighbor. So grading on multiple topics in one visit is likely to come up short in all churches. It might be better to visit now, and then again in a few months to see if the message has moved onto another topic.
    Another way to review a church is to look at what they do, not just what they say. Anyone can say they believe in being helpful to their community, but are they doing anything. When you visit a church, perhaps you should also ask about their outreach programs, or their outside ministries. That way you will find out if they walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

    • Well, you make good points. When I first started doing this, I was going to go to a church or two. But it was fun, interesting, and I got a lot of encouragement, and so I’m still doing it.

      I don’t know if seeing if churches walk the walk is going to be part of this blog, but if I were to turn this into an actual study or write a book, that would certainly be something interesting and even useful to add.

      As for visiting churches more than once, I’m considering that. But since there are so many in Seattle, I may just stick to my “Random Sample” method.

      With the exception of Mars Hill, and maybe the Catholic church (I just attended morning Mass), I don’t yet have plans to visit the same church twice.

      But, it’s something I might consider.

  2. I am not an atheist but many years ago I had a bad experience with the people at the church I was attending and I went on a quest much like yours. I didn’t blog about it because it was in the days of computers as big as a building with information on punch cards.

    My point is that I can relate, I respect your efforts and have enjoyed revisiting churches through your blog. My experiences were very different for a number of reasons. I am female. Also I made the mistake to telling some of my former church and many got mean. It was unsettling.

    I have since returned to my former religion and respect any religion that encourages doing good and being good.

    Keep up the good work.

    C

  3. I can’t imagine how somebody could take issue with what you are doing. You have been clear on your motivations and criterion from the beginning. I would assume most people would not only appreciate an outside view of the practical effects their church has, but relish the idea of an atheist visiting their church. It seems I’d be wrong.

    I’m a christian and I hope you keep this up, and wish my church was closer to you so you could evaluate us. The only things I would like to see added to your reviews are “what does the church do?” and “what does the community think of them?” I know this is a lot more work for you, but it would be nice to know which churches serve food to the homeless or host AA or have actually contributed to the wellbeing of their geographical neighbors.

    Love the idea, and love the blog!

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