Send me to church!

religionI’ve had a little time off to work on family-related projects, and now I’m ready to get back into the swing of things.

I’m planning on going to a Disciples of Christ church this Sunday, with a few other surprise churches if I can swing it.

But for the following week, I have no agenda. So, help me out here, and vote on where I should go next!


14 thoughts on “Send me to church!

  1. Having read some of your ‘reviews’ all you do is measure up how these places fit in to your personal belief system. You make no effort to understand what the people who go t heir believe – to see the world through their eyes, so to speak. So really, tell me why any intelligent person should care what you review?

    • Well, all I can say is, after 100K page views, and hundreds of positive comments and emails, I’d say plenty of people are interested, entertained by what I’ve written.

      Obviously, it’s not for you.

      Also, you’re missing the point of the blog, but you’re missing the point intentionally, so you already know why someone would find it interesting.

  2. I asked why an intelligent person should be interested in what you review. You answer by saying that possibly thousands of people are interested. That doesn’t really answer the question. If you want to know why I think people are interested, it’s probably because people who share your belief system are reassured when they read someone else who shares their beliefs. Religious web sites (some of which also get thousands of page views) are often their for the same reason.

    • I know what you asked, and I know what my answer was, no need to repeat it.

      Your question not being made in good faith, and being more of a rhetorical statement, I chose to ignore it.

      I’m fine with you not liking what I’m doing, and I’m fine with your criticism of it. Pretending to misunderstand something in order to make a statement is something I find to be a little intellectually dishonest.

      Why not just be upfront about your criticism instead of couching it in a question? That would be a better way of having an intelligent, reasoned debate, if that’s what you’re looking for.

    • You’re reading emotion into my post that’s not intended by me.

      After all the hate mail I’ve gotten over Mars Hill Church, it would take a lot more than a little light criticism to get my hackles up.

  3. OK. I’ll restate the criticism and seek your reply.

    Personally, whenever I come across people who have a different view to mine I try to suspend my own judgement and attempt to see the world as they see it. This, I think, makes me more aware of other ways of seeing the world. I think this is necessary in order to understand a different world view. I saw your ‘review’ of the mosque and you seem to see it through the filter of your existing viewpoint. I see no example of you attempting to understand the point of view of a Muslim, for instance. Do you want to comment on that?

    • Sure,

      It’s a valid criticism, but it misses the point of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m not trying to understand anyone else’s faith.

      I certainly am gaining a better understanding than I’ve ever had, and that’s a nice side effect, but it’s not my goal.

      There are two things that I’m doing:

      (1) Writing about the physical experience with as little preconceived notions as I am able, and

      (2) Making a judgement about the message that the priest/rabbi/imam/pastor is actually saying. Not what the holy book says he should say, or what the faithful claim the faith is about, but what he actually preaches. And I’m giving it a grade based on humanist criteria.

      I’m not trying to explain why the imam at Idris mosque told a story that contained misogyny, or why the Methodists said that you just have to be obedient to God for things to go your way, or why the Mars Hill guys said you should spend money to make Jesus’ church more powerful, or why the Scientologists seem to want to drain everyone out of their life’s savings… but I am writing about it, and I’m including how I feel about those things as I write it.

      I’m also writing about positive things, as I see them. The Unitarians, Catholics, and Mormons had some positive messages in their sermons, for example, and I wrote about that as well.

      If a particular sect’s holy book claims that the faith is one of peace and love, well, that sounds great. Who doesn’t want peace and love? But are they actually preaching that? Do they actually encourage their flock to go out and do good things and spread the peace and love around? The answer turned out not to be as simple as I thought it was going to be. The answer is yes and no.

      I’m delighted that I’ve found good messages in some churches, because I didn’t think I’d find any at all. But I’m still disappointed that so many places focus so much on money, or obedience rather than going out and doing good.

      For every church I’ve reviewed that I said something good about, the parishioners have praised me and told me what a great guy I am for having said good things about their church.

      And for every religious institution I’ve been more critical about, I’ve been told that I miss the point (at best) or that I’m evil and will be roasting in hell (at worst).

  4. So I can see where you’re coming from: “And I’m giving it a grade based on humanist criteria.” Personally, I think you would benefit from attempting to see the world as they see it, whether it’s a Mormon, Muslim or Scientologist, but that’s just a personal view. Incidentally, I can see why you thought my original post was dishonest but I am of the view that intelligent people should try to see the world in different ways rather than just judging them according to a preconceived view and this is why I asked the (rhetorical) question as to why an intelligent person should be interested.

  5. Your debate has been very enlightening. Mark has received a lot of criticism already, and I doubt that one person such as yourself Philip is going to dissuade him or change him. If you want to question his reasoning, I think that you need to understand the humanist philosophy. It is a way to want to do good in the world that doesn’t require a belief in a supreme being or an afterlife to motivate them.

    I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe in God, and my love for him and for my human brothers and sisters motivates me to do good. But I can understand that in my belief in God there is a lot of culture and doctrine that gets in the way of doing the best thing for mankind. Personally, I believe that I do my best, but I can see how Mark can doubt my intentions. I think that the humanist philosophy is admirable for it’s desire to do good that is not motivated by any external force.

    Philip, you have a point in questioning why Mark is doing this. His purpose and experiment are limited if he doesn’t try to understand the doctrines or dogmas of these religions, but to do so would severely limit the efficacy of his experiments. Everyone does what they do based on their belief system, and to understand these would bring many to about the same par. He simply wants to judge what the teachers of the religion are asking the congregation to do, and how they measure up to his humanist philosophy. If you are looking for someone to do more extensive studies of these religions, maybe a theologian’s blog is more up your alley. They study the history behind the doctrine.

    Mark, don’t give, though I don’t believe we completely see eye to eye, I think you are asking an important question that many need to answer. “Have you done any good in the world today?” Everyone needs to be self-evaluating themselves on that right now.

  6. Philip Braham,

    I am one of the people that like this Blog. Everything doesn’t have to fit a particular Format for it to be valuable, and I consider Mark’s blog to be full of great information both in what is written and the insights I gain from my interpretations of what he might be saying in-between the lines.

    I find it interesting to hear HIS PERSPECTIVE — ummm just like You said it’s good to do right, get other’s point of view on why they think and believe & whatever ?? Why is he supposed to be a different type of reporter than he is ?? Wouldn’t that be what’s dishonest?

    Maybe you should do a blog yourself and see if you can get 100,000+ views.

    Also, Intelligent people like reading all kinds of info, Philip.

    Keep up the good work Mark !!!

  7. In regards to Philip’s comments. I think that Mark does do a service by showing what a stranger experiences from an operational perspective when they walk in the door for the first time. Are they greeted, made to feel comfortable, how does the music sound to someone, is it easy to figure out when services are and where to go. Listening to the actusl message that the pastor is saying to the congregation outside of the standard prayers is what he set out to do, if your only experience with religion is through seeing Westboro Baptist or 700 Club you have a very skewed idea of what goes on in a church. He has set up to find out for himself.

    A little knowledge about what each religion could either hurt or help. After all one mans “Borg like back and forth” is another’s “prayer filled response” but on the whole I think that Mark is doing what anyone looking at a faith community does “what do these people say and does it fit the way I want to live my life” He has laid out a set criteria and grades each church on if it fits those. They are his criteria.

    A word about money. It takes money to run any operation, staff has to be paid, lights need to be turned on, buildings have to be maintained so every church/temple/mosque is going to have a time when money is discussed. I think how it’s addressed and if the congregation understands where the money goes and if theoney is going to do things the community feels are part if their mission that is important.

  8. Mark, has picked up your blog yet? I’m not terribly familiar with the site but I pop in and out of it now and again. Seems like something they’d enjoy.

    Also, have you given any consideration to do a return visit to each of these churches? Sorry if this is a duplicate question. I just know our church can vary each week based on those asked to speak. Curious if other churches might be the same.

    I am appreciative of your adventure. Awesome info. And I think your scoring sections are spot on. Such a simple concept yet one I have never seen anyone dive into.

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