What's new
Fantasy Football - Footballguys Forums

Welcome to Our Forums. Once you've registered and logged in, you're primed to talk football, among other topics, with the sharpest and most experienced fantasy players on the internet.

The Death/Loss Of Religion In America (1 Viewer)

Is the loss of religion in America a good, neutral, or bad thing?

  • Good

    Votes: 101 46.1%
  • Neutral

    Votes: 58 26.5%
  • Bad

    Votes: 60 27.4%

  • Total voters
    219
New Gallup data released. It indicates nonbelief is on the rise. The only perhaps surprising result is that there has been little change among Republicans and Independents.
Both Democrats and Independents have seen marked increases in "neither spiritual or religious". However, it appears many Democrats have transitioned from religious to spiritual. To me, that says they still desire philosophy and hope, but are turning away from the dogma. That's a good thing, imo.
Interpretation is of course subjective. Here's how the author of the article put it:

During that time, the percentage of Democrats identifying as spiritual but not religious has increased 14 points, while the percentage saying they are neither has tripled.

At the same time, there has been no meaningful change in Republicans’ self-identification as religious or spiritual and only modest changes among independents. Over the past two decades, independents have become slightly less likely to identify as spiritual and slightly more likely to say they are neither religious nor spiritual.
 
“I’m spiritual, but not religious” has been popular for a while. I’ve never been sure what it means, though.
 
So many factors are in play, there are multiple theories about why crime has decreased, one could even propose that less religion is a factor.
Can you explain this position, that less religion could be a factor in lower crime?
In Christianity, especially among Protestants, there is the idea that one can be forgiven for any crime just by accepting Jesus before death. Some people committing crimes, hide behind the cloth of religion. Fewer kids exposed to religious pedophiles. Possible theories, but i don't believe the loss of religion is a major contributor to the reduction in crime. I think the OP hasn't presented good evidence that the loss of religion has had a negative impact on society.

If I were studying the effects of the loss of religion, I would want to know what people are doing instead of going to a place of worship. Are they spending Saturday or Sunday with friends, watching TV, etc. I believe the socialization aspect of religion is a net positive. And do they believe in the Golden Rule? It seems like the threat of hell or benefit of heaven is not a major reason for people to have a moral compass in the modern world.

Anecdotes ... my 2 daughters were baptized in the Catholic church (one in Lourdes!), did confirmation, and as adults don't attend church, but have a good moral compass IMO. Did church attendance at an early age have an impact on their morality ... I don't think so.
 
“I’m spiritual, but not religious” has been popular for a while. I’ve never been sure what it means, though.
I use that on dating apps. It means I'm not one of those people that will act like an enlightened jerk because I don't believe in God, so its ok if you do. Just don't expect me to go to Church and abstain from premarital sex.
 
I also strongly disagree with the notion that rejection of religion leads to immorality, unmoored and adrift, and would similarly argue that the opposite is more likely true for me.
If we're talking about a particular individual, I'm inclined to agree. If you tell me that you personally would be equally moral with or without religion, I believe you.

On a societal level, I'm not so sure. I never made the "society will go to hell in handbasket" argument back in the early 2000s and I always cringed a little when other people made that argument. But facts are facts. Put yourself in the shoes of somebody who was inclined to say back in 2000 that a decline in religiosity would lead to social decay down the road. That person probably feels strongly vindicated right now, and I have to admit that they're probably right to feel that way. I certainly assign much more credence to that argument than I used to.

What would have to happen for you to change your mind on this point? Like, specifically, what sort of social changes would have to occur for you to step back and say that maybe religion was more load-bearing than you thought?

(If I thought that the decline of Christianity would lead to social breakdown, something that would probably cause me to reconsider would be if we looked over the next 20-30 time horizon and saw that things were more or less as they were in the 1990s, with families faring similarly, kids growing up into healthy young adults at similar rates, comparable rates of mental wellness, and so on. That's what I would have predicted in 2000, and that prediction would have been wrong.)
I so miss hearing Ivan's views from the PSF days. Unfortunate collateral damage.
 
If I were studying the effects of the loss of religion, I would want to know what people are doing instead of going to a place of worship. Are they spending Saturday or Sunday with friends, watching TV, etc. I believe the socialization aspect of religion is a net positive. And do they believe in the Golden Rule? It seems like the threat of hell or benefit of heaven is not a major reason for people to have a moral compass in the modern world.
To have real meaning, this probably has to be measured by age group. For example, some portion of "decline in religion" could be explained simply by believers dying off and the younger generation never believing.
 
“I’m spiritual, but not religious” has been popular for a while. I’ve never been sure what it means, though.
Could mean a multitude of things related to believing in a god or simply having a greater sense of their part in the universe, but likely devoid of any religious dogma that tells you how that should be defined.
 
Last edited:
Raised catholic. Parents made me go every Sunday for 16 years or so. I totally understand people that like to go and it works for them. They get something real out of going and it makes them feel better.
But I have never felt like it did anything for me. I always would be counting down the minutes and thinking about what i could be doing with the time.
All the lessons from the scriptures are common sense treat people right stuff. hearing the same stories over and over and over and repeating the same worship script drove me insane. Might just be me but it always seemed like half the people at service only went because they felt that by going they got their ticket to heaven.
 
In Christianity, especially among Protestants, there is the idea that one can be forgiven for any crime just by accepting Jesus before death.
This always seemed like a convenient get out of jail free card to me. And seemed like one of those concepts that may have been changed over time.

Ever play the Telephone Game? People sit in a circle, and whisper a statement, and it goes around the circle, and the last person has a completely different statement? Well, how about a game of Telephone that lasts thousands of years? Why would I ever believe I was getting the actual message?
 
Some cherry picked statistical trends that correlate negative events with the decrease in religious practice over time:

Mass Shootings
Teen Suicide
Transgender Rates (speaks to trends in gender dysphoria)
Natural Disasters
Anxiety
The Natural Disaster one is certainly due to divine intervention. It’s definitely not a result of global warming, or technological advances over time, allowing us to detect more things like earthquakes globally.
Can't both be true?

To sum up,

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.
Stuart Chase
 
i don't believe the loss of religion is a major contributor to the reduction in crime.

Connecting loss of religion to reduction of crime is one I hadn't heard of before.

I guess it's good to know you don't think it's a "major" contributor. If not "major" how much would you say it is?
 
Some people committing crimes, hide behind the cloth of religion.

How common do you think this actually is?

What percentage of violent crimes would you say are committed by people "hiding behind the cloth of religion"?

I'm trying to make sure I understand you here.
 
Some cherry picked statistical trends that correlate negative events with the decrease in religious practice over time:

Mass Shootings
Teen Suicide
Transgender Rates (speaks to trends in gender dysphoria)
Natural Disasters
Anxiety
The Natural Disaster one is certainly due to divine intervention. It’s definitely not a result of global warming, or technological advances over time, allowing us to detect more things like earthquakes globally.
Can't both be true?

To sum up,

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.
Stuart Chase
Not really but that’s a debate of faith vs no faith.

There’s also the fact that I would not want to love/worship any god who would bring about natural disasters because people stopped going to church. What a loving, caring god.
 
In Christianity, especially among Protestants, there is the idea that one can be forgiven for any crime just by accepting Jesus before death.
This always seemed like a convenient get out of jail free card to me. And seemed like one of those concepts that may have been changed over time.

Ever play the Telephone Game? People sit in a circle, and whisper a statement, and it goes around the circle, and the last person has a completely different statement? Well, how about a game of Telephone that lasts thousands of years? Why would I ever believe I was getting the actual message?

If anyone is interested, the "Isn't this like a game of telephone?" is a common question. There was a popular article in Newsweek a while back on it.

It's a fair question and one I've had myself.

Lots of people have talked about it.

Quick summary of why some people think it's not like a game of telephone.

The title of Eichenwald’s section that deals with manuscript transmission is “Playing Telephone with the Word of God.” The implication is that the transmission of the Bible is very much like the telephone game—a parlor game every American knows. It involves a brief narrative that someone whispers to the next person in line who then whispers this to the next person, and so on for several people. Then, the last person recites out loud what he or she heard and everyone has a good laugh for how garbled the story got. But the transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game.

  • First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original.
  • Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission.
  • Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it.
  • Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs.
  • Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying.
 
Last edited:
Some people committing crimes, hide behind the cloth of religion.

How common do you think this actually is?

What percentage of violent crimes would you say are committed by people "hiding behind the cloth of religion"?

I'm trying to make sure I understand you here.
In the USA, <1% now, more in the past, thinking of the witch trials for example in which religion played a role. In some other countries, much more than 1%, places like Afghanistan.

I was just making a hypothetical argument since less religion is associated with lower crime. Those things are incidently related IMO, there are multiple other factors that are related to the reduction in violent crime in the USA since the early 1990s.

Objective evidence of the effects of a reduction in religion will be hard to show, I think it could take decades.
 
I was just making a hypothetical argument since less religion is associated with lower crime.

Again, trying to understand. When you say "is associated with" what exactly do you mean? Are you saying less religion caused lower crime?

Or that they just happened at the same time?
 
Last edited:
If anyone is interested, the "Isn't this like a game of telephone?" is a common question. There was a popular article in Newsweek a while back on it.

It's a fair question and one I've had myself.

Lots of people have talked about it.

Quick summary of why some people think it's not like a game of telephone.
I think I am inclined to agree with the author, regarding the Bible.

It's the teachings, the interpretation of the Bible that I am referring to. I am inclined to believe that many people are getting their religion from a person, a human, and not the Bible, solely. Many are relying on the word of a fellow human, interpreting the Bible. And that human was influenced by the people who taught him, and we can go back three generations of religion, and we are still in the 1980's.
 
If anyone is interested, the "Isn't this like a game of telephone?" is a common question. There was a popular article in Newsweek a while back on it.

It's a fair question and one I've had myself.

Lots of people have talked about it.

Quick summary of why some people think it's not like a game of telephone.
I think I am inclined to agree with the author, regarding the Bible.

It's the teachings, the interpretation of the Bible that I am referring to. I am inclined to believe that many people are getting their religion from a person, a human, and not the Bible, solely. Many are relying on the word of a fellow human, interpreting the Bible. And that human was influenced by the people who taught him, and we can go back three generations of religion, and we are still in the 1980's.

That's a fair point. There's a good bit of discussion in my circles about "doctrine" (the teaching and interpretation) vs the bible solely. I don't know how it is everywhere, but for the people I am mostly around, the focus is much more on the bible. For the reasons you mentioned.
 
I was just making a hypothetical argument since less religion is associated with lower crime.

Again, trying to understand. When you say "is associated" what exactly do you mean? Are you saying less religion caused lower crime?

Or that they just happened at the same time?
Happened concurrently. Correlation does NOT equal causation. Less religion almost certainly did not cause lower crime. For example, after a rain, earthworms surface, and there are more car accidents, but earthworms don't cause car accidents.

With religion, as with medications, exercise, alcohol, and many things, I think there is a dose effect. A little religion might be good, but too much can be bad.
 
I was just making a hypothetical argument since less religion is associated with lower crime.

Again, trying to understand. When you say "is associated" what exactly do you mean? Are you saying less religion caused lower crime?

Or that they just happened at the same time?
Happened concurrently. Correlation does NOT equal causation. Less religion almost certainly did not cause lower crime.

Ok. Thanks for clarifying.

If we're talking about happening concurrently, saying "since less religion is associated with lower crime..." is like saying, "since less religion is associated with an increase in mass shootings..."

I wouldn't say either of those. As I think it's too easy to leave the "associated with" vague and most people won't follow up and ask for clarity. But I understand what you're saying now.
 
I think of American history and the "Great Awakenings." Why they occurred and what impact they had culturally. It's a much different world today, but I think some wisdom can be gained from those cultural events and the impacts that they had which may still be applicable today.

I also look at the impact of religion on other countries and cultures.

I don't think you have to look very hard to see the positive impacts that religion can have on societies. Sure there are some negative impacts, but if you look at this from a macro perspective it's a pretty easy case to make that societies net up with religion. Many scholars argue that necessity is the mother of invention and there are reasons that religion exists in many forms throughout the world.
Many might argue that humans have historically simply needed it to peacefully exist.
 
I think of American history and the "Great Awakenings." Why they occurred and what impact they had culturally. It's a much different world today, but I think some wisdom can be gained from those cultural events and the impacts that they had which may still be applicable today.

I also look at the impact of religion on other countries and cultures.

I don't think you have to look very hard to see the positive impacts that religion can have on societies. Sure there are some negative impacts, but if you look at this from a macro perspective it's a pretty easy case to make that societies net up with religion. Many scholars argue that necessity is the mother of invention and there are reasons that religion exists in many forms throughout the world. Many might argue that humans have historically simply needed it to peacefully exist.
And many others might argue that religion has prevented people from peacefully existing throughout history. Actually in many cases it’s a fact.
 
And many others might argue that religion has prevented people from peacefully existing throughout history. Actually in many cases it’s a fact.

Hard to make that argument in the aggregate IMHO. People are just more aware of the conflicts and disproportionately account for those IMHO. It's also easy to blame religion for conflicts when really there may be other underlying root causes such as wealth and greed.

Certainly there are instances where religion was a root cause, but it would be wise to consider the aggregate....the entire world and all of modern history.

I am not religious nor do I practice a religion, but I have studied history(as I'm sure many of you have), so that tends to be my perspective.
 
If anyone is interested, the "Isn't this like a game of telephone?" is a common question. There was a popular article in Newsweek a while back on it.

It's a fair question and one I've had myself.

Lots of people have talked about it.

Quick summary of why some people think it's not like a game of telephone.
I think I am inclined to agree with the author, regarding the Bible.

It's the teachings, the interpretation of the Bible that I am referring to. I am inclined to believe that many people are getting their religion from a person, a human, and not the Bible, solely. Many are relying on the word of a fellow human, interpreting the Bible. And that human was influenced by the people who taught him, and we can go back three generations of religion, and we are still in the 1980's.
I don't agree with her third point (that the transmission was written rather than oral). The sources of Jesus' life, the Gospels and Epistles of Paul, weren't written until decades after his death and by people who never met him. Many Biblical scholars believe that Matthew and Luke are redactions of Mark.
 
Hard to make that argument in the aggregate IMHO. People are just more aware of the conflicts and disproportionately account for those IMHO. It's also easy to blame religion for conflicts when really there may be other underlying root causes such as wealth and greed.
The pile of conflicts that were religion-based completely dwarfs conflicts that were not. Not even close.

A bunch of awful things happened over thousands of years in a LOT of places in the name of religion.
 
The pile of conflicts that were religion-based completely dwarfs conflicts that were not. Not even close.

sure, but not really modern history...it's a different world today driven by resources and other factors unrelated to religion.


A bunch of awful things happened over thousands of years in a LOT of places in the name of religion.

I'm not talking about thousands of years ago per se.
 
Looks like we are headed down the path of 'general decline of society' which, though religion plays a role, I'd put the failure of the nuclear family and the rise of social media and the poor quality of public education and the gross financial inequality (at least in the US) right up there. I think it's all tied together into an ugly stew and teasing out causation would be next to impossible. Seems to me that a lot of forces are at play with religion being an important one but not even close to the prime cause-if indeed one subscribes to the premise of societal decline.
 
I'd put the failure of the nuclear family and the rise of social media and the poor quality of public education and the gross financial inequality (at least in the US) right up there.

Weren't those all once functions of a strong, community-based religion? That the churches served those gaps in governance and society through charity and insistence on community norms?

I don't know. That's how I've always understood it. Where family failed, where education wasn't offered, where richness over poor prevailed, the churches stepped in with both action and conscience.
 
If anyone is interested, the "Isn't this like a game of telephone?" is a common question. There was a popular article in Newsweek a while back on it.

It's a fair question and one I've had myself.

Lots of people have talked about it.

Quick summary of why some people think it's not like a game of telephone.
I think I am inclined to agree with the author, regarding the Bible.

It's the teachings, the interpretation of the Bible that I am referring to. I am inclined to believe that many people are getting their religion from a person, a human, and not the Bible, solely. Many are relying on the word of a fellow human, interpreting the Bible. And that human was influenced by the people who taught him, and we can go back three generations of religion, and we are still in the 1980's.
I think it’s more of a cultural problem than a telephone problem. It’s not so much that the message has been mistakenly altered in transmission, but that our culture attempts to interpret from our worldview rather than from the worldview of the original author and audience. I have no issue with interpretation. It’s unavoidable and required, IMO. The closest someone can come to solely using the Bible is if they are reading it in the original language and well-connected to the culture of the Bible.
 
It's not surprising that church influence has declined for multiple reasons, a few of which come to mind:

People are more mobile and uproot more often. Far fewer keep living in the same place and going to the same church. Churches can provide a whole community experience for ongoing members. That's a less frequent situation now than it was . I went to church and Sunday school every Sunday until I was 17, decided by my parents and later followed voluntarily by me. I planned to go to a seminary, had information on several I was considering, and finally admitted that I no longer believed and didn't want to fake it any longer. I've never felt a need for any other belief system. We get one life, this is it, be good to others, do what good you can, then the worms eat you and me. But the church community itself was very good for me, as was the desire to help others. The desire hasn't changed without a church community or belief system. I think frequent moving any lack longrunning involvement with one congregation and one set of people happens far less often now. BTW I turned 17 in 1970.

Another cause is decreased hope among young people regarding the rest of their lives. When I graduated HS the majority of graduates were going to college or had a decent job lined up so they could move out and live their lives. It's not nearly like that anymore, young people have far less earning potential now, and the hope they have isn't provided to them by organized religion.

Another cause is the gradual fragmentation of organized religion into interest groups --- against/for gay people, against/for women being church leaders, against/for political candidates and causes,etc.

Another cause is grifting. More religious organizations now are taking tithes given in good faith and using them for purposes other than helping others.

I've found it better to find my own way through my life through over 50 years without any organized belief system and my family respects that. Most of them are religious and I respect that, and we try to do what good we can. I don't need a religion to motivate me to do that, and an increasing number of people today don't seem to need it as well. Maybe when I was a kid organized religion did more good than harm, I don't know. I don't believe it does now. There are far too many incidents of pastors or youth pastors harming people.
 
I'd put the failure of the nuclear family and the rise of social media and the poor quality of public education and the gross financial inequality (at least in the US) right up there.

Weren't those all once functions of a strong, community-based religion? That the churches served those gaps in governance and society through charity and insistence on community norms?

I don't know. That's how I've always understood it. Where family failed, where education wasn't offered, where richness over poor prevailed, the churches stepped in with both action and conscience.
Churches kinda steal from the poor to make swindlers rich, no? (Joel Osteen... yes extreme example), and also realize not all churches do that but the whole tithe thing seems very suspicious to me
 
Last edited:
And whoever said faith was incongruent with reason isn't familiar with Aquinas.
:hey:<— Not Impressed

In 1277, Étienne Tempier, the same bishop of Paris who had issued the condemnation of 1270, issued another more extensive condemnation. One aim of this condemnation was to clarify that God's absolute power transcended any principles of logic that Aristotle or Averroes might place on it.[76] More specifically, it contained a list of 219 propositions, including twenty Thomistic propositions, that the bishop had determined to violate the omnipotence of God. The inclusion of the Thomistic propositions badly damaged Thomas's reputation for many years.

Twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell criticized Thomas's philosophy, stating that:

He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.[95]
This criticism is illustrated with the following example: according to Russell, Thomas advocates the indissolubility of marriage "on the ground that the father is useful in the education of the children, (a) because he is more rational than the mother, (b) because, being stronger, he is better able to inflict physical punishment."[96] Even though modern approaches to education do not support these views, "No follower of Saint Thomas would, on that account, cease to believe in lifelong monogamy, because the real grounds of belief are not those which are alleged".[96]
 
Last edited:
I'd put the failure of the nuclear family and the rise of social media and the poor quality of public education and the gross financial inequality (at least in the US) right up there.

Weren't those all once functions of a strong, community-based religion? That the churches served those gaps in governance and society through charity and insistence on community norms?

I don't know. That's how I've always understood it. Where family failed, where education wasn't offered, where richness over poor prevailed, the churches stepped in with both action and conscience.
Churches kinda steal from the poor to make swindlers rich, no? (Joel Osteen... yes extreme example), and also realize not all churches do that but the whole tithe thing seems very suspicious to me

It depends how you look at it and how much rope you want to give traditional religions.

One could argue that the Catholic Church (of which I once was a part) hoarded wealth and that modern Protestant megachurches do so, and one would likely be correct, but one of the first missions of Protestantism -- after what some would call the corruption of the Catholic Church -- was a radical redistribution of wealth according to Biblical teaching. It's why traditionally Lutheran areas (Lutherans being the first Protestants, who stemmed from Martin Luther) still vote for those that would redistribute wealth more than those who approach economics from a laissez-faire perspective. Typically Lutheran areas in Minnesota and the like tend to vote that way. Or at least the common assumption is that is why. But it's pretty standard that the community expectation is a redistribution of wealth to benefit the poor. But let's veer away from the political (I only know that because that's really my area of knowledge more so than religion) for a moment.

Churches have long gotten corrupt (like any institution) when wealth and political power are at stake. In medieval times, the economics of the Catholic Church compared to the holdings of their laity make an argument against their wealth holdings sort of surprisingly easy (in my opinion) with a real examination of the historical record. But -- and there's always a but -- to their credit, the Catholic Church and Protestant churches in their earlier forms practiced charity on an extensive scale. It would be unfair to paint religion with a trickle-up economic brush when so much of their works and monies collected from the laity were used for charitable purposes.

In my opinion, it's a little more complicated than you make it and a lot less loaded in analysis than calling them "swindlers." If you're talking the modern televangelist megachurch guys, I'll grant you that. If you're talking a little older, then while the Catholic Church are no saints when it comes to redistributing their own wealth, their works help make up for their gobsmacking holdings.

If you want a digression, I compare Catholic Church holdings to university endowments. The wealth of a Harvard or Yale is staggering, almost as staggering as the Catholic Church's holdings when one recognizes the scale that each are on. And these are non-profit educational institutions. So, I guess the story is really how does entrenched power and wealth happen? What is the impetus for it and how is that power and wealth used?

I don't know, I find the university growth in America telling and something akin to how the Catholic Church grew in wealth and influence.
 
I'd put the failure of the nuclear family and the rise of social media and the poor quality of public education and the gross financial inequality (at least in the US) right up there.

Weren't those all once functions of a strong, community-based religion? That the churches served those gaps in governance and society through charity and insistence on community norms?

I don't know. That's how I've always understood it. Where family failed, where education wasn't offered, where richness over poor prevailed, the churches stepped in with both action and conscience.
Churches kinda steal from the poor to make swindlers rich, no? (Joel Osteen... yes extreme example), and also realize not all churches do that but the whole tithe thing seems very suspicious to me

It depends how you look at it and how much rope you want to give traditional religions.

One could argue that the Catholic Church (of which I once was a part) hoarded wealth and that modern Protestant megachurches do so, and one would likely be correct, but one of the first missions of Protestantism -- after what some would call the corruption of the Catholic Church -- was a radical redistribution of wealth according to Biblical teaching. It's why traditionally Lutheran areas (Lutherans being the first Protestants, who stemmed from Martin Luther) still vote for those that would redistribute wealth more than those who approach economics from a laissez-faire perspective. Typically Lutheran areas in Minnesota and the like tend to vote that way. Or at least the common assumption is that is why. But it's pretty standard that the community expectation is a redistribution of wealth to benefit the poor. But let's veer away from the political (I only know that because that's really my area of knowledge more so than religion) for a moment.

Churches have long gotten corrupt (like any institution) when wealth and political power are at stake. In medieval times, the economics of the Catholic Church compared to the holdings of their laity make an argument against their wealth holdings sort of surprisingly easy (in my opinion) with a real examination of the historical record. But -- and there's always a but -- to their credit, the Catholic Church and Protestant churches in their earlier forms practiced charity on an extensive scale. It would be unfair to paint religion with a trickle-up economic brush when so much of their works and monies collected from the laity were used for charitable purposes.

In my opinion, it's a little more complicated than you make it and a lot less loaded in analysis than calling them "swindlers." If you're talking the modern televangelist megachurch guys, I'll grant you that. If you're talking a little older, then while the Catholic Church are no saints when it comes to redistributing their own wealth, their works help make up for their gobsmacking holdings.

If you want a digression, I compare Catholic Church holdings to university endowments. The wealth of a Harvard or Yale is staggering, almost as staggering as the Catholic Church's holdings when one recognizes the scale that each are on. And these are non-profit educational institutions. So, I guess the story is really how does entrenched power and wealth happen? What is the impetus for it and how is that power and wealth used?

I don't know, I find the university growth in America telling and something akin to how the Catholic Church grew in wealth and influence.
appreciate the response, i will restrain my comments some b/c trying not to offend anyone, but don't agree your analogy to universities. yes money equals power but university money comes from rich alumni who don't know where else to give their money to, which is much different than guilting poor people into giving money that in many cases they can't afford to give. also the mission of the university seems a lot more worthwhile contribution to society although understand some people won't agree with that.
 
university money comes from rich alumni who don't know where else to give their money to, which is much different than guilting poor people into giving money that in many cases they can't afford to give.

This is partially true. I'll grant you that distinction about where the money is coming from. It's not perfectly true, but for the most part, we can consider university givers to be better off than your average churchgoing giver.

Again, I'm really not looking at ends here. I'm looking at how non-profits in the educational or spiritual field wind up holding vast quantities of wealth, and I find the two analogous. Others may not.
 
Churches kinda steal from the poor to make swindlers rich, no? (Joel Osteen... yes extreme example), and also realize not all churches do that but the whole tithe thing seems very suspicious to me
By and large, no. I share your skepticism of people like Joel Osteen, televangelists, etc. I'm very reluctant to throw everybody like that into one giant bucket labeled Grifters because I don't know these people and don't pay enough attention to them to really form an opinion. I don't expect members of the clergy to take vows of poverty. But if you're getting rich in the ministry, I think you're probably doing it wrong. And to be clear, "rich" means rich, not middle class.

I don't know what percentage of churches operate the way you're thinking of, but I'm pretty sure it's in the single digits, maybe less than that. Most churches are just getting by on a year-to-year basis, and most pastors don't make anything special. The senior pastor of a typical church has much more responsibility than I do, probably has less work-life balance than I do (they self-select for this, admittedly), probably has a graduate degree, and earns about half what I earn. It's an objectively poorly-compensated job if you're not there for "values" reasons.
 
I sort of think of this more when I think of churches rather than rich profiteers. Click the link if you like screamo and heavy music. A rare sympathetic look at churches from heavy music.

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues

Stained-glass and the choir sing out that strong and ceaseless chorus here
So sweet the voices, sweep like leaves into the street
On Easter, a celebration carried on for God and hope and refuge
To keep each other, life; give shelter from the storm. And keep warm
The congregation gathers outside in the parking lot, each service done
They keep the old hymn rolling on and on and
I see the scene in color each day driving out to Eastown
That old abandoned church and have I gone the same sad way?
Have I gone the same sad way?
Through the sixties flourished and the seventies in flux
The eighties fluctuate each year unclear of when the money would dry up
And when the nineties violent crime and rising unemployment rates came by
That parking lot grew dim and thin of sinners and saints
Until the voices, unceasing, slowly faded to black
Until the weeds stormed the concrete from unattended cracks
It had to know, had to feel that glory never coming back
Like I could feel it when the passion left, the last of what I had
It had to know like I knew
And I can't find it back
Might not ever
Ten years now standing vacant
Ten years on empty, maybe more
Once held the faith of hundreds
Soon one more cell phone store
For years they gathered here
Inside the building sound and true
To sing their praises to a god that gave them hope
To carry on, to carry through
So, I've been thinking about that
Sometimes go slow when I drive by
How a home of stone and a house so holy
Grows so empty over time
What gave those people purpose
Past death approaching constantly
Now left to crumble slowly
Now left to wither with the weeds
Now left to ice and vandals
The advent candles long since gone
The old foundation shifting hard
The concrete overgrown, but
That stained-glass window sits untouched amongst the brickwork worn
A symbol of the beauty only perfect at that moment we were born
And just the other day I swear I saw a man there
Pulling weeds out of the concrete, sweeping up and patching cracks
I saw him lift a rag to wash the years of filth from off those windows
Made me wonder if there's anyone like that for you and me and
Anybody else who broke and lost hope
 
This whole thing about churches existing for the purpose of swindling widows of their life savings comes up regularly in these discussions, just like the thing about pastors who just stand up there and go off on abortion or vaccines or whatever. Again, I know churches like that exist, but I wish people would believe us when we say that that is not at all what most of us are experiencing on a typical Sunday.

In an hour or so, my wife and I will attend services at our place. Our senior pastor is an older guy who used to be a chemical engineer at 3M before making a life transition to the ministry. The topic of politics will not come up once expect for a general exhortation that that shouldn't be the main focus of our lives. This church doesn't pass a plate -- if you want to give, you have to actively seek out some drop boxes that are tucked away in the narthex. The congregation is legitimately a cross-section of the community, with people like me comfortably outnumbered by college students and parents with kids. It couldn't be any more unlike the image that non-church-goers are walking around with. (FWIW, I'm sort of like @Yankee23Fan in the sense that I think we Christians bear a lot of responsibility for our own PR issues. From my own perspective though, there's nothing I can do to prevent somebody like Jim Bakker from working his way into the front pages -- all I can do is make a responsible decision of what congregation to attend and avoid congregations like those.)
 
Churches kinda steal from the poor to make swindlers rich, no? (Joel Osteen... yes extreme example), and also realize not all churches do that but the whole tithe thing seems very suspicious to me
By and large, no. I share your skepticism of people like Joel Osteen, televangelists, etc. I'm very reluctant to throw everybody like that into one giant bucket labeled Grifters because I don't know these people and don't pay enough attention to them to really form an opinion. I don't expect members of the clergy to take vows of poverty. But if you're getting rich in the ministry, I think you're probably doing it wrong. And to be clear, "rich" means rich, not middle class.

I don't know what percentage of churches operate the way you're thinking of, but I'm pretty sure it's in the single digits, maybe less than that. Most churches are just getting by on a year-to-year basis, and most pastors don't make anything special. The senior pastor of a typical church has much more responsibility than I do, probably has less work-life balance than I do (they self-select for this, admittedly), probably has a graduate degree, and earns about half what I earn. It's an objectively poorly-compensated job if you're not there for "values" reasons.

In my experience, I think @IvanKaramazov is right. There are some well known examples that folks love to point to. And for sure, those types of things make it difficult for the vast majority doing things the right way as the brush used to paint is broad. And this isn't unique to churches. It works that way for all groups where a small group gets the spotlight and the rest of the group is affected.

Most churches I've seen, do a good job with this. Especially in the decreasing attendance/donation climate as has been noted at the start of this thread.
 
In Christianity, especially among Protestants, there is the idea that one can be forgiven for any crime just by accepting Jesus before death.
This always seemed like a convenient get out of jail free card to me. And seemed like one of those concepts that may have been changed over time.

Ever play the Telephone Game? People sit in a circle, and whisper a statement, and it goes around the circle, and the last person has a completely different statement? Well, how about a game of Telephone that lasts thousands of years? Why would I ever believe I was getting the actual message?
It's a consistent message from OT writings to NT writings and it should probably be pointed out that this is in regard to spiritual life and relationship with God. Of course, only two parties know the actual status of the heart in this situation. This teaching speaks nothing of how humans will/would react to other humans for "crimes" they commit against each other.
 
There is a lot in this thread to discuss.

Here is some thoughts I'm having:
  1. It is impossible to separate what we deem to be "morality" from Judeo-Christian teaching as it is the foundation of what is deemed moral in Western society. Most of what every single one of us think is right and wrong comes from Biblical and specifically Christian teachings, whether you believe in the Bible or not.
  2. Jesus was decidedly non-political and I'd argue even a little anti-political.
  3. What we most often think of as "religion" is a bad thing and Jesus preached against it regularly.
  4. Rejecting "religion" being equal to rejecting theism, and specifically Christianity is a bad thing in my opinion. Without moorings, morality will eventually go adrift as is being seen with the breakdown of the family unit and decline in mental health across the board.
I won't jack up the thread any further, but 1 and 4 are complete nonsense.
I’ll never understand how people can honestly believe that until Moses walked down the mountain with the commandments, people didn’t know it was wrong to kill and steal.
 
Again, I know churches like that exist, but I wish people would believe us when we say that that is not at all what most of us are experiencing on a typical Sunday.
In my life, this is pretty much all that I have seen.

But the noisy minority/bad actors is getting the headlines, and exerting a lot of influence. They are not just some powerless weirdos, waving snakes around somewhere in the woods.

It has been repeated here again and again that we need to believe people when they say they haven't seen it in their church. I believe all of you. But everyone knows this other side exists, and no one from the reasonable side of the fence seems to be concerned with reining in the bad actors. I had a front row seat to the Boston archdiocese coverup of the child abuse, and Cardinal Law got a retirement vacation to Italy as punishment.

On an individual level, it's fine to say, hey not happening where I am.

On an institutional level, none of these bad actors are being called out.
 
I’ll never understand how people can honestly believe that until Moses walked down the mountain with the commandments, people didn’t know it was wrong to kill and steal.
That's just two of ten "Judeo-Christian" values on that list. Also on that list: Though shall have no other Gods before me and thou shall not make unto thee any graven image.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top