Now let me clear a few things up, because that was a paragraph fit to get a lot of people turned off without reading any further. I don't think religion is a bad thing, in fact I think following a value system and a set of morals in a world that seems fraught with ill contrived ideas and moral codes is if anything, a saving grace. I grew up in a religious household, I was baptised catholic (and when we got over the religious calisthenics) raised non-denomonational Christian. There were some churches I loved going to growing up, and others I despised, I have life long friends I met in Sunday school but also people I would never associate myself with. As I got older, I realized organized religion wasn't for me, if I wanted a relationship with God, I wanted it to be personal. I didn't feel I had to go to some big ornate building to be told I was a heathen, and then eat a cracker and some grape juice and all of a sudden be forgiven.
When I go back home to Nashville (which has more churches per capita than anywhere in America), I LOVE going to church. I don't love the process of waking up early on a Sunday morning hungover and dressing up. I love going to church because the church I go to has one of the most progressive thought provoking ministers I've ever encountered. I've sat in the stands and watched as my pastor has made people cringe in their chairs as they're faced with coming to terms with their own morality. Nothing is out of bounds at this church, nothing is too taboo to discuss, because this man, this pastor, he knows that we can pretend all we want, but at the end of the day we are all human, and we all face the same temptations and contemplate the same internal dialouge. I've been going to this church on and off when I was in town for over a decade, and I've seen it grow from 30 people gathered together in a elementary school cafeteria, to a massive building of its own with a congregation numbering in the thousands. That was until about a week ago. I received a message from my father telling me that there were major changes happening and a great shift had taken place. You see Nashville is the "Church Capital of America", the "Buckle" on the Bible Belt if you will, but what my father told me finally made me realize that all my inhibitions about church and organized religion had been right all along.
On Sunday, January 15th, my "Church" became one of the only Christian churches in the country, and as far as I know the only church in the south, to open their arms to homosexual brethren. Now we've never turned away gays, lesbians or any other of the like away, but now... it was official. This caused such an uproar among the congregation that approximately half of them decided this church was no longer the place they would come to worship the man who said:
JOHN 13: 34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another."
These people who in their own right are broken souls, coming here to find the light and ask forgiveness, couldn't be bothered to share this house of God with a bunch of FAGS! And that for me was the tipping point, I could no longer stand the hypocrisy, the outlandish ideals held by those who consider themselves to be holy and follow in the light of the lord. To those who stayed, I applaud them, but to the rest of you, good riddance, and in time hopefully you will see the shame in your ways, and ask for forgiveness.
And so I present to you... The 4 REASONS I LEFT ORGANIZED RELIGION BEHIND.
1. Religion is a business... and Business is BOOMING.
Untaxed land, neverending leases, untaxed contributions and for those who follow the unofficial rules, 10% of every members' income (give or take). There's no wonder religion is the biggest non-for-profit business in our country and the rest of the world, but what do they do with all this money? Yes, a lot of it goes to work improvements on the physical church, a lot goes into funding various charitable programs, but where does the rest go? Who's in charge of making sure that all these billions of dollars of funds donated annually are all 100% allocated for properly? Who decides how much a good pastor or priest makes, say versus a subpar one? And most importantly who's in charge of keeping an eye on the people that are in charge of all those things? Whenever you're dealing in such large amounts of money, you need a system of checks and balances to hold people accountable. One thing that's always bothered me about the church is it seems as if the congregation always simply believes the church will use money to serve their best interest. Forgetting that these are men and women just like you and me, and even those who stand on the pulpit can grow weak for the green back snake, named "Benjamin". The truth is the majority of people involved with handling these funds are good honest people, but for every hundred "Pastor Daves" who just do an honest days work, there's one or two Jerry Fallwell's ready to take us for every penny under the guise of the lord.
2. People Don't Practice What They Preach.
You can't be a heathen all week, then eat a cracker on sunday and pretend everything is all right. One of the things that really bothered me when growing up in the church was Youth Groups. Now in theory it's a great idea, getting young people involved in a relationship with God by making religion fun, playing games, singing songs, and the like. However, in my experience all youth groups really did was show young people how to "Act Holy" without actually taking any of it to heart. I saw people leading prayer groups and playing songs about Jesus, who I knew for a fact were doing drugs and having sex, and all the other things we were trying to prevent at these groups. So all this experience really provided was practice, practice for those people who think it's important to have a veil, a religious "facade" if you will, to present to those around them. All these retreats were simply allowing these people to get better and better at faking it, till only those who truely knew them, knew what type of person they actually were. Now this doesn't mean if you're not perfect you shouldn't associate yourself with the church, religion is about forgiveness, but it's also about trying to improve, if you simply show up because people expect you to, you're not participating in the process. These people, these "Kumbaya" singing heathens, are the same type of people who walked out of my church back home, their true morals (or lack there of) couldn't compete with the facade they had created.
3. A Relationship With God, Doesn't Need to Take Place in a Building... In Fact... It Shouldn't.
Considering how I am constantly hearing how the moral standards of our society are in the toilet, it baffles me how many churches are still around, and how many more are constantly being built. It's kind of like porn (stay with me for a second) no one will admit to watching it, but the numbers don't lie, the porn industry is right up there with Oil, Apple, and well... the Church, as some of the biggest money makers around. So if all these churches exist, and stay open, we must assume all these holy people are attending them, but if everyone is going to church, where is all this societal degradation coming from? It must be a conspiracy, it's probably the same one guy who's watching all that porn... by himself... definitely not me.
The point is you don't have to go to a building once a week for an hour in order to be a good christian, or Catholic, or Muslim, or whatever. We see all these people going, but what does it change? There's still war, still famine, still porn, the only thing it does is continue to put money in the church pockets as we trying to buy our way out of "moral debt".
When I stopped going to church regularly I felt like for the first time, in a long time, I actually started to have a relationship with God again. He was no longer being jammed and force fed down my throat, I could actually come to him on my own terms, whenever I wanted, and I found myself doing it more often than I ever expected. I started reading about religion, not my religion, just religion in general, and it showed me that though there are obviously glaring differences between different holy books, the bottom line is all basicaly the same, "be a good person, and try and leave this world a little better than when you came." What really separates religion is the fanaticals, and the people who try to read in to deeper meanings that sometimes just aren't there. The people who truly have found happiness in their religion and their life, at least in my experience, are the ones who will never "casually" bring it up in conversation. If you define yourself by being a "Christian", or a "Muslim" or any other religion, you're putting yourself in a box, and making your life all about labels, instead of substance. When I die I don't want people to say "Logan was a great Christian", I want people to say, "Logan was a great person, and we're gonna miss him!"
4. THE FACT THAT IT'S 2015 AND WE'RE STILL NOT ALREADY THERE?!
In the next few years, we will be sending a manned mission to MARS!??!!! to see if astronauts can colonize there, and in 2015 there are only 2 evangelical churches in the country that have opened their arms to the LGBT community. This fact boggles my mind, more than anything else. Churches are famous for sweeping social issues under the rug or simply ignoring them all together. Whether it's the Catholics dealing with pedophila, the Christians dealing with Evangelical money laundering, or the Muslims dealing with accusations of being a violent religion. But this is not an issue of something the churches have done wrong, it's an issue of something they haven't done at all. I can't imagine how my pastor must have felt when he finally announced those words of equality during his sermon. From what I've read and heard it was received with mixed reviews, thunderous applause from supporters, and open mouth gaping and quiet hands from detractors. But the more I think about it, the more angry it makes me, that it took this long to even make this change. This is America the home of religious, ethnic, and social equality, gay marriage is legal in over 50% of the states in our country now, but it is only finally being addressed in churches now, since civil-unions were first passed in Vermont in 2000. Is that the time it takes for religion to catch up? 15 FREAKING YEARS?! All this does is confirm in my mind that there either needs to be a fundamental shift in our religious understanding, and our religious leaders in this country, or organized religion as we know it will soon be a thing of the past.
My Pastor, my friend, and one of my personal mentors, his name is Stan Mitchell. He is a great, compassionate, and truly caring human being, who just happens to be a Christian, and happens to make his living running a Mega-Evangelical church in Nashville, called Grace Point. He is the type of, not just Christian, but man, that gives me hope for those who truly believe in God and their religion and their church. Good, honest, hard-working people, who know they are flawed, but find guidance and wisdom through the church. The people who wake up on Sundays, not because they feel they need to redeem themselves for the week they just left behind, but go because they want to be a better person tomorrow, and the next day. These people, and these leaders, are the ones I feel sorry for, because they are having their religious livelihood jeopardized, by these phonies, these bigots, those using religion as a facade.
Organized religion is not a bad thing, but it just wasn't right for me. For those of you that do believe, and do want whats best for your church and your congregation, I implore you to be the change you wish to see in the world. Petition your pastors, your priests, your youth leaders, for inclusion, and equality. Now is the defining moment of the young religious generation, and if you follow in the footsteps of men like Stan Mitchell, you might just have a chance to save that which matters most to you.