The Church's Weaknesses
Despite their many strengths and advantages, most pastors are in precarious situations. Essentially, they are being set up to fail, and do so at astonishing rates. The great majority of pastors will have short careers. Only 10% of pastors will last until retirement, and 50-80% of ministers won’t last 5 years -- and surveys indicate that this has been a consistent, ongoing trend since 1975. The average Protestant priest (of any denomination) quits after an average of 2.5 years, and there is no evidence that this will change. As of 2001, the average tenure of an American pastor (of all faiths, sects, and denominations) was 3.8 years. 50% priests report that they want to quit, yet remain priests simply because they have no other way to make a living. In particular, the Catholic Church has suffered greatly from a want of vocations: 
- Between 1965 and 2002, the population of Catholic priests in the US dropped 22%, from 59,000 to 46,000.
- In 1965, the number of ordinations exceeded the number of priests lost through death or departure, for a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, ordinations dropped and deaths or departures increased to such a degree that there was a net loss of 810 priests that year.
- In 1965, 3% of churches had no resident priest; in 2002, it was 15%.
- In 1965, there were 7.87 diocesan priests per 10,000 Catholics. In 2002, this number decreased to 4.6, a 41% decline.
- In 1999, there number of diocesan priests in the 80-84 age group exceeded the number of priest in the 30-34 age group.
- In 1965, there were 49,000 seminarians in the US; in 2002, there were only 4,700 -- a 90.4% decrease -- despite a population increase of 20 million Catholics.
- In 1965, there were 180,000 nuns in the US. By 2002, there were 75,500 -- half of whom were over age 75.
As a result, American pastors are quitting at a rate of 1,500-1,700 per month, despite having no other means of supporting themselves. There are many, many more pastors who want to leave their posts, but cannot due to the social stigmas they would face. It is difficult for clergy to leave the ministry and pursue another vocation without owing people explanations or apologies. Former priests are assumed to have:
- Committed a terrible sin, leading to their firing or resignation.
- Been too weak to handle the pressure.
- Rejected their “true” calling for secular work.
|Reasons Why Pastors Quit|
|Conflicting long-term goals||17%|
|Financially strained congregations||7%|
In addition to priests who quit, many priests will be fired by their own congregations. 23% of pastors will experience a forced termination, and 91% of pastors know a pastor who has. Many of these clergymen will apply to become pastors at a different church, since for many, this is the only lifestyle they know. However, since these pastors did not grow, learn, or correct their bad habits, they will eventually fail in their new church. As a result, pastors with fifteen years of experience often have only three years of experience, five times over.
Priests are severely weakened by burnout, indifferent or hostile congregations, the alienating environments they create for themselves, spiritual dilution, over-reliance on the Bible, their personal perception as being unmanly, and the difficult questions they keep ignoring.
- 1 Burnout
- 2 The Indifference of Youth
- 3 Churches Create an Alienating Environment
- 4 Hostile Parishioners
- 5 Spiritual Dilution
- 6 Reliance on the Bible
- 7 The Clergy are "Unmanly"
- 8 Difficult Theological Problems are Piling Up
- 9 References
Burnout has always plagued the clergy; not even Paul was safe from its effects (2COR 1:8). Despite their special relationship with the divine and its unearthly power, clergymen are mortals who are susceptible to all human frailties. It particular, relatively few pastors can withstand their job stress. Most of the clergy’s work-related problems cannot be outsourced or delegated to others -- they are personal issues, which the priest must face alone. Because of this, the clergy are more prone to burnout (15%) than the general population (8-12%).
Burnout is technical term, used in forestry. Severe forest fires char the humus, rendering the soil infertile, and the gutted forest cannot renew itself. Analogous to this is psychological burnout, which is caused when a person becomes exhausted with by major life activity to the point of malfunction.  Symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue. Sleep cannot repair this, and vacations only temporarily alleviate it. 
- Persistent low-level depression, from mourning the death of their hopes and ideals. 70% of priests suffer from depression.
- Insomnia. 
- Weight loss/gain. 
- Loss of appetite.
- Headaches. 
- Gastrointestinal trouble.
- Nagging boredom.
- Angry and/or resentful outbursts. 
- Spiritual emptiness (i.e., a lack of desire to pray or study scriptures).
- Avoiding accountable relationships.
- Lack of self-worth.
- Lack of satisfaction from achievements.
- Panic attacks.
- Vice, as a means of escapism.
- A craving for isolation and seclusion, leading to a withdrawal from friends and family.
- Social anxiety.
Pastors will often burnout several times before quitting or getting fired. Each bout of despair is eventually countered with a re-dedication and commitment to push themselves harder, fueling their downward spiral. The clergy burnout for a number of interrelated and overlapping reasons:
Pastors confuse their ministry with their identity, and lose their sense of self; they literally become their job. The perceived importance and responsibility of their work, and its eternal consequences, causes priests to work harder or longer than they should. There is no real way to gauge how many hours priests are “on the clock,” and they are always on-call. This is why 90% of pastors report working 55-75 hours per week. Despite this, 50% of pastors still feel unable to meet their job demands, or to even meet its most basic criterion of being a “holy man” -- because the average pastor only prays for 39 minutes per day, and 15% of pastors pray for <15 minutes a day.
Priests become overloaded with tasks, since they typically lack formal job descriptions. Fatigue compromises efficiency, so compensating by working longer hours actually accomplishes less. Many clergy will work even longer hours to compensate for these productivity losses, only to turn the vicious circle, leaving them ragged and unaccomplished. These long nights eventually take their toll on the clergyman; inadequate sleep strongly correlates with depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. The priests are unable to renew themselves, because they have little leisure time to do so. Since there is always something going on, their rest is often disturbed, and interrupting relaxation requires starting over again.
|Of what value were doggerel hymns raggedly sung? What value in sermons, when the congregation seemed not at all different from people who never heard sermons? Were all ministers and all churches, Frank wondered, merely superstitious survivals, merely fire-insurance?|
Lack of Closure
Ministry produces no tangible products. Carpenters can take pride in completed houses, and doctors can see patients improve. The clergy exists to maintain traditions; there is never anything new or changing in their job. Priests face an endless, Sisyphean cycle of masses, weddings funerals, crises, holidays, sick people, etc. One sick person dies, only to be replaced by another. A minister’s job is endlessly repetitive and never done. Holidays come and go, and masses take on the same form. This lack of creativity leads to boredom and exhaustion once the novelty wears off.
The immaterial nature of priestly work provides no metric for the clergy to gauge their results; a pastor can guide their flocks for months or years without knowing if they have been moved spiritually. There are several reasons for this:
- The effects of pastoral work are mostly indirect. Administration and programs do play a role in spiritual development, but its unclear clear how.
- Many factors controlling a church's success or failure is outside of their control.
- Expectations and success criteria vary from church to church; there is no standard to measure success by.
The need to create something of lasting value leads many clergy to obsess over capital building projects. This ongoing thirst for legacy is a persistent trend which is not confined to any one denomination; 10% of all American charitable giving has been spent building church facilities, leading churches to own more land than the five largest corporations combined.
Pastors have accountability issues because they mostly work alone, and most parishioners have no idea how they spend that time. Even when provided a group of staff members, these helpers work independently on their own tasks. Most pastors make no large moral failures, but from the cumulative effect of many small, unchecked failures. Each of these minor failures will push the boundary a little further until there is a catastrophic failure.
Clergy serve in the holy office of the ministry; it is the office that is holy, not the person. Regardless, people have unrealistic assumptions, and expect clergymen to be extraordinarily gifted and holy. Priests are expected to be great teachers, pastors, counselors, financial wizards, and maintainers of the old traditions. Clergy are expected to possess and use all of these talents to call on their parishioners and the sick; attend community events and social functions; to champion the poor and the fight for civil rights; and to serve as a personal counselor and advisor to anyone who asks. No one has the power, talent, or energy to meet all of these expectations; yet priests must constantly fight to meet these unrealistic demands, because the parishioners who pay the priest’s bills via tithing -- and in some denominations, determine if they stay.
Image issues are a root cause of overwork. Since clergy exist to serve God and man, denying any request is perceived as selfishness, leading to inadequate rest or leisure. This problem is compounded by the common misconception that priests only work a few days a week. People have great expectations of the clergy, and will react extremely negatively to any of their pastor’s failures or mistakes. This causes priests to live in cultivated personas, hiding their true selves under a metaphorical mask. Priests are expected to be a sort of third gender which is asexual, sinless, and shielded from corrupting influences; they are paid not to have problems of their own. Priests must constantly look and act the part to everyone; they cannot appear tired or unhappy in public. Wearing this mask requires great energy and generates lots of negative feelings; this requires the priest to mask themselves further, establishing a vicious circle. Eventually, the priest loses touch with their true selves, resulting in an identity crisis, or reducing themselves to a bland, humorous, and unlikable plastic caricature. Humor and lightheartedness are notoriously difficult for clergymen, since their role requires solemnity, dignity, decorum, and piousness -- all of which exclude humor, by definition. As such, 70% of pastors claim to have a poor self-image as a direct result of their time as a pastor.
Defending one’s image is to defend the ego, and a ministering person cannot serve both God and their own egocentricity. The problem of the persona strikes at the heart of spiritual development. Jesus' main focus was not against stealing, sexual sins, or even violence -- it was against hypocrisy (i.e., identification with a false persona which prevents one from being genuine or real). While this was an originally attack at the Pharisees, Christ also issued this as a general blanket statement. Since the parishioners require clergyman to assume a persona, priests are in constant danger of losing themselves. This is especially damning because creativity is a product of the real self, and catering to the ego is to abandon one’s creative gifts.
Lack of Support Networks
Pastors are essentially professional Christians. Since they spend so much time at work, most of their friends are congregation members -- their social life is their profession. Since most people are not clergy, they don't understand what their job entails, so the clergy lacks a common ground with their community members. This sharply contrasts with restaurant workers or tradesmen, whose common plights allow deep friendships to quickly form with coworkers and competitors alike. A pastor's professional and personal lives are further complicated because they often live and work in the communities which they support, so priests can never “cut loose."
Because of this, 70% of pastors report having no close friends.  While priests are expected to be friends to everyone, few are people are friends to them. This is because no one feels comfortable about “letting their hair down” in front of a priest, and because priests are frequently called upon to love intrinsically unlovable people. Without ordinary human relationships, people will become disconnected from their darker sides and become humorless, plastic caricatures of people. This isolation results in subjectivity, which in turn leads to self-pity and poor decisions. The self-pitying perspectives born from isolation often breed further isolation and greater self-pity; creating a vicious circle.
Without close friends, no one gives priests honest feedback and constructive criticism. As a result, priests have little accountability, and they cannot see their weakness or blind spots. Accountability is the only defense against mediocrity. Most parishioners won’t hold priests accountable for their actions, out of politeness or other social obligation. Without corrective criticism, priests will never reach excellence, because they will think they have already achieved it. Pastors will lose satisfaction in their work from the lack of challenge, and the church will suffer from their poor performance.
Despite the fact that >50% of pastors have master’s degrees, and 10% have doctorates, 90% of pastors feel they were inadequately trained, to the point where 50% of pastors feel unable to meet their job demands. This is because pastors must serve two masters -- they must be both spiritual teachers, and corporate administrators.
While seminaries and bible colleges offer specialized training for clergy, there is no “lab” or “practicum” component to their studies. Instead, they concentrate on hermeneutics, homiletics, liturgics, isagogics, exegesis, apologetics, hymnology, and classical languages (e.g., Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). Few seminaries teach the skills needed for the actual day-to-day operations of a parish (e.g., accounting, psychology, project management) -- and even fewer cover these subjects in sufficient detail. Seminaries teach everything except what priests need, and much of what they learn must be unlearned in order to succeed -- and the shock and frustration of this fact drives many pastors to quit. Seminaries teach how to be true to one’s faith, but not how to communicate that faith in a turbulent world. Seminaries resist change to avoid the inevitable theological implications of change -- but as a result, they prepare their students for a long-forgotten Victorian world.
These issues are compounded by Christianity’s turbulent relationship with academia. While the churches originated the concept of universities for training their clerks and future leaders, this has historically backfired, as the exchange of ideas inevitably creates new heresies. This aversion persists in the following forms:
- Formal religious training is considerably expensive. In the United States, religious schools must charge exorbitant tuition, since the government can only fund secular schools.
- Religious schools tend to recruit subpar instructors. The academic elite prefer to work at secular schools, where freedom from church interference is guaranteed.
- To preserve faith, seminary students often learn from cherry-picked anthologies and readers to prevent the divergence of thought that could arise from independently reading source materials. For this reason, Liberty University had no library until their regional accreditation board mandated one.
- Fundamentalists are discouraged from attending college, as they believe that higher education causes people to lose their faith. Interestingly, this claim has no basis in reality. 90% of the evangelical twenty-somethings who de-converted did so before entering college; and 40% lost their faith before entering high school.
- There is a Christian tendency to view social science as subversive and morally compromising.
- Christianity has as long and stormy past with evolution, largely because of its strong parallels to Hinduism, and because Darwinism inspired Marxism.
- Christian (especially Catholic) theological arguments are based on Aristotelian logic, and ignore all of the advances in that field.
- Christian homeschooling persists in the US, despite its obvious shortcomings. Because Christian homeschooling is intrinsically nonconformist and individualized, there is no way to quantify its efficacy. The performance of homeschooled students is intrinsically skewed because there is no basis for comparison. However:
Burnout is not caused by stress and frustration, per se; it is caused by how one responds to stress and frustration. 75% of pastors report going through a significant, ministry-related stress-induced crisis, and 40% of pastors have at least one serious conflict with a parishioner per month.
Excessive stress causes muscle tension, indigestion, headaches, and lowered immune function. Stress decreases productivity, since stress excites the limbic system and suppresses frontal lobe activity; emotions hinder problem-solving. Physically speaking, most pastors are train wrecks:
- Only 50% of pastors receive the recommended minimum amount of exercise (i.e., 30 minutes a day, thrice a week).
- 28% of pastors do not exercise at all.
- 68-76% of pastors are overweight or obese, which is higher than the general population (61%).
- 15% of pastors are >50 lbs. (~22.5 kg) overweight.
- ~66% of pastors skip meals at least once per week.
- 39% of pastors skip 3+ meals per week.
- 88% of pastors eat fast food on a weekly basis.
- 33% of pastors eat fast food 3+ times per week.
- ~39% of pastors experience weekly digestive troubles.
- 14% of pastors experience digestive trouble 3+ times per week.
- Only 16% of the clergy gets enough sleep.
- ~60% of pastors feel that their jobs keep them away from their families.
- Interestingly, the youngest clergymen are the unhealthiest. This is likely due to the overwork needed further their careers and make name for themselves.
- Pastors are more likely to suffer from depression. The exact figures vary greatly between surveys; between 16% and 80% of pastors are depressed (which is admittedly to much variation to draw a definitive conclusion). However, all of these surveys agree that pastors suffer from depression far more frequently than the general population (~10%).
- 40% of pastors have occasional bouts of depression or are feel “worn out.”
The clergy often use a sort of eschatological fatalism to justify their lack of self-care. They feel that if they expend themselves completely in the Lord’s work, God will look after them -- body, mind, and spirit. Because their final goal is to be with the Lord, it’s alright to mortgage one’s body against this final eventuality.
These stress effects are compounded by their effects on the priest’s family. 80% of pastors believe the ministry has a negative effect on their families, and 33% of pastors will clearly state that outright. 94% of minister’s wives, and 91% of their children feel they are under extra pressure; and 54% of the wives and 46% of the children strongly feel this way. 10% of pastors will quit because their families cannot cope with these unwritten expectations.
Christianity lives off of the dwindling capital and clout it earned in the Constantinian Era. Christianity lost its political power when the monarchs were overthrown, lost its social position in the Enlightenment, and lost its psychological power by the worldliness of the modern age. As a result, Christianity limps along with its ancient metaphysical baggage, and the egotistic notion of its own importance acquired from when it was the empire’s official ideology.
As a result, pastors constantly struggle to stretch and optimize extremely limited resources, on both institutional and personal levels. Despite all of their tax advantages, most churches struggle to keep the lights on. 70% of typical church revenues go to overhead. This why churches are always planning, engaged in, or wrapping up capital drives, in order to:
- Build an entirely “new, modern, and adequate church plant” at a recently acquired site.
- Extensively renovating an existing facility; e.g. by installing a new organ, central air conditioning, Sunday school facilities, and/or parking complexes.
- Raising money for earlier multi-stage projects whose “last stage” has now arrived.
The average American church only has 85-100 parishioners, so there is a small pool of capital which churches can draw upon. This is why less than half of even the most liberal churches are capable of engaging in charity of any kind -- and this figure includes even the simplest things, like having children collect pennies for the poor. This is why:
- 80-85% of US churches are plateauing or declining, and 100,000 churches are caught in death spirals.
- Churches are closing at a rate of ~2,800 per year. Based on the approximation of 350,000 churches in the US and assuming a linear extrapolation, religion in the US will be completely extinct by 2135 CE. However, since linear trends are often confused for the beginning of exponential trends, this extinction date could come sooner, and at an ever-accelerating rate.
- $14.8 million (adjusted for inflation) worth of dissolved church property is either sold or given away annually. Many dissolved churches are forced to sell their buildings, where they are converted into town halls (Auburn, NH) and dōjōs (Bedford, NH).
- The outflow of worshipers greatly exceeds the inflow. The majority of the “inflow” is actually “re-circulation” -- most new churchgoers are not converts; they are existing Christians who have recently quit some other church.
In addition to these institutional-level struggles, pastors also equally struggle on a personal level. 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid, and 30% of pastors will quit for this reason, because priests make less than garbagemen. Many priests must pay “the costs of employment” (e.g., Social Security, insurance, retirement, etc.) out-of-pocket; this can comprise as much as 40% of their salary, since the self-employed must pay Social Security tax at a higher rate. Granted, these costs are usually factored into their salaries, but this still gives a false impression of how much pastors really earn. The most experienced pastors make a median salary which is 30% more than a new priest, and much less than other professionals. 1 in 8 priests work two jobs. Cost-of-living increases do not keep up with inflation, giving priests less purchasing power each year. Many priest wind up on government assistance programs (e.g., food stamps, etc.). The wives of priests have a cultural expectation to do lots of unpaid volunteer work for the church, which is not factored into the pastor’s compensation package. The church essentially hires a pastoral couple, which is typically forced into a single-income lifestyle.
The Indifference of Youth
Like all cultures and institutions, Christianity is always one generation away from evaporation, since every generation of teenagers is essentially a “barbarian invasion” which must be domesticated, or they will overthrow society. Strangely, most religious communities face no problem with teenage rebellion. Instead, they are overwhelmed by teenage apathy.
Faith formerly played a large role in daily, largely because Western culture was engineered to cultivate Christianity through community-wide religious indoctrination (e.g., mandatory Bible readings in public schools; nuclear families; popular entertainment based on a biblical worldview). These power structures have since eroded, leading to our current “post-Christian era,” where Christianity still exists, but plays no significant role in shaping our culture. Many of the old ways were born from a time of Christian dominance (or at least of favored status), and they cannot counter the counterculture. Church services are now a temporary respite from daily burdens, where one can experience safety and a holy presence. Churches, by nature, are having difficulty adapting to a changing world because they exist to resist change, and reinforce this with:
- Confusing form with function, leading to a focus on the institution, rather than its reason-for-being.
- A socially self-perpetuating nature.
- A tendency to yield to minority rule.
- Excessive reverence for “yesterday’s innovators.”
- Risk-aversion, and the unwillingness to suffer pain.
47% of US teens feel that the church is irrelevant due to its hypocrisy, inflexibility in the face of cultural change, and a general “watering-down” of the religion itself to attract new members. While 50% of young people regularly attend church, it is mostly because they enjoy the music, because there is no correlation between church attendance and devotion. Many young people who go to church only do so out of social obligation or force-of-habit. The theological foundations of even the most faithful youth are at risk because:
- They are skeptical about the original biblical manuscripts.
- They read the Bible through the lens of pluralism.
- Changing media behaviors and shorter attention spans make scripture a less effective medium.
- They are less convinced of scripture’s commands for obedience.
- Secular culture interferes with religious commitments and obligations.
- Questions of the role which faith plays in politics, sexuality, science, media, technology, etc. are usually framed in a way that makes faith irrelevant.
- Modern youths have more religiously diverse friends.
- Clergymen are seen as interchangeable and disposable. Even the most popular and influential Christian leaders within living memory (i.e., Fulton Sheen) are unknown to the vast majority of modern Christians.
- Young people will consult the internet long before consulting their pastors.
- Relativism (i.e., “what’s right for you might not be right for me”) is more-or-less an accepted cultural norm.
- Peers serve as moral and spiritual compasses.
- Young Christians are exposed to a variety of religious content with no means of evaluating it.
- Young people are interested in exploring spirituality on their own terms.
- It should be noted that many of the people calming to be “spiritual” are just use the term as a dodge, as they don’t want to open their beliefs to scrutiny.
This trend is unlikely to end in the near future, as <20% of twenty-somethings regularly attend mass. 61% of American twenty-somethings were churchgoers as teens, but they have since become "spiritually disengaged" (i.e., they do not actively attending a church, read the Bible, or pray). While 51% of twenty-somethings attend mass as “CEOs” (Christmas-Easter Only) to meet their family obligations, >30% of twenty-somethings report that attending mass never crosses their mind. This may because they were never introduced to faith, as 19% of twenty-somethings were never reached by the Christian community during their upbringing.
The National Study of Youth Religion (NSYR) Study from 2002-2005 highlighted a number of other interesting/disturbing trends:
- Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion -- but only because they don’t give it much thought. They don’t approve per se; they are simply too indifferent to be hostile.
- Most US teens simply mirror their parent’s faith.
- Religion education in America is so shoddy that teens simply don’t have the theological language skills necessary to discuss religious feelings or issues.
- Church attendance does not correlate with improved theological language skills.
- Teens don’t see faith as being too deep for words, but as to vapid to require its own jargon.
- A significant minority (8%) of American teenagers feel that faith is both important, and that faith makes a difference in their lives. The teenagers are objectively doing better in life when compared to their less-religious peers, according to several metrics. However, it should be noted that:
- Participating in any identity-bearing community -- religious or otherwise -- improves a young person’s likelihood to thrive.
- Religion frequently anesthetizes young people into compliance, which is mainly responsible for their “doing well.” For the most part, compliance is all that is asked of teenagers, and those who are “doing well” in a broad sense are usually just conforming to social norms.
- It should be noted that compliance with social norms occasionally contravenes with religious teachings, which is why these 8% who are “doing well” often have reputations as troublemakers within their spiritual community.
- These 8% view faith as a “way of life” rather than a “belief system.”
- These high-devoted Christian teenagers have operationalized Christian hope as a generalized trust that God has the future under control, without showing much familiarity with (or interest in) traditional Christian teachings. Hope, for the most part, provides highly-devoted teenagers with a tool for dealing with present problems -- which in turn gave them confidence that they have the necessary tools for facing future hardships.
- When pressed about their faith, most of these teenagers are actually Moralistic Therapeutic Deists, and not Christians per se.
Churches Create an Alienating Environment
Young people aren't going to church, because they are abandoning the concept of religion altogether. 11% of US Christians -- 1 in 9 -- will eventually de-convert. Among those who leave:
- 31% consider both the Bible and the church to be irrelevant. These people will never return.
- 61% attended Sunday school regularly. A lack of faith is not the result of inadequate religious education; Sunday school simply has no impact on belief. If anything, Sunday school causes de-conversions, since it only teaches on an inspirational or moral level.
- 69% consider the Bible to be important, but see churches as irrelevant. These people eventually to return to church after having children, but as members of a different sect. Among those who return:
- 24% of those who return still do not believe; they just want to look like good parents.
- 7% of those who return still do not believe; they only come because they like the music.
- 0% of those who returned did so because they missed going to Sunday school.
- 56% said that their science classes led them to doubt the Bible.
Throughout the US, religion is on a downward trend by every metric. Between 1978 and 2008 church membership dropped from 70% to 65% of the population. The Bible literalists decreased from 40% to 30% of the population, and Bible skeptics grew from 10% to 20% of the population. As few as 1 in 4 Americans will actually attend mass on a typical Sunday. The Southern Baptists, the largest born-again sect, are baptizing at the same rate as they did 50 years ago, when the US population was half of what it is now. This ecclesiastical decline is an international phenomenon. Only 6.3% of the UK population is regular churchgoers, with only 2.5% of the population participating in Bible-based worship. The average British congregation consists of 84 people, despite a parishioner-to-parish ratio of 1340:1. There are as many reasons for de-conversion as there are de-converts, but the abandonment of faith typically stems from the church being perceived as:
The notion of youth itself is coupled with impulses towards creative and cultural engagement. The young have a drive to reimagine, rethink, and reinvent. Churches stifle creativity in favor of tradition, and with it, they stifle their own cultural relevance. Unwilling to simply preserve the status quo, creative youths are inadvertently driven out, as they search for a venue for their creative talents and urges. In particular, Christians tend to demonize everything and everyone which is not explicitly labeled as Christian; the church castrates life to make itself look more appealing. There is a Christian tendency to fear pop-culture, which is viewed as a slippery slope into vice, homosexuality, abortion, DUI, suicide, drunk driving, and general damnation.
As the Cold War ended, Americans collectively suffered an existential crisis once there were no longer any Soviets to demonize. Since most Americans define themselves as being “not like them,” there was a desperate search for a new enemy -- a new “them” -- to fill this void. In the resulting “Culture War” many young Christians were told to fear “the world.” However, upon exploration, most of these youths found that “the world” isn’t so bad, and it is often better at explaining and expressing the human condition. These experiences cast doubt on every previous teaching. Examples of commonly overturned teachings include:
- Yoga, which was derived from Hindu practices, is a “demonic doorway.”
- Passive forms of meditation (e.g., zazen, "zoning out"), are “Satanic” whereas Christian meditation is active (e.g., reading, memorizing, etc.). Christianity encourages constant performance of non-productive cognitive tasks as a means to prevent independent thought.
- Martial arts are "demonic," because the various stances and striking hand positions are interpreted as being mudra, making marital arts a de facto form of yoga, as do the breathing methods, centering techniques, and Zen-inspired meditation influences. Likewise, a traditional Japanese dōjō includes cultural elements (e.g., bowing to the kamiza, and to instructors) which are commonly confused with idolatry.
- One particularly-entertaining Christian author claimed to be attacked by nunchaku-wielding Satanic martial artists. This is a dubious claim at best, since the author’s description of the event indicates that they obviously have never seen nunchaku before, since they describe “num-chucks [sic]” as “a steel bar with steel balls on strings on each end.” Still, as a result of the 1980s Ninja Craze coinciding with the Satanic Panic, the possession and use of nunchaku are illegal in many US states.
- Rock music (in all its forms and derivatives) is considered evil because it induces hypnotic trances through “mindless chants” and repetition, ignoring how much of the Western musical tradition features repeating a chorus. While Christians have historically targeted Metal music, their ire touches all genres. For example, John Denver was once considered “Satanic,” for his claim that there was some degree of truth to every religion. Billy Joel received repeated death threats for his perceived anti-Catholicism.
- This is a high-value target, since denouncing music rapidly devolves into lunacy. Some of the funnier examples include:
- Claims that the entire rock genre is one “massive cult dedicated to” Pan, which is “[r]ooted in the Druid demon worship of Celtic England and baptized in voodoo ceremonies of Africa and the Caribbean.”
- Rock music is powered by “Satan’s special beat,” which allegedly originated with Voodoo practitioners. The beat’s hypnotic power results in “an instant loss of two-thirds of...normal muscle strength” while similar weakening occurs “[a]bove a certain decibel level.”
- The 1998 Crime Prevention Resource Center Conference in Ft. Worth, TX, suggested that Marylin Manson fans be involuntarily hospitalized, thus creating “a computerized database for law enforcement agencies that would monitor the Internet traffic, and musical proclivities, of suspicious youth.”
- Metal has borne most of the burden of Christian outrage, though this was largely by design:
- The dress and décor of Metal musicians is seemingly silly and/or extreme, because concerts are a form of theatre.
- While early Metal bands (e.g., Venom, Coven, Slayer) sung about Satan, this was just a gimmick they stumbled into; they had no philosophy other than juvenile rebellion, which they achieved through blasphemy.
- Christians frequently directed their attacks at Black Sabbath, and their original frontman, Ozzy Osbourne. While their music frequently mentions the occult, their lyrics contain no serious Satanic philosophy; if anything, they share a Christian-like fear of demons and sorcery.
- The Christian backlash against Metal music inadvertently popularized the genre by cementing its edgy, rebellious reputation.
- Satanists and metal fans tend to be different groups. The average teenage Satanist is a creative and intelligent white male from an upper or middle class home, who rebels from an overly restrictive, traditional religious family background and its emphasis that the world is an evil place. However, Metal music fans tend to be white working-class teens with diminished opportunities and no desire to go to college.
- It is interesting to note that from our experience, the typical metal-denouncing Christian cites information which is 30 years out of date. While Metal originated as a harder exaggeration of rock (e.g., louder, more distorted, intricate, and shocking), the genre has exploded and splinted into hundreds of distinct subgenres.
- This is a high-value target, since denouncing music rapidly devolves into lunacy. Some of the funnier examples include:
- Movies were a disruptive technology, since religious services were a form of theatre. Movies are easily portable and require no specific skills or education to watch. Movies have a wide appeal to all ages, genders, and social classes; they are cheap and profitable, even after the expense of building theatres. Americans attended movie theatres weekly by the 1920's, mostly on Sundays. The movie-going audiences were thrice that of all churchgoers in 1937, despite this being the height of the Great Depression.
- The Hays Code, which regulated early Hollywood, impeded the production of movies that could have addressed social issues. In particular, one of the greatest and most-honored films in cinematic history -- De Sica's The Bicycle Thief -- was nearly banned in the US for its non-explicit portrayals of public urination and the inside of a bordello.
- Christian scorn has been disproportionately focused on the horror genre. This is ironic, because it was the mundane tranquility and abundance which defined 1950s Christian America is what fueled the demand for the genre, since there was no other way for audiences to express their Cold War anxieties.
The irony of Christian outrage is that is inadvertent free advertising for what they sought to suppress. By declaring something to be offensive to traditional values, it becomes a de facto counter-culture element, and is therefore perceived as being edgy, dangerous, and/or cool. This is a variant of the Streisand Effect -- prohibiting or censoring information creates an artificial demand for that information. These prohibitions then compel people to do things they would never otherwise consider, for no other reason than to break the rules.
Additionally, the things which parents try to shelter children from become available as soon as parents shift their focus to the next moral outrage. The authors have met many Christians who cite the 1980s campaign against playing Dungeons & Dragons as an example of their ability to influence and shape culture. However, D&D still exists, and it is more popular than ever; every major bookstore has a section dedicated to this game. However, the moral crusaders were too busy campaigning against Manson and Harry Potter to notice. (Marilyn Manson continues to produce new albums.)
Christians are perceived as being old-fashioned, boring, and out-of-touch with reality. This view is shared by ~66% of non-believers, and ~25% of churchgoing Christians. Christians are seen as unwilling or unable to respond to the grisliness of reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions and answers. They are seen as unable to collaborate, compromise, or find lasting solutions due to their rigid, black-or-white worldviews and the fact they primarily communicate via an obfuscating jargon deliberately designed to alienate outsiders.
Christians enjoy being in their own community -- though the more they seclude themselves, the less they can function in the outside world. Thus, many churches have refined denial into an artform, responding to harsh truths with the thought-terminating line “Don’t talk like that” as a means of escaping the pain that always comes coupled with the truth. For this reason, Christians need to witness extreme, transparent, and blatant enmity before taking any action. American Christians quickly became anti-Communist after watching the show trials and executions of Soviet clergymen. By contrast, German Christians were reluctant to become anti-Nazi, since the profoundly anti-communist Hitler never proclaimed to be anti-Christian. Thus, Christians easily convinced themselves that Hitler and Nazism were not the enemies of their religion, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Churches are boring, and only offer slogans and platitudes in lieu of opportunities for young people to apply their individual gifts. According to a 2011 Barna Group survey, 23% of American Christians, ages 18-29 feel that the church does not help them find their purpose, or prepare them for life.
A 2011 Barna Group survey of revealed that 25% of American Christians, ages 18-29, believe that their church is an anti-science organization; and 18% believe their church is an anti-intellectual organization. These are difficult labels for Christians to shed, especially since Paul explicitly conducted book burnings (ACT 19:19). In particular, 23% of young Christians have been turned off by the creationists. This is especially critical, because 52% of young Christians wish to pursue science-related careers, and only 1% of youth pastors ever address scientific issues.
Churches maintain an anti-science air from necessity; science grants a better quality-of-life than anything the Bible, and its outdated work ethic could ever provide. The Bible assumes that all work is toil and labor, and makes no provisions for enjoyable or spiritually rewarding jobs. The Bible never considers the idea of efficiency, of doing more with less, or building labor-saving machines. Additionally, science trivializes the Bible’s most fantastic claims: When Jesus healed a leper, it was miraculous; but when the pharmaceutical industry cured every leper, it was business.
Religious rules (especially sexual rules) stifle young people, and are seen as “tyrannical.” The Baby Boomer's fringe activities and viewpoints now define the Millennials and Generation Z. 21% of young people seek more freedom in life, which they cannot find in the church. 12% of young people cannot rectify the church’s desires with the world around them, forcing them to “live a double life.” The church treats sex as though it were a street drug which first appeared in 1991, and until they change this view, people can never feel completely open or at ease when dealing with religious people.
This is especially true for Catholics (ages 18-29), 40% of whom feel that the Catholic Church’s chastity-over-prudence teachings are outdated. According to studies by Yale and Columbia, 89% of teens who enter chastity pledges will break them before marriage. Few, if any people leave the Catholic Church because they reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; it is usually due to personal reasons. Catholics are forced to leave the church if they disagree with it, as they have no other means of recourse -- the Church is the very opposite of a democracy; it is the last absolute monarchy.
As a result, Christians are known for what they oppose, rather than what they are for,  and Christian priest have become the new Pharisees, placing their emphasis on upholding religious law and tradition above all else.  This further compromises Christian credibility, since the average American church only has varying degrees of influence over 85-100 people, and thus lacks the power to persecute anyone for any perceived infractions. As such, the harshest punishment which churches can deal are empty threats, which can be easily shrugged aside.
The Millennials and Generation Z were raised in a culture that embraced open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. This led them to be aware that every religion in history has made the same unverifiable claims: “Our god(s) will protect and heal you if you pray to them and help support their priests.” Faith cannot validate religious claims, because faith is non-exclusive, and faith can equally validate any other religion. Likewise, miracles cannot be cited as evidence, since most religions feature miracle-performing gods and cite unexplained phenomena to validate their faiths. Claiming to practice the one, true faith will is a hard sell -- even if a pastor successfully disproved or wrote-off the rest of the world’s religions, they must still contend with the 41,000 different Christian denominations.
Young people see Christians as obsessed with conveying an unreal, polished image; that churches are cliques reserved for the most virtuous and morally-pure people. 22% of young people claim that church is “like a country club, only for insiders” that “ignores the problems of the real world.” As such, 29% of young people feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.
Among those who have quit attending their church, there is a common theme of “we did not leave the church, but rather, the church left us.”.
A generation of young Christians finds no sanctuary in the church they were raised in, for they are unsafe and unhospitable places to express doubts. Many youths feel that they were offered slick or half-baked answers to their thorny, honest questions, and they rejecting the “talking heads” and “talking points” which satisfy older generations. Frequently, the church’s response is trivial and fact-focused, as though people could be talked out of doubting. This is not so; 36% of people ages 18-29 don’t feel that they can even ask their most pressing life questions in church, and 20% say that faith offers no help with their depression or other emotional problems.
The church's failure to address doubt is the leading cause of de-conversion. Those who abandon Christianity altogether typically do so because their pastors were unable to provide answers to the “big questions,” such as:
- The Problem of Evil
- The fact that they were only Christian by default, as a result of geography and culture (had they been born in India, they would’ve been Hindu).
- What to believe in the Bible, and why.
- The relevance of Christianity when all religions converge on the same basic messages.
This doubtlessness borders on hubris, which will eventually become the Christians’ undoing. The Christians are so convinced of Christ’s return and triumph that they have lulled themselves into a sense of complacency. The Christians have become so assured in their assumption of being the final victors, that they forego the necessary actions to ensure their victory, like a pompous wannabe athlete who thinks he is “too good to practice.”
Overly-focused on Winning Converts
Young people are skeptical as to whether Christians genuinely care about them. The continual push to get non-believers to accept Christ and “become saved” continually fails because the majority (82%) of non-Christian Americans (ages 16-29) were once church-going Christians. Evangelism fails to impress those who’ve seen their movie before. Most non-believers quit the church because they accepted, contemplated, and understood the church’s teachings, and then consciously rejected them.
Christians persist in their elaborate and costly mass evangelism efforts, despite the fact they are ineffective and counterproductive. Television, radio, and tracts combined are only responsible for 0.5% of converts, while generating a negative response which exceeds their positive response by a factor of 3-10. Moreover, mass evangelism efforts mostly reach marginally-churched adults; mass evangelists only “save” those who were “saved” once upon a time.
Modern youth ignore the frequent claim that homosexuality is “unnatural”, since they are fully aware that birds and primates engage in homosexual play, and that homosexuality exists in all societies. Furthermore, young people fail to see why the clergy is qualified to declare what is and is not natural. Clothing is unnatural, and it must be further supplemented by other unnatural practices (i.e., washing) to prevent disease. Yet, those two unnatural synergistic practices make people healthier than those who go without.
Christians should also be mindful that Paul condemned heterosexuality (1COR 7:1).
Christians are perceived as the promoters of politically conservative agendas. Despite Christ’s liberal and groovy teachings, Christians tend to be conservative, because authoritarian personalities are attracted to the hierarchy and dogma which the church provides.
Additionally, churches serve as fertile ground for extremism, since their reason-for-being is conditioning people to accept dogmatism. This is why most dangerous features of Communism were reminiscent of the medieval church (e.g., the fanatical acceptance of doctrines embodied in a sacred book; an unwillingness to examine those doctrines critically; and the savage persecution of those who rejected the doctrines).
Christians are seen as being quick to judge others, and dishonest about their attitudes and perspectives about other people. As such, their claim to “love thy neighbor” is doubted. This, when combined with the other listed items, cause young people to view Christians as hypocrites, and meet their moral superiority with skepticism.
Case and point, “born-again” Christians adamantly believe homosexuality is sinful, and 61% of “born-again” Christians believe divorce is not sinful, despite Jesus Christ explicitly forbidding divorces for reasons other than adultery (MAT 5:32). This is reinforced by the Christian tendency to reserve judgement against their own moral transgressions, writing off their own wrongdoings with a variety of stock platitudes (e.g., “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”).
Frustrated parishioners are a perpetual source of stress; 40% of pastors experience serious conflicts with parishioners on a monthly basis. Churches are magnets for weirdos and troublemakers, since unlike other professionals (e.g., doctors, lawyers, psychotherapists), priests cannot dismiss problematic patrons without being seen as cruel. Priests must stroke these parishioner’s egos, lest they become resentful and problematic from a lack of attention. This constant, fruitless work bleeds priests of their energy and willpower, which they are required to supply, even when there is no one there for to supply them.
There are as many reasons for parishioner hostility as there are hostile parishioners. It should be noted that these people are usually not troublesome unless they are ignored or put down; they only cause problems for pastors when their needs go unattended. Some of the more common hostile parishioners include:
- Bored, floundering, underused, or unrecognized church members.
- Older people who are unable to influence the congregation’s agenda as much as they would like.
- Older people who seek a traditional church experience, because it's one of the few remaining things from their youth. This includes requests for pastors to regularly visit parishioner's homes.
- Younger people seeking services (e.g., day care, youth groups, etc.). Since younger people choose churches based on the services they provide, they view pastors not as community center managers instead of holy men.
- New members who are eager to make their mark.
- Deeply dedicated and energetic members who have not found adequate outlets for their need to serve.
- Straight-up troublemakers who enjoy drama.
- Rugged individualists who make poor “team-players.”
- Hyper-devout members who see heresy where none exists.
- Troubled people who assume that they can go to any ministering person, at any time, and expect to be helped with their troubles -- even if they are not a member of that congregation. While people expect psychologists to charge for their services, they also expect priests to perform similar services for free.
- This sets up unequal, one-way relationships which makes the client feel guilty, and impedes their healing.
- Since the client doesn’t pay, they won't take their counseling seriously.
- Some people (e.g., paranoid delusionals, psychopaths, sociopaths) simply cannot be saved, since they lack the requisite sense of moral values and/or the desire to change.
- Some people are “clinging vines” who demand to be propped up by other people or institutions, using the strength of others exclusively, rather than cultivate any of their own. This is usually achieved via using guilt to manipulate others into helping them.
Each hostile parishioner drains a portion the priest’s time, forcing the pastor to work a little harder and little longer -- and burnout a little quicker. While the actions of individual hostile parishioners are trivial, their cumulative effect is profound. 63% of ex-pastors said that the resistance to their leadership is what drove them to quit; it is the leading cause of clergy attrition. Likewise, 43% of people who leave their church do so because of issues with their pastor. Stone’s meta-analysis of Lifeway and Barna Group data reveals that parishioners are frequently unaware of leadership, directional, and relational issues. Many hostile parishioners cause trouble inadvertently; 40% of parishioners have no clue what frustrates their pastors -- and 12% of parishioners think that nothing does. Even if the pastor does everything right, it is literally a thankless job -- only 4% of congregants will affirm their clergyman in anyway -- and 46% of those who do merely call or write to say “thank you.”
Much of these struggles are based around the harsh fact that priests have no authority beyond their ability to persuade people. Priests are leaders, but not bosses. In the typical parish, the ministers aren’t the permanent fixture; the congregation is. Priestly promotions and demotions typically are not determined by the higher church echelons, but by organization-minded laymen who have been entrusted with some degree of leadership because of their community status or business know-how. Priests are forced to outsource the business aspects of their parish’s operations to the congregation, since priests receive little to no business training in seminary. As a result, congregations can’t be led in directions that they don’t want to go -- they’ll only rebel, and replace the plucky minister another, and another, until they find one that agrees with them. Economic and political pressure supersedes ecclesiastic pressure. Even Catholics, who do not select their own priests, can still rebel against them. When priests do not respond to parishioner’s actions, they can appeal by petitioning their bishop -- and if the bishop does not respond, the parishioner can petition the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and/or the pope directly, to address the bishop’s heresy.
The parish’s prime motivation is to ensure its own survival, and then to ensure its own security; these are the metrics which determine a pastor's success and career survival. As such, churches and their pastors are under constant pressure to increase their membership; growth signifies success. Additionally, churches and pastors must periodically expand or renovate their buildings, to signify progress. These acts require funding, and an enormous consumption of the minister’s time, energy, and supervision, at the expense of other goals. This is complicated by the fact that churches grow rapidly, but slowly erode over time; parishioners often unaware of the need for change, even when it's in their best interest.
Hostile parishioners are allowed to prosper because of:
- Both volunteer and paid leaders undergo little or no pre-hire screening.
- Secondary channels are used to work outside of established procedures. This confers special privileges to individuals, robbing the existing political structure of its power.
- Failed attempts to quell a parishioner’s anger which did not address the root cause.
- Support systems failing to address issues and/or defend the pastor.
- Allowing the “collateral damage” of drama/conflict to compromise a support system.
- The denomination and/or bishop failing to intervene, because their limited power and/or situational involvement. However, even if these authorities can’t directly intervene, they should still be able to assert their authority and/or mandate compliance.
- A failure to understand how unresolved past issues continue to influence the present.
- A failure to quell gossip.
- Seminaries fail to teach their students how to deal with hostility.
- Pastors fail to explore other options and opportunities.
- Pastors often have no other pastors to turn too or collaborate with.
- This does not apply to Catholic priests, who are procedurally required to have their own designated confessor.
- Pastors who fail to assert their authority.
- Pastors are unusually prone to guilt, which makes them more vulnerable to manipulation from con artists or others who wish to extort money and/or services.
- Pastors who fail to employ a “good-vs.-evil” mentality. Pastors often delude themselves into thinking that Christian love can overcome all; and will deny, pamper, or excuse subversive actions. Likewise, this mentality renders pastors completely unable to deal with the mentally ill, or with the truly evil.
- Rational arguments, love, and negotiations are ineffective against the truly evil.
- The mentally ill become completely predictable once they’ve been diagnosed.
- An uninformed and theologically-illiterate laity is vulnerable to the threats, flattery, cajolery, misrepresentation, etc. of those who are trying to undermine their pastors.
- Harmful or toxic pastors undermine themselves. This typically occurs with misfit pastors, whose personality, style, and conviction does not match those of their congregation.
- Well-adjusted and successful Christians at the top of their fields eventually quit attending church services because they lose interest, or consider mass to be a waste of time.
- Meetings to alter the church's political structure often just let parishioners vent, and the church quickly returns to the status quo. Such meetings accomplish less than nothing to alter the structure of a system; they only give the deceptive appearance that change is really happening.
- Devoted Christians are reluctant to stop their own persecution. Christ taught that their allegiance to him will result in persecution (MAT 5:10-11, 22; 13:13, LUK 6:22; 21:17, 1COR 1:18); thus, negative treatment is considered confirmation of living correctly.
The world has changed and the churches have not, despite the foundations of American society undergoing changes as drastic as the Exodus was to the Jews -- and this has happened twice. In 1900, 33% Americans worked in agriculture, as of 1998, only 3% were. (This is why Sunday mass is at 11 AM; because it’s between milking times.) In 1956, most Americans were worked in manufacturing; as of 1998, only 13% were, while 60-70% of people worked in information-related jobs.
Our culture is not merely different; it is discontinuously different. Modern culture is far different than the culture the Millennials were raised in -- which in turn was far different than the culture the Baby Boomers were raised in -- which in turn was far different than the culture the WWII Generation was raised in. No group has lived through such a rapidly-changing world. While Christians face far less persecution, the cultural changes are far greater and more daunting:
- Teachers and pastors can be fact-checked in real-time.
- Young people expect to participate as well as consume.
- The phenomena of “learning piracy,” where the church is not seen as the sole arbiter of spiritual content.
- A new expectation of flattened hierarchies.
- A globally connection to, and awareness of, others.
- A desire to stay connected at all times.
Christians apply a static theology to an age of accelerating change -- and since “rapid social change” is just a euphemism for “revolution” -- they are trying to live in revolutionary times without a theology of revolution. This is especially problematic, as Christian ideology makes no provisions for revolutions, or counter-revolutions. While the action of God sometimes occurs through what theologians call “historical events,” this is just a euphemism for “social change.” The church's doctrines are infected with the ideology of preservation and permanence. Almost entirely past-oriented, churches derive their authority from various classical periods; from an alleged resemblance to an earlier form of church life; or from a theory of historical continuity.
While the American conservatives were preoccupied with threat of secular humanists encroaching on their hegemony, they ignored their own secularization -- science, technology, politics, and wealth have become the means used to justify their ends. This is because “secular” really means “non-religious,” instead of “anti-religious.” Everything that is not a church or church-related -- e.g., restaurants, public libraries, roads, parks, shopping plazas, parking garages, etc. -- are, by definition, secular institutions. Secularization forces have no serious interest in persecuting any religion; secularization simply bypasses and undercuts religions, and goes on to do other things. Secularization merely relativized religious worldviews, rendering them innocuous. Religion has been privatized; it now one's particular prerogative and point of view. Secularization has merely convinced people that they could be wrong, and that there are more important things than dying for one’s faith. The traditional gods aren’t needed to play their role in the public life of the secular metropolis.
Because of this, religious orders are gradually being replaced by organizations, which are:
- Flexible. These groups make no claim to ultimate origin, and change to meet their current needs -- reorganizing, merging, and disbanding on a whim. While traditions can form, they are of secondary importance.
- Future-oriented. Religious orders views the present in terms of the past; whereas organizations work towards established goals.
- Secularized. Tradition, ceremony, and taboo are replaced with procedures, which are criticized and refined. Traditions can exist, but these are frills which do not define the group. Organizations are non-exclusive; members can join many other organizations, and are free to come and go as they please.
- Making limited membership claims. Since the organization’s authority is relative and not absolute, it only influence small portions of the member’s life. Organizations are like labor unions, whereas religious orders are like trade guilds.
The only way the clergy can ever compete is to change the way that the world perceives them, and refuse to play the role of antiquarian and medicine man -- but this is difficult, because that is their job. The only hope of achieving this fact is to address the three key problems facing modern city life, which neither the Christians, nor anyone else, have a standardized solution for:
- The decentralization of authority. There is a lack of political structures to address each and every issue, causing some problems to go ignored or improperly treated.
- Dealing with problems on a society-wide basis. The city’s problems are actually society's problems; they just seem more prevalent in cities because of their larger population.
- The powerlessness of oppressed peoples. The poor and/or minorities are voiceless, since they lack the readiness, capacity, or channels needed to voice their legitimate needs.
Christians are unlikely to address these issues since their basis, pragmatism and worldliness, have historically been the church’s worst events. Even the much-touted weekend service projects only aggravates these problems, by establishing a sense of co-dependency, and a dichotomy of "those-who-do" and "those-who-have-things-done-for-them."
Christianity can only compete with cultural change though being assimilated by it; while it will dissolve in the process, the surviving part might influence culture once again. While this is unpalatable to most Christians, it is also unstoppable. Even conservatism -- which by definition is the resistance to cultural changes -- falters in the face of change. Since conservatives act be contrary to change, those who make changes also define the direction that conservatism will follow. Even the Catholic Church, which stood stalwart through centuries of falling empires and countless wars, faltered before the “perfect storm” of Baby Boomer social upheavals:
- Vatican II, was a groundbreaking upheaval not because of the changes it made -- but because it allowed changes, and established a precedent for future changes.
- The end of the “Catholic ghetto.” Like many other faiths, American Catholics were once relegated to cloistered enclaves of ethnic neighborhoods, which reinforced their own cultural norms. American culture is now more homogenized and pluralistic.
- The American counter-cultural revolution of the 1960-70’s. The Civil Rights movement was really an anti-authority movement -- it challenged the state’s authority to enact Jim Crow laws, and was a rebellion against political, social, business, and education leaders for their failure to stand up against Jim Crow.
This is why Pope Pius X tried and failed to stop the modernization of the church with his 1907 encyclical letter, Pascendi Dominici Gregis. However, this failed to prevent Baby Boomer's social upheavals, and it will falter even further before the discontinuous changes induced by global warming and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The only alternative to assimilation -- a traditionalist victory across the entire American church landscape -- would still only be a Pyrrhic victory. This saving remnant of the church will be pessimistic from their legacy of failure, and the realization that they will never again play an important role in the thoroughly-secularized dominant culture to come; much like the Amish or the Hasidic Jews. “In the age of video games, Middle-town-wherever will always be closer to Mars than Jerusalem.”
Secularization made Christianity seem less real, privatization turned it into a personal preference, and cultural pluralization made the Christian religion into one among many. Religion has been so deeply relegated to the private sphere that it’s disappearance from the public sphere goes largely unnoticed. To combat this this, Christians attempt to re-enter the public sphere by uncritically reduplicating the stances and styles of the public sphere itself (e.g., Christian rock, Christian superheroes, etc.). However, by using the secular world’s tools on the secular world’s terms only holds the Christians captive to whims of pop-culture.
The American church-state separation broke up the state church's monopolies, forcing churches to compete on the free market for parishioners. Churches thus had to market themselves. This is a unique situation; even the various national churches of Europe viewed themselves as parts of one, larger collective church; national churches were just the only valid ones within the confines of their political borders. In the US, all 41,000 denominations of Christianity are at odds with each other, and with every other faith. This struggle is compounded by the fact the average American church has 85-100 parishioners, limiting their resources to a degree that leaves most churches struggling to maintain their overhead, let alone their hegemony.
Churches in the US are forming their own organizations, in response to the threat posed by flexible, future-oriented, secularized, membership-limited organizations. This cooperation requires churches to ignore the theological differences between one another (especially the subtle differences), and only focus on what unites them -- to focus on what they have in common, instead of what divides or defines them. However, this is flatly incompatible with the notion of dogmatism. The end result is a generic Christian faith; a diluted form of Protestantism, which makes pithy attacks at Catholics, and no makes claims of Christ’s divinity to please Unitarians and Jews. It merely consists of the notion of God’s providence, the afterlife, the Ten Commandments, and an ambiguously-interpreted Bible. This denominational consensus erodes loyalty, since no one church -- and no one religion -- has any real advantage over another. These “Cafeteria Christians” then freely pick and choose which dogma to follow, like they were dishes on an à la carte line. This is generally accepted to be a recipe for a gradual ecclesial suicide via disintegration. Denominational consensus is the first step on the slippery slope to skepticism. By conceding their claim to a monopoly on the truth, these churches grow increasingly tolerant until they are incapable of opposing unorthodox beliefs, even inside their own church walls. In the end, they are not even able to outright oppose outright agnosticism and atheism, or to oppose Christianity’s historically condemned practices (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, and suicide). They will be left with no means for combating secularism, since the only non-denominationalist dogma is anti-dogmatism; they tolerate all religious viewpoints as being equal, except for those which say otherwise.
The younger a person is, the less they understand the Christian faith. When it comes to faith, people mostly parrot what their parents taught them. The mass-media has assumed much of this role, pitching a bland, non-denominational Christianity as though it were toothpaste, laundry detergent, or any other consumer product. As a result, a many Americans are only tenuously Christian in any historical, traditional sense. Christianity is successfully resisting secularization, but only through degenerating into weaker versions of itself, until it is ultimately replaced by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is an “alternative faith that co-opts if not devours” established religious traditions, as it “generally does not, and can not stand on its own.” Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has little to do with God or a sense of divine mission in the world. It offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging a mutually-bland common ground. Moralistic Thereputic Deism makes no pretense at changing lives; churches are seen only as useful communities to help people feel good about themselves via communicating a sanitized, culturally-cooperative, but wildly truncated version of Christianity. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism disrupts the faith of young people. Even if teenagers fully participate in youth ministry programs and churches, while avoiding distractions, trauma, and counter-influences, they are unlikely to grasp a “god” who is too limp to grasp them. As such, apart from “being nice,” teenagers do not think that religion influences their decisions, choice of friends, or behaviors. Religion is only used to justify the decisions that they were going to make anyway.
Young people practice Moralistic Therapeutic Deism not because they have misunderstood what they were taught at church, but because it was what they were taught at church. Preaching and evangelism are ineffective against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism because calls to worship are also generalized and non-specific. Besides, the events being preached about (e.g., Christ’s death and resurrection) happened so long ago that they no longer offer anything new or exciting. As a result, young people lack an articulate faith, because they see faith as too spineless to merit discussion. They don’t see faith as being too deep for words, but as to vapid to require its own jargon. Even parochial schools and religiously-affiliated colleges cannot stop Moralistic Therapeutic Deism from spreading, because maintaining orthodoxy assumes that orthodox doctrines are taught, and that their students will never discover or experiment with doctrine on their own. Religiously-affiliated schools and colleges have become more secularized to compete and survive in the academic free market -- their Boards of Trustees have been laicized; the schools became co-ed; and teaching roles were replaced with non-Christian lay teachers or Ph.D. faculty. Clergy are mostly relegated to administrative and counseling roles at parochial colleges and universities; even theology has been secularized into “religious studies," which teaches about Christianity via its documents, doctrines, history, and moral codes. The individual churches are no better at teaching, since Christian education has been reduced to ritual preparations (e.g., pre-baptism counseling, first communion classes, confirmation classes, pre-marriage classes). This develops cliques instead of communities -- cliques which disband and disappear following the ritual.
Even a sudden revival of traditional religious education would prove ineffective. The word “catechism” is derived from “catechize,” meaning “to echo back” -- it’s rote learning, and that’s problematic since the modern youth was raised in a participatory culture, which seeks:
- Low barriers to artistic and civic engagement.
- Strong support for creative collaborations.
- Informal mentorships that pass on experience to newcomers.
- Confidence that their contributions will matter.
- Social connection between group members, if only through appreciating their contributions.
Additionally, if important and/or influential church positions are only open to men, or to the upper socioeconomic classes, or if particular races are either implicitly or explicitly excluded from membership, a different lesson is taught.
Reliance on the Bible
The overwhelming challenge of modernity -- and the chronically divided Christian response to it -- has rendered a credible, united Christianity impossible. Christianity can survive as a personal religion based on individuals reading the Bible -- but this is a stumbling block for many because the Bible is not credible. Christianity, in nearly all of its varied forms, depends upon the authority of a divinely-inspired Bible -- and without this the Christians suddenly have no means to control others. This is easily achieved by accepting the Christians' claims of biblical authority, and using it to frame them into adopting absurd and indefensible positions. For example:
- The writers of the New Testament had the opportunity to fix the errors in the Old Testament and in earlier gospels by drawing bullseye’s around the arrows they shot -- but they still didn’t.
- Christians cannot write off, ignore, or rationalize their way out of any of the Old Testament laws, or the horrors which they have spawned, since Christ explicitly mentioned several times that every character of the old law is true and correct, and must be obeyed (MAT 5:17-19; JOH 7:19; LUK 16:17). Any attempt to dance around this problem defies Christ’s direct teachings.
- Many of God’s laws are presented without any justification or explanation. The Bible tells us, via a revelation, that it’s against God’s law to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk -- but the Bible never explains why that’s a problem, or why it would offend God.
- There is a large burden of proof on the resurrection. This is crucial, because if the resurrection is untrue, then the entire Christian religion is invalid (1COR 15:17).
- Christians must abandon the entire concept of jurisprudence in order to comply with Christ’s maxim of “judge not lest ye be judged.”
- The Gospel of Luke claims to be an eyewitness account (LUK 1:1-4), in contrast with basically the entire corpus of Biblical history studies.
- While ancient slavery was more like indentured servitude, and did not involve the literal ownership of humans like the “chattel” slavery of the American South, the Bible was still used to endorse and rationalize that unforgivable practice, despite its clear prohibitions on kidnapping (1TIM 1:9-11) and slave trafficking (DEU 24:7).
- Many, many, many more examples can be found elsewhere on this website.
The Clergy are "Unmanly"
While this article makes many traditional/stereotypical generalizations of gender traits and roles, it does not endorse this particular worldview. However, churches have historically catered to those who do hold these views on gender traits and roles, and they are now failing miserably at it.
|Your system is perfectly designed to get you the results you’re getting.|
—W. Edwards Deming
Churches are like baby showers; even if men are invited, they don’t want to be there. Church services are primary attended by women, children, and the elderly; churches now cater to those demographics to such a degree that they have become associated with childhood. As a result, many men fear going to church -- not because they fear God -- but because they fear it will damage their reputation. Churchgoing men are viewed as bland, milquetoast pushovers, like Ned Flanders. Granted there is a “Mafia exception” to this rule; mobsters attend church services without losing their street cred, but only because their actions and lifestyle are contrary to the Christian lifestyle. It’s the buy-in which makes church attendees unmanly. A random sampling of 100 non-churchgoing men all replied they didn’t attend mass because churches are for “kids, women, and wimps.”
While the clergy is a men’s club, every other aspect of the church is run and dominated by women; “churches are women’s clubs with male officers,” and based on the rolls of old New England churches, this has been an ongoing trend since the 1600s. This is because:
- Women tend to produce more serotonin, which calms them and prevents the expression of anger. (This is why women tend to bottle up their anger until they snap.) Church aggressions must be handled in an overly-polite manner; men can’t ask their priest if he wants to step outside.
- Women’s brains tend to have larger language centers; which in turn, allows them to be better at reading, singing, speaking, networking, etc. -- in short, to be better at what churches require.
There are a number of differences in the male brain which drive their desires, shape their cultures and are being largely unmet by the modern church:
- Men tend to have larger amygdala, resulting in stronger fight-or-flight responses, and a greater tendency for flashbacks. Men have extreme difficulty overcoming any unpleasant, painful, or humiliating past experiences, because of the influence of this region of the brain, and the fact that it does not reason -- it responds.
- Men tend to have a smaller corpus collosum, which causes less traffic between hemispheres of the brain. As a result, men have greater difficulty with verbal learning methods (e.g., sermons, bible studies, etc.)
- Men need to be able to ask questions and challenge the status quo. If their input is not valued, then they are not valued. Men need dialogue, not monologue. There needs to be give and take, and a chance to argue.
- Men enjoy learning through personal discovery; they tend to be active, hands-on learners who learn by doing, and through interacting with objects.
- The average male attention span is 6-8 minutes, but the average sermon is 30 minutes. Lesson plans must focus on a single point or concept, because what is not concise is lost.
- Men require visually-explained plans towards a pre-defined goal, so they can measure their progress. Otherwise, they will feel aimless and run aground.
- Christian sermons and monologues never present any novel or useful ideas. Even at their most intense, they are rehashes of clichéd macho posturing (e.g., the “baptize in fire!” from MAR 9:49-50).
- “If we have authority over the devil in Jesus’ name, how many times do we have to bind him before it works? If it does work, why does the devil keep getting free?”
- Modern preaching is ineffective because it relies on generalized, non-specific terms to discuss events which happened so long ago that they no longer offer a new worldview or anything else to get excited about.
- Modern people judge what they encounter through the lenses of pragmatism and profanity -- meaning that is profane in the classical sense of the world (literally meaning “outside the temple”). For something to be relevant, it must contain a sense of “this-worldness.”
- Catholic sermons tend to be of low-quality because they are literally filler material. Catholics see the Eucharist as the means to achieve grace, as opposed to Protestantism, where the sermon is the means to achieve grace. Poor sermons signal that a Catholic priest is a disappointment, and that a Protestant priest is a failure.
- Men are made uncomfortable by the modern terminology used in modern worship.
- “A personal relationship with Christ,” “a passionate relationship with Christ,” and “intimacy with God” all carry sexual connotations which welcome women and repel men.
- There is a tendency for Christians to assume Elizabethan speech patterns when talking to God (“We beseech thee, O Lord…”) and/or the mantra-like repetition of God’s name (“Lord, we thank you for this day, Lord.” These are both perceived as grandstanding to create an illusion of holiness, and are not considered to be genuine devotion.
- “Being saved” makes men feel like a damsel in distress.
- “Sharing” how you feel makes men feel like they’re in kindergarten.
- The “Lord” is meaningless and unrelatable outside of a monarchy; if anything men are now conditioned to rebel against anyone demanding to be called “Lord.”
- Men’s ministries fail because they’re essentially women’s ministries for men. They sit around read, weep, hold hands, sing, hug, listen, and share. While these events are not designed for women per se, they only attract soft men.
- The masculine spirit is regarded as unholy because it is frequently uncouth.
- Guilt, duty, and obligation tend to be poor motivators for men.
- Men have difficulty with gathering, praying, and the laying-of-hands because they associate personal space with safety, whereas women tend to associate closeness with safety.
- Men fear psychic regression (i.e., returning to a second infancy to evade reality), because the men who regress (e.g., those who run back to their mommies) are perceived as failures. Men must move out, and they can’t return home.
- Christianity repels men because it’s based on risk-avoidance; it’s all about “don’t do this” and “play it safe.” Men must play for keeps; without a real threat from a real enemy, they cannot fight, and lose interest.
- Christianity only caught on because it was originally seen as subversive, thrilling, dangerous, and exciting; the risk of being fed to lions was an appealing selling point. Why would anyone get excited about going to a sanctuary?
- Men fear Heaven, because it sounds so boring. There are no challenges, no uncertainties, and no fun activites other than singing for billions of years.
- Men have an urge to constantly prove themselves in their own way, according to their own skill. “Real manhood differs from simple anatomical maleness, that it is not a natural condition that comes about spontaneously through biological maturation but rather is a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against power odds.” Manhood is something you earn.
- Men don’t just want to be great; they want to be recognized as being great. Therefore, they won’t do anything unless it offers them a shot at greatness. Their constant posturing and one-upmanship benefits society through its by-products: bravery, heroism, generosity, self-sacrifice, and innovation.
- The modern church has no need for the traditionally masculine skills and traits, especially since they would disrupt the church’s predominately “soft skill”-based tasks (e.g., child care, teaching children, preparing soup, etc.). Men have a need to be needed, but other than ushers, all of the traditionally “male” jobs are reserved for the clergy.
- Male volunteers are prone to burnout from failing to see the fruits of their labors. This is commonly due churches with too many ministry programs, many of which have little effect. Since churches attract passivity activists who expend most of their energy on fighting change, most churches are unwilling to cull their unproductive programs and their divert resources towards the better programs.
- Clergy tend to exhibit more “feminine” personality traits than men of other professions, and produce less testosterone.
- Homosexuals are disproportionally attracted to religious vocations, because the church is one of the society's few institutions where there is no expectation for men to conform to traditional male roles; it is the only place where men are praised for displaying feminine traits. Priests are expected to be a sort of asexual, sinless “third gender,” which is shielded from the world and its myriad of corrupting influences.
- Priests wield no power or authority beyond their persuasive abilities. While clergy serve in the holy office of ministry, it is the office that is holy, not the person.
- Priests must be perfect pacifists and avoid conflict, lest they be hypocrites. While some Christians argue that “turning the other cheek” is just a figure of speech, the context of MAT 5:40-42 reveals that Jesus literally advocated the invitation of mistreatment.
- The Cubans could have staged a counter-revolution at any time, but their Christian ideology prevented them from doing so, as it does not allow for either revolutions or counter-revolutions.
As a result, some (mostly fundamentalist) Christians overcompensate by fostering a culture of toxic masculinity. The emasculation which results from submission to the church authority is offset by the further surrender of their conscience, accountability, and empathy. The domination which men are encouraged to practice over women and children is a reflection of the domination they are taught to endure outside of the home.
Control and force is used to raise obedient, unquestioning, and fearful children who will not be tempted to challenge powerful male figures as adults. These children are conditioned to rely on external authority for moral choice. They obey out of fear, as the refusal to submit to authority is heresy. The child learns to distrust outsiders, until their benign and trivial differences are exaggerated to Satanic proportions. This process perpetuates childhood, allowing adult to bask in the protection of an all-powerful father, masking themselves from their shortcomings, weaknesses, and frailties. This also makes mature, loving relationships impossible to build, since everything revolves around the believer, and their needs, desires, protection, and advancement. Relationships -- even within families -- splinter and fracture in the face of what the church and its leaders dictate in their binary world of right and wrong. People are judged not by their intrinsic qualities, actions, self-sacrifice, or compassion, but by the rigidity of their obedience. This obedience is vital, because in many ways, these toxic leaders fear love the most, for it is love that unleashes passions and breaks bonds that can defy the carefully constructed hierarchies which keep followers trapped and enclosed.
- Fundamentalism correlates with right-wing authoritarian personalities, which in turn correlates with racism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and punitiveness. The aggression, prejudice, and schadenfreude-coupled vindictive mean-spiritedness directed against out-groups is what defines the in-group.
- Fundamentalists target women, homosexuals, Jews, atheists, blacks, and a host of other groups when confronted with the imperfections of our culture, because scapegoats act as a safety valve against the pressure of disappointment. This is why religious leaders point blame at outsiders as a means to prevent malcontent among their own members.
- Rigid sex role socialization is one of the propagators of rape. Women are taught not to show interest, while men are taught to take a leading role, which establishes a rape culture.
- Misogyny (the hatred of women) is another cause of rape. The majority of rapists seek power, not sex. They seek to humiliate, degrade, subordinate, and injure women. Fundamentalists will even go as far as to tell rape victims that “it is good to suffer,” because their suffering will “earn them God’s special favor.” As a result, nothing is done to protect the innocent. The attack is written off as being God’s will, and the victim is told to forget the incident; to move on; and most importantly -- forgive their unrepentant attacker.
- Among the general population, sex abuse is mostly perpetrated by step-fathers, and not fathers. This is not true for fundamentalist Christians, who have an out-of-proportion incest rate. Fundamentalism correlates with incest, but this probability decreases with increasing degree of community involvement. Only those who don’t get out often will turn to incest.
- Conservatives have historically deplored welfare initiatives because they give abused women a means to escape, which challenges an absolute patriarchy. Contrary to popular belief, there are no incentives for welfare mothers to have additional children, as additional benefits mostly come in non-cash forms (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, and housing and daycare allowances which are paid directly to the providers).
Difficult Theological Problems are Piling Up
Theological advancements are produced at a glacial pace, if at all. Many topics have been debated for centuries without progress. Technological progress moves at a much faster rate, and society has had to, and soon will, completely reform itself to cope with the changes which technology will bring. As a result, theological conundrums are being generated faster than they can ever be resolved, which both highlights and hastens the irrelevance of Christianity. These high-value questions include:
- Would human clones have souls?
- Would human-animal hybrids (e.g., humanzees) have souls?
- Would self-aware androids have souls?
- If Data doesn’t have a soul, then no one deserves one.
- Would intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms have souls?
- The Catholic Church has been playing with this idea since c.2005. It is generally accepted in Catholic circles that intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms do have souls, which were also corrupted by Original Sin, and were also redeemed via Jesus’ crucifixion. However, this is not a Catholic dogma, and the issue has gone virtually unnoticed by other Christian sects.
- If you were to gradually replace all your organs and body parts with transplanted and/or cloned body parts, are you still the same person?
- What happens to the souls of the cryopreserved? In the unlikely event that these people were to be resurrected with future science, would their souls return to their preserved bodies, like the Ba of ancient Egypt? If not, were their souls frozen too?
- Would freezing a live person be murder? If not, is failing to reanimate them murder?
- If suicide bombers go to heaven for killing the enemy, what happens when the two sides make peace?
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