So I just heard about a real life situation that illustrates the massive divide between the religious and the non-religious. For those not aware, I grew up in a religious household. I was even in a religious private school from 1st-3rd grade. The religion was Baptist, specifically independent Baptist. Woodland wasn't part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is a good thing because its policies really piss my off inner feminist. If you aren't familiar with what I'm referring to, perhaps the statement "Wives should submit graciously to their husbands" will jog your memory.
That bone of contention is for another day. The story I have will really illuminate things.
My sister is getting married in a few months. She and the groom are not multimillionaires; they have a 4 month old and a 7 year old to take care of plus money is tight. They are trying to save up to have a nice wedding. This time, my sister wants a nicer, formal affair since her last wedding was, in her words "thrown together at the last minute." We finally sorted out the dress debacle with my sister agreeing not to pick bright shades of yellow and orange for dresses and considering her sister's appearance as much as anyone else's in bridesmaid/matron of honor dresses. They looked at the color match on me so that's been settled. She finally picked out a flattering style yesterday that I now just need to get measurements for. She even finally found her wedding dress, another long ordeal.
Now she's trying to find a venue. They tend to be too much money, costing anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. My aunt, in the spirit of Christian kindness, suggests they have the wedding & reception at her church. She is a member and this church does hold some significance to the bride and the groom: my sister & I attended Girl Scout meetings there in middle school and the minister performing the ceremony (a relative of the groom's) did preach there once.
So my aunt goes out of her way to speak to the people at this church & the pastor apparently offered a very generous rate to them. My sister is told to call the church secretary.
When she does, the church secretary greets her with attitude & proclaims in a smart alack tone "Well, YOU'RE not a member." They send my sister paperwork on their rules, policies, etc. We get it: it's a church so you can't have alcohol. That just saves us from another potential fight anyway considering the groom would be okay with it but my sister is not so keen on having it. We also understand basic courtesies and standards of proper behavior.
So my sister gets this paperwork, where she's nickled and dimed to death. This brings the total to use the space to...$850!! This is much, MUCH farther away than the figure my aunt tells her. Both my mother & I say she should speak to my aunt.
Others have offered alternative sites but my biggest issue is making sure no one attempts to convert me or my spouse or hassles us for not belonging to a particular church or faith. My mother assures me that won't be a problem.
With conduct like this church is pulling though, where is the so called "Christian love and charity"? These people do not have $850 for this; why don't they just sell the space on the general marketplace and let ANYONE use it regardless of their faith??? Attitude like what I heard about and this whole scheme definitely doesn't inspire me or my mother to join this church and in my view, makes the atheist cause even stronger.
You can get attitude like this without any church association or religiosity involved. I expect better from "people of faith" so when you add this to other instances I've encountered of shitty behavior from "Christians", is it any wonder many of us aren't interested in joining people's churches or affiliating with a membership? This expecting better also extends to not being forced to pay a clergy member to support efforts they should support anyway because it's the right thing to do and God would agree. That also bolsters the atheist cause & is why I consider churches headed by powerful ministers to be complete contradiction to what God would want. If you have to pay these ministers to do something, then they are no better than politicians and should renounce the title of "minister", "reverend" or whatever they use to claim spiritual superiority over the rest of us.
This is not to say I haven't met some good ministers who aren't utter hypocrites but generally, if the person's church isn't nondenominational, Pagan, Jewish or some faith that isn't Catholic, Baptist or an off shoot of one of them I will have massive distrust for that clergy person. I judge a lot of this on how they treat people who are different, what they say about people who are different and if they go around condemning people or saying "you're going to burn in Hell." Telling me that my husband & I shouldn't be together for the sake of religious faith or being rude to him in any way because of his views is definitely a huge black mark against you.
I was also never a member of any church, even as a child. Despite the fact that I was in a sorority, a ton of clubs in high school and some bar association committees today, I'm not really what you'd call a "joiner." Most of the time, I've not felt like I was "in" with any of these groups. There's being a name member & then there's actually being part of things and feeling included. The feeling of inclusion tends to elude me. Even when I was in my sorority, I started to feel like a fringe later on and only stuck it out because I'd been there so long already. I've been a fringe in most places and not always because I'm a private person or have problems trusting people. I haven't had many people make me feel like my contribution was appreciated or that they were happy to have me around; honestly, I've had to strong-arm my way into things because if I didn't then I would get excluded.
I feel like church membership would be the same thing and I could get that without the shroud of religion over everything. The fact that I expect more from institutions that tout certain messages and ideas probably makes me idealist, naive, whatever.
However, if I should expect hypocrisy and the same bullshit in a church membership then what is the point of belonging to one at all? I'm better served keeping to myself and practicing faith in my own way; this is precisely what I've done. I believe God exists but won't follow an organized religion since hypocrisy is far too rampant.
And guess who ruined good peer relations for me??? The jerks I knew in religious private school. Some grew up to be decent people while others are still jerks. If my best friend at the time hadn't been around, I'd have been far worse off.