Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eliminate the Middleman

New research polling data shows that 15% of Americans now put themselves into the category of having “no religion.” Within theology-based categories, only the Catholic Church and the Baptists can claim larger memberships, although the evangelical fundamentalists are closing the gap rapidly with 12% of the population currently and their numbers climbing fast. As a member of the “no religion” group, it appears to me that many Americans are discovering for themselves what I discovered years ago— that spirituality and religion don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and that any person can believe in a higher power without going through a middle man.

I’ve always seen religious leaders functioning like used car salesmen, with God (or something like him) as the manager hidden in the back room. If this analogy is unclear, go rent the movie “Fargo,” and watch it. For those who worship within this system, their offerings of faith, devotion and (especially) money go into the church, and the church leader gives them feedback on how the higher power feels about their contribution. It never made any sense to me, and that epiphany came to me long before the news of Catholic pedophiles serving as priests and guys like Ted Haggard telling us what some higher power wants us to know.

I don’t know exactly what’s on God’s mind, and neither does the Pope or Ted Haggard. I recommend giving money directly to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter rather than any church, and if we truly believe that we have a soul, then I recommend listening to that through quiet introspection rather than sermons. As for the religious leaders, let them join the rest of us in this economy and go about looking for a job.

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