Church attendance across the globe is going down faster than Pamela Anderson in a football team locker room in almost all cases (the exception being those absurd US mega-churches but they are far more a business than an actual church). Why is this happening? Former Australian Defence Force Anglican bishop Tom Frame is blaming a lot of churches that he’s labelled as ‘weak’, ‘insipid’ and ‘unintelligible’. Let’s take a look at what he’s said, thanks to the ABC, and see exactly where Frame has gone wrong.
Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre and head of the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University, Professor Tom Frame, says churches must take some of the blame for the decline.
‘Some’? How about nearly all? The only other factor that really plays into things is that, as a general rule, society is getting smarter and has finally realised that following the bronze age stories made up by ignorant tribesman to explain things they otherwise couldn’t … and taking it as literal truth … is really rather daft.
“The Christianity that most Australians have encountered is weak and insipid and in more than a few instances uninspiring and unintelligible, and the majority have no idea of what the Christian religion is offering,” he writes in his book Losing My Religion: Unbelief In Australia.
I have yet to encounter a form of Christianity (or any other form of organised religion) which is not intellectually weak and uninspiring. Religion is usually not unintelligible, they communicate their messages quite well, it is just that the teachings themselves are on the far side of irrational and nonsensical. Just like you can not make silk purses from a sow’s ear, you can not make tales about a 6,000 year old Earth and global floods make sense.
Professor Frame points to what he believes are three reasons for this.
“To some degree some churches are caught in a time warp, they’ve got the social and cultural forms of the 1950s and 1960s and have been unable to embrace the 1990s and the new millennium, so they do seem to be locked in time and their message with it,” he told ABC Online.
This is something I actually agree with. Most churches are incredibly backwards in their thinking to a point where they have become no more than a sad parody of themselves. The Catholic Church, in particular, is extremely guilty of this though I am struggling to think of one which is not to one degree or another.
“The second thing that I would say is that many of the churches are totally overcome by internal bickering about minor points of doctrine about which the world could not care less, because they don’t bear upon everyday life.
This point is another decent one and well explained by the scene in the BBC series ‘Red Dwarf’ where the cat people wipe each other out after waging religious war regarding whether the holy hats should be red or blue (in fact, Lister was going to make them green). Frame’s reasons are still somewhat missing the point though he comes close; it is not that most people do not care about minor points of doctrine … it is that they do not care about religious doctrine in the first place. Why? Because they have finally started to work out that it’s bollocks.
“And I think the third thing is that the churches themselves have conducted some of the internal debates in public and given the impression that not even the churches are sure about what they believe.
Well, yeah. That one’s a given. Though it should be said that having such discussions in public is a great deal better than having them behind closed doors. In fact, religious organisations doing anything behind closed doors is probably a very bad thing … especially when it involves altar boys.
“And if they can’t articulate a clear message then why should anyone bother listening?”
And again; the communication itself is fine. It’s the message itself that is irrational and (often) outright silly and bizarre while having absolutely no relation to reality as we know it. It is like having the most advanced radio broadcast system on the planet and trying to send out nothing but a recording of a drunken David Hasselhoff trying to sing while he has his head in an overflowing toilet bowl (and for any reality TV show producers who should read that last bit; I claim that idea and you can’t use it. So there, you increasingly desperate sods).
At Federation Australia was considered a Christian nation, but Professor Frame points to census figures showing that today a quarter of the population does not have a declared religion.
Yes, because people are getting smarter and as science advances … well, there’s far less room for any sort of deity figure.
He warns that as belief continues to decline, it places in jeopardy the estimated $40 billion worth of public money channelled through religious organisations to deliver social services in Australia.
There is absolutely zero reason that such services can not continue under secular causes. One could even make an economic argument that if people tithe less to churches then the general economy would be increased and thus more jobs and thus less unemployment … all leading to less need for the services to begin with. Afterall, I really do not think the Vatican needs to add any more money to it’s rather extensive coffers.
“In addition to that, to some degree, our moral and ethical conversation in this country has been informed largely by Christianity as the majority religion. If you take away that big story and the things that it has contributed to our public life, and our public conversation, there will be a void.”
Um, how? Morality and ethics do not come from religion. Well, unless you’re in one of those really screwed up countries where you’re now legally allowed to rape your wife but that’s an entirely different matter. Even then you would have to be pretty whacky in the head in the first place to think that sort of behaviour is ethically fine in the modern age.
I think Frame has missed the point. Churches are doing what they have always done; it is simply now a matter that society is starting to outgrow the need for them. People do not need the psychological crutch that is god any longer on an increasing scale. People are increasingly realising that organised religion is, in fact, responsible for many of the woes and evils the world experiences.