An Atheist Walks into a Church...

A self-described 'friendly atheist' records his impressions of several church services.

In his book I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes, Hemant Mehta describes his visits to multiple church services over the course of several months. Mehta brought a notebook into the pews, recording how he--a person not raised in the Christian faith--understood the services (or didn't). Below are some of his impressions.

A Smaller Church: Westminster Presbyterian Church, DeKalb, Illinois

…When it came time for the scripted readings, I had a hard time understanding the point behind them.

The leader would say, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”


We would respond, “Who made heaven and earth.”


The leader would say, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’


We would respond, ‘They shall mount up with wings as eagles.”


And so on.

It was all written there for us, but what was the purpose? To get us more involved? If it was meant to energize us about God, you would never have guessed from the lackluster responses given by the congregation. If it was meant to be a prayer, it gave no evidence of being heartfelt. If it was just a ritual, I didn’t see the point. I recalled some of the Jain rituals that never made sense to me when I was growing up. There were times I was supposed to kneel when I prayed, but only on my right knee; there were certain words I was supposed to say when I walked into the temple; there was even a specific way I was supposed to say certain mantras--and repeat them exactly one hundred eight times. Even if there were reasons behind the rituals, the reasons were never apparent and rarely satisfied my curiosity. I felt the same way this morning in church.

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A Mid-Sized Church: Mars Hill Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois

…I agreed with the pastor’s optimism for the wonderful day we were having, but his words quickly became repetitious.

It’s good to be here!

Yes, it is.

Are you blessed?

Sure.

I said, it’s good to be here!

I agree.

We are blessed!

Okay.

Are we blessed?

I answered that already.
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