THE CHURCH ORGANIZATION
This is a brief but important overview of the church, its policies and how the church views itself as it appears to the Clear Thinker. The purpose of this chapter is to see how the church organizes and emphasizes itself to its own members and to those outside of the church and what this means when we look at it honestly. In order to best understand this chapter, look at the term “church” as a church to which you do not belong. In other words, look at it as a foreign church. This helps you to be more objective toward the subject.
Earlier you read there were Clear Thinkers in various churches. For the purpose of discussing this topic, I am asking you in this chapter, to see how Clear Thinkers view the church and its organization. They do not view any organization of man as divine. They do view many organizations as very special. Any Clear Thinker in the church presently was in the church before he became a Clear Thinker. I know of none who are in the church now who were Clear Thinkers before they joined the church. I am asking you to see how Clear Thinkers view the church so in the next chapter, we can discuss the subject of honesty as seen from their viewpoint.
With that in mind, let me say this. Clear Thinking is not a profession. It is not a calling. It is a Philosophy, and it is our only honest way of looking at the issues and events of life. There are no Atheistic code of ethics, or standards of activity. There are no laws or rules especially for the Clear Thinker. They have no hierarchy, no boss, no bishop and no clearinghouse. So, each Clear Thinker must exercise his own Honest Logical Thinking and make his own free will decisions. Most Clear Thinkers judge their own activity by the standard of “not doing to others what they would not want done to themselves.” There are associations, Internet groups and friendly groups where a few Clear Thinkers have gotten together with others of like mind. However, the life of a Clear Thinker is one in which he is his own C.E.O., Board of Directors and subordinate. He is always responsible for his Own actions. He is a free man! How sweet it is!
Ministers, priests, rabbis and religious professors are professionals. That is, they are people who for their own reasons, have chosen the profession of religion and are therefore, tied to certain rules and regulations that they must follow if they are to remain in the profession of their choice.
First, why do these professional religious people choose to follow the religious career? I will assume they all feel, for whatever reasons, they should be there. Many psychologists and sociologists have made extensive studies in the past trying to answer that very question. Briefly we will just mention the first explanation given by almost every one of the rabbis, ministers, priests and professors, which is, "God called me." That is, God talked to them in their heads, or they believed or felt that God talked to them. So let us look more closely at the other reasons given to those who have studied the matter carefully.
Some of these reasons were shared by only a few who were studied. Others who responded to the questions shared the vast portion of the reasons listed below. The questions were of a psychological nature and not straight forward as arranged here. I have arranged the reasons as they appeared on the keys of one of the questionnaires and not in any order of preference. My condensation makes the answers simple and easy to understand. Now why do men and women choose the religious profession?
BECAUSE THEY ENJOY:
escape from the real world,
the structured life,
having to make fewer personal decisions,
gaining converts to their beliefs,
having power over people,
playing the politics of their religion,
authority they would be denied on the outside,
the theological dialogues and arguments,
compensating for past wrongs,
the gossip and visiting,
working out their own salvation,
having power over women,
having power over men,
having power over children,
being the center of attention,
using their talents for singing or music,
using their talents for acting,
being a teacher,
having a chance to study their favorite subjects,
good medical insurance,
the physically easy life,
the trips, vacations, seminars and travel,
being important in town and community,
having political influence in the real world,
making a good living,
helping people work on their problems,
getting a cheap or free education and
escaping from problems on the outside of the church.
Sometimes there are hidden reasons usually centered on greed or personal pleasures. You may wish to add your own reasons to this list or delete some. The focus here should be that the life of an educated professor, minister, priest or rabbi is not a bad life at all. One can enjoy the ministry. If he is successful, the pay is from median to good. The recognition is excellent. The opportunity for doing good or bad is excellent. In other words, the platform and standing of the church is such, in most communities, that the rabbi, professor, minister or priest has an elevated position in the community. They are automatically community leaders.
Now let us look at the strata of the church. In any church organization, there are three basic types of division. First, there are the fundamentalists, or ultraconservatives, which I will call Literalists. Next, there are the middle or the roaders, which I will call Conservatives. Finally, there are the progressives, which I will call Liberals.
The best way to illustrate these three types in the church is to look at how they view the Bible from which all Christian religions, doctrines, creeds and denominations stem.
The Literalists say, "The Bible is the infallible word of God." They believe some person wrote the Bible when the Holy Ghost of God entered that person and actually controlled the mind and hand that wrote. Some believe God actually spoke face to face and spoke some of the words that are written in the Bible. Some of these Literalists do not understand the process of transcription, translation and transliteration. They argue their points as though God spoke and argued with the Jews and early Christians in English. There are absolutely no errors in God's Word. To them, The Bible Is “The Infallible Word From God To Man.”
The Conservatives have a little better general education on the whole. They say this. "The Bible was inspired by God." This means the Holy Ghost spoke inside of men's head (a revelation), or they felt, or believed he did. The men listened, then they put what the Ghost said down on paper “in their Own Words.” The Conservatives say there are still no errors in subject matter in God's Word. They also call the Bible, “The Word of God.” However, they do acknowledge some of the stories told in the Bible are not literal within themselves. Instead, there are allegories and stories told to make a point about morality, ethics or some other matter.
They do have a problem though. They cannot Agree on which of the many stories in the Bible are allegorical and which are literally true. They say there are some stories that are not to be taken literally. Some quote the story where the earth stood still (described as the sun standing still). Some discard the cursing of the fig tree. Some say the whole or parts of the books of prophecy are simply allegories. Others say this part or that part of the New or Old Testament is to be considered as an allegory. Some say the commandment to wash each other’s feet does not belong or apply to them.
(The word translated "prophet" in the English Bibles is the Mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "poet" and does not refer to seeing the future.)
Still others of the Conservatives pick out subjects and consign them to the allegorical area. Such a subject is "Hell.” Some say all references to a literal hell should be treated as allegory. Some others even list many of the events describing the activities of Jesus or Paul as allegorical. Sometimes some of them say parts of the book, Revelation of St. John, is allegorical.
Few Conservatives would subscribe to all of these examples that I have mentioned, but they would admit one or two. However, each of the Conservative denominations and churches reject some part of the Bible as not being applicable to them. If no other example will demonstrate it to you, these two will. The New Testament and the Old Testament, in numerous places, prohibits women from even speaking in church. Yet contrary to the explicit instructions of the Holy Spirit, in almost every Conservative denomination, women are allowed not only to attend, but to speak, to sing, to teach and in some denominations even to preach. Has God changed his mind? The Bible gives a specific commandment to wash each other’s feet. Conservatives reject that as being too sexy.
In spite of these areas in the Bible that the Conservatives feel are in some way not applicable to them, they still insist on calling the Bible, God's Word. To them the Bible is “God’s Word.”
The last group, the Liberals have an even greater difference among themselves than do the Conservatives. The main unifying factor within the Liberal faction of the church is this. All will accept the fact the Bible contains Errors of one sort or another. Like the conservative faction dealing with allegories, the Liberals differ as to which parts are in error. Again, if you discarded all the parts different Liberal groups feel are in error, there would be little left of the Bible except a few Proverbs and Psalms. Some of these Liberals agree to say first, the Bible contains some teachings inspired by God. And practically all Liberals would accept the statement, the Bible contains the record of man’s search for God.
So you see, most would say, (and pay careful attention to this) "The Bible contains the teachings About God." So actually, the Liberals need to be divided into two groups:
Those who say the Bible contains some teachings From God.
Those who say the Bible contains some teachings About God.
The last division may or may not believe anything the Bible says about God. Yet, they are not only a part of each denomination, they are often the strongest political force in the denomination. In some denominations, the Liberals hold the leadership power. In others the Conservatives do. In some denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, they forget about living the teachings of Christ and God's Word. Instead, they Fight over the meaning of those teachings and there is always a great political war on to see which group controls the high offices, the money and the schools. In some states, it is the Liberals. In other states, it is the Conservatives or the Literalists who rule.
How do these differences in viewing the Bible affect the individual denominations, their churches, their goals and their activities? Let's look at that for a moment.
The goal of the Literalist is to "Save Souls” from the grasp of Hell fire and Sin. Therefore, the Literalist churches are extremely vocal on the television, radio and in the community. They are constantly trying to implant the fear of hell and the guilt of sin in the people. Then without removing that guilt and fear, they seek to save people from the jaws of everlasting torment, which they can so vividly describe.
Always the Literalists have a magic formula called, "The Plan of Salvation." Of course the formula and the plan differs from church to church and denomination to denomination. In order to be saved you must repeat the magic formula. They say you must really believe it. Crying helps. Then you must undergo another magic ceremony such as being pushed under water. While the pushee holds his breath and prays that it will soon be over, the pusher says another magic formula of his particular denomination. There are some denominations that simply throw some water on you while they say the magic formula. The splashee and the pushee get their names written in a book called the Church Roll, while the splasher or pusher gets to keep his job as minister of the church a while longer.
The whole point is to save your soul and make you a paying member of that particular church (which they call the Body of Christ). That is enough on the Literalist.
Now look at those whom we have labeled Conservative. The aim of the Conservatives is not only to save your soul, but also to make better individuals. Therefore, their church program downgrades hell and seeks to play up heaven. They provide a semblance of personal and family counseling. They run low to median grade religiously oriented schools. They try to help people solve problems like family difficulties, smoking, sex out of wedlock, alcoholism, gambling, drug use, psychological problems and such.
They seek to help their members and others develop musical skills, athletic skills and other talents and abilities. All in all, they are not so bad a bunch. I can agree with many of their programs and good works.
LET ME SAY RIGHT HERE AND NOW,
I AM NOT AGAINST THE GOOD THE CHURCHES DO.
I AM VERY MUCH FOR IT!
I am against the religious teachings, which they proclaim as coming straight from the Almighty God. I am against teaching that the wrongs people do are an eternally damning thing called Religious Sin. This produces guilt, fear and instability in the gullible and weak-minded. In addition, this concept actually Retards spiritual and mental growth. I am against their refusal to let people Think for themselves and to exercise their God given right to Honest Doubt and Honest Thinking. I am against telling people they will go to hell if they search for the truth about these matters and if they think Honestly for themselves. I am against anyone telling people all the complicated problems of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries were solved two or three thousand years ago by men that did not know the world was round and certainly did not know women had rights. I am against people being told, if they give up the good things of this life, God will give them the good things of a next life.
Finally, we will look at the Liberals. The goal of the Liberals is to make a better caring society and world. Consequently, they are heavy, not only in church politics, but also in local and national politics. Invariably the Liberals are well educated and often found in high places in the church hierarchy and in the seminaries and universities. Why does knowledge and education make Liberals? I will answer that.
Knowledge makes Liberals because, the more you know the less you can believe.
If they are preachers, they preach a social obligation of one man to another. They have a lot to say about love, obligation, responsibility, forgiveness, education, psychology and the like. They seldom preach on the doctrines of their church except where they must and when the sermon can be used to get a social point across. When they do preach on the doctrines, one still does not know if the preacher is for the doctrine or against it.
These Liberal ministers, priests and rabbis are heavily into semantics, so they write out their sermons. In this way they can prove exactly what they said if questioned. They walk a tight rope between the doctrines of their churches, which they know are often in error, and their desire to maintain their salary and be of help to their members. The conservative members gradually leave the liberal churches and go to another church where the preaching is more to their taste. The Liberal minister is left with a liberal congregation and usually plenty of financial support.
The Conservatives charge that the Liberal church is spiritually dead. The Literalists say the Liberal church is the church of the Devil. Meanwhile, the Liberal church is busy making waves in the community. They are bringing about social changes, political changes, fighting prejudice, fighting greed and corruption in the government of the church, as well as local and federal corruption. They are usually champions for the poor, the ignorant, the minorities and the wronged.
The Liberals are Not Bible oriented. I have been in liberal services where the only Bible present was the minister’s Bible and the pulpit Bible. Its marker remained in the same place week after week. Contrast that to the Literalist and Conservative churches where it is not unusual to find more Bibles in the place than people to use them. Many bring their own Bible plus the church has them placed at close intervals all over the meeting place.
With this background in mind, I wish to add one more observation. Most Clear Thinkers in the church began as a Literalist or Conservative. The children of Liberal Thinkers do not generally enter the ministry. They become doctors, lawyers, businessmen, scientists, professors, teachers and such. So, the ranks of Clear Thinkers in the church almost always come from long established family habits of attending church. It is a big part of their lives. Church often becomes like a second family, even to those who finally arrive at the freedom of being Clear Thinkers. They are comfortable and knowledgeable in all areas of the church. They feel they belong with these friends and neighbors in the church, and they have an obligation to help their friends solve problems and to better know the Truth.
How in the world could men and women brought up in these Literalist and Conservative churches get to be Clear Thinkers or Free Thinkers?
Almost without exception these ministers I have known, who are now Clear Thinkers and still stay in the church, began studying for the ministry in their Literalist or Conservative church. They believe God called them. They went to a state or public college, then to seminary. Few of them I know of went first to a religious institution of higher learning. Does that tell us anything?
Also, without exception, something within them sincerely wanted to know the truth and the facts about their religion. They desired to be right in the eyes of God and in the eyes of man. They were people who thought faith and belief could be and should be, provable. Faced with the many problems of Biblical inconsistencies, opposing civil and religious histories and doctrinal problems, they came to a conclusion in their studies. That conclusion was, and is, Honesty in scholarship leads to Honest conclusions. They soon came to another truth, which is, it is better to be Honest than to be Baptist, (or Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or fill in your own).
At this point, these seekers after truth were still very much Christian, but they could not long remain in that never-never land between Honest scholarship and belief in most of the Christian doctrines and teachings. The tension is too great.
Finally, some chose blind belief and returned to the church with that terrible feeling that hovers around a person who has seen honesty, freedom and the truth, but felt the price was too high for them to pay. Those cowards who had the great opportunity to be free, but returned instead to mental bondage, will daily experience that terrible feeling that constantly says to them, “something is wrong here.” And it nags at them every day.
A sincere drive to Prove you are right will neither lead you to the Truth, nor to the Clear Thinking Philosophy. Only Honest Thinking and Courage will do that. To try to prove that a belief is true is dishonest. It is a rejection of Honest scholarship. Honesty demands that one shall try to find out if his belief is true - or not true.
The best protection religion has against Honest thinking and Honesty in scholarship, is to cause their members to believe in their authorities and to accept false information as being true. They must learn to believe and have faith in unbelievable claims and promises. And they must become Cowards. Belief continually seeks to hide from honest scholarship. Belief always seeks to circumvent and block honest thought and honest investigation. Belief seeks to intimidate its believers by promising dire and tragic consequences if they search for the Truth. If some believers Do Honestly examine their doctrines and histories, Cowardliness prevents most of them from following what they find and know to be true. No group is more fearful of the truth than believers in religion (or politics).
Happily, some of those honest scholars who also had courage, made the decision that freed them forever. That final decision is the one, which says, "It is better to be Honest than to be Christian." An honest sincere drive to know the truth about one's belief will ultimately lead one to the Clear Thought philosophy of life. I know of no former Christian who ever truly became a Clear Thinker without sincerely wishing to be right in God's eyes. They must also have the Honesty, Courage and Willingness to pay the price of Honest Clear Thinking.
It is interesting to note that a large portion of present day Atheists were first Members, Ministers, Priests or Professors in one of the Christian denominations. Some were also Rabbis. Some of these converts to Clear Thinking were at first bitter at the church. Much of their early writings and works as Atheists were simply attacks on the beliefs and doctrines of their former church. However, as these men and women matured in Clear Thinking they began to realize that those caught in the sticky traps of religion were victims. As victims, they were (and are) to be dealt with in a more gentle and humane manner.
Today the Atheists of this country seek to explain and help people understand that Atheism is not a rebellion against God. Rather, Atheism is a rebellion against the ignorance and injustice that is forced upon people by both religion and government. Religions and governments use the ignorance of Belief as a weapon against people to enslave both their minds and their bodies. Belief is the first and most important weapon used to force tyranny and bondage on people. So governments use the ignorance of religious belief as a weapon against its people, to rally them into war, into unthinking opposition against social programs, into harmful political programs and such. All of this becomes the object of Atheistic concern for you. Atheists love you and wish a better and freer life for you.
Ignorance is a learned and programmed condition. A child comes into the world full of questions and excitement about everything. Religion and government seeks to dampen that excitement and blunt the child’s honest questions by making learning and education as boring as possible. Enthusiasm for knowing the truth about everything must be stifled by claiming only authorities can really understand things. They will give you the “truth” about everything so you do not have to worry about anything. The authorities wish to make everyone dependent upon them. They cover ignorance with a thin veneer of lies and half-truths and call it education. They then use that thinly veiled ignorance to fill their churches, their military, their government positions, their government programs and their pockets. You deserve better!
Now let us look at how a Clear Thinker Honestly views the Church and how he views those Clear Thinkers who remain in the church.