“Organized Religion—Do We Really Need It?” – A Followup Response

empty church bench

Organized Religion—Do We Really Need It?

A Followup Response (read Travellin’ Bob’s original article)


To decide if an institution is worthy of existence, I suppose the first thing to establish is What is its function in society? and the second logical consideration to follow would be Is it performing the function for which it was created?  So really, what is the function of organized religion?

Here, I’d like to bring the abstract term “organized religion” a little closer to our personal lives and make it more concrete and practical by calling it “the church”.  None of us attend an organized religion (at least we don’t think of it in that terminology) instead, we attend church, so let us call it church.

What is the function of church?  As mentioned in my previous article on this topic, people attend church for a variety of reasons, not all of which are spiritual, of course.  But in my view, the primary reason why any of us attend church is to, in some way, connect with God.  And if I am not able to attend church and, in doing so, connect with the Divine in a meaningful way, does that mean church should be abolished?  Certainly not!  Why?  Because there are, of course, other folks who do connect with God in meaningful ways when they attend church and should be allowed to do so, wouldn’t you agree?

But Bob’s article made the point that church ( or organized religion) has been the source of war for thousands of years; has been the justification for ethnic cleansing and genocide, not to mention terrorism; has spawned brutal and oppressive laws and law enforcement institutions, including torture; and has legitimized and provided moral and political cover for tyrannical governments.  All of this and more is true.

My argument to this is that Church (in the broad sense) has often operated where it should not have been in the first place, and that is in politics.  Wherever Church becomes the State (monarchs and emperors are particularly salient examples where monarchs are anointed by God to rule and emperors actually “become” gods themselves) to govern populations, there we usually see trouble and abuses of power.  Notice, I’m not being entirely inclusive in this statement because there may have been (or may be) cases in which the people themselves choose a theocracy under which to live.  But when government of any form decides that it has the God given authority to make and enforce whatever policies it chooses, then there’s a good chance, we will see the types of abuses of power connected with organized religion that Bob has cited and I have mentioned above.

Bottom line?  In my opinion, no church (or religious entity) should operate as a government.  And the severe abuses of power, on the world stage, have happened when powerful religious institutions have turned into governments.  And they have operated against their political or religious rivals with brutal impunity because (they claim) they are enforcing, not their own will and law, but that of the Almighty.  This is why they are so dangerous; they become the very arm of God himself.

But always, their perception of God is wrong.  To them, he is a God of unlimited power (which they interpret as force) and severe judgement who is ready, at the slightest provocation, to punish wickedness (meaning, the sinner who offends authority), and that God (and by extension themselves) are the only one, true authority in all things.  This becomes their business: to rule imperiously and to punish their offenders and oppress their rivals in the name of God.

Do you see how God gets wrapped up in their own agendas?  It’s a pretty handy idea if you’re a despot to proclaim God as your guarantor of authority, don’t you think?  So was it actually Church that prosecuted wars and killed the innocent and oppressed millions or was it really men, dressed up in church robes?  Let’s remember that the Church, according to Christian theology anyway, belongs not to men but to God alone.  I would argue that God’s Church is populated with the souls of the humble, the contrite of spirit, the poor, the sick, the grieving, the meek, the brotherly, and the oppressed.  I would argue that it is with these that God makes his habitation.

Perhaps this topic deserves one more article in which I discuss further the authentic function of the church in the world and if or not it is fulfilling its god-given mission.

Until next time, blessings to you.

“Organised religion – do we really need it?” — A Response

four women looking down

My friend, Travellin’ Bob, wrote an article, 27 March 2024, on his blog entitled: Organised religion — do we really need it?  Though many folks might be tempted to answer yes or no just as a reactionary response based on their present personal relationship with faith, I believe the question deserves a more contemplative and careful answer.  It’s a wonderful article Bob has written, and I hope you will find the opportunity to read it.

But rather than take a formal and academic path to this question (by offering a sort of literary analysis of Bob’s article), I will leave you to read his article for yourself, and I will, instead,  attempt to answer the question directly.  But first, I should offer you some backstory on my own history with organized religion so you can judge better the merits of my response.

I was “born in the church” as folks in the Protestant Pentecostal denomination of Christianity would say—the brand of faith with which I grew up.  I grew up in church and, for all of my childhood and much of my adulthood, was the son of a Pentecostal pastor of a small but growing congregation during the 1960s and into the early 1990s before my crisis of faith happened.  I was also, for a number of years, the Assistant Pastor with my father of this same church which by that time had built a new sanctuary complex and then served a congregation of about 500 souls.

I would characterize “Pentecostalism” as the fringe of the evangelical Christian sects.  To put it another way, we were more demonstrative, more dogmatic, more separatist, and more mystical in our theology than most other evangelical Christians.  (I once heard that some Baptists believed we were possessed with demons—smile)  But we believed in healing by the laying on of hands, speaking in other tongues (or unknown languages) as a form of prayer, words of prophesy directly from God to individuals in the congregation, and the casting out of demons (exorcism) through the group prayer of elders, again, by encircling the vexed individual and laying hands on him or her in prayer (with their permission, of course).  This isn’t an exhaustive list of the articles of the Pentecostal faith, by any means.  In general, the Pentecostal church offered an open hand and fellowship to those who found themselves in the most dire circumstances of life.  As a result, many drug addicts, people with alcohol dependences, those with family or marriage crises, individuals with serious health issues, and simply people on the fringe of society itself, found refuge, acceptance, healing, and a place to belong in the Pentecostal church.  Needless to say, I experienced many extraordinary things during my life at church.

So now, allow me to return to the question:  Organized religion: do we really need it?  First, I will address the physical institution of Church, and, from here forward, refer to the type of Christian churches I know and are familiar with instead of all places of worship.

If I use my imagination and try to picture the United States without churches or other places of worship, I believe I would see a less beautiful landscape.  Why?  Because churches represent more than stations for theological training and moral teaching.  They also represent community and family and the celebration of significant rites of passage, such as the births of children, the marriages of lovers, and the final departures of loved ones.  They offer the safe and friendly surroundings (even more than schools) where youngsters can nervously present their first musical performances in choirs or alone or on piano or with guitar and be celebrated by people who are not strictly family but who are just as enthusiastic about their imperfect performances.

My guess is that most adults who attend church (or many of them, at least) forget the pastor’s or priest’s homely as soon as they leave the building (perhaps before).  They do so because they do not really attend church for spiritual guidance or moral exhortation; they more likely attend for inspirational and social reasons.  They forget the sermon because they already know what they believe and why, and have a solid understanding of what they should or should not do, and what they’re obligations are towards family and community.  If they are youth, in their teen years, they might still seek some of the information found in sermons, but mainly for guidance on how to act appropriately within the group, how to correctly use the jargon of their particular church, and how to be accepted in the larger social environment of the congregation or “church family”.  I’ve known several people who were not raised in church, were not taught Bible verses, did not learn the biblical stories, and they all say the same thing to me:  I wish I had grown up in church like you.  They also seem to identify a healthy, functional family life with church attendance, whether or not a correlation exists.

But there is more to this question than what I’ve said so far.  So I think I shall leave it here for now and take up this topic again later, in another blog, soon.  In the meantime, add your comments below to this discussion and read Bob’s original post.  Until next time, I wish you a wonderful Easter.

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Something New

You might have noticed the “Protected: Beta Readers’ Posts” for my current novel in progress, Datesville, that appear down the thread.  By the way, if you are interested in finding out more about how to become a Beta Reader for Datesville, I invite you to contact me by email at  [email protected].  But the beta reader posts are protected by password so not available to everyone.

But that brings me to my news.  I have now made five chapters of Datesville: Out of the Land of Bondage!—my current work in progress—available to everyone to read and enjoy.  You can find these chapter samples of Datesville in the SAMPLES tab above, or in the sidebar but, better yet, just follow this shortcut to the chapters, instead:  Shortcut to Datesville samples.

After you’ve read them, come back and drop a comment here to let everyone know what you think about the new work.  I hope to complete Datesville, publish and release it by next Spring, 2025.

Writer’s Log No. 5 — A Decent Man


person sitting on beige street bench near trees

I knew a man once, many years ago, who was a decent man.  He was married to my grandmother.  He was not my biological grandfather, however, because my grandfather had died at the dawn of the 1940s, before I was born.  But this man was my grandmother’s second husband and, as I said, he was a decent man.

But to my uncles on that side of the family (my grandmother’s sons) he was at best an outsider and at worst an interloper.  My uncles made fun of him—not usually to his face but among themselves.  Their jeers drew attention to this decent man’s flaws.  He was elderly, and like other men his age, he had lived through the so called Great Depression of the 1930s which made him thrifty—my uncles called him stingy.  He was an independent-minded man who refused to be bullied; my uncles said he was stubborn and hard-headed and attributed this personality trait to his German heritage.

So maybe he was stubborn; what of it?  I’m a man now of his years and I’ve never liked or responded well to being bullied.  Is this a blemish carried down from my English or Swedish ancestry?  Perhaps this decent man could have been more open to other people’s suggestions and ideas—especially my grandmother’s requests to mind the speed limits when driving—but again, he was an elderly gentleman when I knew him and perhaps he felt uncomfortable driving because of certain physical limitations related to age.

I grew up, like all or most of my cousins, thinking of this decent man as an outsider who was difficult to live with.  I carried these impressions of this decent man into my adulthood without thinking very much about it.  The decent man had become a cutout, a two-dimensional photo of a man, representative of characteristics worthy of ridicule.  But I had not really given much thought about the decent man who I knew as a child.

Later in life, I thought about this decent man and what I personally knew about him from my own experience.  I remembered his whiskery hugs and kisses on the cheek he gave whenever we arrived at his and my grandmother’s home.  I remember the tears that welled in his eyes when we were leaving.  Obviously, he felt some deep sadness when our visits ended.  I remember he was quiet and let my grandmother absorb the spotlight during family gatherings or when her children paid a visit.  He did chores, especially those no one else cared to do.  I remember that his dentures slipped at mealtime, creating a soft clicking sound that no one else I had ever known made.  I remember that he was proud to have been born and raised in Ohio.  I remember that he loved my grandmother and would have done anything in his power for her.  I didn’t remember him being stingy or stubborn, but generous with his time and love.  I remember him being a decent man.

What I also discovered, far too late in life to express to him personally, was that I loved him.  And I still do.  I love you Grandpa Vern and I hope somehow you know this now.

New Beta Posts Menu Tab

For those of you who are beta readers for my currently in-progress novel, Datesville: Out of the Land of Bondage!, I have added a new feature to make the chapter posts easier to find.  You will now find a new top menu tab (just below the banner) which reads: “BETA POSTS”.  If you use this new tab, it will take you to a list of all of the chapters in Datesville which are currently available for review and comment.

For those of you interested in becoming a beta reader, please read my recent post: What Is A Beta Reader? and contact me.

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for being a beta reader; your responses are especially helpful and encouraging to me and my present work.  Thank you!