Park West

So, Conrad and I were invited to a church by a lady who helped us out when my car broke down.  We decided to go today.  It was quite different from an LDS service, but approximately what I was expecting from the way she described it to us.  It's a group that meets in the gym of the Park West church.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was the mind-numbing nature of the songs.  The first half hour of the service (aside from the opening prayer) was taken up with these songs.  They were very simple songs with extremely repetitive lyrics, as is much of the pop music that's made these days.  Essentially, they'd just sing about "We love Jesus" and "Heal us, Oh Lord".  A very simple message repeated ad nauseam.  I noticed that nearly all of the people there were really getting into it.  Almost everyone was standing, many people were waving one or two hands in the air, and several were singing along with the lyrics.  One woman actually worked herself into a frenzy, moaning and wailing and at one point commanding devils to leave her in the name of Jesus.  (That wasn't part of the service, it was just one person in the congregation.)

This religion definitely qualifies as a "cult".  Those songs definitely qualify as "brainwashing".  It was kind of scary to sit there and see a couple hundred adults all getting worked up about these songs, all turning their brains off and giving in to the energy in the room.  There was nothing mentally stimulating about the service.  It was all a play to human emotion.

It really made me think about why religion is so appealing to people.  Why do so many people get caught by this trick?  They appeal to the human emotion of hope.  People want a better life, they want a fatter paycheck, they want their back pain to go away, they want their mother in law to stop nagging them.  All of these things that people want, and many many others.  The idea of a heaven to go to at the end of life, where everything is peachy and pleasant.  Hope for a better life.  This is a very human emotion.  But I think that religion hijacks by telling people they can find hope in praying to an invisible man.  I think that the way to make your life better is to be better.  Work harder.  Love harder.  Be more forgiving.  Be less judgmental.  Be kinder.  Speak more softly.  Be more patient.  Offer the benefit of the doubt.  Accept blame for your own mistakes.  Don't wait for some sky wizard to fix everything for you with his magic powers.

At one point, the pastor was listing off all of the wonderful things that had happened to people in his congregation.  He said that there were 7 incidents of people being healed during his service, and he named a few.  He said that the love of God can cure cancer.  Well, buddy, if these things you're saying are true, sell it.  Publish it in a medical journal.  Send it to a clinical trial, and get it rolled out to treat cancer patients all over the world.  Because if there's a method better than what we're using in our hospitals, I'm sure all the doctors in the world would want to know about it so they can implement it.  Why hasn't this already happened?  Because it doesn't work.  God's love doesn't cure cancer.  Some people may have just happened to get better after attending your service.  It may have been the placebo effect.  You may have even been making all of it up just so people would think you're a great pastor.  (I didn't get the particular feeling that he was making it up.  I think instead the people he was talking about really believed that they had been healed by attending church.)

Another thing that really made me chuckle to myself was his statement that they had people in the congregation get $10,000 raises.  I know that people took that and credited it to God and praised God for it, and thought how wonderful it was that they were attending a church where such miracles were happening.  But, I'm a little bit more mathematically savvy than the average person and I know that in a group of 200 people it isn't all that unlikely that in the course of a year one of them will have a salary increase of $10,000.  People move on from job to job and get better pay.  People get promotions.  This is very routine.  In fact, I would be surprised to find out that not a single person in the congregation had had some kind of significant raise during the course of the last year.  Correlation does not imply causation.

The saddest thought I had while I was there was for the children.  I felt bad for the children being raised in that church--or any church, really--who are quite likely to grow up to be believers just like their parents.  They may live their entire lives without ever knowing that it's just a hoax, a scam to take advantage of them.  That's very heartbreaking.  Children are so innocent and so impressionable.  They're so eager to please and soak up information so easily and quickly.  I wish it could always be true information.  I wish that it could always be helpful information.  It's sad to think that so often it's just propaganda.