Atheist Mourns Congregational Church

10 Nov

The First Congregational Church Of Kenosha closed shop a few weeks back, and my atheist heart surprised me with twinges of remorse or regret, melancholy or mere pensiveness…..not quite sure which, or more pertinently, why???

IMG_2536 Of course, the obvious answer is that since I was raised a Congregationalist, the closing of any outpost of my former faith might quite naturally affect me, despite the sworn godlessness of my present existence.  Such gut feelings are easily overcome for a rationalist, just like the urges to call out to “god” in moments of desperation….lingering ghosts of childhood programming.   But as a confirmed and deliberate atheist, why do I seem to actually care?

IMG_2537  The gorgeous, historic church building itself, nearly 140 years old, is not lost…it shall retain its sentinel’s position above library square with its fine, impressive spire and original (I’m guessing) rose window.  Any half -wit can appreciate the value of that. But the loss of the congregation itself should be cause for rejoicing, a positive sign of the slow, inevitable death of religion.  Not so, I fear.

I’ve always thought that important or  interesting church buildings should be immediately re-purposed as museums, historical societies or institutes of anthropological research.  Newer buildings could be used as homeless shelters, public auditoriums or schools of actual learning, as opposed to the promotion of untenable myth as infallible truth for which they are currently appropriated.  Instead, this historic building is simply being occupied by another church.  And not a Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian church either. No Wesleyan, Episcopalian, or Lutheran of any sort or synod.  Not even established fringe-dwellers like Seventh Day Adventists or Christian Scientists could fill the void here…nor any other traditional Protestant sect I could think of. Instead the non-denominational, evangelical mega-church “Crossway”, which occupies several acres of formerly productive farmland on route 50 west of I-94, apparently has birthed an offspring labeled “Christ The King”, which will occupy the noble monument.

The matron is one of those bloated bastions of born-again bullshit which have sprouted up like loosestrife across the prairie with increasing regularity over the past few decades.  New-Age and slickly marketed, these behemoths have great appeal to the under-educated believers of today, who crave their religion like everything else: in short, flashy, easily digested bytes of rock and roll. Bereft of sectarian snobbery, these church/businesses reduce traditional Christian philosophy into handy repeatable cliches, perfect for an audience unequipped to question the nature of the faith.  The baby is presumably an urban version of the same, minus the fancy new facility and the long commute.  Deluded downtown dwellers will no longer have to waste gas on their way to wasting their time and intellect.

Of course, I have no problem with the existence of this new brand of born-again church per se.  The grand tradition of Protestantism after all is the ability of each congregation to interpret the Bible in any way it sees fit, and that of America to worship as we please, or not at all.   The problem is the lack of critical thinking that leads people to these sorts of churches, and the endless cycle of new uneducated believers they naturally breed.  The Protestant churches of my youth in 1970’s New England were pillars of progressiveness and liberal thinking about the nature of faith and God herself.  No one ever, ever, posited Genesis as fact and I can honestly say I never even met a Young-Earth Creationist until the 90’s.  I value my Congregationalist upbringing for it introduced me to the kind of healthy debate over the Bible and the Christian faith that led me, in stages, to atheism itself.  At the same time, I know the Bible and understand the myriad pop touchstones it contains as the purported root metaphor of our culture (which I don’t believe it is so much as the people want it to be, but that is a subject for a different blog), something my elder daughter, raised an atheist, has missed out on….

Ironically, the tradition of liberal debate contributes to the decline of traditional denominations.  In the end, only 12 members attended the final service of the First Congregational Church of Kenosha.  As reported in the link above, members whose ideas are voted down are likely to jump ship.  Folks looking for the certainty of a simple message and an easy liturgy to follow are naturally attracted to increasingly fundamental congregations, where discussion is superfluous and dissent unknown.  Lip-service love of Jesus continues to have mad street-cred among those who come to religion on their own as a way out, and Biblical literalism is, as always, a ready salve for the weak of mind.  “Christ The King” will  begin its reign with 140 members, according to the article.

Happily, Atheism is on the slow rise in America, as every statistic shows.  Fundamentalism is one of religion’s death throes. with hardcore believers rallying together as churches slowly die away.  Sadly, as it turns out, liberal, progressive churches, a valued ally in the Atheist movement, will be among the very first to disappear…

One Response to “Atheist Mourns Congregational Church”

  1. James Moore November 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Amen and So mote it be…The true test of GOD is that GrandPa Moore’s namesake would go on and write such an eloquent (atheist testimony) The FARCE is strong with us my young padawan……As for me I am proud to share our BLOOD!


    Uncle Jim and aunt Jan….

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