Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Why Men Hate Going to Church is the title of a book by David Murrow, which I just re-read.  Murrow's thesis is that the church doesn't do much for the needs of most men and that as a result, organized religion has largely become (or is in the process of becoming) a female institution (which is not necessarily the same thing as a feminist institution).  He argues that unless this trend is stopped, disaster looms, and the church has to do more to attract and keep men.  You can check out his Web site at

Let me posit an alternative theory, in two parts.

First, there is really no good reason to go to church unless you take the theology seriously:  God exists, you're not him, he has certain expectations for people's conduct which people are obligated to comply with.  If you don't believe that to be the truth, then there really isn't a good reason to go to church, since everything positive that the church does -- charity, building communities -- can be done equally as well, if not better, by secular institutions.  So the first reason men are dropping out of church in droves is that they never really did take the theology seriously.  That's also the reason, by the way, that liberal churches are dying at a much faster rate than conservative ones:  If the theology isn't true, then who needs church?

Frankly, I'm not sure that men as a group have ever taken the theology seriously, which segues into the second part:  For what may be the first time in the history of Western Civilization, there is simply no downside to not going to church.  Once upon a time, there was huge social pressure to go to church.  Being openly irreligious was bad for one's career, bad for one's social life, and bad for one's marriage prospects.  In places where there was no separation of church and state, the state often compelled that religion be practiced.

No more.  Even in the South, there are no longer any consequences for not being religious.  Even in the Bible belt, one is just as likely to see one's neighbors spending Sunday morning mowing the lawn, jogging, or going to brunch as one is to see them loading the kids into the car to go to church.  This phenomenon has accomplished many things, one of which is that the church has lost an awful lot of members who, by their own choice, never would have gone in the first place.  Which probably includes a lot of men.

So what we are really seeing is that for the first time, religion has to compete in the free market with all the other things a guy might enjoy doing on a Sunday morning, and it isn't doing very well.  Contrary to David Murrow, it isn't that guys are dropping out so much as that they never really were a part of it in the first place, and no longer feel the need to play charades.

Now, none of this should cause the true believers to lose so much as a wink of sleep.  If God exists and if his moral instructions must still be obeyed, then their task is to do what they think God wants them to do and not worry about what other people are doing (or, in this case, not doing).  That doesn't mean, though, that Murrow may not be right and the institutional church may not be headed in the direction of becoming mostly a women's club.  If so, that, too, will be a first in Western Civilization.  Being naturally curious, I only regret that at my age I'm not likely to live long enough to see the results.

No comments:

Post a Comment