Remember those essays you had to write in elementary school about how you spend your vacation? This is mine.
My vacation was a road trip through Mississippi (where I live), Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. I spent the most time in North Carolina and Tennessee, just driving through the other states to get there. The point of the trip was to visit relatives in NC and check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Along the way, I passed through many small towns. Some sections seemed rather wealthy, but most appeared fairly poor. However, they all had something in common...churches. They ranged from tiny one-room buildings to massive complexes. They were everywhere.
Almost without exception, the churches were much nicer looking than the houses surrounding them. Even the older ones had been kept up well, boasting fresh paint and landscaping while the neighboring homes were often rundown. In many areas, the contrast between the surrounding homes and the churches was so dramatic that the church looked out of place.
Where does the money come from to build and maintain these monuments to American idiocy? In a way, we are all paying for these churches by refusing to tax them. However, if appearances are any indication, the residents of the often poor communities surrounding these churches are sacrificing a great deal to support their churches.
I suppose one could argue that giving money to one's church is like buying peace of mind. It makes me feel better to know that I am doing "a good thing." There may also be tangible benefits. I may be a flawed person, but my contributions insure that I will be regarded favorably by my neighbors and my imaginary sky daddy. What struck me repeatedly during this trip was that there were so many better ways to spend money in these communities. Many other needs were evidently going unmet in service to these churches.