May 6, 2018

Church is Good for Your Soul

West Hickory United Methodist ChurchMany of the things we don't particularly enjoy doing are good for us. Going to the dentist seems like an obvious example, but I'm sure we can all think of plenty of things we do because they are good for us even though we dislike them. I've even heard some people say that our willingness to do things that are good for us even though we dislike them is an important part of what it means to be an adult. I'm not sure I'd agree with that completely, but that's probably just because I don't like the fact that it is probably true.

When I was growing up, my parents' favorite response when I complained about being forced to attend church was that it was good for me. If I was feeling particularly oppositional (which was often the case when forced church attendance was involved), I'd ask them to explain how it was good for me. The only response I ever received to this question muddied the waters even further: "It is good for your soul."

I suppose if one were to believe that one really did have a soul, one might be able to convince oneself that attending church benefitted it in some way. The problem I always had with this, even when I believed the soul nonsense, was that I was fairly sure the god in which I believed knew how I felt about attending church. The best I could manage was to endure it. Even as a Christian, it struck me as unpleasant and mostly pointless. I did not think I could conceal this from supernatural entities, and so I wasn't sure how going through it every week was helping. Who was I fooling?

As you might expect, the soul argument became truly absurd once I admitted that I no longer believed in gods. My parents tried to insist that I had a soul whether I recognized it or not, but I think they had to realize on some level how silly this sounded. Assuming their god knew I did not believe in it, why would it want me in its church? And if their god knew I did not believe in it, how could my attending church possibly help my soul? It seems like the disbelief would have been a bit more of an issue.