Ok, I have over ten pages of notes (concise notes at that), so I'm just going to post the highlights here.
They had a NASA theme. No joke. They had a mission control station built on the altar, USA rockets, and NASA's logo plastered everywhere. Astronomy has revealed a universe of indifference, and has not discovered god anywhere, while simultaneously explaining a ton. Stop trying to leech off science's success.
Upon sitting down, I realized I was the youngest person in the room by at least twenty years (and that second youngest was at least ten years the junior of everyone else). It actually made me smile. All polling indicates that my generation is far less religious than the previous one. To be fair though, upon leaving the 8am service, I did see a few middle school-high school age kids in the lobby. I even have in my notes:
I'm a nerd. At one point I counted three people (of the thirty-two present) visibly nodding off.
During the hug and handshake session a woman named Mary recognized me. Awkward.
There were prayer requests for someone with chemotherapy. No gripes about god for making (or failing to eliminate) cancer.
Then there was a prayer, in which this part almost made me giggle:
"Lord, we know you're willing to answer our prayers. You're the only one who can make a difference. You bring wisdom where there is ignorance and lies."
If god's the only one who can make a difference and he also answers prayers, what's the deal with the person with cancer? Think they haven't prayed for it to go away?
Then it was hymn time again. The hymn was "Lord I want to be a Christian." The lady running the service then asked if there was anybody in the room who would identify as a non-Christian. I raised my hand, but she didn't catch it. She then said that since everybody was a Christian they were going to change the lyrics to "Lord, I AM a Christian." Classy. Note to self, churches with only congregational singing is not a good place for a vocal performance major.
Then she quoted 2 Corinthians 4:7.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
She then proceeded to give us a visual demonstration. She had an actual pot, like for plants, into which she put treasures such as an ipod, in order to convey to us that we are the clay pots. I felt like I was in remedial kindergarten. The pot also still had the tag on it. Still classy.(Interesting piece of trivia: the preceding scripture, 2 Cor 4:6 is "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This is inscribed in many US army rifles. Hooray religion of peace!)
She then proceeded to spend the next half-hour telling her life story, full of credulity, implying that we should want to emulate her. Ug.
Afterward I was approached by a very nice man who made small talk, and finally I just asked him why he thought I should believe any of this. His first argument was life being meaningless without god. I countered that me being either in church that morning or in class was a meaning, just meaning I'd assigned myself. We can have meaning without it being cosmic or handed to us. To his credit, the man conceded that point.
His second argument was that we search for god instinctively, therefore god exists. I explained to him that the brain searches for answers, especially to the question "How can I prolong my life?" But we obviously don't instinctively search for "god" as an answer (or even a specific god), since we have many different answers to that question. I also explained how there is a better answer to that question than god. Again, to his credit, he conceded the point.
Then it was time to refer me to books (this is pretty common after the first few arguments fail). First he tried Dinesh D'Souza (he mispronounced D'Souza's name). I informed him I'd read much of D'Souza's work and asked which arguments he found particularly convincing. He could think of none. Next was, predictably, C.S. Lewis, and I began quoting him pieces from Mere Christianity
and refuting them until he switched gears to G.K. Chesterton. I was honestly surprised William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel never came up.
Bear in mind, I'm leaving out a lot of inanity for the sake of brevity. Oh, and remember when I said
that stupid things would get said and that members of the congregation would nod and yell "Amen!"? Yeah, that happened.
Ok, maybe I'll write about church #2 later after my patience for transparent bullshit being accepted without question by large groups of people is not so close to its threshold.