Why d-C? – The Hypocritical Churches

June 7, 2008 at 6:58 pm 30 comments

As an atheist looking into the world of Christian de-conversion, I expected to see more tales of people de-converting after they realise how hypocritical churches are. In fact I barely expected any other cause, perhaps aside from exposure to science. I thought that Christians who read the bible did so through the lens of the preachers words and were thus immune from realising it’s faults, and that religions would have all the answers to the really simple questions down pat. I mean, surely children have been asking the church “what about dinosaurs” since dinosaurs entered the popular imagination.

But pedophile priests, church leaders blowing money on yachts and a luxurious lifestyle, or the existence of something like the Vatican bank – surely these were the things that would shake people’s faith in large numbers. However, only 8.51% of people in the sample attributed their de-conversion to the hypocrisy of the church.

Personal experience highlighted the hypocrisy of religion to this person:

I began immediately to see hypocrisy in both the organizations and the individuals with whom I associated. I married a man in seminary studying for the ministry but I knew from the outset that his heart was not in what he was doing and he was just there because his minister father had pushed him into it. I am still married to this man after 35 years and I still love him but I noticed a great unhappiness in him.

And here’s another person who discovered religious hypocrisy through personal experience:

The thing that confused me the most, was the fact that since my family did not go to church, they were considered more evil than my friend’s parents who beat the tar out of him when my friend didn’t clean his room.

Both the unexpectedly low number of people who cited church hypocrisy as their reason for de-converting, and the fact that personal experience of hypocrisy was a common thread amongst those people, lead me to a theory. Churches seem vulnerable to simple questions about the nature of the universe or reality, stating “it’s a faith matter” is not a strong defence when matters of doctrine contradict clearly observable reality. However, Churches appear to have developed strong defences to charges of hypocrisy. Claims of “we’re being persecuted by outsiders” are a strong way of countering worries about church practice from among the faithful. That is of course, unless a religious person sees the hypocrisy with their own eyes.

Originally published by Kieran Bennett, reprinted with permission.

Entry filed under: KieranBennett. Tags: , , , , .

De-converts United for Prayer in Every School (DUPES) Why is sexism still tolerated within the church?

30 Comments Add your own

  • 1. writerdd  |  June 7, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    The real reason that hypocrisy doesn’t cause people to de-convert is because God is perfect, humans aren’t so you can’t judge God or Christianity by the failure of mere mortals.

  • 2. azarak  |  June 7, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    So totally true. I had parents who never went to church, but had issues when I decided to stop attending church as a teenager. They forced me to keep going, believing that this is what I had to do to be a good girl. The minister was a money grabbing, one-step-away-from-being-a-pedophile creep, but they would lock me up in my room, hit me, deprive me of basic rights and much worse, all in the name of forcing me to go to sunday school and get confirmed. Caused to me explore satanism for a while in rebellion. Now I follow my own religion blend, ‘do as thou wilt’.

    Organised religion is one of the biggest evils of the modern world.

  • 3. Lorena  |  June 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    They have all kinds of excuses for hypocrisy:
    – Keep your eyes on Jesus. People fail but God never fails.
    – The hypocrites aren’t “True Christians.”
    – You can always find weeds in the middle of the wheat
    – Those hypocrites will be dealt with by God in the Judgment of the White Throne
    – etc.

  • 4. nullifidian  |  June 7, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    To me, the question as to why people don’t “deconvert” when they see the hypocrisy in their church (or leaders, whatever) is relatively simple: it’s a non sequitur.

    Even if priests are paedophiliac scumbags, if pastors suck all the collection money into their own offshore accounts, if vicars pick and choose their bible verses different from the lay-folk, it doesn’t have any bearing on the question of whether a god (as they see it) exists or not.

    The first example is basically an appeal to personal incredulity, and the second is an a matter of conflicting theology. Neither strike me as having any direct basis on hypocrisy (aside from on a personal level to the person involved).

    I can see hypocrisy as a deciding factor in why one might leave a particular church, denomination, sect or cult, but it doesn’t address the basic theological assumptions that the individual in question might have in the first place, and they’ll simply migrate to something else that is more in line with their own presuppositions.

    At least, that’s how it seems to me as an outsider.

  • 5. The de-Convert  |  June 8, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I think even the folks who say the de-convert because of the hypocrisy probably only came to that conclusion after they were already well on the path to de-conversion. That’s the point when the excuses/explanations start to no longer make sense and the hypocrisy is exposed.

  • 6. Walking Away  |  June 8, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Well, I for one did leave because of that very reason. I couldn’t take the hypocrisy any longer so I started questioning everything….one thing led to another and led me away from Christianity. I have never really written our my whole story but you’ve inspired me. Maybe I will work on it.

  • 7. The de-Convert  |  June 8, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Walking Away,

    When you get it complete, feel free to post it on our forum ( http://www.de-conversion.org/forum/index.php )


  • 8. exevangel  |  June 8, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I think one of the reasons for this interesting result is the fact that the church serves a community purpose that people really need in their lives. Especially with extended families being spread out across the world, the church is a bit of a “family” and as such it’s easy to not see things about it that may seem obvious to an outsider/external observer. The social functions, community service aspects and support networks there would be too hard for people to turn their backs on, and so the hypocrisy gets easily overlooked.

  • 9. Mark Shaw  |  June 8, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I hear your voice, but as a recent seminary graduate in theological studies, I wonder if you have heard of the spiritual writer, Thomas Merton. Perhaps you would enjoy his thoughts on Atheism and also on why he believes in the inclusion of all religions and spiritualities.

    One Merton book you might especially enjoy is Wisdom of the Desert, another New Seeds of Contemplation. More at mertonandfriends.wordpress.com

  • 10. Matt  |  June 8, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Why would let other people and their failings make up my mind? People have many failings whether religious or not, it seems that religion often has a lot of hypocritical people, but maybe this is because those people went into it seeking something to fix them in the first place.

  • 11. killpack99  |  June 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    It is impossible to de-convert. If you are truly converted the hypocrisy of your pastor or other Christians wouldn’t matter to you because you would want to help them and do all you could to get closer to God. You can’t de-convert because if you walk away from Christianity like that you never were converted.

  • 12. Frederick Polgardy  |  June 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I’m with most of the commenter here so far. You leave churches because of hypocrisy — you leave faith because your experience and view of reality changes. If you can’t be a member of any group or institution because of hypocrites, you’d better be prepared for a pretty lonely existence.

  • 13. ninepoundhammer  |  June 8, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Don’t confuse Christians with Christianity. Although, if one truly understood Christianity, especially the understanding that we are all depraved sinners in need of grace, hypocrisy would not catch you by surprise–you would expect it.

    As it is, we see the same sort of hypocrisy–as well as pedophilia, greed, extortions, etc.–among teachers, politicians, police officers, etc. Should it then follow that those should be eschewed and despised, as well?

  • 14. brandonandress  |  June 8, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    i just wrote a blog on this same topic from a different angle:


  • 15. Seth  |  June 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    I had a button that I really liked. It said, “Trust God, Question Religion.” I think that about says it. God is bigger than religion; religion (Christianity or anything else) is a human construct to understand God and God’s work in our lives.

    Hypocrisy in the Church is no more extreme than anywhere else. Unfortunately, the Church is in a unique situation in that it is very easy for it to harm people. This is what makes hypocrisy in the Church seem so much worse and terrible.

    As others have said, don’t confuse Christians with Christianity. Christians are humans like everyone else, prone to make mistakes, able to be corrupted. However, it is not surprising that bad experiences with Christians can drive people away from the Church, however unfortunate and undeserved. For every pedophile pastor, every embezzling treasurer, there are at least 10 (if not more) who are good, honest, caring people.

  • 16. ollie  |  June 9, 2008 at 12:27 am

    It goes something like this: the “Christian life” is a goal that folks are all but sure to fall short of. After all, Jesus said “it is the sick that need a doctor, not the healthy”.

    So one of the first admissions that we made in church is that ALL of us are sinners; none of us are perfect.

    My decoversion came from intellectual grounds; I simply didn’t believe the stuff I was reciting; I came to believe that it was mere superstition.

    But I all too well understand being unable to live up to moral goals and to having tough weaknesses to confront.

    Example: folks who go to AA want to give up drinking. Hence AA groups have lots of drunks! That doesn’t make them hypocrites; it means that they attract people with alcohol problems.

    Similarly, churches attract lots of people who want to be saved from themselves.

  • 17. LeoPardus  |  June 9, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Sheesh! Who invited the apologists to this thread?

  • 18. notabarbie  |  June 9, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Leo, that’s exactly what I was thinking….

    Seth said, “Hypocrisy in the Church is no more extreme than anywhere else. Unfortunately, the Church is in a unique situation in that it is very easy for it to harm people. This is what makes hypocrisy in the Church seem so much worse and terrible.”
    No, Seth, that isn’t it. It is because the Bible, the book that you believe in as the word of god and you follow, says that the Church is to be different…you know, set apart, and it isn’t. As bad as you want it to be, it isn’t.

    And Killpack99 – thanks for barging in here and calling all of us liars…it warms my heart. Truly it does…oh, and by the way, you are not unique, not at all. If you read even some of the posts here, you would know that. We’ve been punched in the stomach with that one many times before. You are trying to comfort yourself with this idea that if we have turned away from Christianity, we were never really Christians to begin with. You will have to ignore quite a bit of evidence, just at this site alone to continue believing that…pssssh! What was I thinking? Never mind.

  • 19. writerdd  |  June 9, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Don’t confuse Christians with Christianity.

    Sorry, but Christians ARE Christianity.

    That’s it period. There is no invisible perfect Christianity. There is only Christians and what they do and how they act.

  • 20. finallyhappy  |  June 9, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Hypocrisy didn’t cause my deconversion, but it surely played a key role in the early questioning phase. You can only use that wonderful phrase “not perfect, just forgiven” so long until it starts to make you feel sick about the level of hypocrisy that you are constantly trying to come to terms with. After 9 years on staff (and another 20 years as a PK) I found myself not sleeping very well because I was tired of making excuses for the hypocrisy I saw on a daily basis. That led me to question everything I’d ever believed (and I did truly believe it) and allowed me the freedom to look at my own religion with the same critical eyes I’d so often viewed other religions. And now, well, the rest is history and my screen name says it all….

  • 21. ninepoundhammer  |  June 9, 2008 at 10:28 am

    My question, then, would be: Do you (atheists, d-c’s, etc.) ever fall short by acting in a manner in opposition to your stated values/ goals? If not, then congratulations, you are perfect. If you do, should others turn their backs on you and skewer you as hypocrites?

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  June 9, 2008 at 10:46 am


    Re post 19….. Right on! Well said! I am going to have to remember to use that phraseology next chance I get.

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  June 9, 2008 at 10:53 am

    9 lb percussive tool:

    Yep. We fall short of our own standards. We openly admit that we are humans, and our standards are human, and we have no one to blame or credit but ourselves. So if I fail to meet my standards, I can only resolve to do better, slap myself in the face, and try harder.

    You on the other hand, can pass off the blame by saying, “Well God isn’t finished with me yet.” then you pray to the air and expect the invisible fairy to make you better. Next time you fail, you can repeat the process with the result that you remain an asshole.

    If there was really some Holy Spirit dwelling inside you, giving you an advantage over others, then there ought to be some ability for the rest of us to see a difference. But we don’t. All we see is an angry, judgmental, caustic, superioristic, immature, punk.

    Now then, prove me right yet again. Post your nasty return flame. You couldn’t behave civilly if your soul depended on it. Go ahead, child of the loving Jesus, temple of the Holy Spirit: show us what you’re made of.

  • 24. ninepoundhammer  |  June 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Wow. You obviously misread my comment and my intended tone. I was simply asking a question to forward the debate; I apparently touched a nerve.

    You don’t know me at all, so to assume to know my motivations or outlook is the height of error. I know this because your post resembles nothing remotely near what I believe (about God or myself).

    As for the ad hominem attack (why call me an a**hole?), I really don’t know what to make of it. I thought I was actiing ‘civilly.’ Oh, well. From what I gather by the comments, many of the d-c types resemble those they purport to despise so much.

    So much for civil debate.

  • 25. TheNerd  |  June 9, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    killpack99: Such an original arguement! I don’t know why neither I nor anyone else on this site never thought of this before! God must have forgotten to give me the Holy Spirit, but I’m sure if I recant my heresy, he’ll give it to me for real this time.

    …And now, back to reality. 😉

  • 26. Anonymous  |  June 10, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    For a better perspective on the above discussion, please read the book “The Evolution of Creativity” By Jorgen Hursner, a very creative evolutionist. “We have all forgotten what we were supposed to remember” says Jorgen, “and our forgetfulness reminds us to remember what we were trying to forget to remember”. Jorgen’s insight into hyprocrisy in churches is also delightful: “All churches are hypocritically inclined” he says, “I know because I’ve been paid off several times to state otherwise”

    “You can trust what I have to say” says Jorgen, “because I no longer take bribes, accept when I need to pay a bill or two” he says sincerely. “Unbelievably, I do not believe in belief” says Jorgen, “It is undoubtedly true that my doubts lead to doubt in the doubtful, but it’s Ok because I believe doubt is believable without a doubt.” You can find the book in most bookstores—it is quite an interesting book and I would recommend it to everyone who has a problem with schnauzers or kittens.

    Thanks, Bertram

  • 27. aussie guy  |  June 12, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    dood. lets be real with each other. we ALL without exception at some time or another have been hipo-critical {a spelling joke. ha ha} even if we havent realised it. but unconditional love overlooks this and excepts others knowing that God is will render to each their just reward. From an atheistic point of view i can understand where you are coming from but seeing what you are taking about in church life does does not change my mind about who i believe in or in me loving my neighbour because i know i havent been a roll model myself at times! God sees it all.

  • […] 16, 2008 Where I was surprised at how rare stories of religious hypocrisy were among the de-conversion stories I read, I did not even expect the following cause of […]

  • 29. 7 Reasons why Christians de-convert « de-conversion  |  June 29, 2008 at 11:54 am

    […] Why d-C? (4) The Hypocritical Churches […]

  • 30. Anonymous  |  November 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I guess that makes sense. Wouldn’t it be a little strange for me to worship the same god as another person that stabbed me in the back? That is just my point of view. I usually just stay away from God and his people.

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