Read this: Hemant Mehta’s “I Sold My Soul on eBay”

I’m almost finished reading Hemant Mehta’s book I Sold My Soul on eBay, which details his experiences as an atheist visiting Christian churches of varying sizes and traditions after putting himself — and his soul — on the eBay auction block.

The winning bidder, evangelist Jim Henderson, “paid for his time” by sending him to more than a dozen churches in. A self-described “friendly atheist,” his friendlyathiest.com web site keeps abreast of atheists in the news — something that is rarely done in our culture. Sadly, and this is a point he mentions in his book, atheists only make the news when there is a court case or a moral issue being debated.

Hemant’s perspective is that Christians don’t really know atheists, and I would have to agree. He argues that most Christians view atheists as immoral, corrupt and evil and that isn’t the case. He argues that he believes in morality, although as an atheist he believes the origin of his morality is not from God, but from himself, or more precisely, learned behavior.

I have a lot more to say on the book but I will leave you with this. He comments on the number of Christians he observed who arrive late to church, and its companion or possibly root cause: the incessant drone of praise and worship chorus repeated ad nauseum.

Generally I enjoy the music I hear at churches. However, I’m convinced that a lot of Christians don’t care about it. How did I reach that conclusion? Because I saw plenty of people walking in late to the service.

I have the impression that churches begin their services with music to serve as a sort of buffer so that even if churchgoers arrive late, they won’t miss the “important” part (that is, the sermon). However, I suspect that as people began to understand that there would be an extended period of music, they started to come in later so they could skip the songs. I can picture the likely progression in my mind. With people coming in later, congregations began singing for longer periods of time…so some of the people came even later…so the music lasted longer… See what I’m getting at?

When I visited churches, I actually timed the music portion of the services. At some churches, the praise songs lasted ten minutes, which was fine. But at others, it went on for nearly an hour. That’s absurd. A few songs are more than enough to get anyone in the proper mood for church. If the congregation would like to have more time for singing, they could hold a separate event on the weekend.

Speaking of those who walk into church late, I want to know why they do so. Not everyone gets stuck in traffic. If church is so important, there is no reason to walk in late. In fact, if going somewhere to worship God is important, then people should arrive early. It seems completely disrespectful to me (and I would think, to the pastors) when people walk into the auditorium five or ten minutes into the service. And what’s worse is when parents com in with their children, who learn by example that walking in late is not a big deal. It’s just church, right? No need to get there on time. Is that what Christians want to teach their children. (pp. 150-1)

Unbelievable. Brilliant. And painfully true.

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