One Atheist’s View on Church

The following response was found on is an intriguing concept in and of itself-but no time for that in this post. As I looked through the web site one can pick a church and either rate it from your experience of that church or read the ratings and comments of others. The following response is by an avowed atheist on Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. This is the church that Joel Osteen pastors. My point is not what Matt thinks of Lakewood-my point in posting this is to give you some inside thinking of an atheist towards Christians. Read Matt Casper’s take on Lakewood-and on Christians. It is defintely worth pondering as we seek to advance God’s kingdom around the world.

I am an open-minded atheist. Which means that I accept that people have different beliefs than I do, and that beliefs are just that: something people believe.

They can’t be proven in any kind of empirical sense. Some people believe Zeus or another god made the world. Some people believe it was random.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no “right” belief system and no “wrong” belief system. Because right and wrong are subjective terms, which means that each person–in the final analysis–decides what’s right and what’s wrong.

Sure, there are some belief systems that can be proven to have caused pain and suffering, which may make them wrong in the eyes of the majority. (Case in point: Nazism.)

In the case of Lakewood, the belief system is Christian. So I look at this church–and all churches–with that filter: are they supporting the tenets of Christianity clearly illuminated by the words of Jesus Christ in the Bible…?

As far as I could tell during my visit, the answer is somewhere between “sorta” and “no.”

Based on my limited knowledge of the things Jesus called people to do–love one another…love your enemies…give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (talking about money), and to God what is God’s–Lakewood is not really following the teachings of Jesus, hence the rating of 1.

It’s not about the show for me. (Though the show was impressive: fog machines, camera cranes, dancing chorus of 100, lights, camera, ACTION!) It’s about whether or not these people who profess these beliefs are practicing them, or simply profiting from them.

And profit was the thing at Lakewood, as far as I could tell. The profit was everywhere: in the facility, the bookstore, the products, the glitz, the staging, the giant screens, the waterfalls.

Joel Osteen is a good public speaker, but so what…? He rarely mentions the words of Jesus and instead serves up platitudes about not being moody, and being positive. Did he train by reading the bible or in the chorus line of “Up with People?”

I never once felt as if I were in a house of God-loving people. I felt as if I were at a pep rally, but one without a point, without a call to action. Every pep rally, after all, ends with a rousing cheer: “Now let’s go beat !”

But at Lakewood, the only action we were really called to take was to tithe, which (it was made clear by Victoria) is 10% of our salaries. Other than that, it was “you’re a victor… you’re a champion…” Things that–no matter how hard I tried–I just couldn’t imagine Jesus saying or supporting.

It’s not because I believe Jesus was the son of God: I don’t. But because Jesus did say and do some things–all recorded in the bible–that were not being said or emulated at Lakewood.

Love your enemies…? At Lakewood, we heard how we were going to defeat our enemies, not love them.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…? At Lakewood we were asked to give to Joel what is Caesar’s.


One response to “One Atheist’s View on Church

  1. ouch. and as easy as it is to jump on the Joel Osteen bashing bandwagon, this makes me wonder how this guy would describe other churches that are less into the "health and wealth" theology.

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