A recent recurring item in Finnish news: last Tuesday there was a discussion show of some kind about homosexuality and the Finnish Lutheran Church (wikipedia), the gentle eunuchoid organization of about 79% of us Finns. (That is, 4.2 million out of 5.3 million.)
Might be 78% soon.
The news item, namely, has been a very pleasant flood of people quitting the church; the “news” angle for this is there is a website, eroakirkosta.fi (“eroa kirkosta”, leave the church), where you can do that in a minute or so. Being a website, they keep track; and in these few days since the TV show, some 10 000 people have gone out.
Which I approve of, because most of time it seems to me the church consists of just three kinds of people: apatheists, humanists in denial, and doddering old fools; that is:
- Group 1. Were baptised into it; pay a small sum of their taxes into it; visit the church for weddings, funerals and maybe a Christmas service; otherwise atheists for all practical purposes, and maybe believers in some fuzzy unexamined “ought to be there”-force. (Prayer: “It’s been hard. Hope it gets better. And am not saying the G-word because I’m no zealot.”) I’d guess about eight of every ten members.
- Group 2. Modern believers. Not Christian, really; no Hell no sin no punishment; no endtimes no sexual hangups nor much interest in Lutheran dogma. Basically decent people with decent secular humanist ethics, who keep calling it “Christianity” or “what Jesus was really all about”. Active in aid and taking care of their fellow man, but not missionaries, except of goodwill, moderation and social justice. (Which I’m all for, but these people are Christian in the same sense Elizabeth II is a Richard the Lionhearted. Which is a difficult point if “Christian” is hardwired to “a good person”; you can bet that wire is broken in my little atheist brain. I think to call these people “Christian” is to downplay just how good and decent they are. Weird atheist expressions; eh.) I’d guess these people are about one in ten, including most of the clergy.
- Group 3. Old-school believers. Homophobes, xenophobes, racists, generally cheerleaders of hate, stagnation and fear; all kinds of believers in the idea that life ought to be hard, harsh, joyless and without second chances. And if people won’t behave like their parents did, they’re scum and probably lesbian druggies too, oh woe Sodom and Gomorrah woe woe woe the brown people not in my childhood no. People that read both of the Testaments, and like the Old one too. To speak my mind, these people are the true historical face of Christianity; and what a godawful face it is. Mostly (I hope) people aged fifty or over; those that are in the clergy are the ones that raise the biggest stinks because their Biblical ethics are so out of step with what everyone else believes. (Then there are various religious movements in the church; most seem to wish they could live in their dream of what life was a century ago or so; the main split between them is whether this includes cellphones or no.) These people are the remaining one in ten; and maybe one tenth of the clergy. (These are ass-pulled numbers with absolutely no hard data behind them.)
All else is then just trace elements.
My feeling is that if people needed to re-register for the church every year — mail a form somewhere, visit the church office, attend a moonlight vigil on a mountaintop, something — church membership would go down pretty quickly. (“What, you want a church wedding? Sheesh, okay, let’s join for this year.” — another small thing keeping people in the church is future brides wanting to walk down the aisle; though it’s scandalous really how the priest keeps on droning about this God character on the couple’s own special day! On to the blindfolded leg-groping already mumble mumble mumble.)
What has happened now with these ten thousand leaving is not so much a protest, but just more people noticing all at once that the church doesn’t really offer them anything, and they don’t need anything from it; why pay the tax, then? Usually it’s a few people every day; now because of this particular stink a lot of the same kind of people had this epiphany because there was a trigger for it.
Then again, my feelings may not be the best guide; I tend to do the usual human thing and assume other people are much like me if I don’t know how they are; and religion is not a common subject of discussion here in the north. (Also, “in everything like me” is not a safe assumption for a mathematics-studying skeptical atheist heavy metal SFF fan nerd-geek of the Nipponophilic, Lovecraftian and Trivial Pursuit-winning persuasion. Ah well; here’s the bit in Finnish over on Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s biggest paper after the Disney Donald Duck weekly.)