Mandated Worship… Why?

One of the main things I don’t understand about organized worship is the fact that it is mandated and if you don’t do it you are a bad [insert religion of preference here]. This tactic is described very well at a friend of mine’s blog [here]. He breaks of the moral axes of a person into five categories and it seems that mandated worship easily falls into his second moral axis, Adherence to Authority.

He describes mandated worship by saying, “…legends of your group are the correct ones, the leaders of your group are the correct ones, because this is your group and to question these will bring you into conflict with the first moral axis…”

This is a great definition, but it needs a little more, oh wait, you find that in his third moral axis which he calls Purity/Disgust. He goes on to say, “What often occurs in societies is that this disgust reaction gets tied through cultural and peer reinforcement with other possible actions.”  This is how we “encourage” others to stay with us and continue in mandated worship, through peer pressure and hallow promises/threats.

But what makes me curious is this, if gods exist, whether it it be a monotheist god or a pantheon of gods.

  • Why do they mandate worship?
  • Why do they care whether we worship them or not?
  • What is the motivating factor for one man to push worship of a god onto another aside from affirmation of choice?
  • If gods require worship and prayer from us, what does that do for them?

Ok let me elaborate on a few of these questions a bit.

Why do they mandate worship?

This is one of the things that has always gotten me about the many Christian religions, most of them have worship two or three times a week including Sunday school or some other religious education programs. This can easily equal out to a full work day worth of time spent in worship. But why? Does it make me a better person to whisper my fears, wishes and “sins” into my hand, the ground, or to an obscured face? I’ve tried each for quite some time, none of which made me feel any different when I walked out. My fears were still there, my wishes were unanswered even the smallest of them, and I felt no mystical weight lifted from me when I confessed what others consider negative activity.

Why do they care whether we worship them or not?

If gods made everything and have the power to manipulate anything they want, why do they even care whether we worship them or not? Why do they care whether we even know they exist? Wouldn’t it be easier to stay a transparent force unhindered by the constant nag of the pain and suffering of mortals? It seems that we as humans make gods in our own images more so than gods make us in their image. We perform transference and place human emotions onto beings that are beyond emotion, something that can change reality with the snap of a finger would not get angry, they would not become jealous or fretful of a situation. They would just bat an eyelash and you would not exist, or what they didn’t like would be changed. The description of a god does not match the psychology we placed upon gods.

What is the motivating factor for one man to push worship of a god onto another aside from affirmation of choice?

This is the one thing that seems to be the most truth behind Mandated Worship. It is not the god that mandates it, it is the person standing beside you. They need you there to affirm that their choice was the correct one. This is the same across multiple fields, whether it be religion, politics, even what sports team to follow. We started as a communal culture, slowly we are pulling away from this frame of mind, but the lasting impression is the fact that we need affirmation of choice. We need the person next to us doing exactly what we are doing or else we lose motivation and stop.

If gods require worship and prayer from us, what does that do for them?

What do gods get from prayer? I know some theories are that they get their power from prayer, that they cannot effect our world without enough prayer to empower them. But if this is the case, why would we want to worship “gods” since they are in effect nothing more than another form of man with some special abilities. All in all I doubt gods are over glorified therapists wanting to hear all of your dirty little secrets.

I do have respect for those religions that do not mandate worship. I can’t help but connect a statement I heard from a Christian and a story I was told by an ex-farm hand in Texas. They are as follows:

Christian: “As a Minister of God I must tend my flock.”

Texan: “We used to get the flock of sheep together and use a Judas goat to lead them into the train cars. He was smart enough that he would lead them right in circle them around and get out before we shut the doors, but the sheep were to stupid to follow him out once he confused them by turning them in circles.”

So if you compare the two statements. The farm hand was tending his flock by using a Judas goat, which I found out got such a name due to the fact that it betrays the sheep that depend on the goat to help lead them, much like what I know of the story of Christ and Judas. But to tend his flock the farm hand must confuse them to keep them together and contained. A minister is a person who has studied to translate “the word of god” into their own words so they can relay a relative message to “their flock”. This message in itself is meant to confuse the person because it may not be the way they understand the passage, but they must conform to what their minister says or else the person sitting next to them may become agitated and no-one wants to disrupt the group.

So after thinking about these questions I do not find a reason for mandated worship.

Now let me ask you, why do you worship?

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  1. #1 by Chris on April 17, 2012 - 9:03 am

    Hello there, I just happened to come across this through stumbleupon, and I’ll let you know right up front that I am a Christian, but I thought I might give you at least one possible answer to your question on mandated worship. Why does God demand that we worship Him? A few years back I heard a sermon by John Piper that made this a central question, and I tend to agree with him; however, I can’t say what he said nearly as well as he did, so I’ll let you watch it for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B-ua-teB2Y Keep in mind that this is a sermon, so he prays at the beginning and he is very much in love with God, but this is his answer to that question, and I think it is a good one.

    • #2 by Derik on April 17, 2012 - 10:29 am

      Chris,
      First I want to thank you for stumbling on in. I welcome all walks of life here at Evolution of Skepticism and I thank you greatly for your input.

      I did go and listen to the sermon, from beginning to end, and what I took from it is what John Piper had to say was, that to worship god was to worship ourselves and to achieve joy. While this sounds like a wonderful context, does it really hold water? I know many Atheist that are 10 times happier than many devout Christians that I know.

      At the end he said “if god doesn’t value the glory of god ultimately he is a sinner. And let him be damned.”

      This whole sermon actually seemed to validate my skepticism, because it states, from my understanding, that God requires us to worship to make him feel better about himself and that is the only way we can feel better about ourselves. So I have to ask, why doesn’t God just take some Prozac to feel better about himself, or maybe take a basket weaving class? See what it tells me is God suffers from depression and needs a mass of people to pat him on his back so that he can feel up lifted, and in the action of uplifting God we can feel a portion of that joy he feels, but only as long as we keep holding him on our shoulders, and bearing the weight of his depression, can we feel this joy. So, in the end it seems like God is not only jealous, depressed and in need of constant moral support, he is fairly childish. These words speak similar to a 5 year old saying “if you won’t play with me I’m going to take my toys and go home!” let’s compare that statement to “if you don’t worship me I am going to take my joy and send you to hell.” These two statements seem to carry very similar context. Maybe God is a child, that would explain quite a bit, early in history he would have been playing “cowboys and indians” or “cops and robbers” and that is why he would pit nations against each other.

      Again Chris, I thank you for stopping by and if you have more information for me to process on this fact I would be happy to hear/read it, but I have to say John Piper didn’t convince me that being required to worship a deity to make him feel better is the way I want to be. I’ll leave you with this thought, when I heard John Piper quote the verse requiring us to love god more than our mothers and fathers, I could accept that, it’s difficult to love the person who has to discipline you more than a person that is promising you nirvana, but then he said I must love him more than my son or daughter, as a father I was appalled that any deity would desire him or her to be placed above the love for ones children, I would go to war for my child, I would not go to war for God. Which would you take up arms to protect, your child who is defenseless without you or god who is said to be untouchable by mortal man? The one thing I hope you really take from this is the concept that we must uplift someone who is untouchable by mortal man is like asking you to take over for the Titan Atlas in the task of holding the sky on his shoulders for the rest of eternity.

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