They say the biggest religious grouping in America are those who say they are spiritual but not religious.

In other words, they believe in God and being good, but they don’t bother with organized religion.

When you stop to think about it, they’re exactly right. Why would you bother with going to church if you didn’t have to? I remember when I was a high school chaplain a nice suburban mom made an appointment to see me. They were Protestants and were upset that their 10th grade son said he wasn’t going to church anymore.

They were upset so I asked them, “Well, why should he go to church?” They spluttered out something indicating that they hadn’t ever really been asked that question before. The boy said he could read his Bible and pray to God at home. He was right wasn’t he?

I pushed the conversation a bit further. “Your religion doesn’t require you to go to church does it?”

“Well, no.”

“Then why bother?” I asked.

This was not going the way they had expected.

Springboarding from that here is a dialogue that one could have with most anyone who follows the most popular religion of our day, Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deist: So why should I go to church every Sunday?

Churchy Person: Because you’re supposed to.

MTD: Who says so?

CP: Well the Bible says so.

MTD: Where?

CP: Well I don’t know which verse exactly, but church is where you can meet fellow believers.

MTD: I can do that at the pub or the country club or just hanging out

CP: You hear the Word of God being preached

MTD: I can watch a TV evangelist or listen to podcasts

CP: We gather together to pray

MTD: I can pray at home or go to a home Bible study and pray with people

CP: We work together to help the poor and homeless

MTD: I give to the United Way and I could join the Rotary Club or work at the soup kitchen.

CP: We sing together and the preaching is really good!

MTD: You’re kidding right?

CP: You get time to meditate and draw close to God

MTD: I do that when I take the dogs for a walk or go for a hike in the mountains

CP: You get advice and counsel and help for life’s challenges

MTD: I read self help books and go to seminars and listen to Dave Ramsey.

CP: We need you to tithe to keep the show on the road.

MTD: Oh.

You see, when you cut to the bottom line why would anybody really want to bother with church? The reason why churches are emptying (both Catholic and Protestant) is that we have reduced the religion to Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism, and why would you need to go to church for that? 

You don’t. Is the answer. You can do all that without church on Sunday.

The reason churches are emptying is that people have started to realize that there’s no real reason to go to church.

Unless, of course you’re Catholic (ahem) and not just Catholic, but a Catholic who believes and tries to live the historic Catholic faith–not the Catholic form of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

The reason to go to church is that you can get at Mass something you cannot do yourself or get anywhere else:  forgiveness of your sins and the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ-sacrificed to win your soul’s salvation.

You can’t do that without a priest.

You can’t do that at home and you can’t do that on a hike in the woods and you can’t do that by joining the Boy Scouts or the Rotary Club and you can’t do that by reading a self help book and you can’t do that by going to a home Bible study and you can’t do that by working at the soup kitchen and you can’t do that by reading a book about prayer and spirituality by some guy who lives in the desert in a commune.