Thursday, February 9, 2023

On the question of tithing and church size

 I have often looked at the magnificent cathedrals and churches and been amazed by what it took to make them.  The number of people, toiling hours on end - months!, to build and decorate these edifices.  And the scale: how large they are that they can gather so many people in one place.

Then, it dawns on me the financial requirements to create them as well as the source of those finances.

If you require a flat tax of 10% from each and every person, coupled with an large (and growing) congregation, the money needed to support the system vastly out paces the cost of the infrastructure.  What is done with the money?  (spent on oneself in the name of marketing.). Imagine, if you will, a group of 9 people, each giving 10% to support a preacher.  The math says, the preacher ends up living like the average member.  But, with a little marketing to grow the congregation, that same preacher now becomes the more well off of members.  Add 9 more people: the preacher is now bringing in twice the "income" as the average person in the congregation.  Now, look to those churches and cathedrals.  Imagine a small church with only 50 or 60 members.  Now the minister can really make a financial killing.  But build a cathedral with seating capacity in the thousands, and presto, the church can make a killing fleecing the flock.

It's no wonder the christian religion "encourages" tithing.  Is it really to "help the poor"?  What is the standard for "poor"?  Is it someone in the bottom 2% of people in the world?  If so, taking 10% from every member will seriously convert those poor to rather well off in no time at all.  Since that is not happening, one has to wonder where the money is really going.

This cycle of tithing and church size disrupts the very purpose of God's church.  Consider instead an alternative idea.  But first, let's talk about quantity.

A church is a community.  It is a group of people with something in common that binds them together.  As the number of people in the community grows, the need for infrastructure (and associated costs) grows with it.  There are side effects:  The individuals in the community become less intimate with the community at large.  Knowing every person in a 20 person group is greater than knowing every person as intimately in a 2,000 person group.  Having a dinner party with 10 people feels entirely different than a dinner party with 100 people.  As the number of people in a group grows, the ability for any individual in the group to be close with all the other members of the group declines.  Sociology and group dynamics tells us that smaller groups build tighter bonds with one another.  The more personal the relationship, the smaller the group needs to be.

For a general social life, sociology says we put a maximum limit of 150 people per group.  At this size, everyone will know everyone at some level of detail.  Groups designed to work together on a common activity (say participate in a workshop) loose effectiveness beyond 50 people.  But to really know a person, and to be able to devote time to helping that person, the number drops down to somewhere less than 25.

Of course, there is an issue with a group being too small.  Two people can be easily swayed to change things to fit their own desires.  It takes a larger group to keep the original goals on point.

Personally, I think church sizes between 10 and 25 are ideal.  It allows people to really get to know one another while being large enough to be effective as an organization.  With this smaller organizational size, people can find organizational units that meet their needs best.  Having one large organization makes people with different perspectives all be coerced into one common view, minimizing the benefits of diversity.  It also makes people less connected when they only share the critical issues, but not the associated issues.  Imagine a group whose goal is to help others and like to go bike riding for fun.  If one of those people also wants to help others, but doesn't like to ride bikes, that person will not feel as connected as they would if they found a group who likes to help others and play board games (as an example.)

The other advantage of smaller groups is the overhead is less.  Ten people can simply meet in a house or apartment, or even outdoors.  The need to give money to support an infrastructure is eliminated.  I told you I would get back to tithings.

Considering a religion based on one statement, "Love Unconditionally", how much hierarchy does it really need?  If the groups are kept intimate, what infrastructure does it need?  With both of these issues resolved, what need is there for a regular tithing?  If someone has a need, the intimate group can pitch in and support them.  To love unconditionally means more than helping the poor and the stranger.  It is unconditional.

Two questions seem to rise up with this topic:  What happens when a group grows beyond 25 people.  Simple, it can divide itself into smaller groups.  Won't that create distance between people?  Perhaps.  But while you may be an tight-knit member of one group, that doesn't mean you must ignore others in other groups.  On the contrary, visiting other individuals and groups helps build bonds between the church as a whole.

What about tithing?  Without an overhead, there is no need to require a regular tithing being routed to infrastructure.  Does that mean there is no value in having a tithing?  Perhaps.  Perhaps a group feels the world around them needs money and, as a group, they may choose to tithe to help the group's goals.  Another group may find a greater need is skills or time.  The other advantage of smaller churches is the ability to focus on the needs of the world around them.  Again, if the need is greater than what an individual church can support, communication between churches may provide a solution.

A small church is not the same as an isolated church.  Instead, it is a stronger church with firm ties between each and every member of the congregation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Waste of time?

 When I first created the Church Of Doug, it was to keep a library of programming code segments in one location.  In order to organize the various elements, I created the Church of Doug to help me find what I was looking for.  For example, if I needed a good randomizer, I knew if I built a page that randomly posted text (Sayings of Doug), I would more easily remember where to look for my random number generator.

Moreover, the Church Of Doug became my sandbox for testing out new code.  I would post something to see if it would work.  If it did, then I could simply copy the new idea into the project I was working on.

This no longer happens.  Instead, this site has become less of a development and testing sandbox and more of a slightly stale and crusty relic of my screams for attention?  Perhaps not the right word.  I have something meaningful to say and I don't want it cluttered with distraction.

I spent yesterday updating the back end of the site to be compatible with my new web technology.  I used an MVC format on my other sites before deciding to update this one.  And the only reason I wanted to update this one is so that I could have a simple way to post/share a specific saying as opposed to the random-only format it was.  I'm intrigued that the site I used to use for design and development is now the last place to receive my current (albeit almost outdated) process.

Why do I bother?  In general, nobody reads these posts or visits the Church Of Doug website.  The Facebook version draws very few.  Why then, do I persist?  Am I simply a glutton for rejection and enjoy being ignored?

I don't think so.  While I have a fantasy that someday, people will flock to my words, the realist in me knows that is not ever going to happen.  So is this now a waste of time?  What's it worth to me to keep this going?

With all the other areas of my life demanding my attention, this site still brings value to me.  I look back at what I've written.  I realize I have refined some things and changed my emphasis on other things.  It is for me, and me alone I am really doing this for.  I can help myself better understand myself and my motivations.  Helping me become a better me is a major goal of mine.

That brings with it a certain sadness.  I'm sad because I have something I want the rest of the world to contemplate.  I want the world to benefit from my discovery/understanding.  I believe my form of faith, a mixture of light heartedness and deep contemplation, paired with a loving and compassionate soul, is one society would benefit from.  (Certainly not the individual followers, as it is a difficult path to stay on.)

Yes, I want others to follow my example.  The world would be a better place if all people presumed innocence of the actions and words presented to them.  Imagine people helping each other selflessly to the point where there is no need to be selfish. Yes, the world I am encouraging through my own actions and thoughts would be better than the killing, theft, and abuse I see all around me.  If only people would be more like me!  Sigh, I also want them to live their own lives and not mine.  The diversity of this world is what makes it truly beautiful.  I would probably hate a world if everyone was "just like me".  It would be like painting with one color, no background color, no shades of brightness or texture.  All one and the same.  That would be boring.  Knowing me, I would do something to change it in the name of intellectual stimulation or variety.  No, I really don't want the whole world to read it and become identical no matter how much "better" it is.  It isn't.

So, why do I waste my time posting all of this if I don't want the world to see it.  I think it is for a few reasons.  It is for me.  I get to see myself with a longer view than my mind allows me to see.  I'm not distracted by current filters as much when I see what I was thinking before.  It is for my friends.  They get to see under the hood, into my naked thoughts.  They get to know me better, even if it is in retrospect.  And finally, perhaps a small handful of people throughout the world may see it and this is a seed of an idea they may germinate in their own lives and towns, done their way...with their own spin on these thoughts.

Besides, is it really a waste of time?  Compared to what?