I consider my self a bit of an amateur sociologist (I realize this opens me up for criticism and taunting ). I like to observe what seems to be human nature and then question why.
An example is what type of person drives slow in the fast lane during rush hour leaving many car lengths to the car ahead of it. As I pass them I observe the individual and categorize them. For instance someone with a new car "in transit" tag will generally be more careful, I have concluded. Also an individual that has a classic car will leave unnecessary car lengths, in my opinion. There are others that would be inappropriate and not politically correct to mention.
One other facet I've observed is it seems to be individuals are unnecessarily kind to the clergy. Now this is going to go in many uncomfortable directions but I'm curious what others think. I'm curious what both the religious and atheists and agnostics think about my thesis.
Preference to Parishioners From my experience as a previous every Sunday parishioner, experience on a church council, and now a believer that does not attend church, I found the politics of religious organizations to be among the worst. For instance for those that attend you will see in the bulletin each week how far behind budget they are. Miraculously the budget is made up around Christmas. Christmas donations up because of attendance? Partially. But the majority of the make-up comes from the three or four 1% class that gets a visit from clergy between Christmas and New Years. These are the same church members you will see at lunch with clergy periodically, get home visits, and get the quick, packaged annulments.
The next group clergy must suck up to are the three or four women that compete for organization of the ladies guild, the funeral pot lunches, and Sunday school.
And finally the loud voice in the community. Clergy needs to make sure the voice of the community stays in line.
Tax Favored Treatment The tax code is very generous to clergy, which I guess is taught in Seminary. "Members of the gospel may exclude the rental value of homes furnished by churches as part of their compensation. This includes the portion of a retired minister's pension designated as a rental allowance..." "A minister is entitled to deduct mortgage interest and real property taxes paid on a personal residence even if the amounts expended are derived from a rental allowance that is excluded from the minister's gross income."
Do you think this will be one of the "tax loopholes" that will be addressed in the coming tax debate. Doubtful. Who wants to be seen as attacking the clergy.
Fire and Brimstone vs Pacifist Generally the minister will be one of hell and damnation or a "peace monger". In either case what they say in their Sunday morning sermon often has a political bent to it. I guess the parishioner has the option to find a church that is more "politically" acceptable. No harm not foul one could say.
Criminals We have seen a number of clergy convicted of crimes and astronomical church settlements. I really don't want to discuss this area.
Largess of the Church My wife and I wnt to Rome last year and visited the Vatican. OMG. It is very, very, very impressive. Yet there are the poor, the needy, and hungry throughout the world.
Even with the above it appears to me, individual members of the clergy are provided exceptionally good treatment, seldom challenged or held accountable for their statements. It is especially surprising to me to see agnostics and atheists treat members of the clergy with exceptional deference. I think I have seen it on HM where there seems to be a low "bow" by atheists and agnostics to members of clergy.
I understand this topic will likely be met with a loud gasp. But knowing I am among friends I think it will be met with the seriousness it is intended.
Besides, I don't like the limp-wristed hand shakes from members of the clergy. It creates a lack of trust in my opinion.