When I was growing up, my parents used to force me to go to church. I grew up Presbyterian. My dad was in the choir and my mom was the organist, often not even at the church I was forced to attend. I would sit next to a nice lady whose husband was also in the choir and she used to entertain me. I got very little out of church, other than getting to meet a few very good people. Oh... and I liked the music, but having a mom who is a church organist kind of made going to church just for the music kind of a waste of time. She would often practice at home.
Hanging out on the ExMo board today, I saw a rant by a young woman who's 16, posting anonymously, and still being forced to attend church. She hates church and gets nothing out of it. People on the messageboard are telling her how to tune out church... Naturally, her parents would probably be very upset if they knew their daughter was consorting with ExMormons, most of whom used to "go through the motions" at church, too. The funny thing is, ExMormons are probably some of the nicest and smartest people I know.
Reading that post makes me wonder how many people are really present during a church service. How many people show up just because it's expected or required of them? That old saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" immediately comes to mind... You can force people to go to church, but you can't force them to believe. You can't force them to pay attention and be mentally present, even if their bodies are sitting in the pew. So what it really must come down to, then, is that a lot of people go to church because it's the right thing to do and the right image to project... In my mind, that makes church a waste of time for those that don't care about it.
My parents finally quit making me attend church when I was about 15... almost 16. I had gotten a job and apparently, my making money was more important to them than my spiritual health. My parents never talked to me about God, nor did they ever read the Bible with me, even though they forced me to join the church when I was about 10. They never even sat with me in church. Religion was never discussed or explored in my home... But I did hear a lot of music.
I finally learned about the church I was raised in of my own volition. When I was 21, I got a job as a cook at a Presbyterian church camp. My boss was a Director of Christian Education who later became a minister. It was through working at church camp that I learned about what people in the church I grew up in believed. I also made some wonderful friends. My former boss is one of them; he officiated at my wedding.
I didn't get much out of being forced to go to church. And today, I don't attend church. I spend my Sundays with the man I love and our two dogs. I get a lot more out of doing that then sitting in a sanctuary "not all there"...