I don't find it difficult, but then I see "join", "club", and "gang" as four letter words that I'd rather not pin onto myself.
Oh god, yes. When i was five, i was angry at the church (or at least the church's minions) and by the time i was 12 i wanted out. I cut a deal that i would go through the confirmation rigmarole, but that i would, apart from that, never attend the mass again.
I completely agree about the material
importance of churches, too. In the late 80s and early 90s, i worked in the "charity industry," working in a homeless families shelter. Some of the Christians were contemptuous. The Baptists were very unpopular among the recipients of charity--i can't speak to the complaints against them based on my experience, so i won't go into the details of the complaints.
The national charitable organizations were incredibly stingy, and seemed to look on the homeless people they served as a promotional opportunity. The shelter for which i worked got every penny they could from outside sources, and spent as little as they could on the clients. They continued to take in a great deal of money from their thrift store operations, and to send as much of the income off to the national organization a possible. That, of course, burnished the reputation of the director of that organization in that city, but i don't know if other branches behaved the same way.
But the two organizations which were not only genuinely charitable, but quietly so, were Catholic Social Services and Lutheran Social Services. They weren't doing if for publicity or to attract donations, and they didn't care what someone's religious affiliation was if they needed help. CSS had far more resources than LSS, but the Lutherans would "farm out" people to local congregations. No one was required to attend religious services, and no one asked the religious affiliation of our clients. But an entire congregation would pull together to find employment and housing for those people. The organization i worked for had more than 20 thrift stores in the city. However, to get clothing for our clients, we went to the LSS thrift stores, of which there were only two in the city. We had been provided a pad of their forms, i'd show up with the family and sign one of the forms, and the store manager would turn the family loose to pick out their clothing. No questions, no reservations, just genuine good natured charity.
I won't go into the details, but there were several individuals in the city who made great efforts, with no fanfare, and motivated by their religious beliefs. I don't have to agree with their beliefs to recognize the value of their efforts and the sincerity of their convictions.