My latest post was a review of Markos Moulitsas new book American Taliban. Although the point I was trying to make was society’s inability to hold ourselves to the same standards we require from others, I believe in Latin its called hypocrisy, the diary itself sparked a discussion about religion in general. Not growing up with religion, I’ve always found the concept of faith in God to be a fascinating insight into the human thought process. So I want to open up the discussion to just religion and see where we end up. First, let me tell you about my experience.
My paternal Grandmother was a faithful churchgoer and she was content to be the sole representative for the family every Sunday to reserve our place in Heaven. That is the extent of my exposure to religion. It seems the mainstays of most religions are universal, love your neighbor, don’t steal/kill/lie/cheat, etc. I didn’t need the Bible to teach me right and wrong. I believe in live and let live and the idea that if I don’t adopt your particular ideology I’m going to burn for all eternity, just doesn’t stick for me. I am pro-choice and anti-death penalty. I believe in same sex marriage because if someone is lucky enough to find a person they want to build a lifetime with, who am I to tell them they can’t just because I’m straight. I believe borders are arbitrary and in a perfect world we would recognize that we’re all human beings regardless of where we were born and we all deserve to live without fear of arbitrary arrest or unlawful prosecution. In other words, I’m that bleeding heart liberal can’t we all just get along types that your mother warned you about. But after 20 years working in human rights and 10 years in politics, I’m also a realist.
I have the deepest respect for those who know the difference between religion and faith. Those who practice true faith represent the best of what God teaches. Those who act as they wish 6 days a week and think their sins are washed away every Sunday are the posers who hide behind the concept of religion. I don’t intend this diary to be any kind of judgment on what you believe. Religion is a very complicated and personal choice and if it helps you to be a better person, more power to you. I recognize the powerful hold religion has on a large number of people and not being part of that influence, I am anxious to learn why that influence is so universal and can inspire such joy and such hatred. So I’d like to open the discussion with the many questions I have. I’m just going to list them and feel free to answer as many as you can. This is strictly for my education.
What did religion teach you that you couldn’t learn from the people you choose to make part of your life?
What religion are you and how did you become part of that belief system. (i.e. you’re Catholic because your parents were, you married someone and converted, etc.)?
Is your faith a guideline for your decision making or is it an absolute?
Do you feel your religion is the true religion and those who follow other belief systems will suffer consequences? What and why?
As a religious person, what are your thoughts about Jehovah’s Witness and others who feel they need to recruit new followers to confirm their own faith?
I know these are really deep questions and not likely to be summed up in a blog comment. But I really respect this community and I feel comfortable sharing my ignorance on this particular subject. And I love starting discussions. So in the immortal words of Linda Richmond sitting in for Paul Baldwin, discuss.
On the weekends, we walk with a neighbor and his dogs, and no matter the topic, and I mean, whether it’s the weather or something related to health and just me asking how his mother’s doing, since she had her entire colon removed, he can whip out them bible verses.
We try very hard to stay away from any substantive conversation, because when it comes to politics, he just quotes the bible and really, that bible quoting does impress me mightily.
I’ve only gotten into it with him once and I do regret it, because no one wins an argument, and it just ended up making me feel bad in more than one way.
It was when he said, with the proper bible quotes, that all gays were going to hell, but the people, like the Phelps people who protest soldiers’ funerals, they are going to a worse hell, and he spouted several biblical passages to back him up.
He went into the thing about loving the sinner but hating the sin and I lost it.
I have or had 2 gay brothers, but have lost one, so am now down to one gay brother and I absolutely refuse to believe that gay people are going to hell.
I tried telling him that people are born gay, but NO, it’s some bible quote that proves that gays choose their life-style.
He listens to some religious station all day long and he is always trying to warn us about the “End Of Times” and how the signs are all right in our faces, and we must accept Jesus Christ into our lives as our Savior and blah, blah, blah, blah.
My husband is much more intelligent than I and he’s much more easy-going and much more diplomatic when dealing with people.
I’m an outspoken person, whereby people know how I feel about things, and I really do not take any shit, and believe me, that’s taken me years to stand up and not suffer those I consider fools.
I might have gone over board on being outspoken and I am trying to tame that back.
I used to be a meek person and let people walk all over me, but at my age now, I really do not give a crap and I speak my mind, but I am trying very hard to be more like my husband.
My husband and I are both Catholics, but lapsed, and lapsed is not even the correct word – we’re done with organized religion.
My husband was an altar boy and attended catechism classes and his uncle is a priest, and he married us – and on a side note – we are the only people in the family that his uncle married and it was an emotional wedding.
We’d been lapsed but we went back to the church to give it another try.
I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and Catholics do not actually do the bible thing, as evangelicals and baptists do.
The neighbor thinks we are heathens or something, and a couple weeks after my blow-up, he finally walked with us again, and wouldn’t you know it?
He gave us a thin book that he ordered off the radio station he listens to, because he’s intent on saving our souls.
Okay, he’s really on a mission to save my soul.
I did follow my husband’s advice and kept my lip zipped, and my husband, who is a very kind man, actually read the booklet.
It’s a booklet thing that can be read in a half-hour and it’s all about why people should believe the bible in the first part, and my husband was okay with that part, but the second part was the guy writing about how people should never choose a religion because it makes them feel good and then my husband quit reading it.
I’ve read the bible from cover to cover years ago, but skipped the begotten part, because really, who can follow all the begottens?
I used to struggle with religion, but have grown so sick and tired of religion, especially in our politics, that I hate all religion, yet still consider myself a spiritual person and believe in God and I do believe that a man or prophet named Jesus Christ existed.
Last summer, friends of my husband’s came over from his hippy days and living on a commune in Oregon came over, and they are right-wingers now and I held my tongue then, as did my husband.
We dodged politics as much as we could, because they were intent on talking about it, but then we actually got into Christ and I asked them if they believed in a Virgin birth.
Now, even my husband is proud of me, because I sat there and listened to the guy explain how a virgin birth is possible, because he had prostate cancer and he researched that and he discovered that yes, a virgin birth is very possible.
I’ll just say that I started drinking lots of wine that night and I am not a big wine drinker.
I’ve ranted enough, and not sure anyone will read this, but if anyone does, hope it made sense and was on topic!
I’m interested in your first question, because it seems, by its wording, to suggest that religion perhaps offers things that could also, as you point out, be taught by the “people you choose to make part of your life”.
But personally, I don’t approach it that way. I think that question could be applied to so many things, and always we would reach the same conclusion that it’s not a simple trade-off.
For example, a single person could ask a parent, “What did raising a child teach you that you couldn’t have learned by staying single?” The parent might answer, “Well, patience, I think, and a lot about responsibility, and learning to let go, and unconditional love, and….”
And the single person might answer, “But I have learned all of those things too! My life has taught me exactly those same things.”
And they’d be right, of course. But I still feel that there are very specific things about raising a child that can’t be learned any other way, but it’s hard to put them into words. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean that being a parent is “better” than not being one, just that it offers something unique. I think religion is like that for many people. Spirituality is like that for me.
Interesting that you’d use child raising as a metaphor because I don’t have kids but I’ve been witness to the process from so many different angles that parents actually come to me for advice. And your point is spot on. Yes, I can give advice about parenting but from a strictly analytical perspective. Because I’ve never been a parent I would lack the emotional component that only parents have. I think that’s what you’re saying about religion too. I recently met a man who said his religion taught him how to be a good person and yet I learned that same lesson ‘on the streets’, so to speak. But when he hits hard times and needs guidance, he turns to the Bible. I don’t have that foundation to turn to but I still seem to find my way through. Thank you for bringing a perspective that I’d never considered before.
I’m glad that analogy served its purpose. I’ve used it before, when trying to explain to others the role of spirituality in my life. I know I’m a different person having become a father, but at the same time it’s not something easily put into words. And it’s important to recognize that there are many different roads one can take to reach the same destination.
Your road sounds like a good one to me!
I actually give really good parenting advice. Not becuase of my non-existant parenting experience, but because of my overwhelming experience as a rotten kid. Particularly as a teenager. I really tested the boundries. My Dad, a retired high school teacher, says the 2 best times in a child’s life is when they’re 5 and when they’re 15. When they’re 5 they have all the questions and when they’re 15 they have all the answers. I had all the answers at 13 but then I was an overachiever. 😉
TIAP, I very much appreciate this conversation and
will be able to jump in when my kids
and I aren’t sick with the cough/cold that is going around.
Someone mentioned this current series on PBS FRONTLINE, God In America.
If you have missed it, the link is below.
I do love that PBS gives links online.
This is my Final Answer/Interpretation, and please correct me if I am wrong. However, I will be 61 come Oct. 29, and if anyone of us has been around longer than I (yourself included), speak now or forever keep your lip zipped (sorry I couldn’t decide between piece and peace — please don’t hold it against me). 😆
I’ve been around the block more than once, however I’ve undoubtedly missed a few things along the way. If this is the case, please fill me in; I’m open to anything, especially if given the opportunity to it mull over.
I’m open to continuing the conversation off the Planet and have no reservations with AdLib sharing my email address with you. In fact, I would enjoy the conversations (besides I don’t want kes to one up me). 😉
Hey! I heard that! 😆 😆 😆
Hey, I have a thing for exotic Ohio gals. 😆
But who can compete against a big city girl from Columbus?
Clumbus? C’mon kes — I’m a regular person and far from “big city”, believe me.
I luv ya, boomer! And I’m just kiddin’ y’all! 😉
A really interesting set of questions, TIAP. We seem to be working on a theme here at the Planet, with WTS’s post and Khirad’s in the process as well. Since so many events in the world have a religious component, and since the Big Questions are endlessly interesting in and of themselves, it’s easy to see why this is a subject almost all of us love to explore.
What has religion taught me that others in my life couldn’t? Well, I don’t know if “religion” has taught me much that my fellow humans couldn’t have, but faith has. Faith has revealed to me that there is virtually nothing in life that “goes to waste.” And that includes what we humans view as “bad things,” as well as good.This is not necessarily intuitive. The idea of happiness resulting from altruism is not intuitive, either. We’re a little bit hard wired to avoid pain and look out for ourselves. Faith says that pain can have meaning. That putting ourselves last can have unexpectedly good consequences.
Today I identify as Catholic (or, as I joke, Cathodist, because I often attend Methodist services), but this was after a ten year period (all of my 20s) of disillusioned atheism, caused by the usual suspect: the problem of evil in the world. I’m not entirely sure what turned that around. A combination of things, I suppose. And probably too much to go into in depth in a short post.
Is religion a guideline for my decision making? Well, in the sense that God gives us brains and expects us to use them well, I guess I could say “yes.” I think logic and science and rationality spring from these brains we have evolved, with the help of the creative intelligence behind this universe we inhabit. So, indirectly, they are kinda “faith-based” 🙂 and they can often be relied upon to give us some pretty solid guidance.
Do I feel my religion is the “true religion”? True enough for me, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that it would be the case for everyone or even anyone else. And — no — I don’t believe that all Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists are headed for perdition. RW fundies…on the other hand….? 😉
As far as proselytizers are concerned: I feel a little sorry for them, to tell the truth. If people can’t sense anything joyful and appealling about your faith just from being acquainted with you, all the sales pitches and manipulative tricks in the world won’t induce them to join your church or share your belief system. Of course, there are ardent, proselytizing atheists, too. And the same goes for them…
Faith is just the belief that anything is possible.
Religion is the co-opting of faith for nefarious purposes.
I couldn’t have said it better myself Haruko. However, I must warn you that I will use that phrase and claim it as my own. Hope you don’t mind. 😉
I was raised nominal Protestant. My mom Christian, my dad, agnostic, though only in later discussions have I come to get him to call it that. Although maybe not even that. He believes in ‘something’ vague but doesn’t know what to call It.
So, I went to church for Easter, usually while visiting the grandparents. My teen years sent my mom back to regularly attending church though (I feel guilty about those years, I was a little out of control).
(I’ve been over this next part a few times, so lest I feel self-conscious about being repetitive, this is just for TIAP)
I was once pretty religious and really into Jesus, though not church attending, and read the KJV Bible cover to cover in the 6th grade. 7th grade had a World Religion unit, and it changed my whole worldview. Since reading the Bible and losing a cherished cross necklace (it was pretty cool) I had been souring on Christianity. That was not the God of love I was always told about, and I started thinking about the Trinity, trying to make sense of it. Memories of a dictatorial RW Evangelical babysitter were arising at this time, as well. Come 8th and 9th grade and I was a bitter, Nietzsche-obsessed militant atheist. I got over the hating Christians and ironic cursing God thing (why am I cursing something I don’t think exists?) a long time ago though. After meeting some real loving, selfless Christians I finally understand the religion of CHRIST – even if I could never go back. In High School I dabbled in just about everything but was by then a tolerant agnostic. To this day I call myself an Orthodox Agnostic. I am certain only in my uncertainty.
But I wouldn’t only label myself as agnostic. As far as church affiliation goes, I’m a proud Unitarian Universalist.
I’ve always been a UU, I just never knew it (it’s cheesy but true). I never knew other people like me existed until I took an online religious test and started attending services regularly after moving and settling into a new city, in a new state. Starting over socially, a Young Adults group helped, and still makes up a lot of my friends. The church also served a sense of spiritual community and nurturing of growth and healing I needed at that time. Something I (personally) couldn’t go to a dogmatic place of worship for.
As to the questions:
1) That I’m not alone on my spiritual quest (whatever and wherever that may take me).
2) Research, experimenting.
4) 😆 – so N/A. ‘Universalist’ being key in that.
5) We’re so small because we feel uncomfortable about proselytizing. I meet people all the time who would fit right in, but I don’t want to be intrusive. We’re too damn respectful of others beliefs, but certainly frown on fundies and what the LDS Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses do with all that door-knocking.
As to additional thoughts?
I don’t feel right doing this normally (the proselytizing hangup), but since it was asked, I’m feeling lazy and tired and will give a couple vids instead of explaining basically what I believe myself (in more complex terms than simply ‘agnostic’).
Short vid (only 30 secs)
Longer vid (10 mins, highly optional)
From what I know about you and your blogging, this would seem the perfect blend of fellowship for you with your appreciation of world religions. I had heard of them but never really delved into it. Thanks to your vid, I will look at them further.
I may or may not be able to shed some light here, but I will try. First, to answer your questions:
What did religion teach you that you couldn
My ex-husband and his best friend used to grab the bulletin and leave at Communion. 😆
I probably saw him at Case’s buying candy or gum LOL. Mr Case never told my dad what I was doing. Therefore when I got older, I bought all my beer and tequila from his store. LOL
I don’t live there anymore but when I have time, I always go into the store to chat with his sons. They are my age
Great answers Sue. I applaud your ability to question the unquestioned and find your own way out of a no win situation.
Your comments remind me of 2 things. First, that if there is a God, I think he created the universe and the people on it and said, “It’s all yours folks. You’re on your own. I’m outta here”. He built this place, gave us free will and sat back to see what we’d do with it.
The second thought that crossed my mind is the old joke about how I was raised Catholic but never grasped the concept of Lent. The idea of giving up something to symbolize the depth of your faith seemed counter productive to me. So one year I gave up the Catholic religion. Caught em on a loophole. (badump bump) Thank you, I’ll be here all week.
Fish on Fridays during Lent or ever; never really did grasp the reasoning; maybe because I was a convert and not considered the “real deal”?
As far as Jehovah’s Witnesses (which I didn’t respond to before), but I work with someone who is. In fact, this person’s entire lineage is. I must give the individual credit since it is not usually a topic of discussion, but…but…I have done tons of research and it’s scary, so there is nothing more to say.
Ok Boomer, your turn to write a piece on Jehovah’s Witness.
And what was the deal on fish? I have been allergic since birth so I would have made a poor true catholic. It has something to do with good friday, right?
You know when I think about it, in a way, I think my mom was giving me a way out. She was never one to prostelyze much and I sometimes wonder if she turned her head and pretended I was really going to church. We have revealed alot to her over the years as she has mellowed but that is one thing I have never talked to her about. It may be time LOL.
You sound alot like me in the religious arena. You know my husband and I are not regular attendees but we never stopped our kids from choosing. My son is more institutionally religous than my daughter. She is more a free spirit like me. My husband is more like my son. Somehow we all manage to co-exist and keep open minds.
Afternoon and I’ll be the first to jump in here. I am everything in your second paragraph with the exception of the last sentence.
Amen sister! The intent of faith is to teach human kind how to relate to each other. So if those with faith treat me with kindness, my interacting with them should teach it to me. There are people who spend their lives in church and still don’t get what I’ve learned just by living and interacting with my fellow humans. Given the tight hold that religion has on some very dangerous people, I’m happy to know that an organization like yours are flourishing. Keep doing the people’s work!
You are right up my alley! Or boulevard! I work for a large progressive faith organization that represents mainstream, progressive denominations (and a couple that are not) and here is what I belive – what we uphold as an organization:
“I believe in live and let live and the idea that if I don
C’Lady, you may have already ready this article http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/10/progressive_traditions6.html
If not, you may enjoy it. In fact the whole series is quite good.
Hi bito- yes, I have been reading it as they went along, and it’s really (amazingly) good. The new PBS series, God in America is just the opposite – all emphasis is given to conservative Christianity and not much else. I wrote a flaming letter to them saying I won’t watch OR promote it. They whimpered back that they had Jim Wallis on as a ‘progressive voice’ – he who is homophobic and anti-choice. He’s really good on economic issues. Period. However, I’m surprised the Center for American Progress did such a good job. They once wanted one of my articles, “Building a Moral Economy”, then butchered it in edit to corporate liberal pap. When I said it totally changed the meaning, they said I was “too controversial”. So imagine my surprise that they grew up! Thanks for the link, BW – I’d lost it. Much appreciated!
“God In America”? I fell asleep. ZZZZZ
Have you read the series, boomer?
Hello my dear bito. I’ve not read it, but I’ve watched it. Please read what I wrote earlier to TIAP.
ps — At this very moment, I’m watching/listening to the third night of the series. Each of us will walk away with his/her own interpretation; it’s in our makeup. What I’m saying is none of us is wrong, yet none of us is right either. We, as living and breathing human beings, MUST, MUST be able to compromise and respect our differences. If we were all the same, we would be quite boring as a species — regardless of what continent we were born in to. Eeeww, perish the thought…I have no desire to “be” like my ex-husband, yet he is important to someone else.
boomer, oops. I was talking about the series of articles at CAP (Center for American Progress) found here.
Sorry about the crossed wires.