Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moderates versus Fundamentalists, and a confession

My life is heading in a new direction. I think my blog will too.

I'm not sure what that direction will be, still feeling my way through.

I'm bored with the whole anti-religion thing. I've gone through some very destructive experiences in the name of religion and it was good for me to let myself be angry about that for a while, but I feel like I'm done with that now. And I'm no longer convinced that religious moderates are aiding and abetting fundamentalists. The new atheists say that moderates are complicit in extremism because their belief lends credibility to fundamentalists, but the culture of fundamentalism that I'm familiar with doesn't give any credence to anything other than fundamentalism.

For example, I know Mormons who think that other Mormons who dare to drink Coke or use birth control or vote democrat are losing their grasp on the Iron Rod and are in danger of being swallowed by the Mists of Darkness (1 Nephi 8). Among other Christians, fundamentalists disavow those who cohabitate before marriage or who support same sex marriage, or who don't take the Genesis creation story literally, and on and on.

I have a confession to make: I've been going to church.

I've found a congregation that I like, friendly but not overbearing. I don't believe in any of it literally and have no intentions of ever officially joining, but I like the rituals and the symbolism. There are bits of the service that make me grimace and think, Okay, now I really don't believe that, but I no longer feel obligated to believe everything an authority doles out, and there's enough that resonates with me to justify my attendance. I feel a peaceful and loving spirit there, and it is good for my soul to take part in that.

So I go.

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22 comments:

  1. "Man is that he may have joy." Go enjoy!

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  2. Well, I forgive you only if the church is not catholic.
    ...
    ...
    ...
    And the last thing you need is the forgiveness of a passing new atheist with a lot a free time.

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  3. Lately, I've been thinking it might be nice to have the community and structure that goes along with attending church... but I have difficulty suspending my disbelief.

    If it works for you, go with it.

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  4. evivimo, thanks for the forgiveness, though it is unneeded; it's an Episcopal church. :-)

    Arual, if you want a church community without mumbo jumbo, you might like the Unitarian Universalists. They're very non-dogmatic encouraging of free thought and variation between individual beliefs, and many of them are atheists.

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  5. And are they feeling ok with you going to their church? Do they know you don't believe?

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  6. You're relapsing, it happens. There are many communities that offer support, including rational ones that will still be here to welcome you when you come to your senses.

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  7. Luc, You know, it's never come up. No one there has ever asked me about what I do or don't believe. They've asked about work, interests, hobbies, family, stuff like that.

    Terry, If participating in something that feels like a good fit for me is relapsing, then consider me relapsed.

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  8. Thanks for answering Leah!
    Well, as long as they don't notice I guess it should be fine. It seems a nice place to hang out. I'm sorry I'm not very familiar with the kind of socializing stuff these congregations use to do though, I mean in my country all congregations just talk about religion all the time.

    Wow Terry, you have sounded just like religious people sound when they realize they won't convert you: "we will still be here to welcome you when you come to your senses." Scary.

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  9. You will be a blessing to whom ever you join. And I am sure you will get nothing but stronger in all the right ways !!
    Enjoy!

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  10. Luc, I'm sure my beliefs (or lack thereof) will come up sooner or later and I do intend to be straightforward about. If I am then shunned, that's their issue, not mine, but based on what I've experienced so far, I don't see that happening.

    Sabio, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement!

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  11. Luc, you're right. I said that badly - its personality flaw I'm working on. I apologize.

    My intent was to suggest that if someone is looking for support and community, there are lots of places to find it other than religious organizations. I should have stated that more directly.

    My personal feeling is that trying to be part of a group who's central tenant I can't accept (an irrational belief in a very specific God and all that goes with that) would be a very uncomfortable place to be. There would be countless moments where I would feel compelled to give my tacit agreement. I find that to be fundamentally degrading and dishonest.

    Whatever your future holds Leah, I wish you happiness and a fulfilling life. I've enjoyed reading your blog.

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  12. Terry, thanks for your honesty.

    You are very right that there are lots of non-religious places to find community. For me personally though, taking part in the service is what most appeals to me about attending this church. I find the ritual of it comforting even without belief. It's a psychological thing. I don't expect everyone to understand or agree, but it's working for me.

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  13. Wow, gotta say I didn't see that coming!

    Kind of fun though. It sounds like your own personal communities and personal experiences are continuing to grow. So that's a good thing!

    Keep up the journey!

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  14. This reminds me a lot of an achingly touching story that Dan Savage read for This American Life about returning to church (for a time) while staying a non-believing, wisecracking sex advice columnist.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/379/Return-To-The-Scene-Of-The-Crime

    Worth a listen--perhaps you will identify.
    It's Act Three, and starts at the 38:30 mark.

    -Q, lady librarman in New England. In light of your recent post asking for introductions: I'm spawn of a evolutionary-biology-loving scientist Lutheran sunday school teacher mother (who is still wicked pious and old-fashioned) ; an OCD flavor-of-the-week new ager stepmother-- homeopathy, TM, crystals, the works; and a hacker skeptic dad who was once involved in est.

    Go figure.

    I consider myself a secular humanist artist nerd, but thanks to the training in church history I got from my mom, I can quote hell of scripture. ;) I'm grateful for the sundry spiritual experiences, however deeply weird.

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  15. I found you through Blag Hag and am re-reading your blog. I have a former Mormon ex-boyfriend, wonderful guy, whom I'm going to point this way. The fact that I turned pagan and came out as a lesbian immediately upon breaking up with him (he remains my only ex boyfriend and the only ex I still talk to) may or may not be relevant.

    I had to comment because of those final two lines. I was raised Catholic, though not strict, and I still go to Midnight Mass every Christmas Eve at the church at which I was baptized.

    I go to keep a touchstone with the past - mom and I have been going without fail for more than 18 years, ever since I was old enough to stay awake that late. I go because the "wrong" chord in the experience, the part where everyone else proclaims their faith and I remain silent, is drowned out by the rest of the symphony of joy and peace and fellowship.

    I go because I still love some part of it, even though the Catholic church stands for so many things that wildly infuriate me.

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  16. annissa, thanks for your comment. I have a soft spot for Catholicism too, despite all its infuriating shortcomings. I just wrote a new post about it.

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  17. I found you through Blag Hag and am re-reading your blog. I have a former Mormon ex-boyfriend, wonderful guy, whom I'm going to point this way. The fact that I turned pagan and came out as a lesbian immediately upon breaking up with him (he remains my only ex boyfriend and the only ex I still talk to) may or may not be relevant.

    I had to comment because of those final two lines. I was raised Catholic, though not strict, and I still go to Midnight Mass every Christmas Eve at the church at which I was baptized.

    I go to keep a touchstone with the past - mom and I have been going without fail for more than 18 years, ever since I was old enough to stay awake that late. I go because the "wrong" chord in the experience, the part where everyone else proclaims their faith and I remain silent, is drowned out by the rest of the symphony of joy and peace and fellowship.

    I go because I still love some part of it, even though the Catholic church stands for so many things that wildly infuriate me.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This reminds me a lot of an achingly touching story that Dan Savage read for This American Life about returning to church (for a time) while staying a non-believing, wisecracking sex advice columnist.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/379/Return-To-The-Scene-Of-The-Crime

    Worth a listen--perhaps you will identify.
    It's Act Three, and starts at the 38:30 mark.

    -Q, lady librarman in New England. In light of your recent post asking for introductions: I'm spawn of a evolutionary-biology-loving scientist Lutheran sunday school teacher mother (who is still wicked pious and old-fashioned) ; an OCD flavor-of-the-week new ager stepmother-- homeopathy, TM, crystals, the works; and a hacker skeptic dad who was once involved in est.

    Go figure.

    I consider myself a secular humanist artist nerd, but thanks to the training in church history I got from my mom, I can quote hell of scripture. ;) I'm grateful for the sundry spiritual experiences, however deeply weird.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "Man is that he may have joy." Go enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Luc, you're right. I said that badly - its personality flaw I'm working on. I apologize.

    My intent was to suggest that if someone is looking for support and community, there are lots of places to find it other than religious organizations. I should have stated that more directly.

    My personal feeling is that trying to be part of a group who's central tenant I can't accept (an irrational belief in a very specific God and all that goes with that) would be a very uncomfortable place to be. There would be countless moments where I would feel compelled to give my tacit agreement. I find that to be fundamentally degrading and dishonest.

    Whatever your future holds Leah, I wish you happiness and a fulfilling life. I've enjoyed reading your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Do you drink Coke or Pepsi?
    ANSWER THE POLL and you could get a prepaid VISA gift card!

    ReplyDelete

Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism