My Particular Relationship With Religion

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My Particular Relationship With Religion

#1

Post by Apollo the Just » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:00 pm

I've been wanting to talk about this for a while but didn't know who to approach about it without raising the expectation that that person I approach then perform the role of answering all of these questions for me and solving my problems on my behalf, but these thoughts haven't gone away, so I've elected to post them here. It should be obvious, but this is all my personal, lived and breathed experience, is not meant as an attack on anyone or their beliefs; I'd like to open up the floor to hear from people who have (or do not have) religious affiliations and do in fact WANT to share, but I know stuff can get ugly and personal so I am trying to set a tone here of respect... but also of honesty.

I grew up in an agnostic-bordering-on-atheist household. My dad's dad was a hardcore atheist, and my dad is as well, but his mom was very traditional Catholic (they lived in France, Catholicism is very much part of the culture but not everyone practices of course). Regardless my dad took from his dad and is atheist to the core. My mom's parents are both deeply religious (also in the Christian faith but I'm unsure what sect), her dad was actually a practicing minister until the day he passed, but she has grown out of the faith and while she does believe in some sort of greater power or force she does not believe in or follow Christianity whatsoever anymore. As such I was raised secular, and I'm thankful for it because it's allowed me to experience all of the different faiths of the people around me on somewhat neutral grounds, if that makes sense. I was given the freedom and chance to have my own relationship to religion should I choose to do so. It very much made me grow up more enamored with fantasies and possibilities of magic and deciding for myself what I wanted to believe, which was dynamic and changed over time.

That said, I have a particular relationship with certain aspects of Christianity solely because of the cultural aspect. For example, I used to visit France every Christmas, and we would visit ancient churches with crêches (I didn't know there was an English word for them - nativity scene - until I was in high school lol) and light candles in memory of deceased loved ones. That experience was always very special for me. We made sure to light a candle and pray for my grandma once she passed because she was deeply Catholic and it would have been especially meaningful for her. I always found the experience of dedicating prayer and thought in a somber space through a ritual such as this was a powerful experience. Also, as someone who grew up playing classical cello, I performed in lots of Christian churches for various religious holidays and definitely find a lot of traditional music associated with the church to be really beautiful. A LOT of early influential music in Western Europe had its origins in religious composition - not to mention other arts. There is absolutely a cultural aspect of Christianity that I find beautiful.

But I've never had a relationship to it, and that's always felt kind of strange to me. Part of me wants to enjoy the cultural aspects of this religion but it feels wrong to do so without believing any of the messages themselves. Recently I considered attending a church just to experience this culture, and was reassured by someone who is a practicing member of the faith that there is no "wrong" reason to attend and should I feel the inclination I should feel welcome to follow through - but before doing so, I took a look at the website/doctrine/etc to see what I might expect and very viscerally remembered why I have always rejected it in the first place.

I do understand the idea of inherent sin, because now more than ever we're seeing how greedy and corrupt so many powerful people are and how just downright terrible humans can be. It felt like the kind of message that I could learn to relate to, that a GOOD and KIND and BENEVOLENT force may exist, may help us become less like a cesspool of **** and learn to love and be good to one another. But I kept reading, and the more I did the more distanced I became from the message that initially felt like it might have resonated. The definition of marriage as a man and a woman came up. The ideology that the man is the head of the household and must care for his family. These archaic values that I literally cannot reconcile with and refuse to reconcile with - they are inherent. I KNOW that some churches do not necessarily preach these values, but they ARE in the text, there is no separating inherent homophobia from the Christian Bible. I can't accept parts of it but not the rest. I can't turn off the parts of me that belongs to this community long enough to play get-along with a certain religion that has preached for centuries that people like me are wrong. There's also just the inherent feeling that people do not KNOW, cannot possibly understand God's plan, and therefore so many things are tests of faith - and this way of thinking, this ideology, is what has led to climate change denial and evolution denial and SO MANY OTHER THINGS! As someone who studied biology for my first two years of undergrad, I UNDERSTAND HOW EVOLUTION WORKS, I understand the mechanisms behind it and ALL of the HUNDREDS of unexplained mysteries that it draws together, I deeply identify as a SCIENTIST at heart and it actually REALLY **** SADDENS ME on a core level that faith is used to dismiss and demonize the lifelong work of these people who have found beautiful, important, INHERENTLY TRUE ANSWERS as to how our world works. There are truths in the Biblical text that directly contradict what we KNOW, scientifically, to be true about our world. I can't just dismiss that, either; I can't pretend to believe things about creation when I KNOW that the cross-field understanding of almost every geological and biological study reveals that it is false. I can't reconcile the kind of thinking that ignores progress and understanding because it does not align with what is told. I have so much respect for the centuries - MILLENNIA - of passionate work scientists have pursued, always questioning what we know to be true in pursuit of more understanding, that I'm honestly tearing up at the prospect that faith may encourage denial of their lifelong passionate and inspired and rigorous and DIFFICULT work.

In addition to this, I simply can't see - I've tried, and I just can't - any faiths (not just Christianity, any of them) as uniquely true. There are SO MANY similarities across different faiths' stories of creation and other myths that scholars use these to draw historical conclusions about ancient cultures. I can see the Bible, as with any ancient religious text, as an important cultural and historical work - but I can't pretend I believe any one such work is special because I can't pretend I don't see the inherent similarities scholars have pointed out between all of the world's cultural myths; I find all religions to be beautiful and fascinating and important but I just can't pretend that I believe in any of them, or that there is any one that is truth rendering all of the others merely symbolic. [EDIT: not to mention there is also such VARIETY AND DIFFERENCE in different faiths, as well. My roommate comes from a Taiwanese background and they have told me a lot about Taiwanese beliefs and superstitions, etc. It's so beautiful and so fascinating but I can't agree that one of these is right and the other is wrong - I just believe them all to be reflections of culture and history.] I find them all symbolic and representative of the cultures that created them.

The extent of my spirituality, as it stands now, is that I use Tarot cards as a way to answer questions about myself and my thoughts/philosophies/troubles. I don't even necessarily believe there is any specific higher power involved, more than anything I find the cards to be really useful tools because the associated images force me to address whatever my question(s) is/are from the lens of the specific card being pulled. I find the images resonate with me very well and there is a sort of spiritual or emotional fulfillment involved in the process of looking inward using these cards as a guide. That said, there HAVE certainly been several times when a very, very specific card arises in a very, very specific circumstance, or when I have dreams after sleeping with a particular card on top of my pillow. Is that a higher power? Or is that just the images resonating with me /my subconscious? I don't really know. I don't know that I'll ever actually know. But so far, these cards are the only spiritual or religious tool that I have found truly works for me, because they don't demand that I adhere to any particular belief or doctrine or set of morals: they simply are a tool that I respect and use to find answers for myself, and that more than anything else I have tried is very rewarding.

End. I don't know what I wanted to express here, other than some deep-seated personal frustrations and internal debates I've had for ages and never really externalized. I was always afraid voicing these frustrations would offend Christians I know. But that isn't healthy! It's my honest feelings and I should feel free to express them. So here they are. Anyone else is free to share their thoughts but I know it can get personal so no one is obligated.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#2

Post by smol Kat » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:32 pm

For my background, one side of my family is deeply Protestant (mostly Baptist, but a couple members of my family attend Methodist churches and my cousin was recently confirmed in the Lutheran church) and the other is deeply Catholic. As a result, growing up we attended various different churches but not regularly; additionally we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South when I was 7. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore different denominations but I also came to the conclusion that none of them is right for me. I fully accept and acknowledge that this may have a lot to do with growing up in the Bible Belt, though, as some Southern Baptist churches teach things that I find to be downright disturbing at times (such as the things you mention in your own post, AJ). But anyway.

My dad tends to be more like you, AJ, spiritual rather than religious (although, full disclosure, it has been a few years since he and I talked about our beliefs). My mom started attending a Methodist church within the past couple years because she thought it would help her anxiety; it does seem to do that, and I've been to church with her when I visit and I like the congregation and pastor a lot (he does a great job reconciling religion and science, which she and I both very much appreciate). But it still isn't /me/.

I believe in infinity (both in terms of how the universe exists/works and how worldly events come to pass) rather than a quantifiable higher power, which I guess qualifies me as agnostic? I dunno--that's the closest thing I could ever call a higher power.
In addition to this, I simply can't see - I've tried, and I just can't - any faiths (not just Christianity, any of them) as uniquely true.
I think this is kind of the point: What one faith can provide for one person could do diddly squat for another. None of them are inherently or exclusively true--they're right for any given person... if that makes sense. =)
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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#3

Post by Apollo the Just » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:36 pm

smol Kat wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:32 pm
I think this is kind of the point: What one faith can provide for one person could do diddly squat for another. None of them are inherently or exclusively true--they're right for any given person... if that makes sense. =)
That's a great way to think of it. I'm afraid I might have come off as overly critical and made a lot of sweeping generalizations about Christianity in my original post, but as it was kind of a vent that was about 26 years internalized, I suppose that's what you get when it finally comes out. Thanks for your response, I found it really insightful. :)

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#4

Post by smol Kat » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:59 pm

I didn't think of it as overly critical (although, again, I have a very similar perspective). Just another way to think about it. :3
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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#5

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:02 am

You know, this seems like a good place to post my most recently procured deck:

Image

The deck is called the "Sacred Geometry" Oracle deck, and whilst I don't particularly believe in all the concepts associated with Sacred Geometry, I *do* find geometric patterns and their associated mathematic formulae/concepts both beautiful and fascinating, and I think it is absolutely mind-bogglingly incredible that these inherent formulas and numbers and patterns are found occurring throughout nature and space. So this deck really resonates with me because these are the kinds of images and symbols that I personally find to be captivating and thought-provoking. Also the colors are gorgeous.

EDIT: there does tend to be fetishizing of Eastern cultures, philosophy, and religions in a lot of "occult" imagery (for example the Yin/Yang pictured), so I try to be conscious/critical of that and when possible educate myself on their origins without just using Western sources as the be-all end-all of their meaning and interpretation. But I suppose it's just as fair for someone to criticize my own tool(s) that I use for these and other reasons, as it is for me to criticize the aspects of other religions that push me away from them. Like Kat says, it's a personal thing.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#6

Post by steeze » Sat Aug 24, 2019 9:36 am

Couldn't agree with you more Apollo. Identify with the science of the world much more than any scriptures and I was born and raised Roman Catholic. Even went to a catholic hs. Religions been used as a tool for centuries whether it be for war or the government. Whole bunch of hokie pokie for the masses. Hard pass for me.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#7

Post by Marilink » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:44 am

Since I saw this thread go up last night, I've been going back and forth in my head as to whether or not I wanted to reply to it. But I feel like since most of y'all know who I am and what I'm about, I feel like my silence would speak loudly, perhaps more than I wanted it to say. This kind of thread always makes me nervous, which is why I debated not saying anything. I love you all and value all of your friendships. But I know that my religion, occupation, and really the core of my identity as a person are off-putting, to some degree. And I know I haven't always expressed myself well or fairly in the past.

So I just want to give a few raw reactions to some of the things I've read so far. Not meaning to single you out, AJ, yours is just the post that I've mulled over the most since I read it first.
but she has grown out of the faith
This phrasing is so common, and I know you didn't mean anything by it, but it always makes me sad. Same with the ever-so-common, "I was raised Catholic." There's an implication when people talk like this; maybe I'm making it up or it's a persecution complex. When someone says "I grew out of my religious upbringing," I hear, "Religion is for immature people, and I have no more need of it." Or when I hear "I was raised Catholic," the automatic assumption is "But I'm past that stuff now."

Like I said, maybe that's unfair of me to pin those assumptions, especially when you and Kat went to great lengths at the end of your posts to say that you are happy for religious people for their own spiritual benefit and whatnot. But the prevailing thought I get from many people I talk to about these things is that we, as a society, should move on from religion. And as you might have guessed, I fundamentally disagree with that. I believe and confess that God does not change; why should society "grow out of" an eternal, unchanging God?


There are truths in the Biblical text that directly contradict what we KNOW, scientifically, to be true about our world. I can't just dismiss that, either; I can't pretend to believe things about creation when I KNOW that the cross-field understanding of almost every geological and biological study reveals that it is false.
Not to ignore this larger paragraph, but I did want to focus on this excerpt here. I agree with you that much of Christianity and its history has been unfairly antagonistic and biased against science and scientists. There's a large sector of Christians who make a false dichotomy of "faith vs. science." But that false dichotomy is also reinforced by non-Christians, and it is a dichotomy that remains false. When I teach my students about science is what I learned in Christian schools all through my education: science is how we discover the truths about the world God has given us. And I believe it's fully possible to believe in both a God who created the universe in six days and the scientific discoveries we've found about the world he made.

The premise you have in this paragraph is that science proves the Bible false. My inference here is that therefore anyone who studies science would gain this understanding and realize that the Bible is a lie. The thing is, though, some of the smartest people I've ever met have been Christians, and I personally know geologists, biologists, astronomers, and plenty of other people in different scientific fields who still strongly identify as Christians and confess faith in a creator God. What I'm trying to say is that the dichotomy of faith vs. science remains false, whether it's propagated from the Christian side or the opposite.

Have Christians used the Bible to suppress, quiet, and discourage scientific discovery? Absolutely, in the present age and throughout history. And that sucks. So I totally understand why you feel the way you do here. But many intelligent, scientifically-minded people have studied much more than I have and still find harmony between the Bible and what they've learned. While recognizing the faults of people, groups, sects, and churches who have taken things too far, I think we need to come to a better mutual understanding that these things are not diametrically opposed.


I KNOW that some churches do not necessarily preach these values, but they ARE in the text, there is no separating inherent homophobia from the Christian Bible. I can't accept parts of it but not the rest.
I really respect your take on this. People are very willing to pick and choose what parts of the Bible they say come from God and the parts that they say don't. But the Bible is a unified book, so picking and choosing is antithetic to believing. You recognize that better than many.

I imagine that when your practicing Christian friend recommended these admittedly conservative churches to you, they did so knowing your ideals and your identity, and they were more than a little concerned that you would come into sharp conflict with the teachings of the Bible like the ones you've mentioned. But that person must have thought that there was something valuable worth sharing with you at those churches that they wanted you to hear.

So even if you understandably clash with some of those more conservative religious teachings, I'd still say it might be worth searching for a church that aligns more with your world view. Because that friend of yours wanted you to hear about Jesus more than anything. Ancillary doctrines and differences of interpretation aside, it sounds like that practicing Christian friend of yours wanted you, above all, to hear the gospel. Because that's what the Christian church is all about, at its core. Or at least, it should be. And if you can find a church that proclaims the Good News and also aligns with your personal ideologies, I'd say it's worth exploring.

Christianity is about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. He had a lot of other teachings, and the Bible is a really big book with a lot of other things in it, but the heart and core of the lore is simply that God sent his Son into the world to become a man, live a perfect life, and die an unfair death of self-sacrifice to take the punishment for sins on himself. Then, three days later, he rose again and conquered death itself, promising and guaranteeing that everyone who believes in him would be forgiven of their sins because of his work and sacrifice, and that all who are brought to faith in him would similarly conquer death after death and be brought with him to heaven. Any and every Christian church should be keeping this message as its primary proclamation, front-and-center, all the time. Jesus came to save sinners. To save you, to save me.

There may be a lot of other things about Christianity that you find unsatisfactory, contradictory, even abhorrent. And there's a lot in my post you may want to respond to and call me out on. Fair, I get it, and I'm willing to engage here. But I really don't want to have this discussion without clearly conveying what your practicing Christian friend wanted you to hear, and that's the message of Jesus and what he did for all humankind of all time. The Church as an institution has done a magnificent job of screwing that up and obscuring that beautiful message throughout its history. God forbid I do the same.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#8

Post by I am nobody » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:03 pm

ML, I can't speak for everyone here, but for what it's worth, I value your perspective in these discussions. I doubt we'll ever agree on whether there's any truth in religion, but to the extent that I know you, you've always seemed to make an earnest effort to live the positive ideals of your faith. There are a lot people out there who make very loud, very hypocritical shows of their faith for personal gain out there, and there've been plenty of times when I've thought of you or other VGFers to remind myself that they're not representative of all religious people.


I'm sure I've told this story before, but my mom's family is (was?) fundamentalist Southern Baptist. They practically lived at church, were trapped in a bad situation by the belief that divorce was sinful, believed that the antichrist had appeared at least twice, and were fed nonsensical lies about science, like that all dinosaur skeletons were somehow made of pig bones. She was the first in the family to go to college, and even though it was still an extremely religious college, it was comparatively liberal enough to show how obviously false much of what she'd been told about science and morality was. She was still quite religious for a long time, enough so that we went to church (I forget which) every week until we moved when I was around 7. Even though we stopped attending a church then (she couldn't find another she liked), we still had pretty strong beliefs for a few more years. I've never asked exactly what finally tipped the scale for her - it could've been her interest in cosmology or learning biology and earth science again as part of homeschooling my sibling and I - but I should really do that.

My dad was Catholic and went to a succession of Catholic schools through his MBA, but I've always gotten the feeling that had more to do with Irish ancestry rather than any particularly strong belief. It's hard to tell, though, because the sex abuse scandals were already widespread by the time I was old enough to think about my parent's beliefs, and he's hardly ever brought up religion except to express disgust at how the Church had and continues to handle those scandals.

Personally, I just realized one day when I was eleven or so that I had nothing to support what religion was telling me and, regardless, didn't need its explanations to understand anything I cared about in the world. Which sounds a bit robotic, and there was certainly a more gradual erosion of belief before that, but it ultimately came down to an abrupt moment of realizing I didn't believe any of it anymore. By the next time religion came up again, we'd all more or less gotten to the same place on our own.

Religion hasn't been a thing for me since then. I'm not spiritual at all, so unless someone else brings it up, I don't think about it.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#9

Post by Marilink » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:21 pm

Much appreciated, Ian.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#10

Post by smol Kat » Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:32 pm

^^This. ML, I very much respect and appreciate your perspective, specifically because it's so vastly different from my own.
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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#11

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:38 pm

ML, I'm grateful that you took the time to respond here - I'm sorry if you felt pressured to in any way but your perspective makes this much more of a dialogue than it would be without, so your input is invaluable. I'm going to try and be as thoughtful and honest as I can in response to what you've said and I really appreciate your input.
Marilink wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:44 am
This phrasing is so common, and I know you didn't mean anything by it, but it always makes me sad. Same with the ever-so-common, "I was raised Catholic." There's an implication when people talk like this; maybe I'm making it up or it's a persecution complex. When someone says "I grew out of my religious upbringing," I hear, "Religion is for immature people, and I have no more need of it." Or when I hear "I was raised Catholic," the automatic assumption is "But I'm past that stuff now."

Like I said, maybe that's unfair of me to pin those assumptions, especially when you and Kat went to great lengths at the end of your posts to say that you are happy for religious people for their own spiritual benefit and whatnot. But the prevailing thought I get from many people I talk to about these things is that we, as a society, should move on from religion. And as you might have guessed, I fundamentally disagree with that. I believe and confess that God does not change; why should society "grow out of" an eternal, unchanging God?
I can now certainly understand why it would come off this way. For what it's worth, my intention behind the phrasing was not meant to imply anything about maturity - I meant it in much the same way I do when I say I "grew out of" some of my old hobbies... they were once important to me, but as I changed as a person, so did my relationship(s) to them and they aren't any more. I guess there still is a kind of underlying assumption that what I "grew into" is somehow better or more mature, but I don't really see it that way, growth is just something that happens over time as our priorities change and there is no falsehood about the fact that my mom used to have a relationship with Christianity in her youth that she doesn't anymore. I hope at least this clarifies my intention in using the phrasing, but I certainly understand why it might not sit right with you and I'm of course not asking that you be okay with it.
Not to ignore this larger paragraph, but I did want to focus on this excerpt here. I agree with you that much of Christianity and its history has been unfairly antagonistic and biased against science and scientists. There's a large sector of Christians who make a false dichotomy of "faith vs. science." But that false dichotomy is also reinforced by non-Christians, and it is a dichotomy that remains false. When I teach my students about science is what I learned in Christian schools all through my education: science is how we discover the truths about the world God has given us. And I believe it's fully possible to believe in both a God who created the universe in six days and the scientific discoveries we've found about the world he made.

The premise you have in this paragraph is that science proves the Bible false. My inference here is that therefore anyone who studies science would gain this understanding and realize that the Bible is a lie. The thing is, though, some of the smartest people I've ever met have been Christians, and I personally know geologists, biologists, astronomers, and plenty of other people in different scientific fields who still strongly identify as Christians and confess faith in a creator God. What I'm trying to say is that the dichotomy of faith vs. science remains false, whether it's propagated from the Christian side or the opposite.

Have Christians used the Bible to suppress, quiet, and discourage scientific discovery? Absolutely, in the present age and throughout history. And that sucks. So I totally understand why you feel the way you do here. But many intelligent, scientifically-minded people have studied much more than I have and still find harmony between the Bible and what they've learned. While recognizing the faults of people, groups, sects, and churches who have taken things too far, I think we need to come to a better mutual understanding that these things are not diametrically opposed.
This is something that I had in the back of my mind when I was writing the post, actually... I do, fully, agree that the two do not have to be in dichotomy. And part of me regretted posting such a fervent "science vs. religion" essay, with the implication that somehow religious people cannot be scientific and are as a result more intelligent, which is an incredibly elitist and discriminatory thing to say. I appreciate that you saw the core frustrations behind my post, but it is still completely valid to call apart this line of thought. As I mentioned to Kat, I'm afraid it came off more abrasive than I intended because I hadn't realized the extent to which I more or less internalized these frustrations for so long because I didn't want to start anything, but as a result I wasn't being honest with anyone.

I have to ask, though (I'm aware this is putting more pressure on you specifically as the only practicing Christian in this thread, and of course you aren't obligated to answer but I'm afraid I've somewhat put you in the position to. Please believe me when I say you don't have to engage if this becomes exhausting for you at any time): how would one reconcile a God who created Earth in 6 days with what we know about geology and astronomy? The physical creation of the Earth in space took 10-20 million years. How would one reconcile the Creation stories with what we know about biology? I suppose, to me, the problem is that when faced with a Biblical truth that is at odds with something we learn about our universe, I cannot personally condone or even understand the line of thought that follows faith in such a circumstance, because I personally find it to be dismissive of all of the hard and passionate work of these scientists. Am I still seeing a dichotomy when there isn't one? I really can't find a way to reconcile these, even still.
I imagine that when your practicing Christian friend recommended these admittedly conservative churches to you, they did so knowing your ideals and your identity, and they were more than a little concerned that you would come into sharp conflict with the teachings of the Bible like the ones you've mentioned. But that person must have thought that there was something valuable worth sharing with you at those churches that they wanted you to hear.

So even if you understandably clash with some of those more conservative religious teachings, I'd still say it might be worth searching for a church that aligns more with your world view. Because that friend of yours wanted you to hear about Jesus more than anything. Ancillary doctrines and differences of interpretation aside, it sounds like that practicing Christian friend of yours wanted you, above all, to hear the gospel. Because that's what the Christian church is all about, at its core. Or at least, it should be. And if you can find a church that proclaims the Good News and also aligns with your personal ideologies, I'd say it's worth exploring.

Christianity is about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. He had a lot of other teachings, and the Bible is a really big book with a lot of other things in it, but the heart and core of the lore is simply that God sent his Son into the world to become a man, live a perfect life, and die an unfair death of self-sacrifice to take the punishment for sins on himself. Then, three days later, he rose again and conquered death itself, promising and guaranteeing that everyone who believes in him would be forgiven of their sins because of his work and sacrifice, and that all who are brought to faith in him would similarly conquer death after death and be brought with him to heaven. Any and every Christian church should be keeping this message as its primary proclamation, front-and-center, all the time. Jesus came to save sinners. To save you, to save me.
I do appreciate this. I still think that the core of my original post's frustrations was... recognizing that at the very core of the faith for which I have a certain cultural respect and fondness, are a lot of ideals I have never been able to support or grasp. Of course every church is different, but what I actually liked about the incredibly conservative church I was looking at initially was that it took every part of the scripture and the culture seriously. I'm still hurt and saddened by many of the values preached therein, but that kind of dedication to the text lends it a stronger identity, if that makes sense; simply one I don't think I'll *ever* follow. I have seen plenty more modern and progressive churches, but they honestly feel so divorced from the Biblical text that they almost feel like a different religion about the same God. Which I suppose one could argue they are - it wouldn't be the first time, looking at Judaism and Islam, and of course the multiple varying sects of Christianity - but the more modern churches are also as a result much farther from the aspects of the religion that I still find to be appealing and beautiful. I have been wrestling with the traditional values that I have no desire to form any relationship with, and the traditional culture which I find nostalgic and pleasant.

I think it might be best for me to visit the French cathedrals when I'm there as I always have and recognize that, for the other parts of my life at least, this faith is not something that feels right to me. Even if a church doesn't preach marriage between a man and a woman, I still know it's there in the same text as the loving Jesus they speak of.
There may be a lot of other things about Christianity that you find unsatisfactory, contradictory, even abhorrent. And there's a lot in my post you may want to respond to and call me out on. Fair, I get it, and I'm willing to engage here. But I really don't want to have this discussion without clearly conveying what your practicing Christian friend wanted you to hear, and that's the message of Jesus and what he did for all humankind of all time. The Church as an institution has done a magnificent job of screwing that up and obscuring that beautiful message throughout its history. God forbid I do the same.
Again, I really do appreciate this, and I really appreciate your engagement and it isn't taken for granted - I know from experience how much emotional energy it requires to be pretty much the sole voice in ""opposition"" to a given topic (that's not the right word but I hope you get what I mean), so I am grateful to you taking the time to respond. Me saying "you don't have to respond to this" is of course empty, because I know that makes it feel like someone else "got the last word," but I really hope I come across as genuine here when I say you aren't obligated to respond and I won't think less of you NOR will I assume you're in agreement or even okay with what I've expressed. It's a personal and complicated topic.

I still might check out one of the progressive congregations in my area sometime, maybe for one of the holiday services. I'm sure it comes off as petty for me to have decided Christianity isn't for me without actually having followed through with the promise to attend. But I think it was the correct decision, because even without attending, I finally realized the root of what it is that didn't feel right, the thing that I was struggling with.... it's that the traditional and ancient culture of Christianity is something I love from a distance but I deeply associate it with values and ideals I fundamentally disagree with. I know it's easy to judge something as an outsider without actually attempting to engage with it, but I have attended several services throughout my life and always felt like a bit of a heathen for being there listening to what was being said without believing any of it. I think the answer I was looking for was simply that I don't agree with it, but I still do find it beautiful, and that both of these are true to me at the same time.

That said, I fully agree that the message of Christianity at its core is one of love and salvation, and that's definitely something we could all use. So thank you for bringing that priority back to light.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#12

Post by smol Kat » Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:18 pm

Apollo, I'm not sure if this will help you, but I've talked about this kind of thing with squeege at length. The conclusion he's come to is that a higher power created the universe and everything therein, but that power did so in ways that are easily reconcilable with science.
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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#13

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:34 pm

To be fully honest in this thread I should admit (as anyone who was online in 2006 here probably witnessed firsthand) that I was definitely one of those Edgy Atheists TM in middle school who went around being like "oh you believe in the INVISIBLE FRIEND IN THE SKY lololol how low your IQ must be" - well not that bad but the same idea. I thankfully un-learned that behavior, partly from my mom and partly from talking to practicing Christians and learning to not be an *******. But as a result I kind of went in the other direction of not being fully honest with my still ever present internal problems(? this is not the right word but I can't put my finger on what is) with the faith and it took a while to work out where I'm truly at with respect to it all. So that's where this thread is coming from but I'd be full of **** if I claimed I was always super kind and respectful and understanding because uhh that is proooooovably false.

--

^ that makes sense. I suppose in the same way I think there's something magical and powerful about the patterns that recur in our universe, envisioning that kind of higher, universal governing force in the form of a deity I can certainly see.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#14

Post by mushroom » Sat Aug 24, 2019 6:17 pm

I was super Dawkins-style atheist thru my teens and early twenties and was absolutely insufferable, but then I started reading a lot of Wittgenstein, who himself claimed not to be a religious man but talked a bit about Christianity and had respect for it, and over the years studying his philosophy eventually opened up for me a practical basis for religious belief. So in the past few months I've started going to an Episcopal church and praying every morning, and I'm slowly making my way through the Gospels and it's been very beneficial to my life thus far, though my theology at current is probably pretty liberal even compared to most Episcopalians.

AJ, if you're interested I highly recommend finding a good church and just trying it out. You definitely don't have to go in believing everything the Bible says, and if you find a relatively theologically liberal church (such as an Episcopal church) then you probably shouldn't feel very many judgemental eyes on you or any fire-and-brimstone style preaching.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#15

Post by Marilink » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:08 pm

Thanks for the support, everyone. I guess I'm just still burned from the last incident when religion came up in an extended way on VGF and I legitimately lost a friend over it. =/
Apollo the Just wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:38 pm
I can now certainly understand why it would come off this way. For what it's worth, my intention behind the phrasing was not meant to imply anything about maturity - I meant it in much the same way I do when I say I "grew out of" some of my old hobbies... they were once important to me, but as I changed as a person, so did my relationship(s) to them and they aren't any more. I guess there still is a kind of underlying assumption that what I "grew into" is somehow better or more mature, but I don't really see it that way, growth is just something that happens over time as our priorities change and there is no falsehood about the fact that my mom used to have a relationship with Christianity in her youth that she doesn't anymore. I hope at least this clarifies my intention in using the phrasing, but I certainly understand why it might not sit right with you and I'm of course not asking that you be okay with it.
I get you. For what it's worth, I wasn't mad at you for using this phrasing or anything, but more commenting on the fact that I've seen it so frequently and it always makes me a little sad. That was more of an opportunity for me to vent, hah.
This is something that I had in the back of my mind when I was writing the post, actually... I do, fully, agree that the two do not have to be in dichotomy. And part of me regretted posting such a fervent "science vs. religion" essay, with the implication that somehow religious people cannot be scientific and are as a result more intelligent, which is an incredibly elitist and discriminatory thing to say. I appreciate that you saw the core frustrations behind my post, but it is still completely valid to call apart this line of thought. As I mentioned to Kat, I'm afraid it came off more abrasive than I intended because I hadn't realized the extent to which I more or less internalized these frustrations for so long because I didn't want to start anything, but as a result I wasn't being honest with anyone.

I have to ask, though (I'm aware this is putting more pressure on you specifically as the only practicing Christian in this thread, and of course you aren't obligated to answer but I'm afraid I've somewhat put you in the position to. Please believe me when I say you don't have to engage if this becomes exhausting for you at any time): how would one reconcile a God who created Earth in 6 days with what we know about geology and astronomy? The physical creation of the Earth in space took 10-20 million years. How would one reconcile the Creation stories with what we know about biology? I suppose, to me, the problem is that when faced with a Biblical truth that is at odds with something we learn about our universe, I cannot personally condone or even understand the line of thought that follows faith in such a circumstance, because I personally find it to be dismissive of all of the hard and passionate work of these scientists. Am I still seeing a dichotomy when there isn't one? I really can't find a way to reconcile these, even still.
To expand on what @smol Kat said:

Let's assume a six-day creation for this argument. When God created people, he didn't create babies, but adults. He didn't plant seeds, he made trees. He didn't make eggs, he made animals that walked around. So if God created fully mature creatures, what's to stop him from creating a fully mature earth?

Science has a fundamental assumption that the laws of physics are constant and that things always work in the same way. Which is good, because they do. But what science can't account for is if there were a God who created a world as if it were in medias res. The universe looks billions of years old because God created it in a mature state. He also created the laws of physics and how everything in nature and the universe functions. Science would never be able to address such an origin point, a creation of things that appear already in progress or even fully mature.

So that's the reconciliation. There's also the Flood, which was not only a worldwide flood but a fundamental restructuring of how the earth looked and worked. But sometimes Christian-minded scientists rely a little too much on the Flood as a sort of catch-all, and I try not to overuse it. I much prefer to look at a God who created a fully mature world ex nihilo and work from there.
I do appreciate this. I still think that the core of my original post's frustrations was... recognizing that at the very core of the faith for which I have a certain cultural respect and fondness, are a lot of ideals I have never been able to support or grasp. Of course every church is different, but what I actually liked about the incredibly conservative church I was looking at initially was that it took every part of the scripture and the culture seriously. I'm still hurt and saddened by many of the values preached therein, but that kind of dedication to the text lends it a stronger identity, if that makes sense; simply one I don't think I'll *ever* follow. I have seen plenty more modern and progressive churches, but they honestly feel so divorced from the Biblical text that they almost feel like a different religion about the same God. Which I suppose one could argue they are - it wouldn't be the first time, looking at Judaism and Islam, and of course the multiple varying sects of Christianity - but the more modern churches are also as a result much farther from the aspects of the religion that I still find to be appealing and beautiful. I have been wrestling with the traditional values that I have no desire to form any relationship with, and the traditional culture which I find nostalgic and pleasant.

I think it might be best for me to visit the French cathedrals when I'm there as I always have and recognize that, for the other parts of my life at least, this faith is not something that feels right to me. Even if a church doesn't preach marriage between a man and a woman, I still know it's there in the same text as the loving Jesus they speak of.

Again, I really do appreciate this, and I really appreciate your engagement and it isn't taken for granted - I know from experience how much emotional energy it requires to be pretty much the sole voice in ""opposition"" to a given topic (that's not the right word but I hope you get what I mean), so I am grateful to you taking the time to respond. Me saying "you don't have to respond to this" is of course empty, because I know that makes it feel like someone else "got the last word," but I really hope I come across as genuine here when I say you aren't obligated to respond and I won't think less of you NOR will I assume you're in agreement or even okay with what I've expressed. It's a personal and complicated topic.

I still might check out one of the progressive congregations in my area sometime, maybe for one of the holiday services. I'm sure it comes off as petty for me to have decided Christianity isn't for me without actually having followed through with the promise to attend. But I think it was the correct decision, because even without attending, I finally realized the root of what it is that didn't feel right, the thing that I was struggling with.... it's that the traditional and ancient culture of Christianity is something I love from a distance but I deeply associate it with values and ideals I fundamentally disagree with. I know it's easy to judge something as an outsider without actually attempting to engage with it, but I have attended several services throughout my life and always felt like a bit of a heathen for being there listening to what was being said without believing any of it. I think the answer I was looking for was simply that I don't agree with it, but I still do find it beautiful, and that both of these are true to me at the same time.

That said, I fully agree that the message of Christianity at its core is one of love and salvation, and that's definitely something we could all use. So thank you for bringing that priority back to light.
You know, it might be worth reading the gospels at some point. That way you're interacting with the text not through the lens of an institution, but on your own. I'm not sure what experience you have in reading the Bible, but I always say it's worth picking up and checking out. I always recommend people start with Luke and Acts, fwiw.

This has been a good discussion. I appreciate you all.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#16

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:18 pm

Marilink wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:08 pm
Thanks for the support, everyone. I guess I'm just still burned from the last incident when religion came up in an extended way on VGF and I legitimately lost a friend over it. =/
Completely understandable and I really hope this has been a better experience for you, because your insight is really valuable. But I know this can be difficult to talk about because it's so personal. So, again, I appreciate you coming forward.
I get you. For what it's worth, I wasn't mad at you for using this phrasing or anything, but more commenting on the fact that I've seen it so frequently and it always makes me a little sad. That was more of an opportunity for me to vent, hah.
Considering this entire topic was made for me to vent, I definitely get that, and I can understand why it would come off as saddening to you given your perspective.
To expand on what @smol Kat said:

Let's assume a six-day creation for this argument. When God created people, he didn't create babies, but adults. He didn't plant seeds, he made trees. He didn't make eggs, he made animals that walked around. So if God created fully mature creatures, what's to stop him from creating a fully mature earth?

Science has a fundamental assumption that the laws of physics are constant and that things always work in the same way. Which is good, because they do. But what science can't account for is if there were a God who created a world as if it were in medias res. The universe looks billions of years old because God created it in a mature state. He also created the laws of physics and how everything in nature and the universe functions. Science would never be able to address such an origin point, a creation of things that appear already in progress or even fully mature.

So that's the reconciliation. There's also the Flood, which was not only a worldwide flood but a fundamental restructuring of how the earth looked and worked. But sometimes Christian-minded scientists rely a little too much on the Flood as a sort of catch-all, and I try not to overuse it. I much prefer to look at a God who created a fully mature world ex nihilo and work from there.
Wow. This is a perspective I haven't heard before and I find it really interesting. I still can't help but fundamentally feel on some level that it is dismissive of some really incredible discoveries about space and such, but I would have never thought to consider things this way. That all of our discovers are true and hold true with how the universe works now, but it is possible that things were created differently and set up to behave this way. Thank you for this, that's honestly pretty cool.
You know, it might be worth reading the gospels at some point. That way you're interacting with the text not through the lens of an institution, but on your own. I'm not sure what experience you have in reading the Bible, but I always say it's worth picking up and checking out. I always recommend people start with Luke and Acts, fwiw.
You know, I think you're right. There's no way I wouldn't get something out of it one way or another. That's a good recommendation.
This has been a good discussion. I appreciate you all.
Fully agreed, and I you, good sir!!!

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#17

Post by March » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:31 pm

I wish I could be as eloquent as ML was, but I just want to echo his thoughts on Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. There are so many different denominations of Christianity, because of disagreements on doctrine, teachings, etc. But Jesus is the core. And you can get that regardless of how conservative or progressive a church is.

Hopefully that makes sense, I'm usually pretty hesitant to speak up in topics like this.

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You might say I think the explanation is a bit of a... fig leaf

#18

Post by Deku Tree » Sat Aug 24, 2019 11:27 pm

I've never really taken to the "Earth was created old" apologetics. I get the extrapolation from the idea that Adam and Eve were created mature, but I don't figure they were created with scars from injuries they never suffered, which is what the explanation requires having happened to the planet. It's creation not only mature, but with a superfluous false history that's conveniently identical to a history you might get with a planet created according to physical laws.

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Re: You might say I think the explanation is a bit of a... fig leaf

#19

Post by Apollo the Just » Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:51 am

Deku Tree wrote:
Sat Aug 24, 2019 11:27 pm
I've never really taken to the "Earth was created old" apologetics. I get the extrapolation from the idea that Adam and Eve were created mature, but I don't figure they were created with scars from injuries they never suffered, which is what the explanation requires having happened to the planet. It's creation not only mature, but with a superfluous false history that's conveniently identical to a history you might get with a planet created according to physical laws.
I do feel you on this (I mentioned in an earlier post that it still doesn't quite sit right to me), but I think at the moment I am okay meeting someone at this particular middle ground, where we both agree that the laws of physics are accurate, universal, and true, and that scientific discoveries pointing to an ancient cosmic history are valid and rigorous, but one of us happens to believe that a God created a mature Earth that appears to have this history.... over someone who denies and shuns the work of these scientists because it contradicts their beliefs. Given a viewpoint that disagrees with me over the potential intervention of a divine force but still treats scientific discovery with due respect, I think I can accept that, even if I do not agree.

This is obviously assuming I interpreted ML correctly. Don't mean to speak on his behalf.

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Re: My Particular Relationship With Religion

#20

Post by CaptHayfever » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:01 am

My take on the creation story is a bit different:
In the gospels, Jesus preaches almost exclusively in parables when he's in public, giving the explicit meaning of each only to the apostles later on. When one of the apostles asks him why, Jesus responds that most people weren't ready for the full truth of his message yet & needed the metaphors of parables to process it. Jesus is God. Ergo, God speaks to the crowds in parables to deliver messages they weren't ready for yet. People of Moses's time definitely weren't ready for evolutionary theory or astrophysics. The creation account is a parable.

And remember, "I'm-a Luigi, number one!"

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