Thinking About Choosing My Religion

24 06 2008

In reality, I am an atheist. This makes this week’s topic — If you had to pick a new religion, which one would it be, and why? — a bit of a challenge.

I could just skip this one but that seemed wrong. Surely, I can be open-minded enough to imagine I am a member of some religion or other. Surely. . . . ??

I could just lie about being comfortable enough with one sect or another. I figure, in my atheist way, that that’s what a lot of people do. Can all of those people who say they believe in a god, 82% according to this Harris Poll or 92% according to this Pew Poll, be telling the truth? Surely not.

Surely some have gone along with what was presented as they grew up, perhaps questioning but not making a fuss about their doubts. Not speaking out about how wacky their religion sounds.

Because, I have to tell you, they do. When you come at them from the outside and shop around, as I have been doing in a non-scientific catch-as-catch-can way for this assignment, the oddities of each particular belief system are startling.

I’ll go to a website to read about a religion and find references to every sort of fairy story. It’s turtles, all the way down, no matter where you start.

Then I jumped over to the Unitarian Universalist page.

I have to give some credit to a religion that makes it all the way through their set of principles with only one “God” reference and that is to “God’s love” and the Golden Rule.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

They don’t seem to have anything too frightening or bizarre that they teach the children either, setting aside the whole belief in a god thing.

The kids get posters or stickers saying:

1. Each person is important.
2. Be kind in all you do.
3. We’re free to learn together.
4. We search for what is true.
5. All people need a voice.
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
7. We care for Earth’s lifeboat.

So, I could live with that. I’d pretend about the god part and just concentrate on the basically good ideas in the rest of it. Perhaps not completely unlike the approach 70% of the believers in the Pew Poll take as they acknowledge that their religion is not the only way.

Of course, in my heart I’d know that this series of videos comes closer to anything I could ever have any real confidence in, compared with any UU potluck or whatever the hell they do when they get together.

Oddly enough, I learned about the videos on a message board called United Homeschoolers. United Homeschoolers claims to be a secular board, which is why I joined in the first place.

It turned out they weren’t so much secular as they were not the hyperjudgemental “Christians” on another board. When I pointed out that that didn’t actually make them secular, I got a nice but very Humpty Dumpty answer about things meaning what the board owner said they meant.

At any rate, nobody there minds that I am an atheist. And, I assume, nobody here minds either for, as you can see, I would not be a good addition to any religion’s membership. 🙂

Nance Confer — edited to add my name as I’m never sure who wrote what the way WordPress does things and this one should probably be clearly marked.

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27 responses

24 06 2008
sulochanosho

At the end your words,

I would not be a good addition to any religion’s membership.

may tell it all.

Without the religions and holy sermons too we may remain loving and senseful.

24 06 2008
NanceConfer

Thanks. And I learned a new word.

For those as baffled as I was by “senseful,” here’s what Webster’s said:

Sense´ful
a. 1. Full of sense, meaning, or reason; reasonable; judicious.

Nance

24 06 2008
JJ

More Humpty Dumpty then!
“You needn’t go on making remarks like that; they’re not sensible, and they put me out.”

But I might’ve guessed “senseful” meant the opposite, isn’t that funny? Something about animal sensation and instinctive reaction, based purely on raw input from the physical senses without thoughtful analysis, like smells in the wind and vibrations from the earth. . .

24 06 2008
NanceConfer

I thought it had something to do with being insensitive. Showing I was expecting the poster was insulted somehow. But, no. Quite the opposite.

How many times a day do you suppose that sort of misunderstanding happens!

Nance

24 06 2008
JJ

Dale at PBB has been writing that our culture’s common “believer” experience isn’t necessarily about belief in a particular dogma or any god at all, but more about feeling we belong, to some common culture and a community of believers who we can embrace and feel embraced by, trust to help take care of each other and understand who we are and what we need, etc.

Most folks seem to fear that rejecting holy writ instead of buying into it or at least going along with it, would be to lose all those good feelings of fellowship and community, and be alone in the wilderness, cast into the darkness.

(My Sunday School teachers sent this message and it was POWERFUL — probably kids are especially easy to impress with this belief, considering how important peers are to their identity and sense of well-being.)

So Dale writes about the “specific human hungers that church has traditionally satisfied” and says atheists themselves haven’t been sufficiently senseful of our powerful lizard-brained longing to be part of some positive, friendly and caring collective consciousness, etc. whether or not it’s about worship of any god.

Add it all up sensefully, and atheists having weekly meetings NOT to worship leaves something to be desired for most folks, who might not be big Believers but were raised to equate worship with belonging and fellowship and community. And not believing with exile, like the Man Without a Country.

So in a perverse way, a disappointing first freethinker experience can even backfire and boomerang potential atheists back to church? — by making the straying believer feel those early church lessons must be true, that they’ll be alone and adrift if they try to live in the wilderness, that human fellowship is inevitably empty and humorless and meaningless, without eyes firmly on the prize of some god figure or other.

24 06 2008
JJ

Nance, I suggest the religion that most appeals to you as tolerable, is also the most likely candidate to be the dangerous, evil universal false religion the “Left Behind” books warn will sweep the earth after the Rapture and before the four horses of the Apocalypse!

Meanwhile, the rising Antichrist is Nicolae Carpathia, a handsome, urbane and lethally devious Romanian national who started his ascent to power as Secretary General of the United Nations (a longstanding object of fundamentalist wrath).

Before long, Carpathia establishes himself as a global dictator and foists onto a gullible population a totalitarian, one-world government, a single global currency and a syncretic universal religion that combines Catholic-style pomp with New Age rhetoric.

Soon the Antichrist builds himself a massive capital city from which to rule the world–in New Babylon, Iraq. (Obviously, this plot element connected impressively with the recent war, though it was already in place in Left Behind novels from the late 1990s.)

And apparently there are self-proclaimed experts on the so-called “United Religions Initiave” who read current global events in deadly earnest, not as popular fiction:

The author notes that dangers abound from all directions. . .

This book offers a good source of information on the URI and the globalist agenda lurking behind it. The author thoroughly examines the New Age philosophies advocated by the URI and shows how such philosophies are fundamentally at odds with traditional religious belief.

As such, this book is highly important for what it has to say about the coming push towards globalism and the quest to create a one-world religion through a false ecumenism.

24 06 2008
Nance Confer

Oooh, could be!

At least that sounds more interesting than the “whatever” sort of approach I detected at the UU site. 🙂

Nance

24 06 2008
Meg

I know a UU minister and the impression I’ve gotten is that they enjoy and welcome atheists and everything else into the fold.

And btw, you aren’t the only atheist on United (if I must call myself by that name).

24 06 2008
Nance Confer

Hi Meg —

No, I didn’t think I was the only atheist there. There are a few of us. 🙂

And this was just an exercise, of course, but if I ever had to choose some religion or other (heaven forbid 🙂 ) , from what you say, I could still admit I’m an atheist. I don’t know how that would work but . . .

Nance

24 06 2008
JJ

Hey Meg, you made me remember when my oldest friend remarried in a resort hotel a few years ago. Her groom and family were Spanish-Catholic but because she’d been divorced, they found a woman UU minister who agreed to come marry them — so his family would have the comfort of it being a religious ceremony of some sort, although not Catholic and not in a church. 🙂

25 06 2008
Meg

Yeah, My parents were married at a UU church.

Dad was raised Jewish, but didn’t practice and Mom, presbyterian – but she had been turned off by them after her first husband died. (He was the choir director and she was the organist.)

Anyway, there is a forum for atheist homeschoolers, but it’s very quiet – http://forums.hsfreethinkers.com/

And Nance – as I read the rules, staying atheist doesn’t work – even if you are joining an organization. But that’s my take and I have a problem with saying none is not an option.

I still haven’t wrapped my brain around the idea, so I don’t know if I’ll post. All your research kind of makes me feel like I should do some instead of going by the seat of my pants – my original plan.

We’ll see.

25 06 2008
Teresa

A subtle and emotional subject. But let me shoot straight.
– If anyone has to ‘think’ which religion to join – Just by the need of this kind of thinking…One doesn’t belong to any. (You are hearing from a non-religious; am spiritual though).

To me, religion is what you don’t give a thought which one to choose, it’s simply in you, or is not.
If the need to think about it pops-up…chances are spirituality could be a ‘better’ path. But who am I to say that???

Any religion you take has restrictions invented by humans, by its church rules and such – while has very little to do with TRUE GOD and what he wants for us: well-being, life in happiness of giving and receiving, and claiming our abundance.

25 06 2008
Nance Confer

You might want to go read up on Zen Buddhism. Daryl chose that one and it had intrigued me as well.

http://www.zenguide.com/principles/sutras/chapters.cfm?t=dhammapada

As for “none” not being an option, I think that’s part of the point of the exercise. That we are forced to choose and think about how we might justify those choices and pick something we could actually stand to put up with and how we would live with the choice. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Nance

25 06 2008
JJ

Welcome Teresa, would you like to introduce yourself and maybe explain a little more? From what you’ve written it sounds like you are a Deist but you don’t think about it? 😉

Btw I deleted the spam URL attached to your name, please leave that out when you post here.

25 06 2008
JJ

(comment cross-posted from Talk About Teaching the Controversy!)

A board game site called Purple Pawn linked to Snook for the Blasphemy board game post, saying

“If you like conflict between religious icons as a theme in your boardgames, then follow the link to Cocking a Snook . . .

(By the way, I think it’s a blog by homeschoolers, but I’m not sure.)”

LOL Nance, maybe we should add the same tagline COD uses – this is not a homeschooling blog! — just to muddy the holy homeschool waters further? 😉

Anyway, at the aforementioned purple pawn site, I found an even more controversial game than dueling Jesuses, can’t wait for “PLAYING GODS, the Game of Divine Domination” to be released this fall!

My Buddha Kills Your Cthulhu and Eats Your Jesus
Posted on June 23, 2008 by Yehuda

Playing Gods, the Game of Divine Domination, is all set to be the next final note of many a news hour when it is released this September.

Enact the religious struggles ripped from today’s headlines with Moses, Jesus, and others, or step back in time to don the mantle of the Norse ruler Odin, the Roman god Mars, the Celtic warrior Morrigan, or Kali the Hindu god.

Wiccans can battle Scientologists and ancient Mayan gods for control over the world… the only limit is your imagination. Unleash floods and plagues on each other’s followers, while protecting your own flock. The god with the best strategy, skill, and luck shall rule the world….

With wrath and conversion cards, and the goal of killing or converting all other gods’ sects, it’s sure to be wholesome family fun for players of all ages.

25 06 2008
Nance Confer

Ah, let ’em be confused. If they get here, they can figure out what we are. 🙂

I want to take a guess on Teresa, though. I posted a link earlier but it somehow hasn’t shown up. Ah, here it is: Universal Life Church — http://www.themonastery.org/?destination=ulcLibraryMindTransform

Anyway, based on your “claiming our abundance” phrasing, Teresa, I’m going to guess you belong to one of the Abundant Life/Universal Life Churches.

Close? Not at all?

Nance

25 06 2008
JJ

About “none” not being an option in this fortnight’s wiki writing, I’m thinking maybe it’s because it’s an election year? — follow me now. Much as we wish otherwise, ballots don’t provide “none” as a viable option either; if we insist on that choice, then we have to create it for ourselves by not participating in the first place.

How’s that? 🙂

25 06 2008
anggahalimun

Hi there.

I’m not here to judge you, but I think the choice you made is completely up to you.
I think people live by what they believe, don’t you think so?
I believe in God, and I believe in salvation through Jesus Christ. But maybe you have already heard about it so many times, so I won’t bored you with this kind of speech. All I know is God always try to make himself known to us using so many kinds of methods that we never think about.
I think if you have already know this the choice is in your hand.
You are responsible for your life, aren’t you?

Btw, just want to tell you what comes in my mind, hehe.. no offense though..

Angga

25 06 2008
Java

You don’t have to believe in any god or deity to attend a UU church. I’ve attended several through the years as an atheist. Our “congregations” were made up other atheists, Bahai’s, Native Americans, Baptists to name a few, there were always people from each and every denomination in existence attending. Also, many lifestyle choices – straight, gay, lesbian, trans, married, non-married. Everyone is welcome.

“Sermons” might cover the bible, spousal abuse, environmental issues, politics, movies, books – music provided by traveling Tibetan Chanting Monks, the local rock band, a Native American Pow Wow.

A good UU church provides as much diversity as those who attend. One can be spiritual or not. It can be pretty interesting to attend one. Haven’t been for a long time, but if I had to choose, it would be UU.

25 06 2008
JJ

Another thought about “none” not being an option — it would be out under the other rule anyway, for anyone already having lived that way. You have to choose something NEW to you.
[tongue sticking out icon]

25 06 2008
Nance Confer

Well, I’ve attended services at a lot of churches, Java. Not the same as belonging to the congregation.

The UU set up reminds me of some “inclusive” homeschooling groups. There are, no doubt, examples from every walk of life but I’m a hser so that’s where my example comes from.

The “inclusive” hsing groups I’m referring to would be OK if I attended and were not a Christian. At least at first. Until I actually said something. 🙂 But it would be pretending to suggest that these are not actually Christian groups, what with the praying and constant references to their God and Jesus, etc.

Now, I would imagine there are UU churches that are more “Christiany” than others. Some that are less.

And I like the whole bleeding-heart liberal leaning.

Nance

25 06 2008
Nance Confer

Angga —

I am not offended by what you wrote.

And about this — “I’m not here to judge you, but I think the choice you made is completely up to you.”

You can judge whatever you want. This was an exercise, though. Not the real thing. I wasn’t really choosing a religion.

Nance

25 06 2008
GodKillzYou

In picking a religion, one must be practical. Each god has different punishments doled out to the “unbelievers.”

Essentially, you want to pick the god who’s got the worst punishment for not believing. In that way, just in case that god is real, you avoid the worst punishment of all when you die.

The vast number of gods to choose from is immense. Here’s a good place to start. To pick one from this list, I would think, is a gargantuan task. A huge leap of faith… putting all your eggs in one basket, in what amounts to a basket factory!

I guess that’s why I’m an Atheist.

25 06 2008
JJ

Interesting approach — which reminds me of the CS Lewis kids’ fiction in which no matter which god you THOUGHT you were dedicating your life to, in The Last Battle it turns out much to everyone’s surprise that if you do evil in the name of a good god, the bad god gets you and of course if you’re busy doing good even in the bad god’s name, the good god claims you for eternity.

There’s even a whole debate about the meaning of sexual maturity and whether you approach it as shallow and vain versus loving and deeply human — it’s what it means to you and why you do it, not what anyone else thinks. Made me think of all those pregnant girls in Glouchester and what human values they are serving versus what they are abandoning, in making the choices they are making for the reasons they are making them. . .

So does that mean that Nance in reality chooses a system of beliefs either for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, never mind whether it’s called a religion, and her own thought process and morals and reasons are what really count, not the world’s conceit?

25 06 2008
Nance Confer

“Essentially, you want to pick the god who’s got the worst punishment for not believing. In that way, just in case that god is real, you avoid the worst punishment of all when you die.”

**********

Hedging your bets in this way is, of course, an argument we hear against being an atheist. Of course, the recruiter is convinced that his god is the safe one to choose. And the one that wouldn’t be safe not to choose.

Religions I have looked at have provisions against telling a lie, though. So this would come down to really having to convince myself that I am not just hedging my bets.

************

“…her own thought process and morals and reasons are what really count, not the world’s conceit?”

Gee, I hope so. That’s the way I am betting anyway. 🙂

Nance

25 06 2008
JJ

Well, if you’re wrong about that bet, you’re someone who (like me) wouldn’t think much of a world that DIDN’T work that way! 😉

21 07 2010
New Fodder for Our “Choose a New Religion” Essays! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] an adventure and then Doctor JJ’s religion-choosing up in the air while Nance wrote Thinking about choosing my religion, and a good time was had by all. (Good as in fun, not necessarily good as the opposite of […]

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