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Continuing the religious discussion... - Unbeliever's Land
...The continuing chronicles...
Continuing the religious discussion...
In answering amaebi, from several posts ago:
Here's a question that occurs to me about your approach to understanding Christians (or adherents of other religions): Do you think that we operate as if programmed by a set of doctrines, or try to? It sounds that way to me, and I wonder if I'm correct.
I'd probably reserve the word "programmed" for followers of cults (which are, after all, just small, extreme, religions).  But if a religion isn't all about its doctrines, what is it about?

I call myself an atheist.  Now, some people think that means "I know for a FACT that God doesn't exist".  Actually, "theist" simply means "someone with a belief in God", and thus "a-theist" simply means "someone without a belief in God".  Certainty has nothing to do with it.

If God were to show up "in person", submit himself to a few tests and answer a few questions, then there isn't a single atheist I know who wouldn't be happy to change his mind.  The state of not-believing simply has to do with the facts as they exist.  Introduce new facts, all bets are off.

But if this occurred -- I wouldn't call myself an atheist anymore!  The label means something, and that has to do with the state of my beliefs.

I think "Christian", "Catholic", "Protestant", and so on down through the myriad hierarchies, has to mean something.  And that "something" is SUPPOSED to have to do with doctrine.

Now I know, we've all heard of "lapsed Catholics"; frankly, I rarely hear of one who isn't.  So what does that mean?  From what I can tell, it means "culturally Catholic".  You're familiar with Catholic beliefs and customs, and probably still use the label, but don't really buy into the nonsense.  Excuse me, the "doctrine".

Actually, it seems to me that most Jews are the same way.  The culture is important.  The Torah, the teachings?  Don't make me laugh.  (My dad is "Jewish" in this way; I  spent four years in a Jewish synagogue/private elementary school for this reason.  We learned all the stories, but even in GRADE school, they didn't take it literally.)

So clearly, people claim membership in religious groups without being programmed in the doctrines.

But all this accomplishes is clouding the issue.  If the defense of belonging to a religious group is "well, we don't take it all that seriously", that's a pretty weak defense.  It's the religions themselves that are the issue (at least, for me).  And that means, the doctrine...

Doesn't it?

Current Emotional State: curious curious

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compostwormbin From: compostwormbin Date: March 3rd, 2009 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)
So clearly, people claim membership in religious groups without being programmed in the doctrines.

Yes. I would describe myself in this manner. I identify loosely with the United Methodist Church. It's a Christian church with Christian teachings but the minister does not require belief in a set of doctrines as a condition of full participation in the church. Communion, bible study, any church activity is open to all people. The church is a place I go to get energized and involved in the community and I come away from the experience feeling stronger.

I believe in something greater than myself. I don't mind calling that something God or using a different identifying name. I like the message and teachings of Jesus, particularly with regard to social justice, but do not adhere to a set of doctrianl beliefs about the particulars of the existence of God or Jesus. I assume the nature of that which is greater than ourselves is not easily known.

rickvs From: rickvs Date: March 3rd, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd describe myself as a lapsed Protestant, except the implication sounds to me like I'm screwing up in some fashion, and balance won't be restored to the world until I un-lapse myself.

The way I prefer to phrase it is: each Sunday morning I sleep in, the church I'm not attending is a Protestant one.

I think one of the things it's easy to bump one's head on in a discussion like this is, many different churches have different requirements for membership. Just under the Protestant umbrella, not all creeds require evangelism, and not all creeds require literal belief in every word of the Bible, et cetera.

Basically, my experience is that some doctrines require their adherents to pester you, and some require that you be left alone until you see the light based on their good example. Doesn't mean the various behaviors indicate some internal inconsistency, just that I can't act on my first impulse to treat each religion's believers as some monolithic block.
amaebi From: amaebi Date: March 3rd, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
But if a religion isn't all about its doctrines, what is it about?

Well, religions aren't about anything except in the light of human interpretation and practice. And human differ in what they view their religions or practices as being about. There are certainly some folks who are all about church doctrine, and who have worked to create churches/religions founded on doctrine.

But, as compostwormbin indicated, the nature of bodies of church doctrine differ. As does official insistence on adherence to such doctrine as there is. (I'll post about UM doctrine if you like. It's short.)

What I would say religions are about, to maybe-even-all-practicioners, is about a Way. I tend to view the Ways of the most doctrine-interested in doctrine-heavy religions, likely invidiously, as attempts to reach Full Stops and stick there. Some people have definite ideas about what they're seeking a Way to: personal holiness (whether in a sanctimonious, practical-ministry, "being a good person" ethical, or highly aethereal sense), transformation through relationship with God, the smarmy desire for business networking (happily now a largely defunct aim in US mainline churches), some sense of personal salvation and help and love and healing, working toward a just society, or something else.

In the sorts of mainline/liberal churches nearly all of my experience comes from, very few people know church doctrine, and very few are interested. Which may rate them low, for you, I guess.

So, you may wonder, why's there so much doctrine? Church doctrines have arisen out of questions. People wondered things like (in the early church), "So was Jesus a man? Was Jesus a special man? Was Jesus God? Did Jesus just look like a man?" And people interested in those questions puzzled and argued about them, and came up with different answers that satisfied them, and got shirty about answers they didn't like, and schismed into sects and persecuted each other and eventually founded a wide variety of denominations and local churches. Doctrine is always answers to questions that concerned someone. Sometimes doctrines is about Who's In and Who's Out. Sometimes doctrine is Rules to Be Followed.

But for most believers, and even for most mainline pastors, it's not what a religion is about. And, personally, I don't think that unserious. Or unfunny, either.
oregongirl1969 From: oregongirl1969 Date: March 4th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks amaebi, I find all that very fascinating.

Having been raised in a very heavy doctrine religion (Roman Catholic), I am really awed by your answer. I've felt the full force of this doctrine from many family members and friends who refused to attend my wedding and who have cut me off completely. While not all my relatives stayed in the Catholic church, many have selected other very heavy doctrine religions -- i.e. Southern Baptist and other conservative churches. For my family the rule seems to be they like you as long as you belong to a conservative church.

I understand what you are saying, but it's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of any church-based-religion as "light on doctrine". I think Reed has this same reaction which is why he says "It's the religions themselves that are the issue (at least, for me). And that means, the doctrine ... Doesn't it?" The idea of a "very light doctrine church" is ... a very confusing concept.

I'm not sure if we have many doctrine-light churches around here. It's probably a symptom of living in the "least religious area of the country". When you find a church here, it tends to be more on the conservative side, as well as doctrine heavy. (As a side note we have HUGE number of Mormons as well as MANY Mennonites.)

It's nice to hear that there are a lot of doctrine-light churches out there. It's something I need to keep in mind.
unbeliever64 From: unbeliever64 Date: March 4th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
We've got Unitarians. If anything's "doctrine-light", that is.

But of course, that's my PROBLEM with the UU church -- it doesn't MEAN anything.

Believe what you like, just come and hang out. That's not a religion. That's a CLUB.

Don't get me wrong -- I like clubs! (I like them alot better than religions!) But there ought to be some distinction...

I'm going to reread Amaebi's response a few times over the next day or two, and see if I can wrap my brain around it, before going any farther...
rampling From: rampling Date: March 9th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Hypocrital Disapproved-policy-enabling/supporting Church Members (lite)

Wow, I think I actually agree 100% with your original post here! How unusual! ;)

I'm OK with the UU being more of a club than a church. But I also feel it's not right that they get the unfair tax breaks given to a 'church' while none of the atheist or skeptical groups I favor get any such breaks. Yeah, I'm against special tax breaks for churches, duh.

I've made arguments rather similar to your post above many times, and many more times than that those arguments run through my head but I 'politely' mute myself. I can't for the life of me understand how people can claim to be part of a religion, and yet not take its doctrine at least a bit seriously. If it's effectively a club, I do wish they'd admit that, that they like going there because they like the label, the people, the pageantry (my Mom admitted that one), etc. An atheist can't get anywhere meaningful in a religious dogma discussion with these sorts of people, because fundamentally they don't care (and may not even know). Though their church may have a very Specific God Flavor that they promote, these Church Members Lite may effectively be more a sort of vaguely-similar-god-flavor-supporters (or even vaguely-similar-god-flavor-supporters-supporters) instead of actual specific-god-flavor-believers.

My biggest problem is with some believers-lite who donate money to their church on a frequent or regular basis, yet also have fundamental disagreements with that church. That money is going, in part, to promote that specific doctrine So if a particular believer-lite disagrees with the doctrine in important, major ways, aren't they being hypocritical and supporting and enabling agenda that they are against?

My usual biggest complaint in this department (because I'm an ex-Catholic myself -- I quit just before confirmation because I wouldn't stand up and 'confirm' that I believed that dogma) is Catholics-lite who are (any subset of) pro-choice, pro-condoms, pro-birth-control, sex positive, pro-women's-equality, pro-porn, pro-sexual-freedom, for the right to divorce, for queer rights, for same-sex marriage, against pre-marriage abstinence, for stem cell research, etc. These Catholics give money to their church that supports things (such as the Pope) that are against their own beliefs and ethical sense! Ohhhh, that bugs me so much!!! The Catholic Church will never come close to dealing reasonably (to me) with modern issues because its lazy casual habitual members just stay as members regardless of their modern/liberal un-Catholic beliefs. *siiiiiiigh*. And it's (of course) not only Catholics who do this sort of hypocritical disapproved-policy-enabling/supporting thing....

BTW, I've had (alleged) Catholics tell me I'm not going to hell. How the hell can they say that?

Actually, it may be my Catholic upbringing that is responsible for me taking my atheism so seriously. They did manage to convince me that if there is a god (or whatever), that it must be the most central and important part of your life. I.e. follow "god's law" before your country's laws or other rules. So I took my (inherited) Catholicism seriously enough that I had to quit before confirmation. And I took further attempts at Christianity seriously enough that I had to ultimately declare myself an atheist. So casual church members-lite telling me their church is 'nice' or 'good' or whatever leaves me completely cold. And don't get me started on casual 'believers' who spout the "You've gotta believe something!" crap....


amaebi From: amaebi Date: March 11th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Eagerly waiting.
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