Religion

I’ve converted back to Mennonism. Those of you who have been around for 7 or 8 years may remember my first conversion. I reached a point There was a time long ago (at least to me) when I was deeply depressed and needed something to believe in beyond this world because nothing in this world felt worth believing in. It was at this time I decided to believe in God and follow the teachings of Christ, mostly because it was the one I was familiar with. Shortly after that my zeal was lessened by my discovery of Bruce Springsteen, whose music gave me a reason to believe.

Guess who needs something to believe in again?

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Christian might not quite fit me. I don’t think after Christ God just left us to be, The Almighty has sent other messengers since. Jan van Leyden and Harry Washington were lesser prophets (lesser because their fights were in vain). The only Prophet in American history was John Brown, who if you don’t know about you can read ALL about in my History Thread. I think I’m sacrificing some level of omnipotence here, as I think God communicates with some of us but does not have unlimited power to control us. Humans do, as a collective, have more power over the events on Earth than God, because God no longer intervenes in supernatrual ways. I’ll still identify as Mennonite in conversation and check out the Mennointe meeting in Boston, because John Menno is the theologian I line up with most, but I think I’d more accurately be called a Disciple of the Church of John Brown.

Also, it’s really hard to not use “he” pronouns with God. I don’t think the Almighty has pronouns (and I refuse to use gendered phrases like “The Lord” or “Our Heavenly Father”) because God is so ultimate as to go beyond all concepts of what defines us mortals, including gender.

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That’s all fascinating. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone think their beliefs - in regards to religion, at least - through this thoroughly for a long time.

It also brings to mind a few people I know who are capital-A Athiests, but still go to church - they value that structure and community, even if they are hardline that there is no god.

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Regardless of your theology, this is just an interesting text. The Gospel of Judas. It was declared a Gnostic Gospel by the Council of Nicea, but honestly it’s got some of my favorite verses in it. Jesus talks about how the “holy generation” wouldn’t come for eons, indicating a sentiment that many have said about progress coming with time and how we mustn’t follow the letter of the words our heroes say too much. There’s also some interesting stuff about Jesus telling Judas specifically he would betray him. The document is fragmented and so is the translation, but it’s only seven pages as a result.

I used to go to the local Unitarian services because it had a great community and was a channel into local activism. Honestly if your looking for some good old fashion social justice, the easiest way to get involved is the local Unitarian chapter. I just moved a bit too far away from a chapter and I’m lazy :slight_smile:

One of my best friends is a Quaker in Boston so we’re gonna go to some of those meetings together. Quakerism isn’t quite as my style as Mennonism but it’s very close to Unitarians and my friend knows the good meetings.

I meet up with a group of pagans for winter solstice at least, sometimes Samhain, Ostara or Beltane. It’s interesting because it’s not exactly a doctrine or magic explanation for stuff but instead a way to acknowledge that your mindset is crucial to your experience of the world.

A few years ago I went to a Beltane festival and got suckered into a magic charm workshop. We all made magic charms to bring us things we wanted. All of the magic parts were psychology disguised as magic, ways to instill the practice with things like “what gets measured get done” and “sunk costs” (which are a fallacy but can can be used to good effect). Ironically I realised this when making a charm to show me some spiritual truth.

I remember reading Terry Pratchett’s witches novels and they tend to be quite similar, their main schtick is that they’ll use magic to influence someone but the subject’s beliefs interact with the witch’s use of psychology to fulfill the thing.

Anyway I embraced religious practices for them to turn out not to be a religion at all but instead a way to think about the world that is both beneficial to me and the world. The crazy thing is that it’s the placebo that still works even knowing it’s a placebo, that’s the truth of it, that’s the hidden knowledge at the top.

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Isn’t that called faith? :grinning:

I’ve been mulling over my spiel for this thread, but I’m glad you posted this. I think religion and magic are just philosophy using metaphor instead of logic. Will have more to say once I get to work and realize I’m the only one there.

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So I don’t think my religious upbringing is that unusual; my parents sent me to Sunday school despite the fact that they were not remotely religious. This created a lot of antagonism between young me and religion in general. Both schools I attended were largely conservative, and pretty much every teacher I had was not interested in teaching; we learned rote memorization of stories and texts with zero analysis.
College for me was almost completely areligious. I never got fully sucked into the enlightened athiest movement although I was sympathetic to it. I majorly cooled on it the older I got as all I was seeing was anti-intellectualism and cynicism.
Getting married has reawakened the spiritual side of me and I’m thankful for that. We we’re lucky enough to find a truly wonderful rabbi to guide us both through the marriage process and Judiasm in general. My wife and I attended intro to Judiasm classes both as an actual intro for her and a reintegration for me.

So I suppose I should get to my actual beliefs. I feel a connection to Judiasm both based on my ancestry and political/philosophical beliefs matching up with the reform congregation I am part of. I view the teachings of Judiasm as a discussion of our relation to power and authority. The stories of Adam & Eve, Lillith, Abraham & Isaac, Job, etc. paint a picture for me of a people who serve God in a relationship rather than a mandate. It is not blasphemous to doubt or question God because the most powerful tool we have the ability to choose how we allocate power/respect/worship.

My view of God echoes what @Duchess has said, I consider God as an entity to be so high and abstracted above humanity that the use of language in terms of “God’s will” or gender, or form, or identity as a necessity of our language to verbalize a formless/conceptual being. What little writings of Manly P. Hall I’ve read have influenced my relationship to religion the most, in a similar vein to what @Guy posted; Capital M “Magic” is not real, but it also is in the sense that using metaphor through ritual and storytelling allows us to find truths and influence the world in ways academic learning cannot.

I am still not comfortable with prayer or worship. I have only personally prayed to God a scant few times and I find group worship at a temple to be more a performative act of community. I’ve only attended my current temple once to support a friend for her Bat Mitzvah, otherwise the congregation I am part of has far too large a generational gap for me to want to socialize with them. I enjoy the learning and charity that the congregation does, but unless I find more people my age within the group I can’t see myself using it as a social space.

I’m gonna cut myself off now before I turn this into a blog post, but it’s nice to have a thread about this kind of stuff.

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Glad I could create a safe space for the at least somewhat spiritually inclined to meet in here :slight_smile:

This seems like the thread for this:

The thing that bothers me about the secularization of Christmas is the weird ways in which companies embrace “Christmas” but won’t make any mention of God. Like, if you are going to be secular, just say Happy Holidays. If you aren’t, say Merry Christmas. Don’t exclude religious minorities by calling your TV special or whatever a “Christmas” special only to have it be totally secular.

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I’ve had a long and complicated relationship with faith (raised Methodist, attended Catholic grammar school) that lead to me ultimately abandoning it entirely in my teens.

In my 20’s I trended towards the stereotypical “enlightened by my own intellect” atheist - that insufferable sort of asshole who bought entirely into the cult of rationalia. I even added anti-theism to the atheist mix.

As I’ve grown out of rationalia and worked on becoming a better, more emotionally mature, and more expressive version of myself, I’ve softened my position somewhat. I’m still a hard atheist, in the sense that I both don’t believe in any gods and also believe in an affirmative absence of any gods - but also, I don’t care nearly as much about the reality of it.

I see the value of faith as a tool and a virtue worth pursuing on its own, and so I’m less concerned with whether or not any religion is factually correct and much more interested in acting with good faith.

I don’t know exactly where that puts me on a religious spectrum these days, but it’s a shift I’ve noted. I can’t imagine myself going to church or participating in organized worship, but I certainly see that religions are way better at organizing tight thriving communities than any other cultural element I’ve observed. I have to think there’s something there worth pursuing.

On a related note, I’ve changed my tune about various winter holidays. I used to say I celebrated generically in the winter, or that I celebrated Atheist Gift-Giving day, but in recent years I have actively wanted to celebrate Christmas - not Santa and Rudolph and that bullshit, but “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the like. I think it’s the relentless naive optimism in the Christmas message that really does it for me; like, rationally I know the world is a trash heap, but hey maybe just this once I’ll believe in magic that has the power to make it better, y’know?

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now. Shit’s complicated, but I’m vastly less judgy about religious beliefs than I used to be, and I think that’s an overall healthier place to be.

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Spoke with a Reverend friend living in rural, southern Virginia. We talked a lot about God obviously, but also a lot about making communities inclusive and things like that. He’s not great with language around trans people and enbys (I don’t think he even knows the term non-binary), but he is very eager to learn how to act around anyone genderqueer, and I’m glad I have the patience to teach people like him so that he’ll know how to act around people who don’t have that patience. He’s doing some next level thinking about making cis people trans friendly. He talked about things he’s doing like replacing “brother” and “sister” in his sermons with “sibling.” He said he doubts anyone trans will ever come to his congregation, but he wants everyone in the congregation to be more ok with trans people.

Anyway, Merry Christmas.

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That’s cool that he’s willing to learn and make adjustments. Even if no trans person directly hears his sermons, his inclusiveness can have beneficial effects on the congregants. The language they get comfortable hearing and eventually using and might just open the door slightly for when a friend or family member either comes out as trans or discusses the subject. The shift has to come from within their own religious community rather than be foisted on them in order to be internalized.

On the topic of secular Christmas, I know that the origins of St. Nicholas are Catholic, but Santa Claus and Christmas trees and reindeer and gift giving have all been so heavily owned by western secular culture, outside of Christian religion, that I think of the holiday with those associations as parallel to but distinct from Christian Christmas with baby Jesus and the nativity and 3 Wise Men and "O Holy Night’. That is what many Christians have been warning against for years (don’t forget the Christ in Christmas), but nevertheless here we are. Which is why the right’s aggressiveness of saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays is so stupid, plenty of people of all and no faiths have no problem with Santa and elves and lights and candy canes so are fine with Merry Christmas, it is just that there are plenty of other religious and cultural celebrations around this same time that can be acknowledged equally to the Christian Christmas.

I’m sorry, but I’m going to push back forcefully against this. Christmas may be non-religious, but it is not secular. Thanksgiving is secular. Christians celebrate Thanksgiving. Jews celebrate Thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. The majority of non-Christians do NOT celebrate Christmas, do not put up Christmas trees or Santa Claus or reindeer or elves or any of that.

Christians can bastardize and commercialize their religion as much as they want, but that doesn’t make it secular. Christians don’t get to decide what’s secular, Non-Christians decide what’s secular. When you have the majority of non-Christians celebrating Christmas the way that the majority of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, then you can say that Christmas is secular. But that’s never going to happen.

Spoken like someone who hasn’t grown up feeling ostracized and made to feel like they don’t belong during Christmas season.

I like Christmas. I think it’s beautiful. I like the sentiment behind it… not the commercial gift giving, but the season of joy and kindness that’s supposed to be what Christmas is about. I love Christmas music and think Christmas decorations are beautiful. But it will never be my holiday. At the same time, the all-encompassing Christmas season always makes me feel like an outsider, like I don’t belong in my own country because I don’t celebrate Christmas. And I will never celebrate Christmas, no matter how commercialized it gets because being commercialized is not the same as being secular.

Sorry for the mini-rant. This is a topic I am very sensitive and passionate about, from Christmas trees and Nativity Scenes on government and public property to “holiday” parties and “Seasonal” concerts at work and school.

Enjoy your commercialized Christmas, but I don’t want it and will have no part of it. I, and others like me, the Non-Christians get to decide if Christmas is a secular holiday.

It’s not.

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I don’t get why non-practicing Christians (meaning anyone who isn’t a practicing Christian) get so attached to the word Christmas. It really just creates situations like what @jabrams007 is talking about. Just switch over the The Solstice if you want a winter holiday.

Short answer is I think The Solsitce is cool, but you’d need to convince like, all the millions of people that “The Solstice” is a better holiday with its own themes and aesthetic and mythos and so-on to be celebrated. And then Actively crush and suppress all of the Christmas pop-culture bullshit into a mere footnote. I welcome it, but seems like a lot of work.

And, I don’t think it’s largely the active Christians who would be sad to see those aspects of Christmas get deleted or rebranded, but I do think they still bristle at the idea of their particular holiday not being #1 so even the stuff they hate about it is still something they’ve had to embrace as at least being in the right name.

Frankly, I think for most who came up in a more strictly religious Christian environment, Christmas really does seem pretty “secularized”. At least the religious and non-religious sides of the Christmas holiday event are fairly distinct. Yes they coincided and in some cases elements intermingled, but it was two opposite sides of the coin.

It’s possible to go to a Christmas branded holiday event with all of the commercialized holiday elements without a drop of religious motivation or undertone. Meanwhile one could go to some of the very religious Christmas services I went to as a youngling and none of it is reflected in the popular or secularized sides of the holiday. We did the popular solstice stuff, but then did other stuff. And then over time my grandparent’s grip on the family faded away, we no longer attended the services, etc etc. Now it’s merely Thanksgiving 2: Ham and presents edition.

I understand why those who grew up outside of the Christmas tradition don’t see it as a secular holiday they can get behind, and even if the religious aspect were to be packed up and moved to a different holiday entirely they wouldn’t want to embrace it; because that legacy is already there.

But I also see why those who are heavily Christian, or those who at least have seen into it from that angle, might have developed the sort of self selection or perspective to see that the commercial/secular/non-religious/etc part has nothing to do with their religious understanding of the holiday, but still see that side as Christmas.

(As an aside regarding the word secular, I’m pretty sure anyone of my generation who grew up in a heavy Christian environment just thinks of the word “Secular” as meaning literally “not Christian/heathen/unbeliever/etc” because it was a very popular word used by the ministry and fuck if any of them have actually ever looked up the meaning of the world. I know I haven’t. It’s just an easy, catchy, short, and sort of aggressively alluring word to use as a catch-all for “Not Christian” and so those from that background might be expected to use the world in that way.)

So anyway yes, sure, from a purely logical point of view it makes a lot of sense to just transition all of the non religious aspects of the popular American/Western Christmas tradition over to a Solstice holiday. Except all of the legacy tradition stuff that’s already there. All of the pop songs and carols and so-on. To the Christian, they don’t identify those aspects as anything to do with their actual religious tradition. Some actively dislike that stuff, others enjoy it as “good fun” tradition. But most certainly they don’t Identify Rudolph and The Santa Claus as having a single thing to do with Jesus, or at best only the most minute tertiary connection. It’s nothing to do with them.

I can see, easily, why Christians are a bit sensitive about it.

And I can see why many who aren’t actively practicing Christians just are cool with the path of least resistance and saying “well, Christmas to me is just a secular holiday event, with origins in a religious observation.” because it’s the popular image. And so unless you actively have a different faith with its own holidays, you’ve got a default to latch onto without having to adopt any sort of religious baggage.

I don’t see many Atheists being like “fuck Christmas I’m going to observe Hanukkah so I can get more time off and cuz their food is bomb” and only some actively trying to get down with the Pagan roots.

Many just say “Eh Christmas is already basically not religious so I’ll just endure it and take my time off from the office.”

And they defend it because to actively change to some new (or restore some long forgotten) holiday means all of the existing stuff is probably cancelled, and then you have to start over. And that’s scary and work. And how to you explain to your kid that “actually Santa doesn’t do Christmas, he does this other holiday. And he’s actually Comrade Stalin now.”

I mean there’s a million reasons why and I’m in no way very much someone who has thought about this. But as someone who would enjoy seeing Christmas get pulled out root and stem, but also kinda just goes with it cuz eh; I’m really trying to worry about more stuff and if the Christians want to be pissed about this at lest it’s low hanging fruit.

I totally feel what @jabrams007 is talking about regarding xmas othering. My mom was raised Christian, so even though our household was Jewish the mainline December holiday was xmas. I still celebrate xmas with them and my wife’s family, and nothing about our celebration is religious, but if you are explicitly not Christian, xmas gives off “this holiday isn’t about you” vibes despite being mostly secularized. Every day when I head into work I pass by several decked out xmas trees…and one pathetic menorah on an empty table. They don’t even bother putting out candles for each day of Hanukkah. Every store I go to is 98% xmas stuff with a single small shelf of Hanukkah stuff. Corporate Hanukkah decorations don’t include any iconography, theming, or anything more than acknowledging Hanukkah exists. Even if you celebrate xmas secularlly, you will know exactly where your non-xmas traditions stand on the totem pole.

The sentiment @jabrams007 is expressing is part of the reason I’m drifting back towards specifically celebrating Christmas with religious trappings - because I used to say I celebrated “secular Christmas,” but I’ve become more sensitive to the feelings of my non-Christian religious friends and have come to understand how that concept is othering.

So, instead, I celebrate what I celebrate not as “the default,” but rather as “this specific religious holiday,” in order to compartmentalize it.

Does anyone else have a religious relationship with something besides God? Like, I realize I started this thread because I’d found God, and I still have, but listening to Springsteen and watching Utena are giving me just as transcendent feelings as prayer, to the point where I’m incorporating language from them when I pray.