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Thread: How has your view of religion changed over the years?

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    Veteran Member Ford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post

    How about you? How has your view of religion changed over your lifetime? What made you change your opinion?

    I was raised without it. My parents believed that it was wrong to indoctrinate an unsuspecting child into a religious dogma, so apart from taking us to be baptized or christened or whatever it was (gotta have god-parents to make the aunts and uncles happy) we never went to church.

    When we were old enough to figure out things and realize we weren't like our friends, my parents were also wise and supportive enough to give us kids the choice to follow a religion if that's what we wanted to do. Pick a faith, and they'd support our decision. My sister took them up on this, and true to their word, they took her to the church of her choice (Lutheran), sat with her in the pew, and even gave her my mom's family Bible to read through.

    It didn't take.

    When I got to college - in the middle of the 1980's "born again" boom, I realized what a gift I'd been given. I watched friends who had grown up with religion and fallen away (as teenagers often do) get manipulated by "born again" preachers and campus "faith groups" who accessed the indoctrination I'd never experienced. I remember confronting one of these campus preachers one day at the central library and confounding him with my lack of religious indoctrination. I was dangerously close to becoming an angry atheist.

    Decades later, I'm much less confrontational than I was back then. In fact I'm pretty much a "live and let live" guy now. If you want that sort of thing in your life, fine. As long as you understand I don't, and we can agree to disagree, then everything is cool. My best friend is a devout Catholic, and when the family joins hands to say grace at the beginning of every meal (seriously, it's every meal), I play along, bow my head, and don't cause a fuss. It would be rude and a waste of time for me to sit there and refuse to participate. In addition to my super-Catholic friend, I now have Muslims in my family. They're nice people. If it works for you, fine. I'm not going to fight you over it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ford View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post

    How about you? How has your view of religion changed over your lifetime? What made you change your opinion?

    I was raised without it. My parents believed that it was wrong to indoctrinate an unsuspecting child into a religious dogma, so apart from taking us to be baptized or christened or whatever it was (gotta have god-parents to make the aunts and uncles happy) we never went to church.

    When we were old enough to figure out things and realize we weren't like our friends, my parents were also wise and supportive enough to give us kids the choice to follow a religion if that's what we wanted to do. Pick a faith, and they'd support our decision. My sister took them up on this, and true to their word, they took her to the church of her choice (Lutheran), sat with her in the pew, and even gave her my mom's family Bible to read through.

    It didn't take.

    When I got to college - in the middle of the 1980's "born again" boom, I realized what a gift I'd been given. I watched friends who had grown up with religion and fallen away (as teenagers often do) get manipulated by "born again" preachers and campus "faith groups" who accessed the indoctrination I'd never experienced. I remember confronting one of these campus preachers one day at the central library and confounding him with my lack of religious indoctrination. I was dangerously close to becoming an angry atheist.

    Decades later, I'm much less confrontational than I was back then. In fact I'm pretty much a "live and let live" guy now. If you want that sort of thing in your life, fine. As long as you understand I don't, and we can agree to disagree, then everything is cool. My best friend is a devout Catholic, and when the family joins hands to say grace at the beginning of every meal (seriously, it's every meal), I play along, bow my head, and don't cause a fuss. It would be rude and a waste of time for me to sit there and refuse to participate. In addition to my super-Catholic friend, I now have Muslims in my family. They're nice people. If it works for you, fine. I'm not going to fight you over it.
    I raised my son in a similar way. I was agnostic until he was about 7 years old. I read him Bible stories, and encouraged him to attend Baha'i meetings with his father. I never told him I was an atheist until he was 15. I asked him at that point if he believed in God and he laughed and said, "No." I laughed and said, "Neither do I". I hated that I had been indoctrinated into evangelical Christianity, and I didn't want to indoctrinate him into atheism. I wanted him to do his own investigation and come to his own conclusions. He's a well adjusted middle aged adult who has never seemed to miss having religion in his life. I think his wife has some woo beliefs but she's not a member of any type of organized religion. It can be a problem in a marriage when one person is very religious and the other one isn't.

    I agree with you regarding other people. If they need or enjoy some religion in their lives, why should I care? As long as they don't try to convince me that their woo is true, we get along fine. Those who judge me harshly due to my atheism aren't going to be close friends of mine. I never bring up my atheism if others don't bring up their religious beliefs. The main reason why I tell religious people that I"m an atheist, when appropriate, is to help put an end to some of the negative stereotypes about atheists that so many Americans hold. For example, my next door neighbor's 92 year old aunt believes that we atheists have special powers given to us by Satan. That makes me laugh. I sometimes tease my neighbor by telling her that she needs to tell her aunt that the couple who share their dinner with her every night are atheists. . I think her aunt is beyond hope when it comes to accepting that people outside of her conservative Christian beliefs can be decent, kind people.

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    Member aupmanyav's Avatar
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    No change for the last some 25 years. Still stick with non-duality of what exists (Advaita, Brahman), atheism, disbelief in all clap-trap - God, soul, heaven, hell, reincarnation, judgment, deliverance. Of course, my view goes beyond that. Does not accept even creation, birth and death.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I suspect most of us who promote any specific paradigm very rarely understand that paradigm to the degree that we think we do.
    I'm not an atheist for rational reasons. I do think that my atheism can be supported rationally. But so does anybody who has any belief. But when I've sat down to introspect and examine my atheism... bottom line... I don't feel there's anything out there. When I do psychadelic drugs and I see God and talk to God I think it's my brain projecting. I can feel God's presence just fine. Still an atheist. There's rational reasons to believe this, sure. But fundamentally it's just a feeling I have. I don't feel God exists. Which is not a rational reason.

    My Christian girlfriend, who is extremely scientifically minded and a sharp thinker, her attitude is that it doesn't matter if God exists or not. It just works for her. It makes her happy. She grew up atheist. In her teens she became depressed and in desperation joined a church. Whatever the secret sauce of that church is, it makes her happier to be a member (and not depressed). That's all she needs to know. Just like my scientist sister (also depressed) who went to a kiropractor she knew talked nothing but pseudoscientific bullshit, still kept going because after each treatment she was less depressed. They're both submitting to irrational beliefs for rational reasons, and it's working for them. There's nothing irrational about that.

    I get consolatory benefits, even blissful states of consciousness, from some contemplative techniques used in mystical traditions. For example, when I did some "nondual self-inquiry" borrowed from Advaita Vedantins, I felt at one with all the universe. The experience, from within the parameters of the meditation, is that "awareness is all". I could conclude from that Idealism is true, but it's just an intense focus on sensory awareness and a shift in the sense of "I". While more metaphysical types than me make the leap and conclude it means Idealism is true.

    Here's the thing though... I feel bliss while believing it's just psychological. They feel bliss while believing it's insight into what the whole universe is. So, was the metaphysical interpretation of it as "Idealism is true!" necessary at all? Their nose-dive into a metaphysical interpretation is just the forever-telling-stories intellect stepping back in and fitting pegs in the mental pegboard.

    Point is: It might be that people who take up metaphysical belief because it makes them feel better have mis-identified what made them feel better. They like the feeling of belonging to a church but think it's because of god-belief, when the sense of belonging is the secret sauce. They like getting a rub-down from a chiropractor and think the enjoyment is because of "submitting to irrational beliefs" when the relief of depression is from the physical activity.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    I get consolatory benefits, even blissful states of consciousness, from some contemplative techniques used in mystical traditions. For example, when I did some "nondual self-inquiry" borrowed from Advaita Vedantins, I felt at one with all the universe. The experience, from within the parameters of the meditation, is that "awareness is all". I could conclude from that Idealism is true, but it's just an intense focus on sensory awareness and a shift in the sense of "I". While more metaphysical types than me make the leap and conclude it means Idealism is true.
    Totally. Same thing for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Point is: It might be that people who take up metaphysical belief because it makes them feel better have mis-identified what made them feel better. They like the feeling of belonging to a church but think it's because of god-belief, when the sense of belonging is the secret sauce. They like getting a rub-down from a chiropractor and think the enjoyment is because of "submitting to irrational beliefs" when the relief of depression is from the physical activity.
    Not, to get up on my skeptical horse to high, but I think it's childishness that's the problem. Mature people are fully able to keep parallel thoughts in their heads. Everybody can watch Lord of the Rings and think it's exciting while fully accepting that Gondor doesn't really exist, Sauron is made up and the threat of Sauron can't really get to you. But we somehow struggle with the idea that loving devotional prayers to God can touch us spiritually and put us at ease.

    Everybody who has had an emotion they'd rather not have is fully aware that understanding things about our emotional states doesn't help you, one bit, to change it. Often the opposite. It makes us feel worse. We need to trick our clever brains and hack into our subconscious somehow. Which is what I think a large part of what religious practice is about.

    Or... it's not even childishness. Children have make belief games all the time, and understand that it's just pretend. So I'm not sure what has gone wrong in the world. This idea that humans are monolithic entities of chrystal clear identities is so weird. Where did it come from? I suspect it's a Christian thing, with their insistance on belief and conversion. So religion giveth and taketh away. Some things about religion is awful. A lot of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    I get consolatory benefits, even blissful states of consciousness, from some contemplative techniques used in mystical traditions. For example, when I did some "nondual self-inquiry" borrowed from Advaita Vedantins, I felt at one with all the universe. The experience, from within the parameters of the meditation, is that "awareness is all". I could conclude from that Idealism is true, but it's just an intense focus on sensory awareness and a shift in the sense of "I". While more metaphysical types than me make the leap and conclude it means Idealism is true.
    Totally. Same thing for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Point is: It might be that people who take up metaphysical belief because it makes them feel better have mis-identified what made them feel better. They like the feeling of belonging to a church but think it's because of god-belief, when the sense of belonging is the secret sauce. They like getting a rub-down from a chiropractor and think the enjoyment is because of "submitting to irrational beliefs" when the relief of depression is from the physical activity.
    Not, to get up on my skeptical horse to high, but I think it's childishness that's the problem. Mature people are fully able to keep parallel thoughts in their heads. Everybody can watch Lord of the Rings and think it's exciting while fully accepting that Gondor doesn't really exist, Sauron is made up and the threat of Sauron can't really get to you. But we somehow struggle with the idea that loving devotional prayers to God can touch us spiritually and put us at ease.

    Everybody who has had an emotion they'd rather not have is fully aware that understanding things about our emotional states doesn't help you, one bit, to change it. Often the opposite. It makes us feel worse. We need to trick our clever brains and hack into our subconscious somehow. Which is what I think a large part of what religious practice is about.

    Or... it's not even childishness. Children have make belief games all the time, and understand that it's just pretend. So I'm not sure what has gone wrong in the world. This idea that humans are monolithic entities of chrystal clear identities is so weird. Where did it come from? I suspect it's a Christian thing, with their insistance on belief and conversion. So religion giveth and taketh away. Some things about religion is awful. A lot of things.
    You're looking at someone's new car. It's red. You say to the owner, "that's a beautiful car, I particularly like the red color." To your surprise the owner tells you it's blue. You tell him it's red and so he takes you around to the other side just beside the tail pipe. Bending down, sure enough you see there is a little blue patch about an inch across. He says to you, "I like to think it's blue."

    This is how religious identity operates, and it's a behavior that's been selected for. Religion takes up very little of a person's time out of necessity. I would be willing to bet that if we put a clock on the pope and recorded how he spent his time we'd find that a minority of his time is spent doing religious things.

    You'd think that any person who actually believed what his religion says would find more time to take it seriously. Religion isn't so important to people. All that's important is that they say it's important. It's kinda like a hobby.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Mature people are fully able to keep parallel thoughts in their heads. Everybody can watch Lord of the Rings and think it's exciting while fully accepting that Gondor doesn't really exist, Sauron is made up and the threat of Sauron can't really get to you. But we somehow struggle with the idea that loving devotional prayers to God can touch us spiritually and put us at ease.
    At first I was tempted to argue that a suspension of disbelief in a fantasy movie isn't the same as heartfelt prayers to God. Also that a person can't invest belief and withhold belief at the same time.

    But, that's my skepticism failing to doubt itself better.

    Some time back I bought a Kwan Yin statue and, keeping in mind the myths about her, did some well-wishing for the world. It had a notable effect on me and thus, a little, on the world. So yes it works.

    What's important to keep in mind, to avoid the dissonance that'd result in just believing whatever one wants to... is how I didn't invest belief in Kwan Yin's objective existence, so there are no beliefs that are at odds in what I did. Same with your Christian friend, I think, since you say she's not invested in the belief but in the behavior of praying.

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Everybody who has had an emotion they'd rather not have is fully aware that understanding things about our emotional states doesn't help you, one bit, to change it. Often the opposite. It makes us feel worse. We need to trick our clever brains and hack into our subconscious somehow. Which is what I think a large part of what religious practice is about.
    I think I know what you're getting at but I want to throw in a "proviso": Having emotions we'd rather not have is a necessary part of life. A lot of therapy is wrong for the reason you name; mere intellection doesn't help. But a lot of it's also wrong for treating individuals as ill when they're healthy-enough people living in a diseased society. A lot of the life on earth is being destroyed. Is being a happy and productive citizen a healthy response to that, or a dissociative one? Anguish might be the healthy response, and some depressed people might not have a "personal" problem. So any spirituality being promoted by you or I would, I hope, not be merely consolation. My thing is want to see people love earth's life more and the diseased state of their civilization less. Not merely be happy.

    Now back to what I quoted from you... which I think means we'd engage with our body-knowing more fully if we had more religious-like traditions. If that is what you mean, then I agree. I think Alain de Botton makes a similar point in Religion for Atheists. (I need to read that book soon!).

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Or... it's not even childishness. Children have make belief games all the time, and understand that it's just pretend. So I'm not sure what has gone wrong in the world. This idea that humans are monolithic entities of chrystal clear identities is so weird. Where did it come from? I suspect it's a Christian thing, with their insistance on belief and conversion. So religion giveth and taketh away. Some things about religion is awful. A lot of things.
    It's not just Christians.

    And yeah, the excess focus on belief and the true/false dichotomy that comes with that gets annoying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Interesting post, and good point, thanks. My pessimistic view is a feeling that many of us haven't, and don't seem to be able to form our own views very readily. Following religion, or 'discovering' atheism is often a product of what ideas stick and adhere, then we follow the leader so to speak. We find out what popular talking point works with our friends, and go with it.
    My optimistic view is that most don't have to. Individuals were not each a light unto themselves when, a few centuries ago, some Dead White Males changed how the world thinks. Following the leader is fine if enough people are led into non-destructive beliefs. The question is, what will be the motivation? (I'm wondering where the "spiritual but not religious" people go when sick of the traditional religions.)

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Either science is going to be our savior, or it's going to be God.
    It'll be science with the help, or "following", of non-scientists whom science needs to appeal to at other levels than the merely intellectual.

    What eases my despair a little is scientists and science journalists are writing books about animal and even plant intelligence lately. It's an indication the modern worldview's cracking, and science is doing it. It's not visible if you're not reading the most recent books though.

    My interest in religiosity (not the major religions) is because the scientific information isn't enough. The values must shift. I think there's a widespread wish to regain a sense of belonging, after losing it to an uprooted city existence inside boxes and behind screens (and after centuries of thinking we were aliens thrown into this world as a test before we "transcend" it into either heaven or hell). One major means of finding that sense was a "religious" relation with the rest of nature. Secular thought too often dismisses this as "just your personal feelings". Whenever a topic about meaning comes up, they say "find your own answer". That's a "meme" from Dead White Males again, that we're all atomized individuals and not a part of the ecology. And it's a lame response to meaning - we can't mean much of anything as lone individuals. Words mean things relative to the rest of language, we too mean anything not in how we personally feel so much as how we relate with others.
    Last edited by abaddon; 05-22-2020 at 01:05 AM. Reason: trying to clarify the point

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    This is how religious identity operates, and it's a behavior that's been selected for. Religion takes up very little of a person's time out of necessity. I would be willing to bet that if we put a clock on the pope and recorded how he spent his time we'd find that a minority of his time is spent doing religious things.
    Yes, and I think it's necessary. Religion is supposed to be of benefit to the believer. That assumes that it frees up time, otherwise lost on other stuff. It's like Obama and his suits that all look the same. If you've decided on something, so that you won't need to use any more brain power on it, you've saved time for yourself = a win for the religious life

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    How about you? How has your view of religion changed over your lifetime? What made you change your opinion?
    Age 0-15: Who made this shit up? I can't believe adults fall for it.
    Age 16-35: There are a lot of things we don't know, but these religions? I can't believe adults fall for it.
    Age 17-60: We don't know what we don't know, but we can learn some of what we don't know. Religions? I can't believe adults fall for it.
    Age 60+ : Life is short. I'm not going to waste it on navel gazing or kowtowing to crap people made up in order to control other people. I can't believe adults fall for it.

    Yeah, acid helped. Showed me the internal nature of much of what people call "spiritual". But that was when I was 16-20 yo.

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