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What Religion Provides, for the Not Religious


eternalsummer
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I am partially thinking out loud, so bear with me.

 

I cannot believe, as far as I can tell, in any religion I have heard of.  The hypotheses (see William James's Will to Believe) are dead to me.  I don't believe Jesus turned water into wine or Mohammed saw God or Moses turned a staff into a snake or whatever any more than I believe in Zeus, and I can't manufacture those beliefs in myself.

 

However, I see a great societal benefit to religion - it keeps people in line, largely (it normalizes desired behaviors, socially) and it enables large concentrations of people to live together in close quarters to a degree.

 

Personally, I feel like the benefit is even greater.  Religion facilitates and channels many of the social instincts I think we all have - the Group Sing, for instance (doesn't every society have a version of the Group Sing?), and meaningful seasonal festivals, and community service, and identity, and friendship with likeminded people, and a million other things - relative certainty about life after death (the best thing I can say is that it is like a black hole, which is kind of scary), a concrete code of behavior, a sense that there is someone (God) who loves you despite your worldly problems, etc.

 

Unfortunately I can't get any of these benefits because I can't force myself into faith.

 

Do any non-religious people feel the same way? Is this a postmodern problem?  Is there a solution?

 

Alternatively, is there a religion I could actually believe?  I just don't see it :(

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And I would like to say that the thing I almost want more than any of the rest of it is the Group Sing.

 

The closest thing is singing the national anthem at sporting events, and it doesn't approach hymn singing at churches, even when I don't believe the hymns!  The glory you religious people must experience singing hymns, I am so jealous.

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One can be an atheist pagan, (paganism is big on DIY,) but you may not be able to find a group like that locally. I, and other atheist pagans, have our own little rituals and whatnot, designed to suit our needs and evolve when we need something different.

 

Have you read/listened to Alain de Botton's 'Religion for Atheists?'

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I have not, as I do not identify with atheists.  I would maybe be willing to try; I will look it up on amazon.  ETA: well the questions and answers look good.

 

My mom once told me that we were pagans but I think she was joking.  On the other hand, maybe not- she is clearly a believer in Something, but What is not clear.  She interprets the world and the will of the divine (in that language) through astrology. 

Edited by ananemone
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Well, I still recommend the book. I think you'll identify with the ideas in it. 

 

If you're some kind of deist, the UU church might work for you. Otherwise, perhaps look at the Higgenbotham's book. There are as many ways of being pagan as there are pagans, I should think. There are those who believe in literal god/s, metaphorical god/s, no gods at all. There are people who frame that as life force, or The Universe, or the Tao, or whatever works.

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and the rituals!  I forgot about the rituats.  I would love some meaningful, God-Ordained (so I have to do them, morally, and not slack off) rituals.

 

sigh

 

Then you need to define God and what God expects of you. 

Or Goddess, if you'd prefer the Divine Feminine. :)

 

Maybe have a look at The Wheel of the Year and see if any of those holy days work for you.

 

 

Not meaning to dominate the conversation, but the most populated time zones aren't awake yet, so there's probably only the Aussies and worldwide insomniacs around.  :tongue_smilie:

 

Btw, if you want me to give this reading a go for you, sing out: http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=7825

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Yes, I unfortunately have a terrible waking schedule which seems to correlate with normal Australians and Kiwis.

 

That is a very interesting idea, Rosie, that God might expect something of me (of course he does) and that there might be a ritual that would satisfy or make easier that expectation.

 

(I am of course speaking metaphorically with the God and the He but it is easier to speak in those terms even if they are metaphors).

 

 

 

What I would mean practically might be that it is both divine and right and good to have a routine in the morning - the kids and I function better and it fits with the harmony of things.  A small ritual of some sort might help make that transition concrete and smoother flowing for both me and the kids.

 

I will have to think about this more.

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I don't agree with most of your conclusions, but I have posted before that I miss the feeling of belonging and comfort that believing and attending church provided. I'm no expert, but in your shoes I'd look at Unitarian Universalist churches in your area and see if one fits. Some Quaker churches also might fit.

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I think I am probably way too conservative (socially) for the UU people - but I have not been to a meeting, so perhaps I am incorrect in my perception of them.  My husband's aunt (deceased) and uncle were Quakers and they were the only other people we have met in the whole world who were as serous about the morality of food as we are, but my impression of Quakers is that they have discarded a lot of the ritual and group behavior and certainty I wish I could have.

 

They were extraordinarily kind, though.  Also much more patient than I find myself able to be - I am more black-and-white, right-and-wrong, fix-it-now, and they were more listen-to-the-enemy, wait for a solution types.

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This probably isn't exactly what you are thinking of, but I'll share anyway.  

 

I left religion in college, though I am willing to admit I had religion "imprinted" on me from an early age by being raised as a Christian fundamentalist.  I do think that helps more than had I been raised without religion.  My brother followed a similar path of losing faith and becoming downright disparaging of it.  

 

Then he converted to Catholicism, which was a HUGE shock.  He had been researching this in "secret" basically, for many of the reasons you stated above.  He saw the benefits of religion, but could not get past the "religion part".  I thought he'd gone nuts.  We live far away, so my brother and I launched into a 2 year long debate by email.  To go into all that was contained in those emails would take... probably 2 years.  Anyway...

 

His arguments were strong.  I read and read and read from the opposing side (atheist) and tried to fight back, but ultimately, he convinced me.  Or, I should say the agreements put forth by the Catholic church convinced me.  Even more accurately, GK Chesterton probably talked me into it.  This is a quote from Orthodoxy by Chesterton, that is deeply meaningful to me:

 

"This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophers say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all the creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden" (pp. 161-164).

Now, where does that leave faith?  Frankly, not in a good place for me personally.  I am intellectually convinced.  But faith?  I'm weak, very weak.  It's something I work at.  I don't attempt to accept strange miracles- snakes and floods and so on.  I work on little things, like a good and loving God who is personally involved in our lives.  That's quite enough for me for now, thank you very much...  And honestly, I don't plan on ever confronting the Old Testament because I know my faith isn't built for it.  I'm beginning to see faith and love BOTH as acts of the Will, and not these random "emotions" that we either have or don't have.  Some people are lucky enough to have a natural faith and I do envy that peace of spirit they must have.  But I DO have a strong Will, so I rely on that.    

 

 

 

 

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I would like to be able to will  myself to beleve and participate in some religious tradition, but they all seem as beyond willpower as Shiva

 

Everybody believes something.

 

You've tried working from the perspective of what you don't believe. Have you tried working from where you do? You probably have a perfectly good framework inside you already, and so can develop that to incorporate your new needs. Most likely there will be other people who think like you do, so once you can articulate it, you can find them.

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However, I see a great societal benefit to religion - it keeps people in line, largely (it normalizes desired behaviors, socially) and it enables large concentrations of people to live together in close quarters to a degree.

 

Personally, I feel like the benefit is even greater.  Religion facilitates and channels many of the social instincts I think we all have - the Group Sing, for instance (doesn't every society have a version of the Group Sing?), and meaningful seasonal festivals, and community service, and identity, and friendship with likeminded people, and a million other things - relative certainty about life after death (the best thing I can say is that it is like a black hole, which is kind of scary), a concrete code of behavior, a sense that there is someone (God) who loves you despite your worldly problems, etc.

 

Unfortunately I can't get any of these benefits because I can't force myself into faith.

 

Do any non-religious people feel the same way? Is this a postmodern problem?  Is there a solution?

 

 

A bit more than once in a blue moon, I miss the singing. Particularly around Christmas and Easter.  And I'm at ease with death being the end.

 

But all that other stuff? I disagree that churches are the only place to look.  In fact, I hear and read (here!) about how long and difficult a process it can be for people to find THE church (after searching denominations) that fits them in all the ways you mention.  I don't find it much different from the difficult process I go through/have gone through to find those things outside of religion.

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i see what you mean, monica (and I love Gk Chesterton, not least because he had daschshunds)

 

have you read The Will to Believe?

 

I would like to be able to will myself to beleve and participate in some religious tradition, but they all seem as beyond willpower as Shiva

I have not, but I'll google it.

 

For me, "willing myself to believe" is more like "fake it til ya make it" and Chesterton and Lewis have both talked about this as a strategy for the "hard of faith".

 

 

... tell me honestly, do I use quote marks too much? LOl.

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But all that other stuff? I disagree that churches are the only place to look.  In fact, I hear and read (here!) about how long and difficult a process it can be for people to find THE church (after searching denominations) that fits them in all the ways you mention.  I don't find it much different from the difficult process I go through/have gone through to find those things outside of religion.

 

True that.

 

You can find a sing along at an SCA event or a Girl Scout camp.

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The reasons you point out are the reason I have kept things the same for my children, even as my beliefs changed a lot. I do think religion is largely beneficial for all of the reasons you said. It is still possible to be part of a congregation, even if you don't believe all (or even most) of the tenents believed by the leadership.

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True that.

 

You can find a sing along at an SCA event or a Girl Scout camp.

 

Oooh, I used to love to go to our local Irish Pub in college for sing-a-long night :-)

 

To the OP, I can't believe either and I get that you lose some of the belonging feeling.  If nothing else, it would just be nice to have an answer to the constant question of "Where do you go to church?"

 

I used to feel some of the way you do about all of the good religion brings society, but over the last decade I've realized that it brings most of the bad, too.  So it's just like humanity in general.  Over the past couple of years, I've seen more bad than good.  

 

I agree that you should think about what you "do" believe (and maybe share here).  That would be a first step to finding the place where you feel you belong.

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About group sings, if you live in the US it might not be too difficult to find them. In our area, it is starting to become popular to have sing-a- long experiences to classic musical movies or theater productions. There are also singing folk festivals, usually found in mountainous areas, lol. Try googling for your area.

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This probably isn't exactly what you are thinking of, but I'll share anyway.  

 

I left religion in college, though I am willing to admit I had religion "imprinted" on me from an early age by being raised as a Christian fundamentalist.  I do think that helps more than had I been raised without religion.  My brother followed a similar path of losing faith and becoming downright disparaging of it.  

 

Then he converted to Catholicism, which was a HUGE shock.  He had been researching this in "secret" basically, for many of the reasons you stated above.  He saw the benefits of religion, but could not get past the "religion part".  I thought he'd gone nuts.  We live far away, so my brother and I launched into a 2 year long debate by email.  To go into all that was contained in those emails would take... probably 2 years.  Anyway...

 

His arguments were strong.  I read and read and read from the opposing side (atheist) and tried to fight back, but ultimately, he convinced me.  Or, I should say the agreements put forth by the Catholic church convinced me.  Even more accurately, GK Chesterton probably talked me into it.  This is a quote from Orthodoxy by Chesterton, that is deeply meaningful to me:

 

"This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophers say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all the creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden" (pp. 161-164).

Now, where does that leave faith?  Frankly, not in a good place for me personally.  I am intellectually convinced.  But faith?  I'm weak, very weak.  It's something I work at.  I don't attempt to accept strange miracles- snakes and floods and so on.  I work on little things, like a good and loving God who is personally involved in our lives.  That's quite enough for me for now, thank you very much...  And honestly, I don't plan on ever confronting the Old Testament because I know my faith isn't built for it.  I'm beginning to see faith and love BOTH as acts of the Will, and not these random "emotions" that we either have or don't have.  Some people are lucky enough to have a natural faith and I do envy that peace of spirit they must have.  But I DO have a strong Will, so I rely on that.    

And this post places you very firmly in the very small group of posters that I think of as the "wise women" of WTM.  Beautifully stated.

Edited by Tania
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About the rest of what religion provides, I think there needs to be work on secular rituals surrounding death for those that need a feeling of tying up the loose threads, celebrating what was, mourning what no longer will be, and creating a satisfactory ending with a show of good will toward those who remain behind. If it is desired.

 

But, I don't believe that the popular religious stance that I see toward death is at all beneficial. The trend is to assume everyone who dies becomes some sort of Angel who watches over you. I see people having real difficulty moving on with their lives and obsessing over rituals to communicate their love to the dead and trying to find evidence of the dead's continued love for them. It seems unhealthy to me.

 

I think those with social instincts do need to be more creative to find an outlet if they are not religious, but I think they need not despair. There are plenty of civic and volunteer opportunities, local special interest clubs, amateur theater and choral groups, etc. Of course, they may not have that lofty feeling of grand overarching purpose, but I think they do as much good, if not more, than many churches.

Edited by Onceuponatime
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and the rituals!  I forgot about the rituats.  I would love some meaningful, God-Ordained (so I have to do them, morally, and not slack off) rituals.

 

sigh

 

Is it the idea of a God in general that you can't believe in, or just the miracle stuff? Many who attend church consider those stories to be allegory, or instructional, not historical. I consider myself pretty religious, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter one whit to me if the red sea ACTUALLY parted (although it could have) or that the flood actually covered the earth (I'd say it didn't, but to those experiencing it it seemed like it as it covered the area they knew) or if water turned to wine or not. I'm agnostic on that stuff. 

 

I do believe Jesus died and was buried, and that he is the son of God in a special way, but there are those in the Episcopal tradition that don't even tightly hold to that. I can say I choose to believe and that if I'm wrong, well no harm done :) The basic truths I believe in are beautiful in many ways no matter how accurate they are. 

 

But i'd definitely say try the Episcopal Church. And maybe read "Why Religion must Change or Die" by a former Episcopalian Bishop. I hated the book, but it sounds like it may resonate with you. (I'm too much a believer for him). And plenty of hymns and ritual :)

 

As they say, you don't have leave your reason/brain at the door when you attend an Episcopal Church. 

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Now, where does that leave faith?  Frankly, not in a good place for me personally.  I am intellectually convinced.  But faith?  I'm weak, very weak.  It's something I work at.  I don't attempt to accept strange miracles- snakes and floods and so on.  I work on little things, like a good and loving God who is personally involved in our lives.  That's quite enough for me for now, thank you very much...  And honestly, I don't plan on ever confronting the Old Testament because I know my faith isn't built for it.  I'm beginning to see faith and love BOTH as acts of the Will, and not these random "emotions" that we either have or don't have.  Some people are lucky enough to have a natural faith and I do envy that peace of spirit they must have.  But I DO have a strong Will, so I rely on that.    

 

Have you read the section on faith in Mere Christianity? If not, I think you'd like it. He talks about it being an act of will.

 

And there is that old prayer "Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief."

 

Even many of the saints struggled with faith. 

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And I would like to say that the thing I almost want more than any of the rest of it is the Group Sing.

 

Join a choir.

You can group sing with people of many different religions. Religion is not the only thing that creates the bond - love of music is completely sufficient for that.

Edited by regentrude
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I think that the sense of community that religion provides could be provoded other ways but it requires outside the box thinking and intentionality to make it happen since things are so religious oriented in this country.

 

My sister, before she moved to France, had a knitting group she joined. Three guys, five ladies. They spent six hrs per week knitting together, talking, sharing their lives and grew very close. Sis has a gorgeous voice and missed the group singing of church so she introduced folk and broadway song singing to the group. Another person loved poetry and shared that. One of the guys loved philosophy so would bring up interesting topics to discuss.

 

They formed their own mini community and it worked well. They would visit each other when sick or injured, show support, attend family funerals as a group, etc.

 

My mil has a knit group that she loves a LOT more than church, and the members are very close, very supportive...way more than her church. So maybe look at forming a new community based on common interests.

Edited by FaithManor
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Outing my parents perhaps, but they were Presbyterian (as I was), but they do not believe many of the tenants of Christianity including Jesus's virgin birth, being literally raised from the dead, etc.  They "love" Jesus... but don't literally believe a lot of tenants of the faith.  Doesn't stop them from going to church nearly every Sunday and enjoying the social aspects....including meeting with church members for bridge and such.   In their mind "good people go to church (or another religious institution)"... kind of like they go to the country club and play golf too.  LOL 

 

I guess just trying to say that a lot of people don't believe everything hook, nail, and sinker.

 

I'd look into UU as well as perhaps some more mainstream but non-evangelical denominations?  Presbyterian, Anglican/Episcopalian, Disciples of Christ, UCC,  etc.

 

Edited for bizarre grammar. 

Edited by umsami
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I'm UU.  It's not perfect, but it has the community and rituals and focus on morality and duty .  And on good days, I walk out feeling like a wrung-out washcloth, in a good way.

 

I'd love to join the local Congregationalist church, we have so many friends there. But I can't. It's a lie. And I don't want my children growing up to believe in things I believe are falsety just for the earthly convenience of having that community.

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i see what you mean, monica (and I love Gk Chesterton, not least because he had daschshunds)

 

have you read The Will to Believe?

 

I would like to be able to will  myself to beleve and participate in some religious tradition, but they all seem as beyond willpower as Shiva

 

I hope I'm not being disrespectful, and I'm not trying to convince you of something that isn't there for you, just trying to share how I am seeing the things you are saying.  Maybe I'm wrong.

 

Belief isn't an all or nothing thing.  It sounds to me like you are seeing God.  You are seeing him in your desire for order and peace, and community that is like family.  Those things are from him.  Do you want to believe in life after death?  Did you know that the only act of worship left in Heaven is singing?  

 

I really like what Monica said.  I believe because it is a truth-telling thing.  All the truth and wisdom I ever need to teach my kids or guide my life has been distilled into the Bible.  It's all there, and it is right.  

 

Maybe consider that you don't disbelieve.  Maybe you do believe, some.  Maybe, for you, it is more like when you hear someone tell you about an improbable event, and you listen with skepticism.  By the end of the telling, they have convinced you.  Maybe you do believe, some tiny bit.  Maybe you are feeling that pull of your tiny belief, and maybe it will grow.  For now, let the concrete convince you, and then go from there.

 

Belief isn't so much, to me, like believing in fairy tales, but rather, it is choosing who I am going to trust. 

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Unfortunately I can't get any of these benefits because I can't force myself into faith.

...

Alternatively, is there a religion I could actually believe?  I just don't see it :(

 

Faith was a problem for me, as well. I was often envious of people who seemed to have such an easy time believing. I saw answered prayers, I saw how people's lives were changed, but I still couldn't seem to grasp hold of what I felt to be true faith for *myself*. For years I prayed, "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). In the end God gave me faith, as a gift, for which I am devoutly thankful. 

 

I would start with what you do believe, as others have said. Do you believe that there is a God? If so, do you believe that He can reveal Himself to you, if you ask? If so, then I would ask and keep asking until He does. 

 

The writer of Hebrews said, "...without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Note that the verse does not say that one needs to believe in Jesus changing the water into wine or Moses' staff becoming a snake, as a start. Just that He exists and can reveal Himself to those who seek Him. 

 

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

 

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?†Luke 11:9-13

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For music and ritual, you can't beat the Episcopal Church. I was very involved in it for close to a decade and I really miss it at times for those very reasons, because it was glorious. It doesn't hurt that I'm an Anglophile and a medievalist at heart and Gregorian chant speaks to both of those. ;) The type of liturgy/ritual will also be very predictable from congregation to congregation, service to service, and season to season.

 

I've been UU for about two decades, and I will say that the quality of music and type of ritual/liturgy you will find is going to vary tremendously based on the particular congregation, and may vary tremendously from service to service within a particular congregation.

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I don't agree with most of your conclusions, but I have posted before that I miss the feeling of belonging and comfort that believing and attending church provided. I'm no expert, but in your shoes I'd look at Unitarian Universalist churches in your area and see if one fits. Some Quaker churches also might fit.

 

I must be weird in that I'm one of the few who doesn't miss the church community or rituals. I was raised in the Catholic Church and honestly sometimes the rituals felt robotic. Everyone gave the required response out of habit. It probably is partly due to the fact that mass was still being said in Latin, so really most of us had no idea of what the priest was saying or what we were replying.

 

It's not that I didn't enjoy church; I did. I guess because my friends were from many different backgrounds and none of our really close friends went to our church, our lives didn't revolve around it. We tried to live our lives as we believed Jesus wanted us to and we went to church to hear a sermon we could hopefully put into practice in our lives, but it wasn't a community for us. 

 

As for the singing, I am truly an awful singer. As soon as I was old enough to realize how bad I am, I began mouthing the words to hymns out of respect for my fellow worshippers.  :lol:  (I'm not tone-deaf. The chorus teacher at the high school where I taught told me if I know I'm off-key that means I'm not tone-deaf. He said I was just never trained - which is true.)

 

I think I am probably way too conservative (socially) for the UU people - but I have not been to a meeting, so perhaps I am incorrect in my perception of them.  My husband's aunt (deceased) and uncle were Quakers and they were the only other people we have met in the whole world who were as serous about the morality of food as we are, but my impression of Quakers is that they have discarded a lot of the ritual and group behavior and certainty I wish I could have.

 

My husband is socially liberal but politically conservative. He doesn't align himself with the current crop of conservatives in the U.S., but an earlier version. Still, most UU congregations are both socially AND politically liberal. We considered trying out one of the UU churches but as I learned more about it, I suspected he'd feel out of place due to his beliefs.

 

We also were glad to get our weekends back. If we want to spend hours on a Sunday being with people, we plan it with our friends. It's not an obligation though.

 

As for Quakers, I've only known one. She was in our homeschool group and I liked some of the things she told me about it, like the Inner Light and an element of God living in everyone, but like you I can't make myself believe in something so I couldn't believe in that either.

 

Morality of food?

 

I like a religion with a sensible food policy.

 

I really wish we could Like your posts Rosie. :D

 

About the rest of what religion provides, I think there needs to be work on secular rituals surrounding death for those that need a feeling of tying up the loose threads, celebrating what was, mourning what no longer will be, and creating a satisfactory ending with a show of good will toward those who remain behind. If it is desired.

My mother was not religious. As the years went on,she leaned towards atheist. I think if she was still alive I'd be able to tell her that we no longer believe in a deity and I think she'd tell me she doesn't either. I was happy when I found out my aunt (her younger sister) is now an atheist. Anyway, at her funeral I had them play Elvis music. She loved Elvis - she was one of those young women screaming over him back in the day. And Frank Sinatra. Different people got up and talked about her (which is common at funerals regardless of belief or lack thereof).  I pointed out that if there is an afterlife, she already met someone and is talking their ear off, which got people laughing. Afterwards, people came to my house and brought food - just like they would if we were religious. You can have funeral rituals without religion. 

 

I think those with social instincts do need to be more creative to find an outlet if they are not religious, but I think they need not despair. There are plenty of civic and volunteer opportunities, local special interest clubs, amateur theater and choral groups, etc. Of course, they may not have that lofty feeling of grand overarching purpose, but I think they do as much good, if not more, than many churches.

This is true. There are many opportunities but they aren't all-in-one and they aren't on every corner. You have to find a choral group,  volunteer opportunities, etc. separately. You have to work a little harder, but secular groups do exist and many do have a feeling of community.

 

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We live in an area where a lot of that sense of community comes from churches and school activities. Since we did not participate in either, it was harder to find that community. Right now, both ds and I have that in college classmates. It serves that sense of belonging that I had when we were very involved in church. For me, I needed to move those spiritual conversations outside of a organized religion setting, those questions of life or death. We don't have a UU church or I might give that a try. 

 

I read this shortly after my separation, How Doctor Who Became my Religion. It resonated with me because I was binge-watching Doctor Who at the time and crying over other episode. Then as I got to know other Whovians, I realized they were feeling that sense of belonging. It changed my view of fandoms. 

 

I miss the singing, but fill that gap in other ways. Our church was not very ritualistic and I pondered trying a church that was for while. I suppose my spirituality is more individual focused rather than group focused. I have personal rituals that I find personally fulfilling. I still believe in a God, but being a church and doing those rituals and worshiping in the way I used to would feel fake to me now. 

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I think it is important for parents to raise their children within some sort of ethical framework that encourages people to look beyond their own selfish interests and work for the good of the community. Religion is one way to do this (and what our family chooses to do) but even if someone is atheistic or agnostic, there are secular humanist alternatives.

 

What I see as the most problematic about the decline in spirituality in our society is that the role of religion in getting people to think less selfishly and more altruistically has too often not be replaced by a secular alternative. 

 

If church isn't for you due to your non-belief, you need to work hard to find something to replace it.

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I have a non-religious friend who has put together a beautiful life by purposefully seeking out the answers to these same questions of "what am I missing that religion provides?"

 

She belongs to several humanist, altruistic organizations (SERTOMA is one), several musical and creative organizations (I met her through our folk music club), and a group that is organized around international travel. So she did find her tribe, all over the world, and she's been able to create community and do a lot of good.

 

She's also extremely hospitable, and tries to just claim the whole human race as a friend. If she spends any significant time with a person at all, she treats them like family. I think if she had a motto, it would be something like, "We're all in this together."

 

 

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I think that the major pieces of what the OP refers to can be put together as chunks, but I have rarely seen it all in one community.

 

There are wonderful choral groups that are secular, and pop vocal groups as well, but they don't tend to include all ages at once the way a church does.

 

There are various rites of passage in secular life that can be emphasized--scouting, school graduations, etc.  Those are really valuable, and pull people together before and afterwards.

 

I've been to very community-oriented funerals that had no connection with any faith, but were long and loving.

 

There are excellent groups that teach or at least expect values--scouting, I believe, although I'm inexperienced.  AAUW--but it's geared toward females only.  4H maybe?  Not sure.  Roots and Shoots groups, definitely.  

 

The only place I have ever seen that did it all was a group that formed around a nature awareness / traditional community 'school'.  Maybe look for one of those?  Included were meetings for mixed age groups, opening and closing rituals, some singing (simple though), a great focus on observable wild nature and one's place in that, seasonal variations in lifestyle and in observations/activities, and values to some extent.  A lot of the organizations that provide these classes for kids are listed in the back of Jon Young's "Coyote's Guide", and if there is one near you it might be a great outlet for your kids at first, and then gradually to find/join/create mixed age community around.  These are not religious per se, at all.

 

I have a friend who lost her faith, and found great community of the kind that you talk of around a Waldorf school, FWIW.

 

Something to know--a lot of churches are kind of letting go a lot of this stuff in deference to pop culture.  I think that is a grave mistake, and even as a person of faith, I would try to avoid attending a church like that.  I *get* the wistfulness, but it's not all so perfect in our churches either.  

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I think it is important for parents to raise their children within some sort of ethical framework that encourages people to look beyond their own selfish interests and work for the good of the community. Religion is one way to do this (and what our family chooses to do) but even if someone is atheistic or agnostic, there are secular humanist alternatives.

 

What I see as the most problematic about the decline in spirituality in our society is that the role of religion in getting people to think less selfishly and more altruistically has too often not be replaced by a secular alternative. 

 

I have not made the observation that people who do not attend church are less community minded or altruistic than people who do.

There are plenty of secular way to serve the community and look "beyond their own selfish interests".

 

On a societal scale, I have not seen institutional religion at the forefront of working and advocating for social equality and justice.

Edited by regentrude
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Religion is the opiate of the people.

 

That sums it up for me. I don't partake, nor do I miss any of the paraphernalia or communal aspects associated therewith.

 

Yeah I don't get the allure.  I mean sure...sure I'm an introvert so that's part of why it's not appealing to me, but I like to hang out with people from time to time and I don't see what is so special about the kind of hanging out I did as a part of religion. 

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I have not made the observation that people who do not attend church are less community minded or altruistic than people who do.

There are plenty of secular way to serve the community and look "beyond their own selfish interests".

 

On a societal scale, I have not seen institutional religion at the forefront of working and advocating for social equality.

 

I agree.  Every organization I've been a part of, big and small, has done some sort of community minded event/activity/whatever.  You don't need religion for that.  Yes, indeed, many religious organizations spend part of their time doing that, but in many instances that is paired with the thought of getting new members.  Make no mistake about it.  Yes, they do good, but it's not always 100% "free" in the sense they also include preaching with their help. 

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Personally, I feel like the benefit is even greater.  Religion facilitates and channels many of the social instincts I think we all have - the Group Sing, for instance (doesn't every society have a version of the Group Sing?), and meaningful seasonal festivals, and community service, and identity, and friendship with likeminded people, and a million other things - relative certainty about life after death (the best thing I can say is that it is like a black hole, which is kind of scary), a concrete code of behavior, a sense that there is someone (God) who loves you despite your worldly problems, etc.

 

Do any non-religious people feel the same way? Is this a postmodern problem?  Is there a solution?

 

Aside from the certainty of life after death, which I don't have (I have no evidence that leads me to believe that anything happens but the body decomposing and its atoms being recycled in other living beings), all other things can be had without religion.

 

My women's circle, which is interfaith, creates sisterhood, facilitates ritual and even Group Singing (although for that I prefer my community choir). Many members of our circle are very involved in activities around the local women's community center that facilitates classes, workshops, meeting spaces. It is the culture of the group to help others in need - on small but concrete scales like setting up schedules to take meals to new mothers, providing transportation to the hospital, etc to larger scales like Kiva loans and financial support for the community center.

We celebrate seasonal festivals.

We have rituals for our monthly Red Tent meetings. Ritual does not require religion.

The group does not spell out a "concrete" behavior code (which I would consider extremely limiting) - we just agree on basic principles and strive to act accordingly.  It is nice to be part of a group of people that hold themselves to high moral standards. But it does not require religion to behave in an ethical manner and have a strong personal integrity; one can have this completely without fear of displeasing a deity.

 

I can highly recommend hanging out with pagans. I found my pagan friends very tolerant and inclusive; they have never tried to proselytize or convert me, or judged anybody for not sharing their beliefs. We can share community without a religious message being pushed.

Edited by regentrude
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I think it is important for parents to raise their children within some sort of ethical framework that encourages people to look beyond their own selfish interests and work for the good of the community. Religion is one way to do this (and what our family chooses to do) but even if someone is atheistic or agnostic, there are secular humanist alternatives.

 

What I see as the most problematic about the decline in spirituality in our society is that the role of religion in getting people to think less selfishly and more altruistically has too often not be replaced by a secular alternative. 

 

If church isn't for you due to your non-belief, you need to work hard to find something to replace it.

 

I will have to wholeheartedly disagree. Of course people need to raise their children to look outside themselves, but it comes to us naturally as well. Altruism is part of our evolutionary history. 

 

Abstract, not so easy to read -

 

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1654/13

 

Easier reading (my preference is explain it to me simply)

 

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100825/full/news.2010.427.html

 

http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/is-human-nature-fundamentally-selfish-or-altruistic/

 

It also makes us feel good -

 

https://www.verywell.com/what-is-altruism-2794828

 

The link between religion and altruism is sketchy -

 

http://www.livescience.com/2997-religion-path-altruism.html

Edited by Lady Florida.
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No, I don't feel the same way. 

 

I disagree with the societal benefits of religion. Religion too often tries to take what it thinks is right and wrong and apply it to those who do not believe. Things such as LGBTQ rights and pro-choice should be decided from a logical, medical, ethical point of view, not through the lens of religion and ancient stories. All of the perceived benefits can be met in other ways. You don't need religion to be a good person, give to charity, volunteer, meet and form friendships with like-minded people, celebrate life and create meaningful traditions, or find people to sing with. 

 

I don't miss any of the trappings of religion. It was actually a great relief to no longer feel the need to participate in the rituals and commitments. If I did feel the loss of the community or singing, I would try Sunday Assembly. DH and I have considered it, to give the kids another social outlet and something to have to compare when peers talk about going to church. 

 

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