Defecting to Faith

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johndehlin
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Defecting to Faith

Post by johndehlin » 08 May 2009, 08:39

Op-Ed Columnist
Defecting to Faith
By CHARLES M. BLOW

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/opini ... .html?_r=3

“Most people are religious because they’re raised to be. They’re indoctrinated by their parents.”

So goes the rationale of my nonreligious friends.

Maybe, but a study entitled “Faith in Flux” issued this week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life questioned nearly 3,000 people and found that most children raised unaffiliated with a religion later chose to join one. Indoctrination be damned. By contrast, only 14 percent of those raised Catholic and 13 percent of those raised Protestant later became unaffiliated.

(It should be noted that about a quarter of the unaffiliated identified as atheist or agnostic, and the rest said that they had no particular religion.)

So what was the reason for this flight of the unchurched to churches?

Did God appear in a bush? Did the grass look greener on the other side of the cross? Or was it a response to the social pressure of being nonreligious in a very Christian country?

None of those reasons topped the list. Most said that they first joined a religion because their spiritual needs were not being met. And the most-cited reason for settling on their current religion was that they simply enjoyed the services and style of worship.

For these newly converted, the nonreligious shtick didn’t stick. There was still a void, and communities of the faithful helped fill it.

While science, logic and reason are on the side of the nonreligious, the cold, hard facts are just so cold and hard. Yes, the evidence for evolution is irrefutable. Yes, there is a plethora of Biblical contradictions. Yes, there is mounting evidence from neuroscientists that suggests that God may be a product of the mind. Yes, yes, yes. But when is the choir going to sing? And when is the picnic? And is my child going to get a part in the holiday play?

As the nonreligious movement picks up steam, it needs do a better job of appealing to the ethereal part of our human exceptionalism — that wondrous, precious part where logic and reason hold little purchase, where love and compassion reign. It’s the part that fears loneliness, craves companionship and needs affirmation and fellowship.

We are more than cells, synapses and sex drives. We are amazing, mysterious creatures forever in search of something greater than ourselves.

Dale McGowan, the co-author and editor of the book “Parenting Beyond Belief” told me that he believes that most of these people “are not looking for a dogma or a doctrine, but for transcendence from the everyday.”

Churches, mosques and synagogues nurture and celebrate this. Being regularly surrounded by a community that shares your convictions and reinforces them through literature, art and ritual is incredibly powerful, and yes, spiritual.

The nonreligious could learn a few things from religion.

=========

I invite you to visit my blog, By the Numbers. Please also join me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.

Correction: A previous version of this column misstated the percentage of Catholics and Protestant who later became unaffiliated. The correct percentage for Catholics is 14, not 4, and the correct percentage for Protestants is 13, not 7.

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asha
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by asha » 08 May 2009, 09:36

Interesting article. I can certainly relate to this on a personal level. I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic, and joined the LDS church at the age of 21 while away at university. I NEVER had anything coming even remotely close to a spiritual conversion, but rather was attracted to the church's emphasis on family and community (I still am!). In addition, both of my parents worked, so I was definitely drawn to the more traditional family image that the church put forth. In my own way, I guess I was rebelling against the way I was brought up when I joined the LDS church.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 May 2009, 09:37

most of these people “are not looking for a dogma or a doctrine, but for transcendence from the everyday.”
That is profound, imo.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by Brian Johnston » 08 May 2009, 14:39

Religion is the vehicle of transcendence, when we use the tool for the purpose it was designed.

People crave this when they don't have it.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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jmb275
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by jmb275 » 08 May 2009, 17:37

This is more evidence to me that God is in us, and religion is the vehicle. We use the word God, according to Joseph Campbell, to describe that which transcends human understanding. And yet, it is the very thing that exists within each of us. We radiate it!
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

Dwarik
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by Dwarik » 08 May 2009, 17:47

I really think one of the big reasons religion exists is as a justification of morals. If one would only consider science and logic then it's very easy to reduce one's behavior to "survival of the fittest" and there would be no justification for being nice and courteous and helping other people (except for situations where we want something from other people). Of course it does seem that today's society is moving in that direction anyway but i don't think that's an improvement. Religion is a a excellent 'excuse' for being nice without the expectation of getting anything back.
Also most religion provides a whole extra dimension in meaning of life stuff that's just not there if all we are is slightly improved apes. I think most great things done (and many not so great things too) are done because people wanted for change. And for that to happen they have to be motivated that things can change. Religion is a good motivation for people to want things to change for the better.

And now i'm going to get some sleep before i type more rambling ....

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asha
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by asha » 08 May 2009, 21:01

Dwarik wrote:Religion is a a excellent 'excuse' for being nice without the expectation of getting anything back.
I think in some ways I disagree with this... I mean someone who is following a strict set of religious commandments (such as "being nice") because they believe they need to in order to one day gain a heavenly reward and/or escape eternal damnation, definitely has an expectation of getting something back. The cynical side of me worries that for many true-believers that is what motivates them.

A quick study of Humanism can show you that religion is not necessarily an essential component for being moral/ethical.

IMO it would be a higher, more mature level of morality when a person with no religion is good simply for goodness' sake, rather than someone who is motivated by "dreaming of mansions above".

However, I am making generalizations... I'm not trying to paint a picture of everyone in Fowler's stage 3 being only motivated by fear and/or heavenly rewards, but it seems to me that the more mature morality of being good just because it is right and good is more typical to someone in stages 4 through 6, which many religious people never go through. I am sure those of you who disagree with me will let me know! ;)

Now I'm rambling too.

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jmb275
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by jmb275 » 11 May 2009, 22:11

@Dwarik
I am afraid you have hit a nerve of mine. I apologize for all the following bluntness. I agree with asha, the idea that religion makes us ethical is simply false. There is an entire branch of sociology called "secular ethics" that deals with this issue. And in fact, many atheists I know are extremely loving, kind, and much more Christlike than religious folks.

Might I also suggest that your view of science may suffer from a lack of perspective and information. There are VERY few scientists who think we are nothing more than advanced apes. Also, science in no way shape or form believes that all of life is simply "survival of the fittest." In fact, this is a Nazi idea, not an idea from science. Science is separate from these views. What is science? Is science what you hear from Foxnews about the latest causes of cancer? Is it what got us to the moon? Is science encapsulated in Charles Darwin? In order to understand what science is you must understand the scientific methodology, and the culture created thereby. Science is brilliant in method, it is humble, pure, and inquisitive. It seeks for open knowledge, transparency, humanity, and understanding. It is reliable, and it is VERY good at characterizing our reality. It is diametrically opposed to the dogmatic views of most religious groups, and thereby has the power to quash many of them. I also disagree religion adds a new dimension to life that isn't otherwise there. For me, science and religion are married, they are tools in a toolbox, seeking to help me become a better person. We have already seen what religion will do without science (dark ages anyone?). Science gives us the means of gaining some determinism when it comes to reality. It does not paint pictures, compose music, or write poetry. But, at least for me, it can most definitely help me on my spiritual journey.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by Curt Sunshine » 11 May 2009, 22:16

For me, science and religion are married, they are tools in a toolbox, seeking to help me become a better person.
That's exactly how I see it. I see in science and religion the yin and yang, the objective and the subjective, the heads and tails, the lecture and the exploration, the knowledge and the faith, etc.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Heber13
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Re: Defecting to Faith

Post by Heber13 » 12 May 2009, 12:53

I like the yin and yang, and the marriage idea. I also believe there is a place for both in the human experience.

Faith can enlighten the mind to scientific breakthroughs, science can provide necessary knowledge to correct awareness and push the faith further.

I think sometimes people take one without the other, and want science to prove all things and don't believe in religion, but in my experience that leaves me spiritually empty and unfulfilled. Others blindly follow religion because it is easier than applying scientific methods to figure things out, or they refuse to see doctors because they have faith in being healed by God when medicine and doctors may have the healing power needed without God's interaction.

But both can exist together and compliment each other.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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