Post 5.6 - Evangelical Arrogance, the Second Coming

First, thank you all for the feedback regarding Post 5.5 - Evangelical Arrogance. Much of it has been through e-mail and other private methods, but all of it has been civil, supportive, and without attack or malice, irrespective of your personal beliefs -- so again, my deepest thanks.

It also led to this question from Facets reader, Deirdre Pape:
I would be interested to know if any of your friends that don't follow a religion were raised in a specific faith?  I was raised Catholic but no longer believe in organized religion.  But even so I struggle constantly about not raising my children in any faith.  I think it would be hypocritical to enroll them in CCD or go to church but I also wonder if I am depriving them of some sense of community.  Any thoughts on this?
I invite you all to respond to Deirdre's question. Here is my response for myself personally.

I was raised in a multi-Protestant and Catholic background. Despite observing various faiths over time, my mother declares herself "Protestant" -- not Methodist, Episcopalian or Presbyterian. My grandmother is the same; when she last visited and said she wanted to go to church, we asked her which religion, and she didn't care about which flavor of Protestant she attended, only that it wasn't Mormon.

Reportedly, my father left the Catholic Church and became Methodist when marrying my mother. My maternal grandfather did the same when marrying my grandmother - his family had been devoutly Catholic - both the Roman and Eastern Orthodox variety, the men all observing the former, the women the latter. We have no idea why.

Later on, largely due to the influence of a gung-ho stepfather, I converted to and was confirmed as a Catholic. In fact, if I remember correctly, Deirdre Pape and I sat next to each other in the pews for our confirmation.

So maybe, to some degree, the inconsistency for me was introduced here, as these were not treated as deeply spiritual kinds of decisions, just a means to an end. There was less a care about believing in a specific religion so much as a Christian-flavored God, when all was said and done, so the Christian Bible was also a part of the "teaching" no matter which way things came out.

I did Sunday School when I was little, then CCD/catechism later, however, the Catholic classes were required to receive Holy Communion and eventually be confirmed, which to me, once learning more about the history of the sacraments, seemed to be a blatant attempt to fleece the parishioners. You couldn't receive a particular sacrament without paying for it, and this was a way to extend those fees. I'm not saying that Protestants don't ever charge to perform a wedding or what-have-you, but the Catholics really have that whole racket down, don't they? I think Penance and Holy Orders are the only freebies.

Anyway.

My mother and I have had this discussion with regards to my children. My feeling is that my kids can follow whatever faith they wish, just as I say to everyone who reads this. When they encounter an incongruous teaching, which they will, that will be my time to explain my position regarding the problems with organized religions and their real purpose.

People get different things from religion, and I do understand that. There is a sense of structure and a sense of community, and much of this becomes the basis of social currency. However, there are other ways to achieve this now - through school activities (sports, band/music, after-school activities and clubs), through charitable works (that do not have to be religious in nature), even sleep-away camp. There are many group activities for families and/or children that do not come with a religious requirement attached. They may not always be easy to find, but they are out there.

The bigger issue is social acceptance. Despite up to 20% of the country being atheist, agnostic or otherwise non-religious, there is a stigma and a prejudice attached to being a "non-believer". I can't speak to what that might be like based on where a person lives, and I was certainly conformist myself, so I didn't encounter that particular prejudice as a child. But I don't think that is a good enough reason to follow a particular religion, even though much of our country is oppressively Christian.

I think religion can be taught in an historical context without assertion of who is right or wrong. But I am also truly blessed in that I have a number of friends in various faiths -- genuinely good and loving people -- to whom I can expose my children and let them experience the other side of the equation, people who can discuss and present their beliefs respectfully and with love without making my children feel bad about themselves for being different, for questioning, or for following their own path. And that may be the most important lesson that my children can learn from me -- that I don't know everything, that there is more than one perspective or answer to any spiritual question, and that it is more than okay to find your own truth, based on what you see, hear, and feel. As long as you are open to the world, open to differences in belief, opinion, language, culture, opinion, etc, and do nothing to intentionally or knowingly harm another person, what else could someone ask for?

In the end, to me, any meaningful belief in any religion should be based on thoughtful and thorough reflection and examination of what is presented if one is going to base their life on such teachings, not just doing what you're told, thinking what you're told to think, or believing what you're told to believe based on someone else's agenda. When I look at my devout friends who love me -- really love me, not religious love me and everybody on the planet, but love me -- they love me despite my non-belief, despite everything about me that their religion might tell them is wrong about me, because they are capable of seeing truth beyond teachings.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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