[PAX] Religion without faith? | INFJ Forum

[PAX] Religion without faith?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by tovlo, Jun 27, 2010.

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  1. tovlo

    tovlo Well-known member

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    I associate group membership with an alignment of values, so I chose to leave my faith community a few years ago when I realized I could not commit to a core belief of the faith. Yet, I have since experienced an immense loss in my life due to the absence of the religion.

    I have felt frustrated over the past few years in attempting to find a secular substitute for the social connection I once had. I discovered the benefits offered by my previous religion are not easily replaced through other social involvements.

    Religion is a highly-organized social system. In the case of my previously-chosen religion, it connected me with a world-wide community of people with shared values. Religious communities also tend to promote attitudes of love and acceptance for a wide range of people. I recognize this assessment is not true for those with lifestyles outside of a religion's accepted moral code, however, among those with the highest degree of spiritual commitment, I found there to be acceptance of the person, if not the chosen lifestyle. Secular communities, at least as I have observed, tend to have a focus of exclusivity. With secular organizations the exclusions seem far more pronounced and integral.

    While I differed from the expressed majority of my faith as it concerned some moral topics, the actual moral teachings were often far more nuanced than the typical member expressed. I still find deep wisdom in much of the moral teachings of my now-abandoned faith.

    I miss being connected with such a large, international social community; I miss interaction with people who value deeply and honor in their behavior ideas of human dignity; and I miss exploration of the philosophical and moral challenges considered at deep levels within my previous faith. I have not yet found an alternative environment to meet these needs. I have begun to question whether a comparable environment exists.

    Given my fairly fruitless attempt to locate a satisfactory community substitute for the social and moral benefits provided through my previous religion, I have from time-to-time considered re-engaging with the faith. The lack of firm belief that originally led me to walk away has not changed, yet with time, I have become more open to the possibility of being part of the community without a shared commitment to some of it's core principles.

    Have you ever considered being part of a religion primarily for the social benefits? Do you think one could engage effectively and obtain benefits from a religious environment, without sharing core elements of that religion's faith? Have you found satisfying social connection, value resonance, and challenging moral exploration outside of religion? What environments have met this need for you?
     
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  2. IndigoSensor

    IndigoSensor Product Obtained
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    I too do miss out on the idea of meeting with an organized group on a regular basis for spiritual growth. Most of my spiritual beliefs are largely of my own creation by what I feel makes sense, so that makes it extremely difficult for me to find some kind of media to express this with others.

    That being said, I mostly fall in alignment with the new age community. My mother is similar, and she has a great desire to find others who follow what she does, and it is actually quite surprising at how many people she has come in contact with. She has been to countless ceremonies, channelings, drum circles, prayer groups, conventions, you name it. Hundreds of things. Even something as "disorganized" as the bubble term "new age", people still find each other. I have been with her to several of these things. While I do not feel it is quite the same as what I assume main religious groups would feel. Although, some things I have been to were strong. If you still have strong faith, I know you will be able to find groups to get involved with. I don't know how to go about this, and I know it will take a very long time to set everything into place. I do know though, that it is not impossible.

    I have lost a lot of faith in what I believe as of the past year and I fear that I am in the process of ditching everything altogether for pure logic and realistic reality (and that disturbs me quite a bit), so I really do feel a disconnection from any kind of group as I truly have none right now, so I do know how you feel.
     
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  3. Billy

    Billy Contents Under Pressure
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    I've been involved in religious charity groups without belonging to the religion just because I wanted to help someone and they had the best way for me to pitch in.

    I dont see anything wrong with it. You dont have to talk about Jesus all day.
     
  4. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    Depending on the community you are referring to, I never felt agreeing fully on each and every thing to be a deal-breaker. As you mentioned regarding moral codes and such, there is a good deal of leeway area in dogmatic areas, too, once you get into the details. There is seldom one side to these coins. If you basically respect the religious tradition as a whole, I prefer to avoid the out-and-out "disagreement" label to a "I don't fully understand this" category. Many dogmatic positions are the result of layers of complex thought and experience. If I had the benefit of all this, yes, I might grasp it on a level I do not presently. In fact, I have had this happen to me in certain areas.

    So, I defer to the wisdom of the community as a whole while not abandoning my own thoughts and queries. I can still participate freely as I like, even though there might be questions that may or may never fully be resolved within me. The essential? Yes I believe these. Some of the more peripheral things? I believe unresolved questions are permissable. I just leave them in the periphery and more forward with what I have.
     
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    tovlo

    tovlo Well-known member

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    I agree with all that you describe about suspending unresolved peripheral questions and engaging where there is agreement. In my case though, I'm afraid where I'm uncertain may be in the area of the essential. Yet, you do offer encouragement.

    I believe there may be those within my previous religion who would affirm my beliefs as consistent with the faith. My obstacle is that my previous associations within the faith were with those who criticized these people's beliefs as misguided and questioned their legitimacy as members of the faith. So, I may have to find a way to make peace with that dichotomy.

    Indigo, I appreciate your expression. It sounds like even though it is in different spiritual arenas, we are on a similar path of questioning. I wish you well with your search.

    One thing I spent some time researching yesterday was drum circles. I feel a strong association with drumming and rhythm and it is not just a musical appreciation. I'm not very familiar with New Age philosophies. Most of what I do know has been painted in a negative light, so I have some fear. Would you be able to tell me anything about drum circles? I found some in my area, but I feel very nervous about engaging, because it is such an unknown world to me.
     
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  6. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    Oh, me, too, sometimes, depending on who you talk to!!! :)
     
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  7. just me

    just me GONE

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    To be uncertain; is it not like seeing through a glass dimly? Is it not like knowing in part? Is it not to be expected?

    My uncertainties(plural) need not imbue/penetrate anything but my own mind and heart enough to cause me to wonder, question, and seek further what I feel uncertain about. I usually keep these mostly to myself or shared in silent prayer. I am somewhat negligent to openly share for fear of leading others astray. I do not wish to cause confusion regarding issues that seem of great importance in my studies and walk in life.

    Is it so unnatural to do so? Should I act as if I know everything, do I not deceive myself first before others that cannot see through the act? It must surely be easier for some of different personalities to confront without actually doing so. Some of us just have to know and have a certain guilty feeling as if we are using something for our own personal gain. Yet, the scriptures firmly say to come to me and I will give you rest. I see no fault or foul in doing so. If some are reserved to know, is it not the way it should be? Should we not be so vicarious?
     
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    #7 just me, Jun 29, 2010
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  8. Blind Bandit

    Blind Bandit Blind Man Being Lead to Nowhere
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    I admit my mindset has never been conducive to religion. I'm spiritual but not religious. And in many ways religion was one thing I was truly glad to leave. There was just too many cons to make a positive. And mind would never accept much of what was thought. So it took away any enjoyment for me.
     
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    #8 Blind Bandit, Jun 29, 2010
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  9. Roger

    Roger ...

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    Religion without faith is not possible. yes, faith is heart of any religion. Plus you have to maintain it. Means, patience. My god, tough subject.
     
  10. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    I pretty much follow the same path. For me the issue is two-fold: many areas of doctrine are frequently considered in one dimension...this is for the sake of discussion and/or for expressing a particular cultural reality in that religious group. Along with this theological perspective, however, there is almost always pastoral and other implications that "flesh out" more fully the greater sense of the doctrine in question. It can be hard to find this, but it is all there.

    The other thing is that in many cases (like in my own Church) there may have been legitimate theological disagreement or vastly different interpretations throughout history. Something may be defined now that Aquinas (or Augustine, or even Kolbe) did not understand in precisely the same way, or they took it in a slsightly different direction. The history in my Church is filled with a variety of theological perspectives...some more central than others. Some folks got in trouble, others did not....I'm just saying that a kind of diversity of opinion can be easily seen even among the most orthodox thinkers. In some ways this can be seen as a strength. Diverse perspectives, intuition, thought....all this can make a religious institution more rich, assuming one is not using this diversity to cause disharmony or to say one way is the only way and the rest are dead wrong. Mind you, I am speaking within the realm of basic orthodoxy here.

    In a nutshell, I'll just say that there are areas where I do not grasp some of the dogmatic proclamations in my own Church (at least not the Cliff Notes version), but that my views in the end are not really dissimilar to those held by some of the Patristic Fathers, or even some of the Doctors of the Church!! That's fine....but I do not go about undermining the commonly held beliefs of others, simply out of respect for the community and for the rich diversity that I value. In any case, it isn't all about getting every jot and tittle right anyway!

    I do like religion. I enjoy viewing faith through my own prism, yes, but also through the rich community experience of many, many, many centuries. It stretches my understanding, it gives me something more time-tested and solid, it allows me to set aside my own ego to encounter mysteries that are I might never even imagine if my sole perspective was that of today and my own limitations. Living in a community is also a stretch....to believe and also respect the immense diversity a community engenders.

    In the end, I listen to the ancient creeds and I can give my heartfelt assent, and that is enough. My take on these things may be tinted a bit here and there, but really that is the way things should be given the vast experience and time span we are sojouning through. If one is within the basic realm of orthodoxy, I think there is more latitude than most of us realize, and I like latitude.
     
  11. deadred

    deadred Community Member

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    Boy is this an interesting thread! I just don't like the word religion. It smacks of ritual to me, and I'm just not a ritualistic person. Faith is invisible and Spiritual while I see religion as codification, something concrete. Doesn't that make them mutually exclusive, or at least polar opposites? Organized groups of any kind have their own dynamics. They contain moderate thinkers, stodgy thinkers, independant thinkers and other kinds of thinkers under a group name. In a sense they are more exclusionary than unifying, because what the individual's beliefs might be can exclude them, or have them excluded from the group. Unfortunately, this is human nature. "Oh, thank God we aren't like he is", or "he is wrong, by definition, and not thinking properly."

    I'm just not a sheep of any kind. Yep, I know about not forsaking the gathering of yourself together in unity to worship God. I prefer Faiths of tolerance and unity. Seriously, why should we have to go inside a church building to prove we love the God of Creation? I prefer to let my actions speak for my Faith.
     
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  12. athenian200

    athenian200 Protocol Droid
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    It's possible to play the role of a religious person without faith. You could feasibly read your bible, go to church, and pray on a regular basis, all without having any faith in God. You could just decide that to you, "God" means "Language" or "Reason," for internal consistency.

    Would you be religious? Technically, no. But you would seem so, and be involved with the religion and its social groups.

    I personally have something more like the opposite... faith without religion. I have faith in certain philosophies and perspectives on life that are as strong as many people's faith in their religions.

    In some cases, the values of these philosophies and perspectives are opposed to those of religious people, and in other cases they parallel them.

    I can assure you that there are large communities of those who criticize, mock, and question organized religion. Of course, since you still have a lot of respect for your former religion, it's unlikely you'd want to join one of those groups.

    It really depends on what you want, and what you're willing to do, I suppose.
     
    #12 athenian200, Jun 30, 2010
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010
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  13. OP
    tovlo

    tovlo Well-known member

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    It is really interesting to hear all your perspectives. Thank you.

    This describes very well what I valued so much about my previous faith community.

    I'm in a weird situation, where I can appreciate (from a place of recollection) those of you who seem to have association with religion as a somewhat meaningless structure when spirituality alone functions fine on it's own. Yet, I had the fortune of experiencing a niche within religion that offered growth and glimpses of wisdom I do not think I would have experienced otherwise. Exploration within my previous faith challenged me to think beyond where I could reach on my own.

    I recognize I am limited. In coordination with others, I can go further than I can go on my own. I experience great benefit from cooperative exploration of issues and I found that among certain company within my previous faith.

    Yep, I guess this is the sort of game I was imagining playing. Yet, I so value open and authentic expression, that I have a hard time imagining how to be apparently divergent in belief at a core level and still reap the benefit of being a meaningful member of the community.

    As apparently divergent as my beliefs seem from my previous faith, there may be room for me there still. It's not as if I don't have faith. I am open to the nuance of apparent dichotomy that dissolves when the depth of a subject is really explored. I think it is in this space that I could still potentially fit back into the faith, but would there be any point?

    In order to protect my own perspective among such divergence, I might have to become rigid in perspective. If I'm rigid and defensive, then it would inhibit me from further growth, which is part of the point. Yet, if I open enough to really explore within the religion again, would I be lost in a wave of religious pressure that actually moves me back? How would I discern when to open to the experience and when to protect my understandings?

    I suspect there are many other communities where spiritual exploration would be rich and full of wisdom. One solution I'm considering is to re-engage with openness to my previous religion, but to also explore other spiritual perspectives that have points of connection with my form of spirituality. It could provide a balanced opportunity for growth, but it could also be a path to the stagnation.

    I feel stuck because I want to be sure the energy I expend will provide growth, but the reality is that I can never be sure of that. I realize I probably just need to take steps and see what emerges from the exploration.
     
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  14. durentu

    durentu Regular Poster

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    The fundamental truth about human nature is that is requires a sense of purpose or meaning to live life. At the very core, only humans have the survival instinct with* the knowledge of their own mortality. This is a cognitive dissonance that is shared among all humans.

    One can always go along with an off-the-shelf philosophy like the religions, one can create one's own, or rediscover core truths and principles. And I'll make the same distinction between belief and faith as Alan Watts did. Belief accepts truth on the condition that it fits with the existing belief system. Faith accepts truth without conditions.

    This definition of faith is what ties spirituality and science together for me. No matter how strange or odd, if it's truth, I'll accept it.


    I left my religion specifically because the people interpreting the religion was based on belief, not faith and many of the fundamental truths were distorted. They aren't the only social circle in town either. But, I stand by my principle of truth, for better or worse.

    I'm reminded of Emerson - "“There comes a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself for better, or for worse as his portion.”"

    Mingles among those with differing values may fill a void for a while or even for a long time. However there is a price for this and that price is your individuality. Sooner or later, you will feel that you have betrayed yourself and feel like a flake or a hypocrite. I just can't do this after the lessons of high school identity crises.

    Social connection: I've learned that I must be independent first before I can find the social circles that are worth my time. I've learned to see which circles are based on mutual dependence and which ones are interdependent. There is a huge difference when looking at the long term between the two. One will have amazing synergistic qualities while the other will disperse when resources run out.

    Value Resonance: I've switched my criterion from the external to the internal and I check against the greats from history. The fundamental principles of a great and rich life have been known for thousands of years. I don't need others to practice these principles

    "Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world. " - Thomas Carlyle

    Challenging moral exploration: I find that outside influences cloud my judgement when thinking about things deeply. Basically, the Veils of Maya. The real challenge is between me and myself. Trying to weed out the indoctrination and discovering what is really truth, and then what is really true for me. The challenge has always been in the doing, not in the thinking. Can I be honest in all my dealing? Can I really see a third alternative every time?

    Of course, all these things are without religion, but it would be foolish to discard religion entirely. Instead, all the religions in the world have truth in them, but it's interpreted differently. Furthermore, religions doesn't hold all the truths either.

    This is sort of a trick question because it's as if to say, which product in the market will fit my needs perfectly. Of course, this isn't possible because nobody else can know you as you do. So logically, this need can only be satisfied by my own doing. By creating my own social circle, my group of friends. But even here, a total solution can not be possible. But it is possible to split the needs.

    I once looked at my life and defined which roles I played. And then I picked social groups specific to these roles. This was very helpful in two ways. First, I got my social fix. Second, I found my life much more enriched by meeting people in similar roles, but with many varied ideas and insights.


    ---

    At the end of the day, I realized that in the beginning, I molded myself into the religion at the price of letting my individuality and my innate human values. Now without religion, I'm rediscovering my innate abilities with an altered and wider perspective on religions.

    When I left, I made a promise that I would only accept a religious circle if they've proven themselves to me, not the other way around. constantly asking me to sacrifice myself for the group can only go so far until I'm dried up and thrown away. In principle: Independence first, then only be socially interdependent. Anything else would be a departure from truth.

    EDIT:
    On the notion that all this seems selfish, it's not. It's based on the truth that when you die, you can only die yourself. Nobody can help you cross that border. No one else can relieve you of your obligation to yourself. There's a limited time to make the most of it. Don't let the afterlife make you forget about this life.
     
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    #14 durentu, Jul 1, 2010
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  15. woldeyesus

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    For me, RELIGION and FAITH are completely incompatible. They differ significantly in terms of their raison d'
     
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