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Are Liberals Too Tolerant?


des
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Actually I haven't read this book "End of Faith" by Sam Harris. But as I said I watch Book TV on CSpan2 on weekends. This is a very provocative (and provoking) book on religion and dangers therein. Anyway he is what I would describe (don't think he would) as a progressive Buddhist, not an athetist, but he is essentially saying that esp. theistic religion is the cause of much harm in the world and that reason and secularism are responsible for most of the good things that have taken place from public health measures, attempts to live peacefully with other groups, etc etc. I'm not sure that I agree with it all. For ex. he has pretty much said that you have to interpret the Bible literally (and he definitely does).

 

Anyway, one thing he talks about is that moderates are too tolerant of what are essentially crazy ideas, due to a belief that everyone has the right to believe what they want. ( A right fundamentalists do not, by definition, accord to us, btw. for reasons we have discussed here.) He can't at all get around the concept of liberal/progressive as he was invited to speak at a group of Reform Jews and Congregationalists, the whole liberal/progressive thing was something he couldn't grasp at all, never thought of. HOWEVer, the point about tolerance is interesting.

 

I think we are by belief system tolerant (I'm not saying we always ARE so tolerant), but his comment was that maybe this isn't so good. We live in a world with dangerous, fundamentalist ideologies that we can't really speak to as we believe they have the right to these views. Specifically he talked of Muslim fundamentalism and the "rapture beliefs" which he says do not support "sustainable life on this planet". (Why bother with conservation if you think the rapture will come in 50 years as something like 40% of the population believes?)

No one says to them, basically "this is nuts".

 

I would go farther and say this may not be really possible. We have certainly talked enough among ourselves that this is nuts. But if you quote science, say to a fundamentalist it has zero effect. I know.

 

--des

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Hmmm. Your comments made me think of about a dozen things I'd love to say, but I'm not up to a long post right now, for a change. ;)

 

The one thought that popped into my head that I will share right now is that I'm NOT tolerant of beliefs that I consider to be dangerous to the person holding the belief or to other people or to the planet.

 

For example: My mom is still a JW. I don't have issues with her preaching door to door or believing that 144,000 will go to heaven to rule with Jesus or her not celebrating what are essentially pagan holidays (Christmas, Easter, Etc). However, I will call "CRAP!" when she brings up Armeggedon (which I still can't spell) or not accepting a blood transfusion even if she was gonna die without it. These beliefs come from what I consider to be misinterpretations or misunderstandings of Biblical passages and I'm not afraid to say it.

 

What I am tolerant of are those beliefs from other religions that are not harmful or that might in some way enrich Christianity through interfaith even if they contradict Biblical scripture. Most Christians, however, will reject ANYTHING that contradicts scripture just on principle alone. <_<

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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I'm NOT tolerant of beliefs that I consider to be dangerous to the person holding the belief

 

This is exactly why evangelicals witness--we are EXTREMELY concerned about dangerous beliefs and the consequences. (I know this point has been made before). Not saying you have to buy into our beliefs, but understand it is precisely our concern over people that drives us to spread the gospel. I know many of you recognize this, but I also see many posts on this site that suggest that we have other intentions (usually selfish, hateful, close-minded, etc.)

 

These beliefs come from what I consider to be misinterpretations or misunderstandings of Biblical passages and I'm not afraid to say it.

 

Alethia, this is not directed to you, since you are always pretty open to discussing the evangelical/conservative view. But again, progressives cannot use this standard for when to "say it," and then chastise evangelicals for speaking up when we feel there are "misinterpretations or misunderstandings." Again, not directed to you, Alethia, but just a general sense I get from postings on this board.

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Very true Darby... I think that is why most people refuse to discuss religion and politics.... unless you are willing to disagree, there is really no middle ground on a lot of these beliefs.

 

I can say that there are many paths to God and try some, but an exclusivistic christian would feel that I was endangering my soul. Clearly a time to speak up to a friend or "neighbor". Can we agree? Probably not. Agree to disagree? I can, but I don't see any price to this... the other person sees a huge price. I think this is the fundamental problem.

 

On the other hand, from my perspective, exclusivistic christians essentially damn a lot of godly, holy people; or act as if they are damned and thusly feel that they are less... less human, less entitled to whatever, etc. I have a problem with that. Someone who believes that 144,000 people are going and not the rest will not have a hard time writing people off. I am convicted that God does not write anybody off.

 

I think that is the source of the animosity on both sides. It is a world-view... meaning information that I base my life on. If I change my mind, what else do I have to change??? A lot. Very scary... to both sides.

 

As you said to Aletheia, Darby - this is not directed at you personally. I enjoy your contributions. :)

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Whoa

 

I've read the Q&A and interview with Sam Harris concerning his book "The End of Faith" (i have not read the book). He says:

 

"There is a pervasive piece of wishful thinking circulating among religious moderates, and it could get a lot of us killed. The idea is that all religions, at their core, teach the same thing. This is myth."

 

and

 

"Anyone who says that there is no basis for (Osama bin Laden) his worldview in the doctrine of Islam is either dangerously ignorant or just dangerous."

 

This is heavy. It hits home.

 

I think, from what I gather reading ONLY interviews with the author bear in mind, is that his "literal interpretation" of religious doctrine is more a recognition of the fact that in the case of Islam (and Christianity and Judaism) doctrines and texts exist (and not only exist, but are worshipped) which support both heinous and ridiculous beliefs that endanger the welfare of Everything...and that this needs to be confronted. That NO belief or Faith is sacrosanct that supports domination in any way, shape, or form....that ignorant and dangerous beliefs that are "tolerated" because they are religious is putting everything in danger.

 

Sam Harris stresses that we are essentially talking about language; that the language of faith needs to be challenged, if not completely abandoned. This is tough. Try stating what you believe in strictly neutral terms. To do so immediately compromises the superiority of YOUR religion, the inerrancy of YOUR faith, or OUR faith.

 

I definitely want to read this book.

 

Christianity is a target of much hatred in the world, and the challenge this book seems to make is that there are good reasons for that; that our own faith and Bible and doctrines support domination. There are many, many that want to see Christianity destroyed as a system of Domination, and many that are engaging the Powers to do just that. (and I take it for granted that you guys understand that I believe that the Christian faith and Bible support a great deal more and better than that...) We must recognize how the rest of the world sees us and why.

 

I think that the instinct toward syncretism, is, in many ways, an effort to find a common, neutral language; to let go the *superiority* of your own religion which leads to domination, and to begin to reason together, to have "conversations" as Sam Harris put it, and to challenge those things in any religion that support anything that is not good for the Whole.

 

I have a Pagan friend who once commented that "the problem with Christians is that even when they are moderate or liberal and genuinely interested and accepting of your religion, I can always see in their eyes that they believe deep down that theirs is the right way, the best way, the most true way."

 

 

I could only laugh.

 

 

~lily

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I've always been fascinated about the whole discussion on "the right way." I believe Jesus is the right way to the Father, not in some arrogant, I'm better than you way, but because, among many other things, He said so. We're not supposed to lord that knowledge over people, but I dont' feel right staying silent about it either, because it is so important. I have to admit, I also don't understand why exclusivity offends so many. I'm not offended that JWs don't think I'm going to heaven--I try to engage them in dialogue, etc. But at the end of the day, if JWs, or Pagans, or whatever decide they've got it right and I've got it wrong, where is the harm? I'll vehemently disagree, but I'm not offended. They've got every right to believe what they want, don't they?

 

Additionally, while Christians have done things over the years to bring hatred upon themselves (as have every other group who ever lived), we are also despised because of simply what we believe. Jesus promised we would be persecuted, much in the same way He was. Just for belief in Him, and His name, He said we would be despised.

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This is a great issue, and affects me just as much as a philosopher, as it does as one interested in theology and spirituality. I think it's just plain important for the evolution of knowledge and understanding that the notion of "tolerance" doesn't degenerate into a shallow, politically correct suppression of argument. An appropriate level of steadfastness in the distinctiveness of one's views, and a desire to debate them in a public form -- really debate, not just sit around and say, "Whee, look at all the pretty ideas" -- doesn't preclude my genuinely respecting and welcoming opposing views. It works from both ends of the debate: it's not just that I want you to be convinced if I'm right, but I want to be convinced if you are.

Edited by FredP
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I've always been fascinated about the whole discussion on "the right way."  I believe Jesus is the right way to the Father, not in some arrogant, I'm better than you way, but because, among many other things, He said so.  We're not supposed to lord that knowledge over people, but I dont' feel right staying silent about it either, because it is so important.  I have to admit, I also don't understand why exclusivity offends so many.  I'm not offended that JWs don't think I'm going to heaven--I try to engage them in dialogue, etc.  But at the end of the day, if JWs, or Pagans, or whatever decide they've got it right and I've got it wrong, where is the harm?  I'll vehemently disagree, but I'm not offended.  They've got every right to believe what they want, don't they? 

 

Additionally, while Christians have done things over the years to bring hatred upon themselves (as have every other group who ever lived), we are also despised because of simply what we believe.  Jesus promised we would be persecuted, much in the same way He was.  Just for belief in Him, and His name, He said we would be despised.

 

You make good points Darby. But there is no getting around the fact that if you think Jesus is the *right* way to the Father, then you pretty much have to concede that any other way is wrong. And this is a problem. It's not that I think you are wrong for thinking the way you do...I don't mean that kind of problem...I mean that this is where the trouble starts.

 

But again we are butt up against an issue of language: what does it mean that Jesus is the way to the Father? Do you mean Jesus Himself or what He embodied; what He taught and demonstrated or the Man Himself? Is it possible that Jesus embodied a nature in relationship with God that reveals a way to the Father? and that this nature is what is important and not the religious vessel that transmits this understanding to you? I mean, is it possible that others from different cultures and belief systems can embody what we would call the "Christ Nature"?...I'm just thinking aloud here...asking questions.

 

It does state in the Bible that Jesus said we would be despised and persecuted...but for what? Would it not be possible that we would be persecuted for going against the Powers in our day the way he went against the Powers in his own? I mean, Darby, murderers are persecuted. Persecution alone doesn't make someone a follower of Jesus, obviously. I suggest that its possible that He meant that good men would be persecuted in their battle against the forces of evil...ANY good wo/man.

 

~lily

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>from lily

Whoa

I've read the Q&A and interview with Sam Harris concerning his book "The End of Faith" (i have not read the book). He says:

 

"There is a pervasive piece of wishful thinking circulating among religious moderates, and it could get a lot of us killed. The idea is that all religions, at their core, teach the same thing. This is myth."

 

 

Well keep in mind I did not read the book either. I have read some of the page, the Q&A, and heard him on CSpan2. I agree with that, but I think, as I said that he couldn't get his mind around liberal/progressive thought. Looking thru some of our posts re: Taoism, paganism, etc. it is pretty obvious a lot of us are looking at these things not like "they are all the same". But there IS I think a thread of moderate thought that is that we all believe in God and this is all the same. But clearly the ideas are not all the same. In his talk, he compared what was being written in Deut. where just about everything is a capital offense, in comparison to the extreme passifist views of Janeism (sp??). Of course there is nobody today, even the most Orthodox of Jews who would defend everything in Deut. these days.

 

 

 

>"Anyone who says that there is no basis for (Osama bin Laden) his worldview in the doctrine of Islam is either dangerously ignorant or just dangerous."

 

>This is heavy. It hits home.

 

>I think, from what I gather reading ONLY interviews with the author bear in mind, is that his "literal interpretation" of religious doctrine is more a recognition of the fact that in the case of Islam (and Christianity and Judaism) doctrines and texts exist (and not only exist, but are worshipped) which support both heinous and ridiculous beliefs that endanger the welfare of Everything...and that this needs to be confronted. That NO belief or Faith is sacrosanct that supports domination in any way, shape, or form....that ignorant and dangerous beliefs that are "tolerated" because they are religious is putting everything in danger.

 

Yes, he also talked about the fundamentalist Christian beliefs in End Times that would work against having a sustainable future. (Why worry about conservatation when everything ends in maybe 50 years?)

 

Though I think Harris has conveniently left out a lot of world history that supports a more moderate view of things. For example, earlier history saw Muslims and Jews living in total harmony with each other. In fact, you don't even have to go that far back. I also heard the story of a Jewish woman in Iran before the Ayatolla. Or even the current situation in many parts of Micronesia for ex. that are heavily Muslim but with large populations of Buddhists and Hindus apparently living together quite peacably.

 

It also seems like doctrinaire belief systems, religious or otherwise, are part of our makeup in some way. He did discuss Stalinism and Nazism-- the almost religious nature of these (taking unproven ideas as truth). And that these "fundamentalists" type beliefs raise up and surface in cyclical way for some reason. That moderation or tolerance had nothing to do with their rising up and prob. nothing to do with their dimishing impact either- at least I see this as a possibility. That throughout history there have been various doctrinaire systems (religious or otherwise) to rise up, and they are dangerous. But they aren't really due to "tolerance" of others towards them. (Of course if everyone would have had the courage of Bonhoeffer, say, there would have been no one to be watching and happily saluting Nazis.)

 

 

>Sam Harris stresses that we are essentially talking about language; that the language of faith needs to be challenged, if not completely abandoned. This is tough. Try stating what you believe in strictly neutral terms. To do so immediately compromises the superiority of YOUR religion, the inerrancy of YOUR faith, or OUR faith.

 

Yes he really is also talking about "conversational intolerance". That he wants us to say that some views are nuts, or whatever. Of course he pretty much thinks theism at all is nuts, and is not afraid to say so. So strictly speaking he can't do what he says either. He has a worldview, religion if you will, that is nontheistic. But it doesn't make it not a worldview of sorts.

 

>I definitely want to read this book.

 

So do I.

 

>I have a Pagan friend who once commented that "the problem with Christians is that even when they are moderate or liberal and genuinely interested and accepting of your religion, I can always see in their eyes that they believe deep down that theirs is the right way, the best way, the most true way."

 

Wonder if she/he has heard of Pagan Christianity. :-)

 

 

BTW, Darby I always appreciate (usually not agree with) your opinions, ideas. But, ime (and I am not a young kid) you (and a couple of others perhaps) are much an exception of someone who could come into a progressive forum and actually participate in a meaningful and open way.

 

My experience has been an overwhelmingly negative one, even with very nice friendly people. They are not unpleasant and disagreeable (maybe my sister :-)). They are only interested in what I think for the purpose of converting me to their point of view. For instance, I met a friend of my mother's. She was very happy to tell me all about the church she goes to. Then she asked me, and when I said it was UCC, which is liberal. She said, basically I should go to a less liberal church. This is a nice person, she wasn't attacking me, but she was pretty much saying I should believe what she does. At no point, did I criticize or attack her church in anyway. My sister has lately been asking more about my beliefs but that's her new strategy, she asks so she can knock them down.

 

I have seen several liberal/progressive forums (the last of these the UCC.org) that is basically taken over by one or two fundamentalists who basically tells the gays they will all go to hell. No discussion takes place as it all becomes one long diatribe. I think the moderator is very busy and inexperienced, but I don't think it would be allowed here.

But basically I do have my guard up for more conservative posters, at least when they first come on.

 

>~lily

 

--des

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darby wrote: "despised because of simply what we believe"

 

For me, I think it's more about behavior and attitude than beliefs, that I find repulsive in some Christians. Like rigid black and white thinking, arrogance. And that includes liberals or conservatives or whatever.

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des wrote: It also seems like doctrinaire belief systems, religious or otherwise, are part of our makeup in some way.

 

Well, its human nature to want to be right; to have the assurance that what we believe is true, and to want to see our vision of the world shared in community with others. It is also human nature to believe that if our way works for us that it must then be best for others too, and that *if only* everyone thought and felt the way we do the world would be a better place. These are not bad qualities, in fact, and i don't remember who said it, "genuis is the ability to believe without doubt that what is meaningful to you is meaningful to all others". The problems start when people begin to place their security in doctrine and not in the Force or Power or God that revealed it. There is no certainty in doctrine, and so it is inevitable that insecurity arises from the worship of it, and with insecurity comes fear and with fear comes many attending evils.

 

 

 

des wrote: Yes he really is also talking about "conversational intolerance". That he wants us to say that some views are nuts, or whatever. Of course he pretty much thinks theism at all is nuts, and is not afraid to say so. So strictly speaking he can't do what he says either. He has a worldview, religion if you will, that is nontheistic. But it doesn't make it not a worldview of sorts.

 

Yes. Good point. I see exactly what you mean. Sam Harris is manning a position that could prove just as destructive as any position he challenges. In some way he seems to be saying that if we would all just get over this whole *God* business...then the world would be a better place. But this is not likely to happen, and so, what then? Does his intolerance of theism become a suppression and oppression of Theists; essentially replacing one *crazy* belief with another; from God to no-God?

 

Lily wrote: I have a Pagan friend who once commented that "the problem with Christians is that even when they are moderate or liberal and genuinely interested and accepting of your religion, I can always see in their eyes that they believe deep down that theirs is the right way, the best way, the most true way."

 

des wrote: Wonder if she/he has heard of Pagan Christianity. :-)

 

 

Oh yes. He's heard of it alright. He thinks it plain ole fence straddling and maintains that its impossible for Christians to be both Christian and Pagan. I think he makes good points. There is the problem of monotheism versus polytheism for one thing. Monotheists tend to see or translate polytheism into *aspects* of the One God, which is not polytheism strictly speaking. Speaking for my self, I find monotheism deeply entrenched in my thought processes, much of it born through repetition and habit, I'll admit...It is extremely difficult for me to even understand pure polytheism. I can think in terms of many "principalities and powers", but not easily in terms of many gods.

 

Also, much of what attracts Christians to Paganism: recognition and veneration of the Feminine, a deep and vital connection to the Land, ritual, and the freedom to create meaningful ritual apart from what is codified by any institution, the freedom from institution itself, and the opportunity to discover the *essence* or heart of religion in the simplicity of Pagan worship, is ALREADY potential within our own religious tradition.

 

The impulse to self-identify as a Pagan-Christian is, I think, a largely self-preservation instinct of the ego that reflects the times in which we live. We want people to know WHAT KIND of Christian we are. We don't want anyone thinking we are "one of those" kinds of Christians. I'm speaking from experience here; this was me. My friend always maintains that this is nothing more than cowardice. He'd say, "If Christianity no longer works, then dump it and become a Pagan, and if Christianity does work then why is it necessary to embrace Paganism at all?; why not simply reflect those things you hunger for within your own tradition?" Good questions.

 

Interestingly, my friend turned his back on our friendship as soon as I did "get off the fence" and made a re-commitment to Christianity. But I owe him a debt of gratitude anyway. Unconsciously perhaps, he proved to be a *true* friend indeed.

 

 

~lily

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lily:

Well, its human nature to want to be right; to have the assurance that what we believe is true, and to want to see our vision of the world shared in community with others. It is also human nature to believe that if our way works for us that it must then be best for others too, and that *if only* everyone thought and felt the way we do the world would be a better place. These are not bad qualities, in fact, and i don't remember who said it, "genuis is the ability to believe without doubt that what is meaningful to you is meaningful to all others".

 

Yes, though I think I was talking about something a bit deeper than "wanting to be right", that the idea of "belief" is encoded in our genes or something. "What" we believe is shaped by experience, culture, language, etc. But *that* we believe is shaped by something inborn.

Harris seems to disconnect believe and faith (faith is that which you believe without any compelling outside evidence). But someone like Borg does not separate belief and faith out that way. He defines "faith" several different ways, only one or two of which requires belief without outer evidence. (As I said he couldn't quite grasp liberal/progressive belief, though I would define him not as an atheist but more as a progressive Buddhist.)

 

 

des wrote: Yes he really is also talking about "conversational intolerance". That he wants us to say that some views are nuts, or whatever. Of course he pretty much thinks theism at all is nuts, and is not afraid to say so. So strictly speaking he can't do what he says either. He has a worldview, religion if you will, that is nontheistic. But it doesn't make it not a worldview of sorts.

 

Lily replies:

Yes. Good point. I see exactly what you mean. Sam Harris is manning a position that could prove just as destructive as any position he challenges. In some way he seems to be saying that if we would all just get over this whole *God* business...then the world would be a better place. But this is not likely to happen, and so, what then? Does his intolerance of theism become a suppression and oppression of Theists; essentially replacing one *crazy* belief with another; from God to no-God?

 

 

Well it could. I doubt if it will become very popular. But what he is expressing is some sort of rational nontheist belief. He appears to have a sort of faith in it. One of his points was that Scandanavian countries which he asserts have a high rate of atheism (or is it just non-church attendance and non-belief in organized religion, it is a difference he doesn't delve into) but anyway they have the "best ethical conditions" in several key areas: infant mortality, low illiteracy, low rates of poverty, etc. (He does mention the high suicide rates, but attributes these, as do many to lack of sunlight.) Anyway, the thing is you just can't compare small fairly homogenous countries like, say, Sweden, with the US, with highly diverse populations and larger populations, and claim the effects are due to religion. There are just too many other factors: among them a third world country living on our doorstep; a history of slavery and Jim Crow (some of it supported by religion but others of it turned over by religion); large borders and high population; etc.

 

Lily re: her pagan friend and "pagan Christianity".

Oh yes. He's heard of it alright. He thinks it plain ole fence straddling and maintains that its impossible for Christians to be both Christian and Pagan. I think he makes good points. There is the problem of monotheism versus polytheism for one thing. Monotheists tend to see or translate polytheism into *aspects* of the One God, which is not polytheism strictly speaking. Speaking for my self, I find monotheism deeply entrenched in my thought processes, much of it born through repetition and habit, I'll admit...It is extremely difficult for me to even understand pure polytheism. I can think in terms of many "principalities and powers", but not easily in terms of many gods.

 

Well I'm going to post this (as part of a bigger post) somewhere else, but I think that the idea that polytheism is aspects of One God, well that may be a valid interpretation (there are some who feel Hinduism isn't as polytheistic as it is described. Even the Catholic church known to be monotheistic has a long tradition of saints who show aspects of God. OTOH, it could be that monotheism just expresses the oneness (working together of) multiple gods?? :-) I agree with a difficulty I would have in putting my thought process around multiple gods (more on the inborn nature of our beliefs and how much they are inculturated in us).

Then there is the whole thing of panentheism. It is quite different to say "god is IN everything" than "god is everything" but it might be one interpretation of panentheism.

 

 

lily says:

Also, much of what attracts Christians to Paganism: recognition and veneration of the Feminine, a deep and vital connection to the Land, ritual, and the freedom to create meaningful ritual apart from what is codified by any institution, the freedom from institution itself, and the opportunity to discover the *essence* or heart of religion in the simplicity of Pagan worship, is ALREADY potential within our own religious tradition.

 

It is. Much of it has been repressed but aspects of them are in our oldest traditions. Some of the early mystics were women.

 

lily says:

The impulse to self-identify as a Pagan-Christian is, I think, a largely self-preservation instinct of the ego that reflects the times in which we live. We want people to know WHAT KIND of Christian we are. We don't want anyone thinking we are "one of those" kinds of Christians. I'm speaking from experience here; this was me. My friend always maintains that this is nothing more than cowardice. He'd say, "If Christianity no longer works, then dump it and become a Pagan, and if Christianity does work then why is it necessary to embrace Paganism at all?; why not simply reflect those things you hunger for within your own tradition?" Good questions.

 

Well he has a point. But if these things are currently rejected by Christianity then it is just a way of grabbing onto them again. Actually I sometiems have trouble with the term Christian as it implies in just about everyone's mind some sort of fundamentalism. Am I rejecting Christianity due to my discomfort with the term? Perhaps. But then again I might not want to be associated with fundamentalism. I don't see how this is cowardice. I am supposing the pendalulm will swing back after a time.

 

 

~lily

 

 

 

 

--des

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lily:

Well, its human nature to want to be right; to have the assurance that what we believe is true, and to want to see our vision of the world shared in community with others. It is also human nature to believe that if our way works for us that it must then be best for others too, and that *if only* everyone thought and felt the way we do the world would be a better place. These are not bad qualities, in fact, and i don't remember who said it, "genuis is the ability to believe without doubt that what is meaningful to you is meaningful to all others".

 

des wrote:Yes, though I think I was talking about something a bit deeper than "wanting to be right", that the idea of "belief" is encoded in our genes or something. "What" we believe is shaped by experience, culture, language, etc. But *that* we believe is shaped by something inborn.

 

I don't have any background in this area of thought, so I can't argue it...but just off the top it doesn't attract me. It isn't born out in my experience either. I believe that human beings are predisposed to search for meaning and even ultimate meaning; that this is part of being human...but that we are genetically predisposed to believe the way we do? Thats a bit too *hard* a scientific view for my tastes.

 

 

 

Lily re: her pagan friend and "pagan Christianity".

Oh yes. He's heard of it alright. He thinks it plain ole fence straddling and maintains that its impossible for Christians to be both Christian and Pagan. I think he makes good points. There is the problem of monotheism versus polytheism for one thing. Monotheists tend to see or translate polytheism into *aspects* of the One God, which is not polytheism strictly speaking. Speaking for my self, I find monotheism deeply entrenched in my thought processes, much of it born through repetition and habit, I'll admit...It is extremely difficult for me to even understand pure polytheism. I can think in terms of many "principalities and powers", but not easily in terms of many gods.

 

des wrote: I agree with a difficulty I would have in putting my thought process around multiple gods (more on the inborn nature of our beliefs and how much they are inculturated in us).

 

Well, yeah, our beliefs are in part a product of enculturation, but that's a far cry from saying that we are genetically predisposed to having them. To be taught all your life that there is only one god makes a tremendous impact and its difficult, to say the least, to overthrow this belief in order to embrace a belief in many gods...but it is POSSIBLE. If a belief in monotheism, on the other hand, was a genetic *given* then it would be IMPOSSIBLE to change this belief without denying your nature. You could not believe BUT what you believe and I believe that we change our beliefs all the time (slowly to be sure). For instance, the belief that the world is flat, if a genetically predisposed belief, would mean that there are those who because of genetic disposition would still believe it. See what I mean? But I may not be understanding you right.

 

 

lily says:

Also, much of what attracts Christians to Paganism: recognition and veneration of the Feminine, a deep and vital connection to the Land, ritual, and the freedom to create meaningful ritual apart from what is codified by any institution, the freedom from institution itself, and the opportunity to discover the *essence* or heart of religion in the simplicity of Pagan worship, is ALREADY potential within our own religious tradition.

 

des wrote: It is. Much of it has been repressed but aspects of them are in our oldest traditions. Some of the early mystics were women.

 

Well now I must say that I meant something deeper than that. I meant the Feminine as Divine.

 

lily says:

The impulse to self-identify as a Pagan-Christian is, I think, a largely self-preservation instinct of the ego that reflects the times in which we live. We want people to know WHAT KIND of Christian we are. We don't want anyone thinking we are "one of those" kinds of Christians. I'm speaking from experience here; this was me. My friend always maintains that this is nothing more than cowardice. He'd say, "If Christianity no longer works, then dump it and become a Pagan, and if Christianity does work then why is it necessary to embrace Paganism at all?; why not simply reflect those things you hunger for within your own tradition?" Good questions.

 

des wrote: Well he has a point. But if these things are currently rejected by Christianity then it is just a way of grabbing onto them again.

 

Yes, agreed.

 

des wrote: Actually I sometiems have trouble with the term Christian as it implies in just about everyone's mind some sort of fundamentalism.

 

Yes, me too, and for the same reason.

 

des wrote: Am I rejecting Christianity due to my discomfort with the term?

Perhaps. But then again I might not want to be associated with fundamentalism. I don't see how this is cowardice. I am supposing the pendalulm will swing back after a time.

 

I don't want to be associated with *fundamentalism* either. Traditional Pagans don't want to be associated with Wicca and yet the majority of people think *Wicca* when they hear Paganism. My point is that there is not much we can do to control the impressions and preconceptions of others. Most belief systems are interpreted by the populace according to its lowest common denominator. In my own life I combat this tendency in several areas. Take Tarot. Most people assume when I express my interest in the subject that I am a *fortune-teller*, which I'm not. But I don't stop speaking my interest in Tarot because of this. That would be like "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". The only thing we do seem able to do is to work within our traditions to change the impressions and conceptions of others in our own spheres. In abandoning our identity AS Christians, we hamstring our ability to do just that...or so it seems to me. We essentially leave the mis-impressions and misconceptions intact, rather than demonstrating in our own lives that there is more to Christianity than popular opinion thinks or believes there is.

 

Keep in mind des that I am not discussing this in theory, I am IN this up to my eyeballs, so I don't say this lightly, but I do think that abandoning self-identity as a Christian is in affect abandoning Christianity. We are not yet in a time in which we much *closet* ourselves in order to save our lives...its not likely we'll be killed for being Christian, at least not today...so what DO we risk in identifying ourselves as Christian? Misunderstanding? Scorn? Mockery? Rejection? Social Exile? Prejudice? Yup, yup. But this is no more than any man or woman faces who holds to views that are complex, unpopular, misunderstood, and feared...and besides, a man or woman who cannot openly be what she is (or is in the process of becoming) is not a free man or woman, and I believe that we are called to be free and not to cow to shame or scorn or opposition, but to stand up to it with courage.

 

lily

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Most people who are not Christian equate the term "Christian" with the belief system of the Fundementalists. As long as this is the case, I do not think it cowardice to attempt to describe my beliefs by using terms as adjectives to qualify the term "Christian".

 

Like I said in other threads, I no longer feel the need to identify my brand of Christianity as "Pagan Christian". However, I will still use the terms "Mystical" or "Post Conservative/Post Liberal" Christian to differentiate myself from the Fundementalists.

 

Using the term "Pagan Christian" to describe myself was my attempt to define what I believed "in a nutshell". Unfortunately as much bigotry (if not more) exists in the pagan camp towards the term "Christian" as exists in the Christian camp towards the term "Pagan". Therefore, using the term wasn't really helping me much. I KNEW what I was trying to say, but neither group seemed interested in hearing it (until I found this websight :) ).

 

PS: Lily, I posted this before I saw that you had responded to Des, so please do not take this post as being argumentative. :D

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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cunninglily & des,

 

This is a beautiful thread! Thanks so much for this discussion.

 

I think des's statement that '"What" we believe is shaped by experience, culture, language, etc., but *that* we believe is shaped by something inborn' is a good observation. Of course, the operative word is shaped, not determined. The two influence each other greatly, because those elements of 'experience, culture, language, etc.' are very dynamic, and we interact with them to different degrees for a lot of different reasons. The 'inborn' fact of our search for meaning drives us to different degrees to 'experience' other 'cultures' and traditions, immerse ourselves in other 'languages' of theology, faith, and practice, etc. -- all of which inform our decisions to commit one way or other to perspectives of faith. We operate within some limits imposed by genetics, environment, and culture, but they don't determine the outcomes.

 

It creates a healthy dynamic, I think. On the one hand, I humbly recognize that my Christian background has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in the United States in the late 20th century, to parents of Eurpean descent, etc. On the other hand, I can stand firmly in my views, knowing that my views are more than just culturally determined, and knowing that I have opened my mind to other ideas, some of which I have integrated, and some not.

 

And for my own sanity, I'll continue to keep company with others who have made different choices. :)

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Most people who are not Christian equate the term "Christian" with the belief system of the Fundementalists. As long as this is the case, I do not think it cowardice to attempt to describe my beliefs by using terms as adjectives to qualify the term "Christian".

 

No. Nor do I. But des and I were discussing abandoning the title of Christian entirely (I think) or at least having a hard time saying it and that's a bit different. I sincerely wish that I COULD give up my need to qualify that I am Christian (is this exhausting to anyone else?) But I still have a very hard time stating plainly and simply that I am Christian, even among Christians, and I can't help but feel that pride has a lot more to do with this than anything crucial to the understanding of the person I am speaking to. Not entirely, but its there.

 

 

Aletheia wrote: Using the term "Pagan Christian" to describe myself was my attempt to define what I believed "in a nutshell". Unfortunately as much bigotry (if not more) exists in the pagan camp towards the term "Christian" as exists in the Christian camp towards the term "Pagan". Therefore, using the term wasn't really helping me much. I KNEW what I was trying to say, but neither group seemed interested in hearing it (until I found this websight  :) ).

 

I know EXACTLY what you mean. "been there; done that"...and I too am thrilled to have found this website and for the same reason.

 

PS: Lily, I posted this before I saw that you had responded to Des, so please do not take this post as being argumentative.  :D

 

Not at all. :)

 

lily

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Fred wrote: I think des's statement that '"What" we believe is shaped by experience, culture, language, etc., but *that* we believe is shaped by something inborn' is a good observation.

 

Ohhhhh...I get it now. (sorry des) You guys are saying that there is a theory going around that *to believe*, the propensity for faith itself, is the result of a genetic predisposition. Hmm. That is interesting. I don't like it, but its interesting. I can also appreciate how someone, through observation, would have been inspired to search out that possibility. But, I still don't like it (which of course means not much, if its true). I know a few people intimately who are not religious. I get blank stares from them often. And it does seem quite true that they can't *help* this anymore than I can help the fact that I am. This seems to fit in with the brief discussion we had recently concerning free will versus One Will. It does seem that we can not like what we don't like or not like what we do like and so forth. Hmm. Very interesting. What I don't like about it is that it does away with choice entirely, if drawn to its logical conclusions, and yet I've explored the concept of Fate quite a bit in the last year or so and much of what I've learned and intuited resonants well with me.

 

I'm going to need to chew on this a bit...

 

 

 

Fred wrote: And for my own sanity, I'll continue to keep company with others who have made different choices. :)

 

Yeah, I hear ya. I have a "Please God: Save me from Your Followers" button. hehe

 

But seriously, I too like a motley crew.

 

lily

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Ohhhhh...I get it now. (sorry des) You guys are saying that there is a theory going around that  *to believe*, the propensity for faith itself, is the result of a genetic predisposition. Hmm. That is interesting.  I don't like it, but its interesting.

 

I think what I (we?) was more going for, is that the propensity for faith itself is a drive that is innately human, as opposed to culturally conditioned. It is built into the very fabric of being human, and we all possess it, though some spend their whole lives trying to drown it out. Perhaps, some personality traits factor in too; but I prefer to believe that everyone in their own way, and in their own personality-style, gets the opportunity to use it, or drown it out.

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Ohhhhh...I get it now. (sorry des) You guys are saying that there is a theory going around that  *to believe*, the propensity for faith itself, is the result of a genetic predisposition. Hmm. That is interesting.  I don't like it, but its interesting.

 

I think what I (we?) was more going for, is that the propensity for faith itself is a drive that is innately human, as opposed to culturally conditioned. It is built into the very fabric of being human, and we all possess it, though some spend their whole lives trying to drown it out. Perhaps, some personality traits factor in too; but I prefer to believe that everyone in their own way, and in their own personality-style, gets the opportunity to use it, or drown it out.

 

Oh again. I apologize. I thought we were talking about something completely *new* to me. I misunderstood.

 

I have held that the propensity for faith is innately human and not just culturally conditioned. It was the word "genetic" that threw me. Thanks for clearing that up.

 

lily

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Fred, you did an excellent job of clarifying my more or less fuzzy language here (and boy is it hard NOT to be fuzzy!). Yes, exactly. I don't mean this in a deterministic way but that we have, as humans, this predisposition to "believing". You know one could argue that God put it there, though I dislike this way of framing it. As a species it is necessary to believe certain things (actually Harris would argue quite forcefully that this is true). We believe our parents will take care of us, that our clan protects us, that sort of thing. But there is also a transcenence drive, if you want to call it that.

 

I have heard of cosmologists that argue that we are sort of the eyes and ears of the universe. The "just right" theory that the universe is "just right" for our creation. It could be argued we are the "transcendence seekers" of the universe. (I have also heard of liberal Christians saying we are the eyes and hands of God, maybe about the same thing!)

 

Lily the way I would explain how it can be "inborn" in a way but still it is dependent on example, language, experience, etc. A child raised by wolves would never USE this inborn propensity. But such a child doesn't end up needing to believe too much, perhpas might learn over time when a particular fruit ripened or something and that his pack was safe.

But as humans most of us grow up needing belief as something of a cornerstone of civilization and normal human experience. The way we USE belief is developed by a large variety of factors, including the language, culture, experience, personality, etc.

 

For example: All normal humans develop language, and language follows distinct patterns that are remarkably similar across languages, but raise the kid in a vacuum without any models, without hearing language (as has happened to so-called feral children or totally isolated children or deafness, say), and these normal patterns will never develop. But whether we speak English or a click language or maybe use American Sign language depends on our experiences, sensory equipment, etc. And if we were not to develop them at a certain point in life it becomes that much harder. I don't think that is a perfect analogy... But it does describe the interplay.

 

I don't think of this as heavily deterministic. I think I've worded this before, but you know we have my sister and I. And she is in Campus Crusade and I am/have had quite a different experience. Does she (or I) see the light? (and the other doesn't?). Or are other factors at work here....

 

I think it is interesting that pretty much all humans "believe" something on a transcendent level, perhaps they believe that they do not believe (I'd argue that it is still of a belief), and others might say they think it is impossible to know, but that is also a belief. And pretty much all cultures have some kinds of mythos of cosmology and origin if not actual "religion".

 

 

--des

Edited by des
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I confess I just skimmed and didn't read closely so I'm fairly clueless.

Sounds like some serious stuff happening here.

 

But Lily, I noticed you mentioned Tarot. I'd be interested in hearing more about that. Didn't Cynthia inquire about Tarot on another thread somewhere? I find the symbolism aspect of Tarot fascinating. And didn't Joseph Campbell right a book on it? Could start a new thread since this is off topic maybe?

 

As far as keeping Christian for a label, I don't know. I have my days when I really don't want the label anymore. But I'm a cradle Christian. I'll never be free of it. So I choose to continue to wrestle with it--still--yet.

 

And Jesus is still the draw, of course. But a label doesn't make a Christian either. There are a lot of christlike people who don't call themselves christians. They are more christlike than a lot of christians I know.

 

I think if you put a soft polytheist together with a modalism trinitarian, you'd have very close to the same thing, not?

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I call myself a Christian and mean that I am a follower of Jesus the Christ... I try not to get caught up in explaining the distinction ... as that pulls me away from my goal. When people see the results of a close, non-dogmatic relationship, they often ask... and then, you get a chance to show them... God is big... God is good... the greatest commandment... not so much the man-made additions...

 

 

explaining the distinction... while I understand the motivation all too well ;) , only separates us... makes us "special" (hear the accent???). Makes us like the people we want to be different from... put down the mote... back to the plank :rolleyes:

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