Posted by: chlost | July 26, 2010

Back at it

Hopefully, all of the recent drama in my life is over and I am back to normal. It is hard to define normal sometimes. But I am here trying to do some work, not really getting much accomplished. I guess that is normal.

My recent experience at a church-based memorial service has me back to considering the role-if any- of religion in my life. I suppose it is the big life events which tend to bring these issues to the forefront. Births, deaths, weddings and such are events which almost all religions mark with special rituals and ceremonies.  It is logical that such events which are universal in the human experience would be times that religion develops within a society.

My religious upbringing was Lutheran. My mother was raised Methodist; her mother was Methodist and her father Catholic. My father was Norwegian Lutheran. Neither was super religious, but we went to Sunday school each week, we were confirmed and during the seventies, I was marginally involved in the “Jesus freak” phenomenon. For a very short time.

Overall, I consider myself culturally Christian. That is because although I was raised Christian, it has never been a particularly strong influence on my life. We did choose to have our children baptized in the Methodist Church, but stopped attending once they were grown. It was more social than religious. My husband in particular, wanted them to have some religious education as a background  “protection” from cults (this was not long after the Jim Jones tragedy).

I found that I easily remembered the liturgical basics of the ceremony during the memorial service. It is amazing how those things are imprinted on the brain. It is easy to see how they may be comforting to someone who likes routine and ritual.

But it was just a ritual. I do not believe it. I agree with some of the tenets-at least in their most optimistic version. I think that I live “Christian values” to a greater extent than some of the “Christians” I have met. I respect their beliefs, and I do not try to sway them from those beliefs. But if I don’t believe it, what do I believe?

A blogger that I have followed recently discussed the bigotry of the religious against the non-religious. Another has been having ongoing discussions with me about her experience as a Jew in a mainly Christian society. I would not insult her by trying to claim Judaism as my religion, as I see it as beyond a religion, it is an identity, it is an ethnicity, a world view. But I do feel that  I am in sync with some of the ideas I have learned about within Judaism. I need to know more about it.  It seems that religious issues keep presenting themselves to me, forcing me to consider my beliefs more seriously.

What has become crystal clear to me is that I am the one not educated about religion. I have a general grasp of some of the basic tenets of Christianity. But it was not until recently that I learned that there are several chapters of the new testament which were purposely excluded from the Christian Bible. By whom, I ask? I need to know more about this. In hearing more about Judaism, I am impressed at the depth of study and knowledge of my fellow blogger. I am stupid. Not only of Judaism, but of my ancestors and the religion I have been born into. Atheism/Agnosticism: I know that a fellow blogger has declared himself an Atheist, and that he knows vastly more than I about the history and tenets of religion. If I am going to reject religion as my belief system, then I need to know what it is that I reject-all of the details., beyond the fact that I do not believe that one guy’s magic means that all of the believers (and only them) will live in another realm after their physical death. Talk about your cult!

It is an interesting conundrum. To whom does one turn for an education on religion? It would seem that the religions themselves may not be particularly objective nor even complete in the education they would provide as to their own religion. A secular education may not be objective in the opposite manner. I am an educated person. I am intelligent. I don’t feel ready to embark on a formal educational course, primarily due to financial constraints. 

During the past several months I think I have blogged about this. But now I am putting out a question. Does anyone have a suggestion for an education resource which is fair, objective, reasonable and focused more on the historical facts than the “faith” part of religion? I don’t believe, I am not looking to become a believer, but I want to know about it beyond what I got from Sunday school and religion class.

I’m back at this issue……..and I want to make an educated decision about where I stand, what I accept and what I reject. Anyone?



  1. You have asked a hard question. I was raised in France, which some say is the most secular country in Europe. Many there say they are Catholic but they don’t go to church – I think only 6% of the population goes to church, compared to close to 60% here; they strongly believe in the separation of the church and state (real separation, not like here), even Jewish people do too. I remember reading that a Jewish group tried to organize a march in Paris in favor of Israel and they could not find enough people to march (the same in Belgium) and that many French Jews who immigrated to Israel came back to France later. I was raised secular because my mother was very secular and my father was a non practicing Armenian Orthodox. I was curious and read many books on religion as I found that if I asked someone, their views would be tainted by either their faith, or non faith. I read part of the Bible, the Koran, The Book of Mormon, studied the Torah, writings of Confucius, Buddhist texts, and early pre-Christian religions which have almost the same story line, and when I visited my cousins in Egypt I studied what the early Egyptians believed. While researching Christianity I found that many scholars do not agree with many writings in the Bible but cannot say so to the public. What surprised me is that in so many religions women are considered weak and inferior.
    I found that the people in this country are the hardest to talk to about religion, because they are not very objective. I talked to my girls about what I read and let them decide what they wanted to do. I did not make them go to any church or mosque or synagogue or temple of any kind. In this country religion is a big deal, but in Europe for example (not just France), this is not a subject that people talk about because it is something considered very personal and nobody’s business and it is not “social” as I never heard of having a “church” supper like in Notre Dame de Paris for example (and it is a church for some people living around there.) Every town in France has a Catholic church but they are very old and usually one per town; many of them don’t have services because there is a lack of priests and followers. The Revolution (called Bastille Day here) was as much to get rid of the nobility and kings as to get rid of the clergy. So, this being a very personal subject, I think that it is difficult to answer your question to help you. One site I enjoy and which gives neutral information on 40 religions is the Canadian site Religious Tolerance Sorry for the length of this answer.

    • Your thoughts have reinforced a feeling that I have had for some time now-I would love to live in Europe. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that. I do need to work. I wish I had a sabbatical option like one of the other bloggers I have read. I will be checking out the website. It sounds wonderfully helpful. The issues regarding women is one of the most troubling to me. Many modern believers seem to either ignore the misogyny or find ways to interpret the religious tenets more favorably toward women if this is an issue for them. I truly appreciate your thoughts on this. It is hard to find someone who will discuss religion without trying to sell their beliefs. You seem to appreciate the difference between religion as a subject and a belief system.

  2. I echo vagabonde’s comments but I’m woefully ignorant on this subject but will ask around some of my more educated friends. One of them remarked last year that there were issues around the person of Jesus Christ: he said that several peoples’ histories had been combined to form the whole person but I had never heard of this before. I know there were several Councils in the early church to decide which books in the Bible should be considered eligible for inclusion and which should be left out.

    One interesting thought is historical: when the Anglo Saxons were the rulers of England, there were many Christians amongst them, including royalty, but the prevailing society remained a matriarchy, wealth and land being held and handed down through the women. They were not considered second class citizens then. When, how or why this changed I do not know. However, I suspect the Norman invasion which changed everything and ousted the Anglo Saxons. So much history, so much I don’t know!!:(

    I think you would love some time in Europe: any chance of a swap from your department to one over here for a few months at least, to share methods or experience? Or can you think of a research project which would necessitate a trip abroad to collect data, and which would be considered essential to your department?

  3. I am endlessly fascinated by religions but in the way that I find mythology fascinating. I can’t get past the illogic of it all. I have also recently seen a few things about the unlikelihood that there was a person “Jesus” which I always took to be a given. That he existed and was a teacher. If anyone knows any sources for that, I’d love to hear about it.

  4. I’m seeing the person who first told me about that next week so I will quizz him re sources.

  5. Hi, thanks for openly sharing. Both of us can relate to times in our lives when we were in the type of search you’ve described. We don’t have all the answers but have come to a place of peace in our journey. Some awesome writers that have been influential resources for us include:
    Lee Strobel –

    Josh McDowell –

    Ravi Zacharias –

    Blessings to you on your search!

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