I was reading BCC the other day, and I came across this post that just seemed like this tremendous threat to me. I know John C had nothing in mind and really, I’m just writing this for the melodrama, but as an ex-mormon atheist, it seemed to hit close to home. John just had it out for those militant atheists, but I guess they do enough to deserve some of it.
I wanted to make a qualification and…perhaps…a defense…of what he lambastes as a “consumer model” of religion…especially since recently on my blog, I’ve been talking about the need to find one’s philosophical “fit” (and others have written about similar issues).
Part of me wants to summarize John’s main points. The other part (perhaps that militant atheist one) wants me to tell you all to not be lazy and read that BCC post (the first link — it’s good) [partially because I’ll probably botch things up in a summary and partially because I will make this post too long if I summarize here.]I like his general framework. For some/many people, their belief is jump started by spiritual experience. I liken this to “faith,” and I, like John, think it is unchosen. We diverge, though, because I think this trait is something of an inclination — so I think it remains unchosen, but John supposes that the choice to ignore or rationalize an initial spiritual experience gives us the option to choose faith (or not) after the initial opportunity. I disagree, because I believe that faith is the inclination that reaches to the core of certain people — so the rationalization or rejection would not do much but create discomfort within a person from their denial (but, in the same way, someone with true doubt would be just as uncomfortable trying to believe when he doesn’t.)
So, continuing…the reason John has to set this apart is because he’s talking about a diarist who has beliefs that put him at odds with the church in several places. And, I guess some people questioned why the diarist would remain even though he noticeably had several ideological differences from the church. The answer seemed obvious to John and the diarist — he still had faith and religions just don’t work that way.
The answer seems obvious to me that if the guy does indeed have faith (which he does), then of course he should stay. Cool.
But John continues with an interesting analysis…he classifies a popular misunderstanding of religion as being something like shopping. You shop for things that fit you, things that you like. If a religion is inconvenient or potentially offensive, find a new one. And that, John says, is stupid. This consumer model of religion leads to people just validating their current beliefs and actions and not progressing.
Eee. So, here’s my beef. I place a premium on people discovering what resonates within themselves. I do believe in a consumer model of religion. But…I disagree in the way religions should be chosen and in the implications of this choice.
I think the criteria we all should use is not the nuts or bolts of particular religions necessarily…but rather a more holistic approach that takes into consideration our inclinations. It goes back to the idea of faith (or doubt) and of knowing yourself well enough to know what “fits.” The diarist should stay because he finds a fit between his faith and his positions. This doesn’t mean the church is for everyone, or that believing in a certain way is for everyone.
So, in this case, it appears that even with a consumer model of religion, you can have room for growth…but then again, I think that is the case everywhere. There are infinite possibilities for growth because what resonates with you — whether it is faith of some sort or a lack thereof — doesn’t automatically equate with where you currently are, so really, what we are doing is coming to grips with who we want to develop into and what our fits are. Even if you like the path you currently are on, you can still work to radically improve that position.
“What’s your point, Andrew S?” you may be asking. Meanwhile, I lost 37% of you when I said “ex-mormon atheist.” (And hopefully not more than that since then).
My point is…we need a sensible way to deal. When we confront personal challenges, which are the ones we should work through and stay with (to learn and grow), and which are ones we should avoid? It’s easy to say, “Everyone should be Mormon and should be Mormon in a very specific way,” and perhaps many truly believe that is the best policy, but I think we can each think of people who have suffer greatly because they are trying to believe in what they have heard is the “right way,” but in the process, they are running themselves into the ground by constantly denying their true feelings. However, as John noted, it may be just as easy for the other side to say, “Well, if you can’t believe everything, you should abandon everything,” but this is just as extreme and does not take into consideration that people may not want to abandon a faith they do have just because of rough spots.