Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Brunch Link Buffet

Since last week was a high-stress affair at work—with as-yet-fully resolved negotiations on the future of my career as a climax—and then a much-needed escape out of town with Mrs F and the kids, blogging took a backseat. In fact, for several days I never even went online. So some of this is out of date, or not fully-realized... but here goes:

WAKE THE FUCK UP
Andrew Sullivan (among others) really need to decide to shit or get off the pot when it comes to Catholicism. Im not one for organized religion in any form at this point in my life, but my experience with both the Catholic and Episcopal churches isn't even close. For Sullivan to remain a part of a church that wants to literally cleanse him and those like him from existence is the height of self-loathing behavior.

RISING AGAIN?
Not exactly, but Kevin Drum better not hold his breath waiting for the South to learn its lesson or its place.

39 comments:

steves said...

I certainly can't speak for Sullivan, but I can understand what it is like to be a part of a church that doesn't share all of my beliefs.

Mr Furious said...

Most of us can. But are any of those things you disagree on central to who you are and how you view your life?

Probably not. And if they are, I'd have the same question for you...

I don't have a problem with people having faith, or choosing to believe in whatever they want, but I prefer to think that people find guidance and that their religion is a force for good intheir lives and belifs. I realize it's often not the case, but I find it very curious that someone could continue to support a church in the face of doctrine that is anathema to him like Sullivan does.

steves said...

It is hard to explain, especially in writing. Most religions, and denominations, contain a variety of adherents. There are a few core beliefs, but there is otherwise a fair amount of diversity. Most of my issues come from differences in non-core beliefs or with people who are misinterpreting scripture. I will readily admit that I don't have all the answers and I could very well be wrong.

The question then becomes where to draw the line.

Smitty said...

I've wrestled with this for a long time; is it God that I disagree with? Or organized religion?

There are certain lessons that I learned as a kid in Sunday School that are beneficial, including, as Joseph Campbell puts it, certain beneficial stages of growth inherent in every religion without which our own spiritual journeys are stunted.

That said, I absolutely am scared to death that I could raise 3 zealots instead of 3 critical thinkers.

But is it fair to launch a kid into the community ostracism that is atheism? Do I go to church anyway, and get my mids into Sunday School, and have them realize senses of community and service, despite my own general disdain of what the priest is saying (and, really, the priest himself)? Does that make me a hypocrite?

I'm still struggling internally over all of this. And my oldest, Smitty Jr, is just about the age where I am gonna have to figure this out. Shit or get off the pot.

steves said...

well, I am not going to tell you how to parent your children, but maybe I can offer some ideas. Most importantly, you need to be sincere. If you don't believe something, then your kids are going to pick up on that. Therefore, you should find a religion that is compatible with your belief system or at least mostly compatible.

That said, I absolutely am scared to death that I could raise 3 zealots instead of 3 critical thinkers.

Is this the only choice? Religion always leads to zealotry? As someone who attends church, spent four summers in college working at church camps, and has otherwise interacted with many religious people, I can honstly say that I have only met about two or three zealots. I know they are out there, but the idea that if you are religious, you have to be a zealot seems false.

In Christianity, there are some core beliefs, but the rest is just dicta or details. Despite what some religious leaders say, there can be a huge diversity of opinion in most denominations, at least from what I have seen.

I think you are asking good questions.

Bob said...

"Do I go to church anyway, and get my mids into Sunday School, and have them realize senses of community and service, despite my own general disdain of what the priest is saying (and, really, the priest himself)? Does that make me a hypocrite?"

I struggle with this myself. My wife wants to attend services for "the community", but I cannot bring myself to sit there as if I actually believe a word of it. That just doesn't seem honest. It is dishonest to the church and my kid.

As far as worry about a kid becoming a zealot, I have heard that a kid is more likely to join an extreme religion having come from a family without any religious upbringing. I am not sure where that research came from, but I know a few families where it seems to be true.

Mr Furious said...

As a lapsed Catholic (never really went back after going to college) I always thought that I'd be comfortable raising my kids somewhat similarly and let them figure out their own path as I did. Since I didn't have kids until I was in my 30s, my desire to go that route waned.

Mrs F was raised in an Episcopalian family—but not aggressively so. It is also a family wall-to-wall with critical thinkers, whereas my own family (my parents' generation and up) are frustratingly more "blind faith"-style.

What steves hits on with the sincerity is key. I've reached a point of outright disdain for the Catholic church and any type of evangelical or conformist religion. It would be impossible for my kids not to pick up on that eventually, and I have zero interest in raising them in an environment of dishonesty or hypocrisy.

In Ann Arbor we had nice experiences at a Universalist church and a Methodist church. Those, along with my wife's family's church in Troy opened me to the potential for a church based more around its community and our place in the world than dogma.

Ironically, Kid (now 7) is extremely curious about religion, and finds it fascinating. She devours old-school biblical stories, etc. Mrs F has taken her to church here a few times, and we have attended as a family during some "big" holidays, but I can't fake more of a commitment than that.

Bob said...

"In Ann Arbor we had nice experiences at a Universalist church and a Methodist church."

If it's the Methodist Chruch on State, I was married there.

steves said...

BTW, I am not trying to convince you to accept a specific belief system, I just wanted to clear up any possible misconceptions and myths.

That just doesn't seem honest. It is dishonest to the church and my kid.

True, and kids aren't stupid. My dad never went to church with my mom, my sister and me. It never really bothered me, but it would if he had gone and it was something he didn't believe.

Smitty said...

Is this the only choice? Religion always leads to zealotry?

No, no...I can totally see how what I said before sounds like that's what I am saying. That's not at all what I mean. My internal conflict relates to messaging things to my kids and teaching them to be critical thinkers, versus not taking them to church at all. Hell, I was in Sunday School my whole pre-18 upbringing, went to church summer camps, youth groups..the whole 9 yards, and I am the furthest from a zealot you'll meet. That said, and along with what you're saying, Steve, Bob's statement really resonates with me:

I have heard that a kid is more likely to join an extreme religion having come from a family without any religious upbringing

That makes a bunch of sense to me. It's like (not meaning to minimize the depth of this discussion) exposure to, well, vice! When I went to college, sure I drank , but I wasn't a nutcase about it. I had been around drinking and partying growing up, and it was no big deal. But a friend of mine, a 4-point student who was never allowed to go to parties or be exposed to much "extra-curricular" activities, went to MSU and the first thing she did was smoke a ton of pot, drink her ass off, and flunk-out in 1 semester.

Can religion be the same thing? As a parent, can I under-expose religion to the point that later in life, they get 1 little taste and go nuts for it? I am afraid of that. I am more afraid of that than I am not truly believing everything that the priest says and my kid catching on. Maybe, with the latter, my kid will start asking me questions about my belief. And maybe that's what counts the most.

steves said...

Again, I would like to point out that "evangelical" includes a huge corss section of denominations and not all of them are rigid and unthinking. I attend a church that could probably be lumped in this category and I'd like to think I was "thinking". Don't jump to conclusions.

Mr Furious said...

This comes up at an interesting time, because a classmate of Kid's is challenging the other children on matters of belief, etc.

It pisses me off.

Everything I said in my previous post withstanding, I prefer to have my kids (and everyone else's) be able to have a level of innocence and fantasy for as long as they desire.

When Kid came home and asked "Are we Christians?" we wanted to know what made her ask...

This other kid's parents are Buddhist—the annoying faux-hippie kind. They've taught their daughter to aggressively question everything else, and to, in a sense, evangelize.

In a matter of weeks Kid has learned that he new best friend doesn't believe in:
-Christmas
-Santa
-Mermaids
-Fairies (a component of the lower grades in their school)

She's clearly been quizzed on her own religion, probably along the lines of, "is your family Christians?"

Do I blame this little almost-7-year-old? Of course not I hold her parents responsible for teaching her a more judgmental outlook and a complete and total lack of discretion.

That girl challenging Santa, or the tooth fairy, or whatever with her classmates is inappropriate at this age, and is a product of parents who feel more than a little bit more enlightened than the rest of us, and don't seem shy about it.

I don't go for that. You want to be Buddhist? Knock yourself out, but you need to teach your child the validity of what everyone else believes.

Bob said...

"As a parent, can I under-expose religion to the point that later in life, they get 1 little taste and go nuts for it?"

I think what it comes down to is kids having the skills and confidence to question what they are hearing. If someone never has any religous instruction they would not have the skills to seperate the fruits from the nuts.

Even if it is you saying that you don't believe, it is giving them the ablity to think critically about what others are saying.

Bob said...

"That girl challenging Santa, or the tooth fairy, or whatever with her classmates is inappropriate at this age, and is a product of parents who feel more than a little bit more enlightened than the rest of us, and don't seem shy about it."

I was informed that Santa did not exist by the tongue-speaking freaks who lived across the street from me. They didn't believe in Santa, but Jesus himself supposidly came to the house on Christmas and brought gifts for the kids.

I think that family missed the point.

Mr Furious said...

"Evangelical" is the wrong word. I meant religions that aggressively evangelize/proselytize.

Mr Furious said...

I understand the natural and eventual conflict (too strong a word) that occurs with kids trying to find a place for the friend who celebrates Hanukkah instead of Christmas, etc, but I don't have much patience for someone aggressively challenging the fantasy roster of little kid beliefs.

Mr Furious said...

In other words, the "critical" in critical thinking should be internal or intra-family.

Smitty said...

This other kid's parents are Buddhist—the annoying faux-hippie kind. They've taught their daughter to aggressively question everything else, and to, in a sense, evangelize.

That's what pisses me off the most: this presumption that your dogma is better than everyone else's, and that all other dogma is just foolish fairy-tale crap.

It's all crap.

Let me believe my own crap, and maybe look for similarities between my crap and your crap.

It's cool to question, but not at the expense of everyone else and the benefit of your own. It's not "are you like me? No? Then you suck."

Blaggidy blah. All this to say that the environment of questioning beliefs and critical thought comes from the family environment. I think. Maybe it's on me to not raise an asshole!

steves said...

Of course not I hold her parents responsible for teaching her a more judgmental outlook and a complete and total lack of discretion.

I think the key here is discretion. I am not going to teach my child that all beliefs are valid, because they are not. If one of my kids classmates says that eating meat is wrong, I am not going to tell her that is true and that it is wrong. I will tell her that different people are free to believe whatever they want, but just because they say something is true doesn't make it true.

Discretion is key here. There are many things that are a matter of opinion and I try to teach my child not to be a jerk about expressing herself. As for Santa, for some reason she keeps go back and forth between believing and not believing. We haven't pushed either belief, but have told her that if she doesn't believe to keep it to herself.

As for religion, I have told her that it is not her job to convince others to believe a certain way and that is something for their parents to do.

steves said...

That's what pisses me off the most: this presumption that your dogma is better than everyone else's, and that all other dogma is just foolish fairy-tale crap.

So, all beliefs are equally valid? If someone believed that women shouldn't be educated or that the races shouldn't mix, those are valid beliefs? What about honor killings? What about nutcakes like Koresh and Phelps? Sorry, I don't buy the idea that all beliefs, whether they be religious or political, are equally valid. Some are just shit and others are varying degrees of wrongness.

That doesn't exclude the possibility of peaceful coexistence. If your beliefs don't infinge upon my rights, then things are probably ok. I am not suggesting that I am right and that everyone else should just piss up a crooked rope, but I think that some beliefs are wrong. I suppose what I am saying is that discretion should be used here.

steves said...

Some are just shit and others are varying degrees of wrongness.

This came out wrong. I didn't mean to imply to that everything else (that I didn't believe) was wrong, but rather that the stuff I believed was not right fell onto a continuum from really wrong to right.

I also don't want to give the impression I am training an intolerant child. I'd like to think I was raising a child that can stand up for herself and still be respectful of other people.

Mr Furious said...

When I use the word validity, I mean simply that other people are entitled to their beliefs and that is valid and to be respected. Not wjether any are more or less ridiculous or realistic than others.

I'm sticking with normally-encountered and commonly accepted stuff for the most part, that doesn't need to be explained beyond "that's what Johnny's family has decided to celebrate."

I'm not counting crazy shit like hard-core Sharia law or sects that mutilate genitalia, etc. that would need to be handled differently.

Mrs Furious said...

The funny part of all this is that Mr F was first to say we are Christian... while I (who am much more comfortable with religion in general... while also more comfortable with my ambivalence) said "Hmm... that is a hard question."

I do NOT believe in God. I do not believe that the bible is an actual retelling of events. I was raised within the Episcopal church (loosely) by people who don't really believe in it either (to varying degrees). It is very much a social/cultural thing for them... and they are very involved in their church. My parents were divorced and my father never went to church nor did his parents (although they were married in the Presbyterian church). We celebrated Christian holidays but that was it. There was no reading the bible, or praying, or real discussion of Christianity.

I also had the rare (and fantastic) opportunity to attend a private school that was extremely racially & religiously diverse. Because of that I have always felt all major religions are equally valid and have grown up knowing how fundamentally similar they are. The one thing I detest most is the idea that someone's religion is "the one true religion". I have a really hard time not judging someone's intellect when I hear that shit.

I am (in large part due to early exposure) fascinated by religions. I believe that having a belief system does add some kind of comfort to life... but there is no way that at this point I am going to *believe*. But I'd love for my kids to have that and I'm more willing to fake it till we make it than Mr F. I also think if we're going to celebrate holidays that are CLEARLY Christian than we need to honest about that with ourselves and our kids. I think there are good things (or can be) about attending a liberal church... community, opportunities for community service, traditions. In my experience there are churches (Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian) where you can find a group of people who are more or less there for the same reasons. I don't think trying to have a church experience once a week is such a bad thing... the basic tenets of following in the footsteps of Jesus isn't in itself a bad idea. In fact the Ann Arbor Episcopalian services were much more political than religious and Mr F would have gotten into it if he had gone.

I would just as happily join a Temple as a church... but... I know that our own family's traditions and culture ARE Christian and it is just easier to go in that path. I think that if you wait to introduce your kids to faith until they can choose it for themselves... it is too late to really believe. That's my experience. You can always choose to not believe (or change your belief system) but if you aren't given the opportunity to be allowed to accept a faith while you are still young enough to readily accept some magical thinking I don't know that you can.

So in theory I support giving my kids that opportunity. The problem is that we don't actually get up in time ;)

Mr Furious said...

My response to the "Are we Christian?" was almost instantaneous (for me): We're going with Easter and Christmas as the big holidays, which brings the accompanying stories of Jesus... So yeah, that makes us "Christian" for the purposes of that discussion.

Afterwords, Mrs F (as is her wont) did a little research and came up with the perfectly appropriate label for us: Secular Humanist.

Mr Furious said...

I have a really hard time not judging someone's intellect when I hear that shit.

Word. Or their merit as a person. Kep it to yourself, Churchy.

steves said...

Sorry, but I disagree. I have no problem with a person believing that their belief system is the one true belief system. Most belief systems or religions have that as one of their tenets, so you are certainly free to disagree with that, but I have a hard time seeing why that is a refelction on their intelligence. Do you think that everyone that disagrees with you or doesn't believe as you think they should is somehow stupid?

I do agree that looking down on other that don't share your beliefs, solely because they don't share those beliefs, is wrong. I wouldn't say it makes them stupid, but it certainly makes them arrogant or rude.

You can always choose to not believe (or change your belief system) but if you aren't given the opportunity to be allowed to accept a faith while you are still young enough to readily accept some magical thinking I don't know that you can.

I can't say that I agree with this. While anecdotal, I know many people that didn't become religious until they were adults. There is more to religion than just accepting magical thinking, IMO.

Bob said...

Steve:

"Some are just shit and others are varying degrees of wrongness.

This came out wrong."

You may have said it came out worng, but I kinda liked it. Sorry.

steves said...

The one thing I detest most is the idea that someone's religion is "the one true religion".

I am just guessing here, but is religion a major component of who you are? For people that answer yes to that question, they are probably more likely to think their religion is "right". To understand why, substitute religion for some other area (such as politics, civil liberties, etc.) where you hold a strong opinion. How likely are you able to accept a contrary beleif as being valid or equal to yours?

None of this precludes being able to have respect for other religions.

steves said...

You may have said it came out worng, but I kinda liked it. Sorry.

No problem. I am trying to be careful. This is one of those subjects that is better discussed in person, over a fine adult beverage of your choice. I do not always do a very good job of trying to say things in writing.

Bob said...

Did anyone else here ever have crazies come to their door growing up warning of the end of the world?

When I was about 8, I remember these people showing up at our door asking me if I was scared about the end of the world. If someone does that to my kid they better run off my porch.

Smitty said...

So, all beliefs are equally valid?

No, Steve. In fact, you and Mr. F ended up clarifying what I was saying. When I say "dogma" I am referring to religious beliefs.

There are plenty of basic tenets...I guess I could say every religion everywhere has it's "Golden Rule;" its own version of Do Unto Others... What I was referring to in my original statement is that it's bullshit to say your Golden Rule is a better key to whatever than mine.

Mr Furious said...

Here's my answer to that, steves. You [generic] can think your religion is the one true religion or whatever you like. That's fine by me—just keep it in check.

Problems arise when you start aggressively sharing that with others or, worse, trying to legislate it.

Mrs Furious said...

"How likely are you able to accept a contrary beleif as being valid or equal to yours?"

Much more likely than most. That is why it bothers me so much. I actually can usually understand/empathize with differing points of view. I do think that to be so ingrained in your religion that you must invalidate another's is not very insightful, thoughtful, informed, or intelligent.

As for becoming religious as an adult... I would want to know if those people were exposed to religion as children. If you were say Mr F who grew up in a Catholic family... then walked away from it... then became religious later you did in fact have that foundation as a child. I think to truly believe wholeheartedly in the concept of God you have to have had some introduction to that idea as a child. I do not know anyone that was brought up by atheists (and I know a lot) that have become religious as adults.

Mrs Furious said...

"For people that answer yes to that question, they are probably more likely to think their religion is "right". "

I think that's a generalization. I've known plenty of very religious people who didn't need to/ nor did they believe that their religion was preeminent over someone else's. Could be the circles I run in. For one thing the religious people I have known have not been Christian. And maybe coming from a more persecuted religion (in the US) allows for more understanding of what it is like to have your religious beliefs invalidated.

steves said...

I actually can usually understand/empathize with differing points of view. I do think that to be so ingrained in your religion that you must invalidate another's is not very insightful, thoughtful, informed, or intelligent.

Understanding/empathizing is a useful skill, but isn't the same thing as acceptance. I suppose I am thinking about more extreme examples of religious beliefs, such as genital mutilation, honor killings, and the like. I can understand their basis, but I have a difficult time accepting their validity. Obviously, acceptance is easier for less "extreme" forms of beliefs.

As for becoming religious as an adult... I would want to know if those people were exposed to religion as children.

The people that I am thinking about grew up in what I would call agnostic or Christian-lite homes, with little or no church attendance, no instruction, and no exposure to religious texts. Again, this is entirely anecdotal and I have no idea if this is common or not.

I think that's a generalization. I've known plenty of very religious people who didn't need to/ nor did they believe that their religion was preeminent over someone else's.

It may be. I also think that most people are reluctant to say their religion is preeminent even if they did believe that. As for a need to tell others that their "team" is the best, that is a different thing. That would be rude and I doubt most people would want to go there.

Problems arise when you start aggressively sharing that with others or, worse, trying to legislate it.

Agreed. I never saw the point in being a dick about what you believe. You aren't going to convince anybody. Legislating morality, for the most part, is never a good idea.

Bob said...

Don't you guys think that people who think they can speak in tongues should seek mental health services? I grew up around a bunch of folks like this.

steves said...

Don't you guys think that people who think they can speak in tongues should seek mental health services? I grew up around a bunch of folks like this.

I am normally pretty tolerant of various denominational beliefs and will chalk it up to a difference of opinion and just say it isn't for me. That being said, the "speakers", along with snake handlers, people that won't seek medical care for injuries, and the ones who think dancing, coffee, and TV are sinful, seem a bit out there to me.

Mrs Furious said...

"Understanding/empathizing is a useful skill, but isn't the same thing as acceptance. I suppose I am thinking about more extreme examples of religious beliefs, such as genital mutilation, honor killings, and the like. I can understand their basis, but I have a difficult time accepting their validity. Obviously, acceptance is easier for less "extreme" forms of beliefs."

I actually believe that understanding and empathy are in fact the very backbone of acceptance. I think you are confusing acceptance with agreement.

steves said...

I think you are confusing acceptance with agreement.

Most definitions of acceptance contain the element of assent or approval, but if you mean just an understanding without approval, then I see your point.