Cultural Christianity

March 28, 2007 at 7:24 am 22 comments

HelloI’d like to introduce myself. I’m Mystery of Iniquity and The de-Convert has graciously invited me to contribute to this blog. I hope I do his intent justice. I’ve currently “gone fishing” on my blog.

Most of us spiritual journeyers are all over the spectrum on the web regarding our religious or areligious outlooks are concerned. I like Mary’s diagram over at her blog about where we may fall in the Theistic/Agnostic/Atheistic scheme of things and I would put myself squarely in the middle. Right now, I don’t believe it’s possible to prove or disprove that God exists. I suppose I tend to float over to the theistic side more often than not because of religious conditioning, but the more I read and study and interact with Christians and atheists, I am seeing the atheistic side in a decidedly more positive light than the Christian side. And why is that?

As fundies, we are warned in church about atheists and their “mind games.” We are taught that they are deceived and cannot be trusted because they are tools of Satan. If we listen and believe what they tell us we are on the road to hell. There’s no halfway with them. Yet, when you actually face those manufactured fundie “demons,” they are exactly the opposite of what you are told! The most loving people are the ones who aren’t dogmatic about God. Amazing! The most hateful people are the ones who insist that there are two sides and two sides only: believers and unbelievers; heaven and hell; light and dark. The dualism is extreme. No room for gray, no room for exceptions. Yet, I still cling to the institutional church for some strange reason. Why do I do that? I believe I’ve discovered why.

When I was in college, we were required to take a generic elective which dealt with various topics of the day. I took one entitled “Creationism and Evolution,” which was taught by a Biology professor who proclaimed at our very first class that he was a cultural Jew. He explained that he was Jewish by birth and observed Jewish ritual only because he loved it and it’s his heritage, not because he believed in it. I thought this was fascinating. It was the first time this concept had ever occurred to me. I began to wonder what that meant for someone as Jewish as my professor, but it never dawned on me that the same definition of “cultural (insert label here)” could not only apply to Christianity but also apply to me over 7 years later. I realized that I had gradually become a cultural Christian, as have many people who claim they are Christians but have not become a fundamentalist zealot (meaning they take the bible literally, read nothing but the bible, monitor other peoples’ personal lives, etc). I had merely traded my fundamentalism for cultural Christianity. What being a cultural Christian means is that I love being part of the church because of the close friendships I usually found there and have developed over the years. I love bible study because it feeds my natural curiosity and autodidactism. I love singing in the choir especially since there is no other opportunity to sing in my community. I love church activities like community potlucks and garage sales, and all the mundane tasks associated with keeping the church going. It hit me all of a sudden that I was trying to fill needs that the larger human community failed to do! Unfortunately, the price you pay for all this close community is the loss of intellectual integrity.

I was having serious problems with the doctrines taught at our church and the requirement to believe them. I realized that I didn’t believe any of it any longer. I respected everyone’s right to believe what they wanted at this church, but I couldn’t say that any of it was based on irrefutable evidence. In fact, the bible was becoming quite suspect as a “guidebook” for my life. Good grief! How could 2000+ year old texts ever have anything to do with 21st century living? Going back even further to the source of the problem with church, I could no longer even be sure that God existed. No one has ever or ever will be able to prove God exists except by personal feeling or experience. And we ALL know that our personal experiences are not verifiable as proof. It’s great that we are free to have our own experiences, but we should never assume others should have them too!

In church, we were taught that these types of Christians, those who go to church because they grew up there or because they just like the community are “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these”(2 Tim. 3:5) NASB. Despite the fact that biblical writers are talking to men exclusively here (women are never addressed personally in the New Testament, unless Paul wanted to settle disputes or shout out to his co-workers), church folk are told to beware of those people who aren’t wholeheartedly on board with the fundie message! At least that’s how it’s interpreted in every church I’ve ever been in. This being so, I grow increasingly uncomfortable in the community I once loved. I no longer fit. Therefore, I seem to be clinging tenaciously to the forms, but the meaning I so heavily imbued into these rites and rituals is gone. Hopefully, with the help of the wonderful atheists, agnostics, and humanists I’ve met on the way, I can finally let it go and replace those dead rituals with actual living.

- by Mystery Of Iniquity

Entry filed under: MysteryOfIniquity. Tags: , , , , .

WWJD Series – Jesus and Family Values Morality and the Bible

22 Comments

  • 1. agnosticatheist  |  March 28, 2007 at 11:53 am

    MOI,

    I love church activities like community potlucks and garage sales, and all the mundane tasks associated with keeping the church going. I hit me all of a sudden that I was trying to fill needs that the larger human community failed to do! Unfortunately, the price you pay for all this close community is the loss of intellectual integrity.

    My wife and I have had this discussion several times. We have even begun trying to frame an alternative for church where some of the “community” needs can be fulfilled. While there are the positive aspects of church, I came to the conclusion that the negatives are not worth it.

    Last year we had the discussion whether or not to attend a church so our youngest daughter can have a similar framework her older siblings enjoyed. However, in the end, that framework negatively impacted them more than helped (in my personal assessment of their lives at this point).

    I think it’s interesting that atheists are finding a “community” atmosphere on the internet. So we’re virtually fulfilling some of the aspects of a community AND stimulating our intellect.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

    aA

  • 2. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 28, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    My husband and I had similar discussions for our kids and going to youth group because everyone wants some kind of alternative to the harmful (not the useful) drug and sex culture (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that! :-) ) But the benefits did not outweigh the detriments!

    You’re right though. The community provided by atheists and agnostics is growing on the internet and although defined as a culture war by fundamentalists, I think fundamentalists are taking notice and adjusting their attitudes JUST A SMIDGEN. There’s a long way to go yet of course, but I think it’s starting to sink in that there are those of us who have been fundamentalist, have believed all the doctrines, studied the bible, and perhaps know what we are talking about. It’s a start anyway.

  • 3. agnosticatheist  |  March 29, 2007 at 5:28 am

    My connection to “cultural christianity” is the music. I still listen to a lot of Christian music. I grew up with Christian Rock so it brings that security of familiarity. There are some songs I just have to skip though :)

  • 4. blueotter  |  March 29, 2007 at 10:57 am

    I have to admit that when I first read your post I was shocked! Thank you for opening my eyes to yet another reality out there. It would appear that so many people are searching and looking and wanting.

    Personally I think we all have our own path to our own divinity. And it appears to me that you are contemplating your path.

    I am definitely not Christian. But I am not atheist either. I do believe that we have extraordinary abilities to do wondrous things. Beyond the ordinary. Beyond commonality. I believe that I am A god. And that everyone that exists past, present, & future are as well. Along with the flowers, trees, rivers, planets…all of it coming from one place…the void.

    There have been many master teachers Ramtha, Buddah, Jesus, Eistein, Tesla…many individuals who have taught us to think and be more.

    Community desires can be filled in many ways…I am sure you know. But here is the question I would purpose to you…are you afraid to be alone? What would you do without other people to fill the space? Keep you busy?

    I would like to continue our conversation further, feel free to email me…and there is a really fun group on yahoo groups called beyond the ordinary. Also, and internet radio program at http://www.beyondtheordinary.net

    Maybe you are looking for more…maybe your not…but for some reason…I wrote to you…again…good luck on your journey.

  • 5. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 29, 2007 at 11:42 am

    blueotter,

    First, thanks for the comments and welcome. :-)

    Second, no, I’m not afraid to be alone, in fact, I prefer it! I could amuse myself endlessly for hours on end by reading, staring off into space, walking, watching tv, dangling shiny objects in front of cats, you name it. I also prefer to be with my family more than I prefer being in church. It’s just that you cannot be alone forever and most people reach out to actual bodies of community at one time or another. It’s natural. For me, fundamentalist christianity fit the bill.

    Unless one has been a fundamentalist of some religious variety or another, one cannot possibly understand how addictive this type of community is and how closely tied one becomes to it. It’s the sole reason why most fundamentalists will never give it up, even if their beliefs change! In fact, my beliefs have changed, and I still love everything about it, not because of the reasons you give, but because it feeds my sense of belonging to something larger and for a shared purpose. Even local township activities aren’t quite the same.

  • 6. storbakken  |  March 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Mystery of Iniquity,
    you’ve provided an nteresting post. But I’m not sure if your issue is with Fundamentalism or the Bible. I can understand your protest against dogmatic Fundamentlsm, but I’m not sure if I can embrace your interpretation of the Bible.

    You rhetorically ask, “How could 2000+ year old texts ever have anything to do with 21st century living?” But then you quote scripture (2 Tim. 3:5). By quoting that verse you show that it is relevant, at least you show that you put some stock in that verse.

    I can understand your disillusion with scripture regarding gender bias, but we must look at the Book culturally. I’m not saying that we are to be merely cultural Christians, but that we are to be spiritual, discerning souls who understand scripture in its historical and cultural context.

    I would be interested to hear your views on sin and salvation. Thanks again, Mystery. And thank you, AgnosticAtheist, for providing a medium to exchange ideas.

    More fire!

  • 7. agnosticatheist  |  March 29, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    You’re welcome storbakken. I hope you don’t mind but I commented on your blog. If that’s not the medium for those types of comments, please let me know. I really try to be respectful of the views of others especially on their turf.

  • 8. storbakken  |  March 29, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    AgnosticAtheist,

    You are free to post a comment anywhere on my site. While I do write some posts specifically for a Christian audience and others for a broader audience, I don’t like to censor the ideas/beliefs of others. There is a recent post entitled “Conversation on Atheism” that might have been a more relevant place to post your comment. But I am glad that you posted regardless.

    More fire!

  • 9. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 30, 2007 at 5:36 am

    storbakken,
    Hello again!

    I’m not quoting scripture because I put stock in it or believe in its truth. I’m quoting men’s texts against them because it’s all fundies listen to. It’s a subtle difference in use. As feminists, since men use texts to garner power over women, we use examples of their own hubris and their own twisted logic to prove our points. Fundies base their ideas on the bible, therefore you have to use the tools they use, show their inconsistencies, and help them realize how blinded they are by irreconcilable texts. That’s all. I would use the Koran in the same way. Or any other “scripture.” Just because I quote it, doesn’t mean I believe what that verse implies; I’m merely using it as an example of their teachings about unbelievers.

    As for interpreting the bible in a cultural and historical context, I agree completely. Unfortunately, fundamentalists do not believe in doing this. What’s written is written for all time over and above any historical context. Oh, wait, they think slavery is historical and culture, but women’s rights isn’t. Hmmmm. Conundrum.

  • [...] 7th, 2007 I’ve been pondering Mystery of Iniquity’s blog “Cultural Christianity” for a little over a week [...]

  • 11. Forgetful God  |  April 8, 2007 at 7:10 am

    I think that perhaps the Bible was never intended to tell us to worship a “God” but rather to realize that our own mind IS “God”. I’ve actually spent the time to look at the bible from this perspective and it does make sense. I would love to get your opinion on this.

    Please visit.
    http://forgetfulgod.blogspot.com/2007/04/devoutly-religious.html

    Thanks

  • 12. agnosticatheist  |  April 8, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    FG,

    That was a good post. Of course it seemed like a lot of effort to try to prove a point using a very flawed source :)

    aA

  • 13. Karen  |  April 16, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I stopped attending church when my kids were junior high age and I could no longer call myself a fundamentalist Christian. A few years later, over my husband’s objections, my kids finally stopped going also (they had never liked youth group).

    Although I am an atheist (of the “weak” or agnostic variety), I worried about the lack of moral influence that the church had contributed to my kids’ lives.

    They are now in their late teens and I have to say my worries were totally unfounded. Even without Christian influences for the last few years, my boys have developed excellent moral compasses for respect and kindness.

    Remember that you still are their primary input, even when they are teenagers. Just because they don’t go to church doesn’t mean you as parents lose the ability to instruct them on issues like ethics and honesty. This is really good news for non-religious parents.

  • 14. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 16, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Karen,

    You are so right. When we stopped making our kids go, they were happy. They never really had questions about God or religion and when they did I used information from a variety of religions to show them that there were multiple answers to questions such as those. All three have grown up with “excellent moral compasses” as well. Thanks for the comment. :-)

  • 15. max  |  March 11, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Hi, I was looking for a song that has the chorus, “So I grow, grow, grow!” I found your blog instead. Seing that it’s been almost a year since the last post, I wonder if you’ll read this.

    I can understand where you are coming from. There was a time that I was sceptical about the bible. Now, ever increasingly, it’s a lamp unto my feet. This is in a very real, if not literal, way that I’m talking about. God and I are in a romantic dance, where He (gender for communications sake, i’m not going to call Him “it” and though I am a male I think of myself as His bride, and female in this relationship between God and me, so I’ll call Him “Him’)… where was I?… Oh, ya, our dance, our relationship, our courtship.. He’s ever increasingly showing me how beautiful I am, and how much He loves me. He alone is beautiful, with the love for us that can not be equaled and only He can have. But His love for me is showing me that I’m beautiful in His eyes, and no more so than you are.

    Someone keeps trying to cut in on the dance. If he ever tries to tell me I’m beautiful it’s in a way that’s apart from the only one source of beauty which is God, and so when he tries to tell me i’m beautiful it’s actually a lie he speaks, to try to make me independent from that which is holy and true and good. He’s shown himself for who he is, a liar, and now he’s resorted to telling me i’m ugly and unworthy of love in so many ways. But he’s a liar. No tactic or lie of his is going to suceed in thwarting the plans God has for me. If you haven’t guessed who I’m talking about he’s our enemy, Satan. He’s so scared of me, he’s throwing everything he can at me, but every time God reasures me. For I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. God’s plans are to give you a hope and a future, not plans for harm or disaster. Will you dance with Him?

    If Satan’s suceeded in getting you out of the dance, by lies, perhaps he’s leaving you alone, so as not to scare you back into God’s arms. Maybe you never were in God’s arms, because it’s not just a mental assent He’s interested in, He’s looking for us, all of us, heart, mind, soul and strength, for Him to love and to grow into little lovers by seeing how He loves us. Unconditionally, just as we are. Not by anything we do, but by who we are in His eyes and what He’s done, (provided the way). Every other pursuit leads to death! Are you going to say Yes, to God, to Love, to His acceptance of you?

    If you say yes to God, get ready, because you are making yourself a very real enemy of Satan, who’s only power is that of deception. He’ll come at you with lies from within the church, from the world even at you in your own thoughts. He even uses the bible to lie to us. Which is why I’m so glad I have God on my side, because He shows me the true meaning of the bible and that it’s so very relavent to today.

    It’s a light in the darkness, as I am. As I follow God, follow me! For the love of God, for your sake, follow me as I follow Him!
    dum De De, dum De De – Me thinks it’s a waltz!

  • 16. Quester  |  March 11, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Hi, I was looking for a song that has the chorus, “So I grow, grow, grow!” I found your blog instead. Seing that it’s been almost a year since the last post, I wonder if you’ll read this.

    Hey, Max.

    Just to let you know, people are still posting on this blog. This article you are responding to is not the most recent by a long shot. Click on the Archive button at the top, or look at the Most Recent Discussions or Most Recent posts linked to in the sidebar, and you’ll find lots of activity going on. Take a look around, find out a bit about who we are, then, if you still would like to, feel free to join in and participate in the conversation.

  • 17. Thinking Ape  |  March 12, 2008 at 12:58 am

    Max,

    If you say yes to God, get ready, because you are making yourself a very real enemy of Satan, who’s only power is that of deception.

    Assuming that the Prince of Darkness, formerly first amongst all angels, is likely smarter than you or I and, as you say, is a master deceiver, how do you know the God you worship isn’t Satan?

  • 18. mysteryofiniquity  |  March 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    max,

    Very poetic post there! The most interesting aspect of the post is this:

    “gender for communications sake, i’m not going to call Him “it” and though I am a male I think of myself as His bride, and female in this relationship between God and me, so I’ll call Him “Him’”

    I’ve never heard of men thinking of themselves as God’s Bride, although Catholics talk about the Church in feminine terms all the time, which is very confusing, because I think of Christ as the literal “head” of the church (like a toe or arm or something) and the church as his “body” and not as a hierarchical, positional head.

    Thanks for the comment though!

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  March 12, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Which is why I’m so glad I have God on my side, because He shows me the true meaning of the bible

    Uh huh. And when someone comes along with exactly the same claim, but with a diametrically opposed meaning, you do what?

  • 20. karen  |  March 12, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    God and I are in a romantic dance, where He (gender for communications sake, i’m not going to call Him “it” and though I am a male I think of myself as His bride, and female in this relationship between God and me, so I’ll call Him “Him’)

    I understand what you’re saying, but it reminds me of HIS’s completely hilarious post My Homoerotic Relationship With Jesus. That had me laughing out loud!

  • 21. Ya don't need to know  |  August 24, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Mystery of Iniquity you are a very , yes very, foolish person. People like you think you are so intelligent but in reality you are nothing of the sort. (Professing themselves to be wise they became fools) Since you seem to know scripture I’m sure you can tell me what book and verse that lil diddy comes from. In all honesty, you definitely need to rethink your position on becoming a cultural christian. Jesus rejects people who deny Him and His TRUE word. He is the living word and you have left Him. Come back to your senses and trust in Christ. This world passeth away, but my word will never pass away. – That’s a word from Jesus. Please know that God has made Himself known to the world through creation. He has made Himself known by His Word that has been preserved for thousands of years. And He came to us in HUMAN FORM. Do not reject Him any longer. Judgement will come, either now or later. But it will come. Good day!

  • 22. MOI  |  August 24, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Why thank you for the wonderful Christian witness Tinkerbell3081@gmail.com,

    Because of your words I will most certainly give up the charade that Christianity offers and stick to what I know; reality. Thanks again for your heartfelt and sincere concern.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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