Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wisdom Regarding Religious Traditions from an Atheist

...treat Christianity just like you would any other mythic or cultural
tradition. All [...] reflect the struggle of our ancestors to determine
what is good and what is real and how to live in community with each other.
All contain a mixture of wisdom and foolishness and downright immorality.
Take what seems timeless and wise and move on. (from Creating Love and Light by Valerie Tarico)

This is how I have come to relate to my Christian traditions and upbringing. They are part of my culture, and I freely hold on to that which helps and works and jettison that which is harmful or does not work for me.


Fizlowski said...

Is it possible not to throw the baby out with the bath water? I'm not convinced that one can "freely hold on" to that which helps and jettison the harmful. My intuition is they are inextricable from one another.

Peter said...

Hey Fizz,

I have mixed thinking on these matters--I tend to waiver a bit as you know.

As a humanist, I feel that whatever ameliorates humanity and the biosphere is worth holding onto. But, how far does this extend? If belief in a falsehood propels humanity toward a better future, is that belief worth retaining? What if that belief is non-religious and secular in nature such as the belief in a better future on the basis of optimistic though uncritical thought?

Back to tradition and traditional forms. I feel that it is good to celebrate our ethnic-cultural heritage. I feel that such celebrations should include open acknowledgement of where our predecessors errored. I feel that holding onto such will help us not make the same mistakes and help us appreciate the cultural evolution that antedates our place in the cosmos today.

So, as you know, my wife, son, and I attend an indepedent church with strong Unitarian-Universalist leanings and associations. Both of the ministers are ordained in the UU church. The hymnal, to which the head pastor contributed, is from the UU demonination. God language is used sparingly and generally with disclaimers about how the user might wish to reinterpret it. Most of the people I have met and had discussion with are agnostic and/or atheist though I am sure there is a divesity of other perspectives. The fellowship of this diversity is thematically aligned with the idea of journey. Though not everyone is at the same place intellectually or religiously, all agree that the journey, not the destination, is what matters, and dialogue about differnces is encouraged. I find this a very healthy environment for meeting others and for expressing myself.

As a result of our involvement at this church, we now incorporate several traditional Protestant rituals into our life: we attend church Sunday mornings, my wife sings in the adult choir, we attend church social events, we sing Christmas charols (sometimes the lyrics are traditional and sometimes they are modified)... We find that using these traditional venues is good for us--they have allowed us to connect with a community that we enjoy.

To elaborate further on this...as we near Christmas, we will be using a number of traditional Christian rituals at church. My wife is singing in the xmas eve service choir. We will no doubt use a number of traditional hymns. Of note, there is a pagan and solstice display in the church atrium honoring pagan and pre-christian winter celebrations that coincide with Christmas time past and present. So, in the midst of our Christian ritual, there is an open acknolwedgement of how Christianity usurped indigenous religiouns and ethnic expressions. Rambling a bit here.....I think you get my point.