Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Benefits of Growing Up in a Non-Religious Environment

1. Your body belongs to you. You can do whatever you want with it and not what some guy in a confessional or behind a pulpit decides.

2. You can eat and drink whatever you like whenever you like without feeling the need to consult some incomprehensible ancient book by people who have been dead forever.

3. There is no need to wake up early on Sunday and schlep to a building where equally sleepy and annoyed people engage in weird rituals together.

4. The idea that there can be anything wrong or shameful about sexual pleasure sounds bizarre.

5. Activities like enjoying food, procrastinating and expressing emotions freely do not lead to intense feelings of guilt.

6. In your romantic relationships, you consult your desires, not dusty tomes.

7. You save a lot of money because nobody hits you up for a donation every week.

8. You don't have to waste hours of your life hearing some individual pontificate in a pompous and boring manner every week.

9. If you do kind and charitable things it's because that's what you want and not because somebody guilt-tripped you into it.

10. You don't have to make a fool of yourself by questioning the most basic advances of science.

11. If you fall out of love, you can split up instead of forcing yourself suffer through a loveless relationship.

12. If you are a woman, you don't grow up with constant reminders of how inferior you are.

13. If you are gay or transgender, you don't get demonized and rejected for that by a group of people who respect somebody's interpretation of some old book more than they respect actual human beings.

14. As an adult, you can evaluate all systems of belief and decide for yourself which one suits you best, which is always a lot more convenient than people having decided that for you when you were a baby with no will of your own. People who pontificate about the atrocity of arranged marriages forget how easily most of them contracted an arranged marriage with their own spirituality. Their parents decide for them on the basis of custom and tradition, and then they are condemned to be spiritual in a way that they might have never chosen if they had any say in the matter.

P.S. If you want to write a response on the benefits of growing up religious, feel free. All I ask is that you try to do it without mentioning the word "community."

38 comments:

Leah Jane said...

I didn't grow up in a super-religious household. Having one parent be a Jew and one parent be a wishy-washy "I believe in God but I don't want to get out of bed on the weekend"-ist does that to you. Sadly, a strict religious upbringing had such a negative effect on the spiritual, social, emotional and intellectual development of my close childhood friends, which haunts me to this day.
So, the only advantage I can give to a spiritual upbringing is, "Having less of a chance of getting pulled aside for additional questioning when taking your heritage trip to Israel and you can't answer the questions about what part of the holy book you recited for your bat mitzvah or which rabbi supervised your naming ceremony."
Oy, what a mouthful.

Clarissa said...

That's a complex advantage, to be sure, but it's better than nothing. :-) :-)

GMP said...

Loved the post -- I too grew up in an environment free of religion and I am very happy for it.

What amazes me is that in the US going to church is some kind of certificate that you have morals and good values; try getting elected to any office without being affiliated with a church. Where I grew up, having morals and values was always understood to be something you picked up at home, from your family.

While I understand that people have spiritual needs, I really really have issues with organized religion. I do not understand why I need to listen to a dude in a frock tell me how to lead my life. WTF?

Clarissa said...

That's exactly how I feel. Organized religions have a tendency to commit so many atrocities in the name of seemingly good things that it's kind of hard to take them seriously.

profacero said...

Advantages to not being raised to be religious are, you remain unscathed. But, you are also not inoculated. Cases in point:

1. My brother and his more Jewish than us (though secular and) wife, getting born again in Jesus' name due to a crisis.

2. I, when I went to psychotherapy, did not recognize when it was running fundamentalist Christianity on me -- I just got confused. Xians later said Oh. You never went to a bad Sunday school; if you had, you'd have recognized the tactics right off.

Tim said...

What I find so incredibly rediculous about religions in the US is how often they manage to insert themself into very serious and usually political discussions. And that people actually take their concerns serious !

I mean if one of the politicians in our government would claim that he has a problem with gay marriage because marriage is sacred and God only intended it to be between a man and a woman, or that we are right to do something because God is on our side, I would personally start a non-profit organisation to make sure that person vacates his or her position ASAP.

Tim said...

By the way, did you know that sacred is an anagramm to scared ? I think that says a lot.

Pagan Topologist said...

The only advantage I can think of is that I grew up with a knowledge of the bible, which led me to being willing and able to analyze and discuss works of literature. This is an ability that many people seem not to have. Of course I was told that I was being sacreligious by claiming I was smarter than god when I discovered and pointed out contradictions in the text of the bible. The bible is, like it or not, an important part of our literary culture.

Overall, however, I think and feel that religion caused me an overwhelming amount of damage of mostly the types you describe as I was growing up.

liese4 said...

Most of these would be based upon a certain church experience for some people - not everyone.

1. I'm not sure I've ever heard that sex and lovemaking is anything other than wonderful at any of the churches I've been to.

2. My book doesn't say that I need to avoid eating anything, although I should probably not eat many Reese's.

3. There is no need to wake up early on Sunday, at my church I can go Sat. night, and 3 times on Sunday morning.

4. Again, not sure I've heard that.

5. I can eat what I want, I certainly procrastinate and I have no trouble 'expressing emotions'!

6. Not sure what this is about, some people can't fall in love because of religion?

7. I don't tithe, see number 9.

8. I go to church to get fed, get uplifted and recharge for the week, not to hear one person tell me what to do.

9. All of my money belongs to God, so I don't just give 10%. I give to the homeless, I volunteer, I use my time, talents and treasure to help others. Not because I am paving a way to Heaven, but because it just seems right.

10. You mean like cloning? Or the internet? I love science, I see a grand design in snowflakes, the universe and flowers growing in my yard. I am not afraid of science.

11. In most faiths you can always get a divorce (Western faiths that is.)

12. Again, I wasn't raised in that kind of church.

13. As I have gotten older, my views in things have changed. I will treat a woman who has had an abortion the same as a man who is gay the same as a person who has committed murder. I should not judge.

14. This is true, you could just wait until you were an adult, or you could start as a young adult trying different ideas and religions.

Again, different people will have different views based on where they went to church or not or how they grew up (whether religion played a part in that or not.)

Clarissa said...

profacero: wait, I don't get this. Psychotherapy pushed fundamentalist Christianity on you?? How is that possible? Psychotherapy was born to liberate people, first and foremost, from the constraints imposed on them by Christianity. A fundamentalist Christian psychotherapist is a contradiction in terms.

I'm just discovering really weird things all the time.

Clarissa said...

Tim: I know what you mean! This entire country is supposed to be built around the idea of separation between church and state. So when a politician starts pontificating about Jesus, it's like s/he is spitting on the Constitution right there. I don't think I'll ever get used to that.

Pagan Topologist: most religious people grow up with fantasies about the bible, not actual knowledge. I had a fundamentalist colleague who stormed out on me saying "How dare you suggest OUR Jesus was a Jew!"

profacero said...

Re knowing Bible, some Protestant denominations are really good at this. They are also good at textual study, hermeneutics, etc. Lit major kinds of skills, seriously.

Elisabeth said...

Hm, I have to agree with Liese - doesn't sound like the religious environment I grew up in either. Perhaps I've been very lucky?

...says the happy theologian (feminist, in control of own body, experiencing a complete lack of religious guilt, etc. etc.)

/Elisabeth

profacero said...

Re psyhcotherapy - it was in the 90s when the Adult Children of Alcoholics movement was popular. My parents are alcoholic and the therapist was into this movement, and I did not realize it. It is based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is (it really is) fundamentalist Christianity. It took some doing to figure out what this therapist was trying to do since I did not understand and much of it seemed antitherapeutic, although it was disguised in therapeutic terms and so on.

profacero said...

...the ideas of this therapy were incredibly damaging in the way fundamentalist Christianity is, very misogynistic, etc.

Clarissa said...

" I will treat a woman who has had an abortion the same as a man who is gay the same as a person who has committed murder. I should not judge."

-Actually, that sounds extremely judgmental. A non-judgmental attitude - and a truly Christian one - would include treating all these people like you treat yourself.

Clarissa said...

liese and Elisabeth: are you telling me that your version of the Bible actually celebrates gluttony, fornication, sorrow, and wrath? That your version says you can have as many lovers of any gender as you want and that should be celebrated? Cool! Can I get a copy? :-) :-)

"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God"

el said...

I started reading "The God Dilusion" by Richard Dawkins and he has some interesting ideas. Recommended. F.e. he says one of reasons USA is more religious than England paradoxally can be because US seperates between state and religion, thus creating "free market" competition in which religious denominations compete over rich communities (for tithe) in the best traditions of selling tactics and cut-throat competition of a capitalist market.

Rimi said...

Sir Richard is sadly out of touch with the US political reality. The difference between church and state grows narrower ad narrower right before our eyes.

And Liese, I like how you say western faiths allow divorce. Which faiths would these be? Do you perhaps belong to the religion of a first nation, or the Inca or Aztec faiths? If you do, then you may have misread your scriptures.

Western faiths. Sigh. Casual ethnocentric ignorance every blood where.

P.S: Clarissa, a lot of churches teach sex is wonderful and great, when done only with the person you deeply love and are married to. It is an incentive to a continued monogamous relationship -- at least on part of the women. Also, being constantly told how super sex with one's husband is, probably stops them from empirically evaluating his performance.

Clarissa said...

"Also, being constantly told how super sex with one's husband is, probably stops them from empirically evaluating his performance"

-Rimi, comments like this one are the reason why I adore you.

liese4 said...

Galatians 5: 13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.

Just because I am free to be a glutton does not mean I should. And it would be more judgmental to say to a woman who had an abortion that she is going to hell because of that. So should I not treat her as I wanted to be treated? But, instead curse her because she committed a sin? Are not my sins as great as hers? So, I do not condemn her, I love her. Morally I might think it was wrong, but I don't knew her situation (or the murderer or the homosexual) so how can I judge her? I think you misread that one.

Also Rimi, just because you can get a divorce does not mean the church wants you to. Sure, you can be a Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc and get a divorce, who says you can't? If you are asking if there is a scripture in the Bible that forbids divorce except under certain circumstances, the answer is yes. But, churches will grant you a divorce regardless.

And by Western I meant American from the 1600's on. I have no clue how faiths in Africa, Asia, and other countries handle divorce.

Like I said, as I got older I widened my view of certain things. When I was a kid I thought that some sins were greater than others. But, really that is just a personal view of how I see things. Now, I realize that God loves me even when I screw up and that a sin is a sin and needs to be forgiven.

Again, that is just my view, I'm not here to proselytize anyone.

Clarissa said...

Since when does Western = American?? And why just since 1600? Was this continent Eastern until then?

I would be very grateful if you didn't refer to abortion as "sin" on my blog. I find people who say such things to be repulsive. I'd also remind you that the greatest murderers of humanity were not gay. They were religious folks. So I'd much rather that you put murderers and religious people in the same sentence, just for the sake of accuracy. And then we can all forgive them and love them equally.

Clarissa said...

Also, you can't simultaneously believe that your body belongs to you and that abortion or homosexuality are a sin. You do see that, right? It's the one or the other.

liese4 said...

Because the Native Americans that were here before the Europeans came over were not 'Christian' they were their own culture and religion. I can't even say America because then do I mean Americans who were here and native to this land where I now live, or do I mean people who came over on boats from different places to settle here? So I say Western to refer to America as opposed to Eastern which would be Europe/Asia. At least that's how we were taught in Texas, that we live in the Western hemisphere, so we're Westerners.

I was using hypotheticals, not saying that gays commit murder, most murders in the ancient world were committed by religions trying to convert or kill people. Even in the modern world we have people killing others in the name of religion...which is wrong, period.

Have you seen the book Jesus Calling? It's a little devotional book that is just spot on every time I read it.

Shedding Khawatir said...

I can see where you are going on this as I have many friends who were raised in households where all of these applied and they suffered. However, I must disagree on two counts. First, I grew up with a faith to which absolutely none of these apply (no guilt, no pontificators, homosexuality is fine, etc.). Second, and more important, regarding numbers one, four, five, and thirteen in particular, I know plenty of people raised in non-religious households that suffer from these because I believe that there are still a lot of traditional religious tones (like those you mention) to at least American culture, even if people are not actively "religious."

brittanyannwick said...

No, you were equating gay people to murderers, which is wrong.

Scales: Your eyes be covered in them.

Lindsay said...

This post describes my life pretty well. I never really understood how lucky I'd been until I had two really close friends in college who had come from strongly religious families and struggled terribly with guilt over all sorts of things.

I just felt like my life was so much easier than theirs, even when the conditions of our lives were so similar (our trials being mostly things like hard classes or unrequited loves) because my emotional life was so much simpler.

(I do agree with PT that it's good to know the Bible, though. I have one and read it sometimes; haven't read it all yet).

Rimi said...

Liese, I'm sorry to see my my somewhat irate accusation of ethnocentric ignorance prove so absolutely accurate in your instance. Sarcasm, apparently, is lost on you. Christianity is not a western faith.

Indeed, as a person brought up with regular doses of the scriptures every morning before school, I can assure you that this vein of arrogance -- cf, Christianity equals the west and the west equals America -- is deeply unChristian.

I am impressed by your ability to quote the scriptures, but perhaps a more well-rounded and humble worldview would please your maker more.

Clarissa, I'm flattered out of my wits that you would adore me so ;-)

Rimi said...

On the other hand, I must say I am at least gratified there are people who believe abortion or homosexuality are sins, but do not immediately call for the execution of the sinners. It makes a nice change from the usual, hateful fundamentalist sound bite. So, points for that, Liese, though my religion and I disagree with your point entirely.

Elisabeth said...

...just wanted to point out that FAR from all Christians (or religious people) regard homosexuality a sin. Just to make it absolutely clear (although it should be obvious).

Sorry for being such a religious hippie. For me it's all about love - and that love is radical to its very core. The rest is up to us to figure out.

PS: will email you the bible of gluttony as soon as I find it, Clarissa! Too bad Blake never finished his 'Bible of Hell'.

And now off to celebrate my birthday, so will leave discussion...

Much love! /E

Rimi said...

In whose service might you have stated the obvious, Elisabeth? Not in mine, I hope, because you'll notice I ddin't mention Christians when I spoke of 'people who believe homosexuality or abortion are sins'.

Given the abundance of fundamentalist 'liberals' whose hysterical idiocy matches their religious counterparts, one likes to make these things clear.

profacero said...

The Danish part of my family is Lutheran, of course, and it seems that the Danish People's Church says Christianity is the best religion because it is the only one based on love. I just don't see why one would need a religion to have love, humanity, and so on. I have more or less adopted an Afro-Brazilian religion and it is about strength, which I need; perhaps other people adopt other religions because they offer things they need, I am not sure.

Clarissa said...

I support adopting religions one finds useful, comforting or anything else. What I don't understand is mindless acceptance of a religion that was chosen for you by others. I'm shocked that adults would rely on a judgment that was made before they were even born for something this important. As a result, you see people practice a religion they don't even understand or know anything about, as we have seen in this thread and everywhere in our public life.

Politicalguineapig said...

I grew up in a non religious household- I guess you could say nominally Christian. We celebrated Easter and Christmas, but never went to church.
Now, as an adult, I feel vague religious yearnings, mostly around the high holidays, but I have real doubts that I would be welcome. Not only would I have to change my Sunday routine, but I'd have to give up my political beliefs and any hope of being 'equal.' And I find that it's just not worth it.

Leum said...

Why can't people cite community as an advantage to growing up religious? A good supportive community seems to be one of the main benefits of religion.

NancyP said...

As PT says, "liberal" (mainstream Protestant) Christian Biblical scholarship is very much attuned to textual, literary, historical analysis, and consider these methods to be valid and necessary in the interpretation of the Bible.
For Roman Catholics, much of Biblical interpretation depends on and is limited by prior approved interpretations ("the Magisterium": early Church fathers, early Councils, key medieval theologians especially Aquinas, modern popes).
American and global conservative/ evangelical Protestants usually proclaim the inerrancy of the Bible - without qualification and without acknowledgment of translation issues and without defined criteria for determining whether a given passage is to be taken literally. American fundamentalism was a reaction to the rise of primarily German "Higher Criticism" (methods listed above). Starting in 1909 or 1910, a series of pamphlets was issued by an American Protestant theologian on "Fundamentals of the Christian Faith", presenting the "common man's common sense" literal interpretation as the only valid interpretation, and denouncing the "Higher Criticism" academic methods. This "common man's" approach became known as "Fundamentalism", not originally a derogatory term.

scott said...

This should be called "The benefits of growing up in a specific non-religious environment that I don't like." Atheists do this consistently - validate themselves by citing extremes to summarize the whole.

The fact they do this consistently reveals that they have poor knowledge of religion as a whole, which makes their observations loose credibility, which is too bad because they have so much to offer.

Clarissa said...

The only thing, my friend, is that I'm not an atheist. I'm a profound Christian believer. This is something that nobody imposed on me. i chose it for myself.