Religious Forecast: It will rain catechisms and dogmas

Watched part of the PBS program last night about Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis and the debate over the existence of ‘god’. The moderated discussion among a group of diverse ‘intellectuals’ held between program segments I found to be interesting. They held different views on the subject but were willing (and able) to communicate openly without rancor. Often expressing understanding of, (not necessarily agreement with) an opposing view.

I am an atheist. You won’t see (at the time I type this) any related LJ interest on my bio page. Though I was raised as a “Christian” it wasn’t overtly forced on me. Rather, the practice of religion was something you did for the same reason you changed underwear and socks daily or washed your hands before meals. It developed as a habit, not a belief. Sunday mornings, evenings, occasional Wed. evenings, plus youth group and other seasonal activities were a way of life. Several attempts on my part to experience some sort of enlightenment beyond just having ‘faith’ through various religious practices failed to produce results. Reaching my mid-teens I began to inwardly question the apparent contradiction between the benevolent deity I was told was in charge and the seemingly random, senseless occurrences of pain and suffering inflicted upon innocent people (either by nature or religious zealots) throughout the world during all of recorded history. By college any thought of continuing the practice of religion was behind me.

I find ‘Christians’ to be an odd bunch, especially the type who choose to have all aspects of their lives centered in and around the so-called ‘mega-churches’. If these institutions could somehow merge all their services and functions with Sam’s Clubs for instance, they could create their own independent country! (but would you have to “pay” to enjoy the privileges?)

Over time, ongoing contact with Christians has led me to conclude they adhere to a standard pattern of social behavior; eagerly inviting you to participate in any number of church related functions but never extending an offer to come into their homes. Odd maybe, but I’m actually offended by this. If you want to know me, then you will do so one-on-one as an individual. Can they not handle social interaction apart from or outside the ‘groupthink’ structure of church? Does taking me to church relieve them of personal responsibility for my care and feeding by putting me into the hands of a “higher” authority?

(side note – the second most common question I was asked by North Carolina residents I met after moving here, right after they asked what church I attended, was “which ACC basketball team do you root for?” THAT is a RANT I will save for later.)

The unresolved question (in my mind) concerns ‘morality’. I consider my self ‘amoral’. (please don’t confuse that with immoral) I do not believe in moral absolutes. Simply put, acceptable behavior for one individual isn’t for another and any attempt at resolving these differences are useless. My faith lies with the ability of man to determine his own purpose. Civilization depends on it.


About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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9 Responses to Religious Forecast: It will rain catechisms and dogmas

  1. dog_inheaven says:

    I wanted to watch that and forgot…what did I do last night? I totally forgot where I parked my car at Lowes today and started to panic as the rains began to pour down. Have you ever read C.S. Lewis scifi trilogy?

    • marcsuttle says:

      Prior to the show last night I knew nothing of Lewis other than he was a writer somehow tied in with religion. I thought he might have written sci-fi but couldn’t piece it all together. Quite interesting to learn of his transformation from atheist to believer. He was also associated with Tolkien. My taste in sci-fi is more short story oriented with Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke at the core. (the ABC of sci-fi) Harlan Ellison is my all time favorite.

      • dog_inheaven says:

        I like all those writers, especially Harlen Ellison and Clark…Childhood’s End? I like British writers. C.S. Lewis The Narnia Trilogy, but he also wrote a science fiction trilogy that many people don’t know about. I think it was, “Out of the Silent Planet, Paralandria, (sp) and The Hideous Strength. The last one was my favorite…because Merlin was involved.

  2. hopeevey says:

    I generally things of “amoral” as referring to someone or something that isn’t capable of making moral decisions. I’d describe you as not having a rigid definition of morality. I’m sure there’s a more concise way of describing it, but it’s not coming to mind.

    • marcsuttle says:

      Mentally working my way thru the discussion, I keep arriving at the belief that the “law” is most important. My position is based on this quote by another – “civilization presupposes respect for the law”, along with a statement made by a lawyer that the “law” has absolutely nothing to do with what any given individual believes is moral/immoral. The goal was to maintain a system of justice equitable across the largest segment of the general population possible in order to prevent/avoid anarchy. Or in other words- “the great problem for jurisprudence to allow freedom while enforcing order”
      However, I do not think all laws are “just” because ‘man’ is not perfect and makes mistakes. It is up to us, as civilized beings, to continually make improvements.(both inside and outside the “system”)

  3. shigella says:

    I find it fascinating how childhood experiences with organized religion can either “make or break” a faith. I was thrilled that the PBS production discussed Freud and Lewis’ childhood experiences, and it’s interesting to read your perspective as well.
    I am a Christian, but I dislike the term to describe myself because there are so many negative associations attached to it. I’m a liberal thinker and I’m not tied to a church denomination, which I think is more in keeping with God’s purpose for us. Church doctrine and dogma are human inventions, not God’s law. It’s easier to control people with rules than teach them to think.
    My father was a minister and a chaplain for a local jail when I was growing up. Both of my parents are Christians; they attended church with us and encouraged discussion about what we heard in church. I think that is rare for parents. Many people send their kids to church and never talk about what it means and how it should be applied to daily living.
    I think it’s important to think, question and search. Our viewpoints sound surprisingly familiar, though I believe in God and you do not. I like what you said: faith lies with the ability of man to determine his own purpose. Civilization depends on it.
    I agree completely. I’m a firm believer in Free Will, which is a topic many Christians disagree on. I think God gave us brains and the ability to choose our actions and decisions. I don’t think anything is predestined and set in stone for us. Determining your purpose is your right as a Creation (if you believe in a Creator), even if you conclude there is no God.
    The church I currently attend is very small, poor and socially responsible. The pastor encourages people to help their neighbors, get to know people and be involved in food shelf, charities, etc. Our purpose isn’t to preach and convert, but to feed, encourage and aid those who need help. It’s a shame that so many churches get rich while the homeless shelter around the corner closes down due to lack of funds.
    Anyway, I didn’t mean to rant. I just wanted to offer a perspective from a Christian in the minority. We’re not all insane, pulpit-pounding rule makers. ;D
    I respect your atheism because it’s a conclusion you came to through independent thought. That takes courage.

    • marcsuttle says:

      I would never classify your response as a ‘rant’. As I mentioned up front, there are no outward advertisements in my life concerning my views on the subject. The LJ post was a sort of ‘leap’ for me. When through normal interaction with ‘peers’, they discover my beliefs, a few eyebrows are raised or sudden questioning exclamations of my name (Marc?!) but nothing more. I won’t say it was ignored, but issues surrounding ‘faith’ were not discussed outside of normal church activities. (Many other topics of the day were generally “repressed” in our home.)
      You comments caused me to think back to the times my beliefs were challenged or brought into question. Once again, these occurred within the church, but it was always by ‘outsiders’ who were visiting on some “crusade” or other “evangelical” mission. I remember feeling hurt and indignant when openly questioned about my beliefs. The don’t-rock-the-boat status-quo was good enough for me and anything else brought discomfort. The ultimate discomfort proved to be professing beliefs to maintain an image I did not hold to be true.
      Speaking of PBS,(were we?) I saw parts of the Joseph Campell interviews with Bill Moyers series ‘The Power of Myth’ recently and was intrigued.

      • shigella says:

        Thanks for sharing. I’d like to know what you think about the next installment in the Lewis/Freud debate. It’s infinitely fascinating to me, to discover how diverse human modes of thought can be.
        The Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers series was fantastic! Campbell’s book “The Power of Myth” is a great companion volume. As an artist, I’m fascinated by archetypes and legends.
        To further my brain-ache, I saw What the $*$#! Do We Know today. Quantum mechanics, god and the nature of thought/positive thinking were covered in some broad strokes, but it certainly made me think. Some of their “experts” were a bit suspect but it was a great film for dialogue with my husband. I’m still sorting through the information presented in it. I definitely recommend it.

      • marcsuttle says:

        Freud/Lewis/God episode 2
        I cheated and read all the group discussion transcipts for both episodes on the PBS web site before I watched the second. Was not “swayed” particularly by Simon Jones portrayal of Lewis. (I had a tough time thinking of him as anyone other than Arthur Dent in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) I felt the ‘Jungian’ scholar (I forget her name) was not paid much respect. The lawyer (Jeremy?) posed some interesting/probing questions/comments. Not that I had ever thought of Freud as a “big-picture” religious thinker, overall the show strengthed my beliefs. As a side note, doing some other research on my own, I have a deep curiousity in studying Neitzsche’s views on the subject. (I was an engineering major in college so much of the ‘liberal’ arts escaped me at the time)
        What did you think?

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