Tell Me About Your Religious Beliefs or The Lack Thereof

Rules:
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  1. Don’t be a jerk!

  2. If someone posts something about their understanding of their denomination and then another member of the same church comes along, please, if you disagree with what the previous person said, don’t tell them they are wrong and you are right. Just go ahead and post your take on your believes.

  3. If someone wants clarification about something someone has said, please be respectful when asking and also be understanding if the poster chooses not to explain. Sometimes it’s near impossible to put your beliefs into words much less explain them in another way.

  4. Sooooooooooooo, no attacking anyone, no calling anyone names, no telling them they are wrong, no cussing them out, nothing of the sort. **I WILL ASK THE THREAD BE CLOSED IF ANYTHING JERK-LIKE HAPPENS. **

  5. I really don’t want to have the thread closed if people are responding since I’d really like to hear from y’all. I’d like to understand better rather then to be so ignorant.

  6. If something comes up that belongs in GD or the Pit, please take it there.
    [/ul]

I’ve always enjoyed living with a diversified population of varying faiths, traditions, backgrounds, histories, etc. In fact, while I was living in Utah, that was one of the things I missed the most and would seek out a cultural fair or exhibit whenever I could.

Sadly, while I was growing up here in Los Angeles, I had my hands full surviving in an alcoholic/abusive household so never had enough extra energy to engage in learning more about what the people surrounding me believed. On top of that, it’s likely that as a teenager, I didn’t fully grasp the importance of diversity that I do as an adult even though I did realize it to some degree.

During the past 10 days of answering questions about the LDS Church, I have more questions now then ever before about what religions believe what. As I’ve done in the past, I’ve looked at different religious sites and read what they believe, but I tend to understand better when a person tells me what they believe rather then reading a carefully prepared statement. There are terms in those statements I don’t understand and dang it, there just isn’t someone there ready to explain them.

Oh, and if I ask a question that sounds stupid, it’s because I’m uneducated in the area. That always happens whenever I’m trying to learn about something I know practically nothing about.

With that said, let the sharing begin…

I have no religious beliefs.

I attended Christian school. It wasn’t really a school per se, but more of an indoctrination camp. Being of an inquisitive mind, I had the utter audacity to ask too many probing questions, and was told on an almost daily basis that I was doomed to hell. Worse yet, I read “secular” books on science and history and wanted to ask questions on conflicting points. I think what turned me off to religion was that almost every religious person I knew was frustratingly close-minded.

After I left school, I continued to study. It seems the more I learned, the less I believed. (Don’t get the impression, however, that the only things I have studied have been secular in nature. I firmly believe in studying both sides of the issue before making one’s mind up about anything.)

I guess my religious beliefs fall somewhere in the atheist category and somewhere in the neo-pagan category as well.

I was raised Christian, but not strictly. We didn’t go to church, except on Christmas every once in a while. My parents weren’t very pushy about any of it, although I’m pretty sure they did/do believe in a god and some of the basics of Christian theology.
Somewhere around 6th grade (~10 yrs old) I just kinda came to the conclusion that the whole almighty-supreme-being thing didn’t really make much sense to me at all. So I stopped believing in it. I got into junior high and, I’m sad to say, ended up defensively militant about my atheism. Someone in my homeroom noticed that I never said the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning, and asked me about it, and I told them that I didn’t believe in any of it, and for the next 3-4 years, I was told pretty much every day that I was going to hell, I was an idiot… people hung crosses on my locker and tried to give me Bibles, followed me down the hall singing Amazing Grace… (No, this wasn’t a Christian school, but I am from a very small, very conservative rural town with about 8 churches in a 3 block radius.)

When I got into senior high, I started looking into paganism and witchcraft a little bit, because I realized that although I didn’t believe there could be a god, there were forces beyond my perception… I couldn’t really find any specific sect that fit with my beliefs: I don’t believe in a god/goddess or anything like that.

What I do believe in is energy. There is energy in everything, in the earth and in people and in… well… everything. When a person dies their energy goes back into the world, with their own personal stamp on it. The witchcraft angle of my beliefs is that people are able to affect the energy around them to influence things, but I rarely do much with that part of it.

So if people ask, I usually just say I’m pagan, or if they’re snotty about it I’ll tell 'em I’m a witch. :slight_smile: And I’ll gladly explain my specific beliefs to people if they have some misconceptions about it.

On another note: My paternal grandmother is an extremely conservative semi-fundie Christian who thinks my entire family is going to hell. She pretty much stood up at my mother’s funeral service and told us so, and she gave us all a form letter for Christmas last year, telling us how she fears for our souls and fears she’ll be separated from us for all eternity, blah blah… We pretty much try to politely ignore her. It’s a weird mix in my family. My older sister went through atheism, paganism, and some other stuff before apparently now deciding she’s Jewish (which, by blood, we actually are - my mother’s side of the family is non-practicing, but the ancestry’s there). And my little brother just recently has been looking into the Buddhist faith. We’re quite a bunch. :slight_smile:

I believe in God and everything else is pretty much up for grabs.

I have contempt for religeon. Not religeous people, just religeon.

I don’t believe. It’s as simple as that. I used to be a militant atheist, ridiculing Christians, laughing at their childlike (in my then opinion) beliefs, and so on, but got over it when I studied theology and met intelligent, articulate Christians. So now, I pretty much believe what can be proved, and nothing else. Should I find myself in front of the Pearly Gates after death I’ll tell God that I never believed in him, but I lived right anyway, and that should make all the difference.

I’m a Wiccan with vaguely Christian overtones. Basically, I believe that there’s one divine being. I think that the divine being has both a masculine and a feminine aspect. I choose, most of the time, to think of these aspects in an abstract manner, but I sometimes use Christian visualizations. While I do not believe that Jesus died for our sins, I know that it was his story, and his teachings, that allowed me to stop hating myself after I well and truly screwed up. Therefore, I need Jesus just as much as any Christian does (or believes he does). I don’t, however, think that mankind needs to be redeemed. I don’t believe in Hell. I believe that, after we die, we get what’s best for us. I see magic as a form of prayer, and also as a sort-of science of the mystical (transfer of energy and such).

It’s even more complicated than that, but I don’t think I can get any more into it at the moment.

I’m not religious, i’m more spritual, I’d say.

I kinda pieced together a life philosophy, and it works for me. It has morals, and values and ideals, and it makes me a better person, or so i’d like to believe.

I believe that every religion should be a personal matter. only you know what you need from your religion, and the bond that you have with your god, or god-concept, should be yours and yours only. Everybody’s different, everybody experiences these things differently.

I’m a do-it-yourself’er. Sometimes I say “Wiccan” ('cuz it’s close), sometimes I say “Western Unorthodox” :wink:

a) God is a sense of self. Just as, in answer to “Who are you”, you can answer in the singular (I am Ahunter3) or the plural (We are Dopers), there is an answer in a form that transcends mere plurality and is all-encompassing and inclusive of all possible senses of identity. Or, to put it another way,

b) The Universe is sentient. Prior to fifteen billion years ago…uhmm, actually there was no such time, as spacetime came into being then for no prior cause and for no reason other than the fact that it could. It did so in an event we call the Big Bang. Actually, that’s the only event that has ever occurred (everything else is a subset of that event, not a separate event) and you are part of it, and sentience is a part of it.

c) Prayer is a process. I think intense emotional need for comprehension is necessary. Responses to prayer, including visionary revelations, tend to be “compressed”, symbolic – coherent to you when you get them but your understanding is not a verbal one and putting it into words can be…well, a revelation in itself. You don’t realize how much is missing from your words because you still “see” the intended message against which your words are traced. Your audience only sees the words until/unless you get really good at it. Mostly people are better off seeking God on their own, and most well-intentioned prophets and messiahs are better at experiencing God than they are at putting that experience into words.

d) That which is spirituality, which is religion’s own truths, while different from the truths that can be deduced from raw empirical observations and verbalizable rational propositions, is nevertheless not a truth which is about a different reality. Nothing supernatural (or unnatural) exists. It is a different “how” not a different “what”.

I am textbook Agnostic. I really don’t BELIEVE anything. IMHO athiesm is as much a religion as, say, Catholicism (how I was raised). I neither claim to have enough access to the infinite to be able say that something is out there, nor do I claim to know that NOTHING is out there. It is a big universe and I know very little about it. I am perfectly willing to be converted to anything if I see the slightest reason to, but so far I have seen nothing.

I have always found it interesting that people tend to be the religion of their parents. I love my parents and all, but I don’t think they have any special insight into the meaning of life over the rest of the world. My question would be, if you follow the same religion as your parents, do you just think you were lucky enough to be born into a family following the one true religion or did you actually make a choice for yourself?

I do envy people that can believe though. It must be very comforting to know that there is ultimate meaning to the universe and you have a purpose.

I am a practicing and faithful Roman Catholic.

Hey, cadolphin!

I didn’t want to hijack your “Ask the Mormon” thread by posting there, so I’m glad you started this one so I can talk about my experiences…

I was born Jewish, but my parents coverted to the Mormon Church when I was about 4, and that’s how I was raised. I did all the standard Mormon things growing up – I went to church, attended Primary and later Seminary, served a mission, attended BYU, had a wide variety of church callings, paid my tithing, kept the Word of Wisdom, etc., etc., etc.

The problem is, however, that I never managed to gain a testimony about any of it. I did a lot of soulful praying over the years, and never felt that I got an personally satisfying answer. I could rationalize things by attempting to see the “hand of God” in my life and take those events as answers to my prayers, but I never got the promised “burning in the bosom” or any other deep feeling that made be believe that it was all true.

My freshman year at BYU I asked my religion professor what would happen to somebody who lived a righteous life and worked hard to obey the teachings of the church, but who never actually gained a testimony. He said that this was not possible, since the very act of following the church’s teachings would invariably lead to a testimony. I took him at his word, which is why I decided to go on a mission and continue going to church for the next 8 or 9 years. To be honest, though, I always felt like a hypocrite – bearing my testimony of things I didn’t really believe in, in the hopes that if I said them often enough I would eventually come to believe them.

Things got worse for me after I graduated colllege and law school (both at BYU) and returned home. I desperately wanted to find a nice Mormon girl and live the “proper” life, but a part of me just rebelled against the thought of pretending to be a worthy temple-goer when I really just didn’t believe it, and the thought of lying to my children just really made me ill.

I also found myself getting into a vicious circle regarding faith. Supposedly, as pointed out by my religious teacher, faith and testimony would come if I continued to live the teachings of the church. Therefore, if I didn’t have a testimony, it must be because I wasn’t following the teachings fully. However, and this was the kicker, without a testimony in the first place, it became harder and harder for me to have the desire to follow the teachings. Paying tithing, fasting, home teaching, etc., all became more and more difficult without any underlying belief in their validity. And, of course, the less I followed the teachings, the more it becamse my fault for not having the testimony that would have given me the desire to follow the teachings in the first place. This, of course, got me feeling very depressed.

It got to the point that I realized the ONLY reasons I was going to church was for the social aspects and to make my family happy. I didn’t have any “problems” with the church, and I wasn’t angry with anybody – I simply had no desire whatsoever to keep going. And so, as I approached my 30th birthday, I simply stopped going. I told my bishop right away about my decision so they wouln’t think I had died, and over the next 6 months or so I worked up the courage to tell my parents.

I basically went into limbo for the next 5 or 6 years. Even though I didn’t have any faith in the underlying principles of the church (and I’m not just talking about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon here – try as I might, I never managed to even find a testimony in the existence of God, which I always felt was a pretty fundamental lack on my part), I was raised in a certain lifestyle and it was integral to who I was. I had no desire to start smoking and drinking, and I felt desparately uncomfortable around non-Mormon women who might have different values and expectations from the ones I had based on how I was raised. I just couldn’t stand the thought of going to a bar to pick up a woman, and I refused to attend any church-related functions for fear of being hypocrytical. I basically accepted the fact that I would live alone the rest of my lfe, while being neither extremely happy nor depressed.

Anyway, the story does have a happy ending (at least it looks like it will). About a year ago I met a really wonderful woman who shared all of my values and who, like me, is also completely non-religious. The difference is that she was raised in a non-religious home to begin with. She doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and loves the fact that I don’t either. And we both feel that it’s possible to raise children to be good people without appealing to God as a justification for why they should be good. We are actually getting married next month, as a matter of fact. I’d say it was a match made in heaven, but, well, you know…

Anyway… As I said, I don’t have any bitterness toward the church, although I do think I wasted a good chunk of my life (primarily those “limbo” years as I tried to figure out what to do with myself). I am definitely not an “anti-Mormon” and I certainly don’t try to convince others to leave the church. My older brother is married with 6 kids and VERY Mormon, and I say more power to him. If being Mormon makes him happy, then why on earth would I want him to change? At the same time, however, I can’t see myself ever going back to church. Never again will I pretend to be something I’m not.

I fully acknowldge that I could be wrong, and if I meet God after I die I’ll have a lot of explaining to do. But I will no longer beat myself over the head for not following teachings that I simply do not believe in. I’m a good person – I love my neighbor as myself and will try to raise my children to do the same. That may not be enough to get me to the Celestial kingdom, but I suspect I wouldn’t really enjoy myself even if I got there.

OK, this was a LOT longer than I intended. Thanks again for asking the question, cadolphin.

Regards,

Barry

I’d say the same thing about myself. But at the same time, there are aspects of the faith with which I am uncomfortable (and I’m not talking about things like birth control or marriage of priests…I’m talking about faith aspects). I was raised Catholic, did 13 years of Catholic school, but would not have considered myself a believer at any point in time, not really. I left the Church for 15 years, and came back by way of a Fundie church. This did lead to some of my discomfort with aspects of the Church - but it also lead to a stronger belief in other aspects.

I believe what is set out in the Nicene Creed. Not because it’s what the Church states as beliefs, but because of my experiences, and my journey to faith.

I do struggle with what I see as a focus on Mary within the Catholic Church. I do not say the Rosary - again, due to discomfort with the Marian aspect. I don’t have a problem with Catholics or others who do believe this at all, but accepting it as part of my faith is something that is not possible at this point in time.

Beyond that, I’m a practicing Catholic who believes in what the Church professes, but who is also not afraid to question the whys and hows of the Church. I was once called a “Cafeteria Catholic”, but I think that’s inaccurate. I don’t have a name for what I am beyond Catholic.

I am, and always have been since I was old enough to form a reasoned opinion, an atheist. However, I do respect the beliefs of others, and I don’t, as a general rule, argue with people about their religious beliefs (unless they attack me for mine). What bothers me the most is when people say “You’ll feel differently some day” or “You’ll go to Hell then”. Stop that, please. You’re not going to change my beliefs any more than I’m going to change yours.

I want to believe in the existence of God. However, time and again, he disappoints me. No, I do not mean because I didn’t get a pony at age 2 for Christmas - just because I asked. (Note the sarcasm here, people.) But, I mean that He did not install any checks and balances into life to keep the wicked from repressing the righteous. The wicked should be punished in a timely fashion, or there is no point to punishing them later on…even in the afterlife which sets no concrete example for the evil in the living world.

I am also disappointed in a God who kills innocent babies at birth or shortly after birth to SIDS and many other infant fatalities. Supposedly God helps them who help themselves, but what are these defenseless babies to do to help themselves? Of what sense can be made from this?

In general, it seems people only believe in God when things are going good for them. This is such self-centered thinking.
Globally, where is God? There are so many innocent people needlessly suffering with various afflictions (ad infinitum), I cannot understand a God without a conscience. I am not saying God should do everything for us, but at least give each person a fighting chance. Also, I feel God should take some responsibility (as a parent) for what his last creation has done - time and again - without an ability to really learn from history. The only reason the Bible stories seem timeless is because Man will never, ever really learn from the mistakes of those who came before us.

In short, I really cannot discern a difference between a silent God and a non-existent God. I want to know God is there to carry out His word. While He has the abyss of time in which to act, us mortals cannot afford to wait that long. So many call upon Him in truth, but time and again he allows evil to overrun and undermine the good. The entire class punished for the acts of one.

My words fall short, but I think you understand my message. I need to know He’s there to keep order in the world He created. I need more than pretty sunsets and starry nights. Why doesn’t He let good win more often, and even-up the score? Why does He shy away or remain silent when we need Him the most? - Jinx

I was raised as a J.W.

I have been what is commonly called a born again Christian for about 30 years, yet I don’t care for that term, too much baggage attached. I attend an Assembly of God church yet have some differences of opinion with them. Where I get in trouble with some Christians is in some of the details. I do believe God created the earth, and even the seven day part, just his days seem a bit long to us. I believe that what we see of evolution is pretty much how it happened, just not all that random, he has a plan, but is VERRY patient, and seems to have had some fun along the way, if you are an eternal God why rush, you have all the time you need. There is also a lot more going on in the universe than we know about, why create billions of galaxies containing billions of stars each if there is only one that maters? The New Testament is a reliable account of what took place, it was largely written by the people involved, not that long after the events. Much of the Old Testament, genesis in particular needs to be viewed in the light of the fact that it was passed down as oral tradition for many generations before being written down.
I believe that there is heaven and hell, and God intends for all to go to heaven, hell was not created for us. Unfortunately we, as people tend to screw up a lot, seems we always have. There is such a thing as original sin, it may not trace to a literal Adam and Eve, snake, apple etc but there is certainly something in human nature that rebels against God. He has provided for our forgiveness through his son, and it is freely available to all, he only requires that we acknowledge our sins and accept his sacrifice for them.

Jinx, tough questions but if you believe in God then all of it can make sense. Maybe he has done all the things you ask and without the intervention things would be a lot worse. Then again, if there is an eternal heaven it doesn’t matter how much suffering we may face here, it is inconsequential compared to what we are going to get. If she exists, she has a plan and we aren’t going to know it in this life.

But then again I don’t really believe it. I even wonder, if Gad has spoken to man and one or all of the religions are in whole or in part divinly inspired, what’s to say that he is telling the truth? He could just be a sadistic bastard. Man am I going to hell.

I am a devout Catholic. If you like I can give you the Nicene creed to tell you what exactly I believe. Further, if I wasn’t Catholic, I still can’t imagine not believing in God. To me, everything from the cells on a honeycomb to a baby’s tiny fingernails shouts to me that there is a force directing all life.

Jinx -

Respectfully, I ask, do you not think that at least some of the people that went to their deaths during the Holocaust were religious people? I can tell you from my own past, that the hardest time I’ve had in my life so far, watching my father slowly die from lung cancer, was still a time during which my faith was strongest.

StG

Devout atheist, and mighty proud of it. I was brainwashed by one of the major religions during childhood, but I managed to think my way out of their mind snares, and I’m much the better off for it.

I wish people wouldn’t keep confusing ‘spiritual’ with ‘religious’. I’m a spiritual person, but not a religious one. There is a spiritual faculty of mind, but there’s no reason to let the irrational codes of religion X Y or Z colonise it for their own purposes.

The ‘respect’ thing has to be a two way street, but I’ve noticed a lot of religious people don’t like this approach. They say I have to respect their right to believe whatever they choose to believe. I say fine, I do. I ask them to respect my right to point that their beliefs are self-contradictory, nonsensical, superstitious silliness (in my opinion) which insults the intelligence. They don’t seem so keen on ‘respect’ after that.