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Author Topic: Accepting religion into my life?  (Read 1889 times)

Nelkhet

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Accepting religion into my life?
« on: May 12, 2013, 03:28:24 pm »
I mentioned in my intro post here that I've been brought up in an atheist but non-judgemental household. I have recently been wondering about embracing faith/religion/spirituality into my life but I am finding this a bit difficult.

This may be because I have not had a framework growing up so I can't fall back on an earlier one to incorporate my new found beliefs into. Whilst reading about other people's experiences I have found it hard to belief such a thing happening to me personally but understand the validity of that experience to the individual.

So, in brief I am asking how someone with a non-religious background could learn to accept/adapt themselves to embrace faith?

Hope this all makes sense - you can call me out for being too wordy! :D:
"If we poison our children with hatred then, the hard life is all that they\'ll know." -Nancy Griffith

crazyharry

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2013, 04:21:36 pm »
Quote from: Nelkhet;108491
I mentioned in my intro post here that I've been brought up in an atheist but non-judgemental household. I have recently been wondering about embracing faith/religion/spirituality into my life but I am finding this a bit difficult.

This may be because I have not had a framework growing up so I can't fall back on an earlier one to incorporate my new found beliefs into. Whilst reading about other people's experiences I have found it hard to belief such a thing happening to me personally but understand the validity of that experience to the individual.

So, in brief I am asking how someone with a non-religious background could learn to accept/adapt themselves to embrace faith?

Hope this all makes sense - you can call me out for being too wordy! :D:

 
Well, I did come from a religious background, so what I have to say might not be so helpful, but when I left the Christian church one of the reasons was that I realized that a lot of the feelings that help drive people's faith was nothing more than psychological hoosafudge, and that has made it quite difficult for me to embrace new religions simply because having faith always seems to involve some sort of psychological trickery.

What I ended up doing was just working with what made sense to me within the framework that the warm fuzzies that often come with religion typically result from that psychological trickery. Sometimes I don't mind a little bit of trickery; I find it can be very useful at times, but at other times, I just want nothing to do with it. It makes it difficult to be consistent in what I believe, which makes religious progress kind of slow. I'm not sure that's such a bad thing, but it can be a little bit frustrating.

Anyway, that's how things have worked for me. I think it is important to understand that there are nearly as many religious paradigms as there are people, and faith isn't always necessary. It might be helpful for you to consider a different religious model than what you have in mind. It sounds like you've explored several, but it might be helpful for you to try to forget about all of those and work out your own. You might want to consider things like:

Why you want to have a religion/spiritual path

What you're looking for out of a religion/spiritual path

What you really believe about nature, the world, human nature, and the supernatural

How you feel about right and wrong and good and evil

It sounds to me like you're on your way to figuring all of this out. Reading helps, talking to people helps, trying things helps. I found it to be a slow process, and many of the things I was reading and doing in the beginning seem silly to me now, but I think that's pretty normal, so if you ever feel silly, don't worry about it, don't be discouraged, it's just part of the learning process.

Best of luck!

ecotopian

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2013, 11:10:44 pm »
Quote from: Nelkhet;108491
So, in brief I am asking how someone with a non-religious background could learn to accept/adapt themselves to embrace faith?

Hope this all makes sense - you can call me out for being too wordy! :D:

 
By going slowly.  There's nothing wrong with taking your time to get accustomed to this.

Louisvillian

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2013, 02:15:52 am »
Quote from: Nelkhet;108491
So, in brief I am asking how someone with a non-religious background could learn to accept/adapt themselves to embrace faith?

 
One could say that I am, or was, in the same boat. I was raised in an atheist household and up until I was about 9, I thought it so utterly ridiculous that anyone believed in a god that when I met a peer that did, I thought they were either joking or nuts. I continued to become a fairly militant atheist in Middle School, largely because my experience with Christians were profoundly negative.
My parents aren't really judgemental, though. I was just taught to be a really critical thinker. I made my own conclusions and, as usual, I am very harsh towards others.
But I delighted in ancient mythology and ancient cultures, I loved the outdoors, and felt in a weirdly spiritual way that the forest was alive as if it had its own consciousness. When, in High School, I first really learned about Neopaganism, it caught my heart in a way that no other form of religion ever could. I was skeptical of polytheism at first, going instead with a generalised pantheism. I was nominally polytheistic, but didn't feel anything. I still, inside, doubted the gods' existence. And justifiably so. I had no evidence, just the claims of others. I theorised on the form, structure, and nature of the gods--or as I thought of it, what the gods would be like if they were real.

Then a while later I began having a series of vivid and deeply personal experiences involving certain deities and spirits, and corroborated them with the experiences claimed by others. I thought they held up fairly well against each other, and came to accept polytheism in fact and not just in theory.
But, this is my subjective experience.

Megatherium

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2013, 02:18:32 pm »
Quote from: Louisvillian;108584
One could say that I am, or was, in the same boat. I was raised in an atheist household and up until I was about 9, I thought it so utterly ridiculous that anyone believed in a god that when I met a peer that did, I thought they were either joking or nuts. I continued to become a fairly militant atheist in Middle School, largely because my experience with Christians were profoundly negative.
My parents aren't really judgemental, though. I was just taught to be a really critical thinker. I made my own conclusions and, as usual, I am very harsh towards others.
But I delighted in ancient mythology and ancient cultures, I loved the outdoors, and felt in a weirdly spiritual way that the forest was alive as if it had its own consciousness. When, in High School, I first really learned about Neopaganism, it caught my heart in a way that no other form of religion ever could. I was skeptical of polytheism at first, going instead with a generalised pantheism. I was nominally polytheistic, but didn't feel anything. I still, inside, doubted the gods' existence. And justifiably so. I had no evidence, just the claims of others. I theorised on the form, structure, and nature of the gods--or as I thought of it, what the gods would be like if they were real.

Then a while later I began having a series of vivid and deeply personal experiences involving certain deities and spirits, and corroborated them with the experiences claimed by others. I thought they held up fairly well against each other, and came to accept polytheism in fact and not just in theory.
But, this is my subjective experience.



I was fairly amazed when reading your post about how similarly your experiences match up with mine-except for the last paragraph.

I think there are aspects of modern pagan traditions which are relatively easy for a person with an atheistic background to slide into-especially pantheism and animism. Both of those perspectives can be a logical outgrowth of a sense of awe towards the natural world, and pantheism in particular does not even require the adoption of another metaphysical viewpoint of the universe. One can still be a philosophical materialist, and simply have a spiritual attitude towards life, the universe and everything.

In addition to pantheism and animism, I have found that ancestor worship is a relatively easy transition for someone with an atheistic background. After all, there is no faith involved in the idea that you exist because of your ancestors, or that at minimum, they continue to exist as part of your genetic code. I think ancestor worship makes sense whether or not one believes that their ancestors continue to be aware of you and your actions after death. (but it does ease the transition towards the belief in spirits, etc.)

The transition to polytheism, methinks, can be quite difficult for former atheists because you are dealing with BOTH your inherent anti-theism, AND the anti-polytheistic cultural inheritance from the religious traditions that you have spent much of your life rejecting. Again, it is possible to view polytheistic deities in an atheistic/pantheistic context -ie. Thor is the thunderstorm, Aphrodite is Love, Poseidon is the Sea, etc., but this is quite a different perspective than that of a more devotional polytheist who experiences the gods  as distinct intelligences rather than just as natural phenomena.

Although I worship many deities, and I have had enough “woo!” moments to believe that, at minimum,  this is a valid and useful means of relating to the larger universe, I still struggle daily with what exactly a Deity is. I find that my practice tends to be more ancestor and nature-spirit focused, because those ideas have been an easier transition from atheism.

I suspect that this may be true of many atheists-turned pagans. Polytheism is a valid, and even exciting way to approach reality, but it’s not for everyone. Even for former atheists who are drawn to this perspective, I think it takes quite a long time to develop fully.
My views are one that speaks to freedom.
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Louisvillian

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2013, 01:23:20 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;108629
snip first few paragraphs

I think there's a political element to it, as well. Modern atheism in the Western world, as a social movement, has been strongly influenced by liberal tradition. And in the USA, it particularly has a lot of overlap with American progressivism. Which, as a political trend, is rooted in its current form in the Counterculture and its leftist, progressive values. Many, but not all, atheists in the Anglosphere carry on the politics of that era.
Coincidentally, so does modern Paganism in the United States and Britain. One could say that Neopaganism "came of age" in the 1960s. So, it carries on a good part of its ethos, just as many liberal atheists do.
And where politics align, so too does other beliefs. Sometimes.

Quote
The transition to polytheism, methinks, can be quite difficult for former atheists because you are dealing with BOTH your inherent anti-theism, AND the anti-polytheistic cultural inheritance from the religious traditions that you have spent much of your life rejecting.

Agree with the former, but not so much on the latter. While most atheists in my generation are so in reaction to negative experiences with religion, this isn't true of everyone. Particularly so with people like me, who weren't raised around religion at all. I was never raised with that anti-polytheistic culture; my family's attitude towards religion was more that we didn't really think about it or care in the first place. A shrug rather than a sneer.

Nelkhet

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2013, 04:32:52 pm »
Quote from: crazyharry;108495
You might want to consider things like:

Why you want to have a religion/spiritual path

What you're looking for out of a religion/spiritual path

What you really believe about nature, the world, human nature, and the supernatural

How you feel about right and wrong and good and evil

It sounds to me like you're on your way to figuring all of this out. Reading helps, talking to people helps, trying things helps. I found it to be a slow process, and many of the things I was reading and doing in the beginning seem silly to me now, but I think that's pretty normal, so if you ever feel silly, don't worry about it, don't be discouraged, it's just part of the learning process.

Best of luck!


Hmm, you've given me some food for thought crazyharry. Thanks, I think mulling these questions over will be really helpful for me to understand both myself and what I'm reaching out for.

I think what draws me to religion is the sense of being connected to something greater than ourselves, and that sense of peace you feel when you stop and consider yourself a part of the whole, if that makes sense?
"If we poison our children with hatred then, the hard life is all that they\'ll know." -Nancy Griffith

Nelkhet

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2013, 04:54:55 pm »
Quote from: ecotopian
By going slowly. There's nothing wrong with taking your time to get accustomed to this.


Indeed, there is quite a lot to think about before I could make my mind up. It helps to be patient about these things and remind ourselves not to rush. To quote The Princess Bride, "'You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.'" :p


Quote from: Louisvillian;108584
One could say that I am, or was, in the same boat. I was raised in an atheist household and up until I was about 9, I thought it so utterly ridiculous that anyone believed in a god that when I met a peer that did, I thought they were either joking or nuts. I continued to become a fairly militant atheist in Middle School, largely because my experience with Christians were profoundly negative.
My parents aren't really judgemental, though. I was just taught to be a really critical thinker. I made my own conclusions and, as usual, I am very harsh towards others.
But I delighted in ancient mythology and ancient cultures, I loved the outdoors, and felt in a weirdly spiritual way that the forest was alive as if it had its own consciousness. When, in High School, I first really learned about Neopaganism, it caught my heart in a way that no other form of religion ever could. I was skeptical of polytheism at first, going instead with a generalised pantheism. I was nominally polytheistic, but didn't feel anything. I still, inside, doubted the gods' existence. And justifiably so. I had no evidence, just the claims of others. I theorised on the form, structure, and nature of the gods--or as I thought of it, what the gods would be like if they were real.

Then a while later I began having a series of vivid and deeply personal experiences involving certain deities and spirits, and corroborated them with the experiences claimed by others. I thought they held up fairly well against each other, and came to accept polytheism in fact and not just in theory.
But, this is my subjective experience.


I hope this doesn't sound impolite but would you be able to explain some of your experiences with polytheism that resonated with you? I'm curious.
"If we poison our children with hatred then, the hard life is all that they\'ll know." -Nancy Griffith

Louisvillian

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2013, 08:28:20 pm »
Quote from: Nelkhet;109034
I hope this doesn't sound impolite but would you be able to explain some of your experiences with polytheism that resonated with you? I'm curious.

They're kinda hard to describe. Though I hear that's common with these kinds of things. Most of time, it's been vivid imagery and weirdly mixed emotions while in a semi-tranced state. Like, when I've seen images of Cernunnos, I've had feelings of being kinda seized or held, but not violently; protectively, I suppose, but kinda in a guiding way too. It was, like I said, a few emotions mixed in at the same time. I've only once had an experience when I've "felt" a deity speak, but it wasn't with words or their mouth. It was like she communicated a whole idea by thought alone.

I have had more concrete experiences with people around me being possessed. My fiancée has been a regular vessel for these. She's been possessed by spirits of various kinds, including a very horny one whom I think is the genius loci for the house. But also by gods; namely, Hermes, who refused to actually talk--cheeky as he is. She's been allegedly possessed by Nyx, too, but I wasn't present for that.

Megatherium

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2013, 10:00:16 pm »
Quote from: Louisvillian;108768
I think there's a political element to it, as well. Modern atheism in the Western world, as a social movement, has been strongly influenced by liberal tradition. And in the USA, it particularly has a lot of overlap with American progressivism. Which, as a political trend, is rooted in its current form in the Counterculture and its leftist, progressive values. Many, but not all, atheists in the Anglosphere carry on the politics of that era.
Coincidentally, so does modern Paganism in the United States and Britain. One could say that Neopaganism "came of age" in the 1960s. So, it carries on a good part of its ethos, just as many liberal atheists do.
And where politics align, so too does other beliefs. Sometimes.


A very good point. Political and social beliefs can certainly facilitate transition to a religious perspective that is supported by others who share your other perspectives.


Quote from: Louisvillian;108768

Agree with the former, but not so much on the latter. While most atheists in my generation are so in reaction to negative experiences with religion, this isn't true of everyone. Particularly so with people like me, who weren't raised around religion at all. I was never raised with that anti-polytheistic culture; my family's attitude towards religion was more that we didn't really think about it or care in the first place. A shrug rather than a sneer.


It may be more of my personal experience. Although I was raised in an atheistic household, there was some exposure to religion through other relatives. I remember one set of relatives sent me a comic book version of the Bible when I was a little kid, and although I read it more as a historical and cultural text, I still absorbed some of the anti-polytheistic ideas in it. It a couple of decades, a lot of reading, and a few visits to India and China before I was able to see polytheism as a "respectable" theological perspective.
My views are one that speaks to freedom.
-George W. Bush

crazyharry

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Re: Accepting religion into my life?
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2013, 01:01:43 am »
Quote from: Nelkhet;109030
Hmm, you've given me some food for thought crazyharry. Thanks, I think mulling these questions over will be really helpful for me to understand both myself and what I'm reaching out for.

I think what draws me to religion is the sense of being connected to something greater than ourselves, and that sense of peace you feel when you stop and consider yourself a part of the whole, if that makes sense?

 
I'm glad I was helpful. I think I understand what you're talking about with being a part of something bigger than yourself, but I must admit I've spent less time thinking about these things than one who suggests that other people consider them probably should.

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