Occasionally forms have a field labelled:
followed by a bunch of tick boxes.
A tick in a box is rarely very descriptive and so I thought I’d try and explain where I stand on faith.
I was raised as a non-religious person in a largely non-religious pseudo-christian culture. What do I mean by pseudo-christian? Well, our family and friends have always celebrated Christmas and Easter, but as secular holidays – some of my family have been to local CE Church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, but that is about as far as it’s ever gone – I’ve certainly not noticed any stronger religious influences in my family.
As I’ve grown older, and grown outside the environment in which I grew up, I’ve interacted and known various people from various different religions and faiths – I feel that going to school holding a very diverse distribution of beliefs has helped shape my understanding of the world.
If you were religious, what would you be?
Whilst one can “pragmatically” choose a religion in the same way you might choose which used car to buy, I’m pretty sure you don’t. This is not really how [at least most mainstream religions] are designed to work – “shopping around” for the one that suits you best isn’t what happens – in the vast majority of cases, it’s something you’re born into, occasionally it’s something people marry into and even less frequently, it’s something people find their own path and convert to.
However, if I were to look rationally and exceptionally pragmatically at the religious communities I identify most strongly with, two I’d point to would be the Quaker Movement and Unitarian Universalism.
(This is not an exhaustive list by any means – these the movements I’ve had the most chance to research and feel somewhat able to comment clearly upon. I’m certain that if I had more familiarity with different branches of other major religions, I could probably identify others with favourable aspects which might also be preferable, however after lots of time-consuming research I figured this was enough.)
The Quakers believe in creating a community that is free to challenge, question and explore their own beliefs, values and ideas. They believe everyone is equal and with no sort of hierarchical clergy, all decisions are made by consensus.
This [relatively] sane mode of governance (in Britain, taking place at the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends), has allowed them to update their religious doctrines and approaches to fit the changing attitudes within their community.
Most topical, Quakers in the UK (in line with changing attitudes) welcomed Equal Marriage to the point that they campaigned for it, since 2009.
As they neatly put it:
It is a faith and a way of life that is both timeless and contemporary.
(I should add the disclaimer that whilst both my parents and grandparents weren’t Quaker, about 60-70 years ago, various friends and family on my mums side were, and whilst I don’t feel this affects my judgement, I feel it’s worth mentioning.)
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
One of the things that make Unitarian Universalism attractive is that it is often referred to by its members as a “living tradition” so the religion is well suited to adapt and change with a changing world.
This means that in that often Unitarian Universalist congregations are happy to welcome LGBTQ relationships into their communities.
Personally, I find the emphasis on a personal search, respect for others, and the ‘auto-updater’ ability that allows for their community to adapt their values as they see fit.
Realistically though, I’m not one of the members of these religious groups.
In the same way that you’re not a member of a political party just because you agree some things that are said, I’m not part of a religion, simply because I can find agreement with some of the things they say.
Where I stand
Now if I was to take Pascal’s Wager – I’d probably join one of these organisations – but ultimately, I remain unconvinced it’s necessary to do so.
I try to live life as a “good person”, so whilst I respect, and indeed follow many of the above movements aims, I don’t feel the need to be part of one of those movements to do so.
This is because I don’t feel that the existence or non-existence of a greater being would care whether I’d been part of one of those movements as long as I’d tried my best to do good things.
Effectively, I’m an agnostic, with a strong system of values and a secular/cultural approach to Christmas.
In my next blog post, I’ll ask, “If I were an Atheist, man.“…. stay tuned!