Thursday, September 6, 2012

Religious Upbringing

I was back at home last week visiting the family, so I put off the blog. That's how much they mean to me! Last week I wrote about projection, which applies to this week's topic as well. I think when you are younger you think everyone sees the world the same way or close to the same way as you do. Then you go to school and have a bit of a culture shock. I remember getting tackled after school one day by a boy who was outraged at his misinformed belief that all my people had for dinner each night was a slice of bread and milk. I informed him that Mormons were in fact allowed to eat hamburgers and such, and he let me out of my head lock. The next day I saw him at lunch, I pointed out the slice of pizza I was eating, and he gave me a thumbs up.

I wish misconceptions were still that easily overcome, or easily explained. Having listened to Tig, David, and Kyles' religious upbringing stories, as well as countless other friends' I feel like my religious upbringing is somewhat different. My family and my religious community seemed to focus in on the concepts of loving one another, respect of agency, and the pursuit of knowledge. The motivators they used were less about fear of eternal damnation, and more about reaching your fullest potential and strengthening the community. Of course there were a few bad apples, people who wanted to take advantage of people's trust, but the good people outweighed the bad, in my little world, so my experience with religion is more positive. I remember my father growing too sick to work, and our community stepped up and helped out. We knew the people who were helping us, and I think that allowed us to develop a closeness to them that government aid didn't seem to offer. This kindness wasn't limited to the actively religious members of our community, we had great neighbors, from many different walks of life, come to our aid in times of need, and we them.

I think we can do more to bridges and grow more understanding and tolerant of various beliefs systems, and ways of life. We often jump to conclusions, or judge people too quickly without really getting to the bottom of why they live a certain way or believe something that is seemingly bogus. Why would that boy be upset if all I ate was milk and bread? Maybe his father was a butcher and was going bankrupt due to lack of meat sales. I never asked, but I should have.

Sometimes we assume that people's actions or are motivated by of hate, or fear, or greed. I used to think my parents hated me because they never let me stay up to watch midnight movies. The truth is, they were thinking more about the big picture, they were older and wiser than me. If there is a God that really does have our best interest in mind, who has an ultimate perspective and is asking for our trust, would you give that type of God your trust? Now, I understand the complexity of adding religion to the equation. Trusting imperfect humans to relay a hypothetical God's plan takes an enormous amount of faith and scrutiny, especially in a world with 50 million different claims to what God wants you to do. For me, its like a big game of hot and cold. There are certain choices that lead me to greater joy, progress, or knowledge, and there are certain choices that cause damage to my joy, progress or knowledge, and I tend to listen to authors of advice that continually advise me to make the choices that help me grow. This is a long process of trial and error.

One last concession I wanted to make is, I know it is easy to be turned off by condescending or unsolicited advice. People who take pleasure in feeling superior to "sinners" or amateurs don't seem to realize their own hypocrisy. There's a scripture where Jesus makes a joke about people pointing out a mote in someone's eye while having a beam in their own.

How'd they fit a beam or a mote in their eye? That's pretty impressive. Well, at least I can recognize my own faults, which humbles me to a more exalted level of self awareness than the beam and mote guys.


  1. Aaron: First of all, I'm a faithful Blastronaut and I appreciate your contribution to the podcast --and I even wish the guys would wrangle you a little less once in a while (even though I'm sure it's all in jest!). :-)

    Regarding your description of your experience with your religious upbringing: it's certainly laudable that your religious community was so generous and helped one another in times of need, even people outside of your faith. While I understand why such an experience would leave you with a good feeling about religion, the point I would make is that the behavior displayed by your religious community had nothing to do with Mormonism, or religion of any kind, and simply with being good human being. It is entirely possible to behave in the exact same way as your community did without believing in a Supreme Being that is judging your every action --in fact, I would argue that atheists who behave thusly are more "truly good" than Christians who behave thusly, for they do it solely because it is the right thing to do, not because it is the right thing to do AND because God is watching.

    While it is not necessary to be religious to display the behavior you associate with your community, I have to say that organized religion is a very effective way to demonize and persecute groups deemed "undesirable" by that belief system. Of course, atheists can demonize and persecute people, too, but when people hate because of a deeply-held religious belief, it is nigh impossible to get them to see the error of their ways, whereas non-religious people can be swayed with logical arguments.

    Put another way: a Christian who reads all those abominable things the Bible says about homosexuals and believes that is the word of God can not, and theoretically should not, be swayed by logical arguments --the word of God trumps everything, after all. However, an atheist who is brought up to hate homosexuals has the flexibility of changing his world view as he meets people of different walks of life, without "betraying" his belief system or his Creator.

    In summary, that is why many people view religious upbringing as suspect: the good it does (instilling morality) can be achieved with a non-religious upbringing, whereas the bad it does (instilling an unshakeable, dogmatic belief in a particular credo) can not be undone with logical arguments or different life experiences.

    Keep up the good work, and that's been comment! :-)

    1. Hey Rafaeln, thanks for your comment. First of all, when your comment is longer than my post, it makes me look lazy. Joking aside, you bring up some good points. I don't think religion has a monopoly on morality, in fact I believe everyone is born with a conscience. And I do agree, to be motivated out of a fear of being arbitrarily judged shows a weakness in character. Being intrinsically pointed north on the moral compass, like Superman is surely ideal. But discussing morality in an open minded forum certainly can't hurt.

      I do believe religions have been misused, just like governments. But I also see the good, I see a lot of people coming together with common goals that magnify one another's charitable efforts. I see non religious groups do likewise which is fantastic. Again religions don't have a monopoly on that.
      If you are serving your fellow man orr woman, you are going to experience a richer fuller life.

      One of the biggest claims religions have is, there is an afterlife, and this life is to prepare for that eternal existence. So if you believe that, you will most certainly live differently than if you believe this life is all we have. Both beliefs will say this time we have is precious. If you compare it to someone who is given a 50% chance of living after college, you don't know if you are going to live after those four years so want to make the most out of those years.

      I don't know scientifically that there is an afterlife or a god, I only have personal experiences that lead me strengthen my convictions. Many of my Mormon friends growing up have followed their own paths. I'm sure we all want to find truth.

      Lastly, I want to see everyone find joy and happiness in their lives, I must admit I want to see everyone maintain that joy and happiness throughout eternity if possible. People should to be able to choose their own paths and to not be hated for choosing one different from your own. When people think they know what is best for you, they can tend to get pushy or forceful. I don't think that is helpful.

      Anyway I could go on for days, thanks again for your comment and your kind words!

    2. Thanks for replying! You obviously have really positive and welcoming life view and I admire that -- if more religious people were like you, I am sure religions would have a better rap.

      I've been checking out videos of your act and you seem way less shy on stage than you sound during the podcast, hehe: I guess that's because of all that wrangling gone awry...? ;-)

      Anyway, I hope you guys get to "tour" in Austin soon, as I would love to see you perform live (I've seen Dave and Tig, but not you and Kyle).

      All the best!
      Rafa (for some reason the preview is showing me as "Anonymous," but I assure you I'm the same person who commented above, hehe)