My Sordid Love Affair with Liberal Churches

I've sort of talked about this before, but it seems to be a subject I just can't seem to escape: The ever-present allure of 'Liberal' Christians. Namely, the one's who accept (or, at least, don't outright reject) gays and lesbians, evolution, and have more lax policies on things like Reconciliation (Confession) and the ultimate, unquestioning power of the Vatican (they tend to question it).

I have heard some different ideas on why it's so easy for some people to be 'sucked back in' to faith. It's not that they suddenly believe in God again. Or, that's not how it is for me. I know that I don't believe in god, just like I don't believe in dragons or unicorns.

I'm in danger of being sucked back into the fold, simply because, when you are literally "Born and Raised to be a Catholic" you become very deeply ingrained into the faith. You stop knowing how to live without it.

It's like learning a new language. Sure, I may know Spanish, but for the first few years, I still have to take that Spanish, and convert it into English in my head. It's the same thing with religion. Whenever I studied religion, before losing it entirely, I was never really studying religion; I was just comparing it to Catholicism. Viewing the world through faith-tinted glasses, if you will.

Now, though, I'm starting to learn a new language. Not atheism, but simply critical thinking. It definitely took some time to learn. One year, I took a philosophy class, and, while I don't want to say I was gullible, I do remember easily and quickly switching allegiances from one philosophy of thought to another as the class went on, and we learn more and more theories.

Now, a few years later, I can look back and see that the teacher was waiting for us to refute some of the arguments he was putting forward; not just blindly accept everything he said. So, I signed up for his Ethics class. It's very similar, so I get the joy of practically taking the class again without feeling like I'm wasting my time. It's an amazing class, and I'm enjoying it so much more, because this time, I know more and am not afraid to refute and refuse some arguments if I don't agree with them.

But getting back to the topic:

One of the 'ideas' I mentioned earlier, about why people slide back into faith, was presented by Darrel Ray in an interview for his book "The God Virus". He says, essentially, that when a religion is introduced to a someone at a very young age, it imprints a key into the child, much like a computer virus or actual virus does, so that now the child is no longer "immune" to that religion.
Let's say it was Catholicism. Now, even if that child grows up and loses his faith, Catholicism will always have that 'key'. He's immune to Mormons, Jews, Hindus, etc. They can't get to him, because he has the antibody of reason and critical thinking. But Catholicism always has a backdoor inside. It'll always know his weaknesses, and will always be able to get to him.

So, does this mean I should just lay down and accept Catholicism as my 'Lifelong Faith'? Of course not; it just means that I now have to work even harder at fighting off Catholicism (and I use that phrase sparingly. It's really not as bad as it sounds).

But why am I attracted to Liberal Catholics, to be precise, and not just Catholics in general?
Well, think of it this way: You love chocolate. Everything about it. They way it looks, tastes, feels, smells, everything. But, your faith, from the moment you were born, has said, "No Chocolate for any member by penalty of excommunication and Eternal Hell Fire."
So, you don't get any chocolate.
But then you start to get smart about both your faith, and chocolate. You find out that there's no actual sane or sound argument in your religion refuting chocolate; it's all just one big meme. And chocolate's not even bad for you! In fact, it's been shown to lower stress and increase your lifespan by a few years or so.

So, your faith was wrong. Then you start seeing all the other flaws.

Years go by. You do more searching. You become an atheist.
Then, you stumble upon a faith which is practically identical to your old one, save one point: They don't mind if you like chocolate. In fact, with some churches in that faith, they seem to absolutely adore anyone who adores chocolate.
Well, clearly, this is the faith for you. How could you have been so blind? All those years of searching, and here it was all along. You're about to join the religion, even become a priest, just like mom always wanted, and then, when you get your first chocolate bar, you see, carved into the bar in big, bold letters, "Praise God".
You instinctively flinch, but it can't be that bad, right? Then they start reading some scripture passages. They're the same passages from your old church! The one's that said chocolate was evil! They're just "interpreting it differently" even though some people in the group say you can have chocolate, but maybe not so much of it? Or maybe just when certain people are around? Or only if you can't find anything better?

Well, wait, this isn't much different at all, is it? You're still letting your religion dictate your lives, and you're still making yourselves miserable for no reason other than blind faith! Why don't you just take that last step over the edge, and just leave already!

That's what I have about Liberal Christians, and also find (immediately, at first) so intoxicating. They're all the faith, with none of the guilt.
But really, they're just all the guilt, and all the ignorance, and all the blind faith and dogma, with none of the reasons why you're doing it to back it up, because "you don't want to focus on the negative" You're amplifying the negative, you dumb twit!
At least with the old, traditional church, you can collectively ignore it. You don't mind throwing the baby out with the bath-water there, because the baby was a demon-seed. You can just label them all ignorant bigots and just avoid them outright.

With liberals, your first instinct is to love them. Not like; love. Because they let you be who you truly were, without leaving the security blanket of your faith. Just so long as who you truly were, wasn't an atheist.

Views: 19

Comment by Apple on March 8, 2010 at 10:34am
This is why rational though/critical thinking are important. It doesn't matter if the stories are good or bad if they are all fiction, right? Without a shred of evidence to back up their christian claims it honestly doesn't matter what they say about chocolate.
Comment by Brad on March 8, 2010 at 3:37pm
Well, as a teenager, while I was still figuring out my beliefs, I was probably as hardcore 'anti-theist' or whatever you wanna call it, as it gets. The older I get and the more I try to expand my 'horizons' and think along 'multicultural' lines, the more I have tried to find the good parts or qualities of even groups I had strong aversions to. As such, and especially after reading the "Jefferson Bible", I admit I can strongly admire much about the Biblical Jesus. The extreme charity that many today could use (UNDERSTATEMENT x 100). That said, I don't even think the mere idea of a higher power is what I find so unbelievable, in and of itself. But, it's the fact that most people, as you touched on, are 'imprinted' with cultural bias in regards to 'god' or religion. Even if such a being exists, neither the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, et etc etc would 'know' what he, she, it or whatever wants. People who claim otherwise do not base this on evidence, but their own subjective cultural indoctrination that would differ if they grew up in a different country. Basically, it's mass delusion.

There comes a serious gray area with 'tolerance' at this point. Especially when the 'dominant' religion's 'traditionalists' have had SUCH a negative history on things like supporting slavery, opposing women's rights, etc etc etc, and today are really no better about questioning clergy and MEN of the cloth.

Truthfully, also i think way too much of the religion is about repressing human nature, so a LARGE part of me agrees with people like Nietzsche and LaVey and their philosophies on things like sexuality, self interest (not selfishness) and anger.
Comment by Todd on March 8, 2010 at 10:12pm
After suffering through a horrid religious upbringing, I have a very strong dislike for christianity which even extends to the more fluffy liberal variants. I do not find even the slightest temptation toward liberal christianity, but I have found myself attracted toward wicca and neo-paganism for many of the same reasons that you describe here.

Generally, I like wiccans. They tend to be much more accepting and tolerant than even liberal christians. Being gay in a group of neo-pagans barely even gets noticed. In addition, there is a decent amount of cross over with the goth and vampire subcultures along with sexual subcultures such as BDSM. I like the variety and I'm a huge horror fan, so I generally fit in well there.

The problem is that I also have a strong interest in the study of religion. Learning too much about christianity is what caused me to stop believing in it. With wicca, I learned too much to ever believe it in the first place. I have studied much of the history of the occult, and found only ridiculous claims made by grandiose people with no evidence to support them.

Of course, a physics background probably doesn't help much in the faith department either. No matter how many times someone tries to convince me of the healing power of a crystal, all I can see is a big pretty rock.

Historical accuracy and evidence matter to me. Although I like the culture, being a believer requires a level of muddleheadedness that I will never be able to embrace.


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