Religious curiosity

I’m incredibly interested in religions and faith.  My 90-ish grandmother did a Bachelor of Theology in her rather mature age (ie I was a baby… so not that long ago really), and I keep thinking that perhaps I’d really enjoy studying theology too.

My church, I'm not sure if I did the flowers!? source:!_DSC7292
My church, I’m not sure if I did the flowers!?

Regular readers or real life friends who read here would know that I regularly attend church and am heavily involved.  I wasn’t always so ‘into’ church.  And when I first started attending regularly, I was very self conscious about telling anyone, lest they think I wanted to convert them!

What drew me back to regular church attendance, but also openly disclosing it, was how I viewed a colleague’s faith. My colleague is Jewish.  And not once does he apologise for being so (in the way I sometimes feel I should or need to as a ‘Christian’).  He embraces the commitments of his faith, and in reality, his culture.  If dating a Jewish girl meant he had to (start to) eat Kosher, well so be it.  No biggie.  Such open mindedness to the doctrine and commitments requested by faith impressed and inspired me.

I am regularly inspired and hold faithful people in high esteem, particularly when their faith is different to mine. What I mean to say is, I don’t think it’s ‘weird’ or ‘strange’, the habits they have from their faith, whether it’s stopping 5 times a day to pray, abstaining from types of meat or meals at times or complying to dress codes.

What I struggle with regularly and continually is the differences of interpretation of the rules within my own faith community (Anglican or Church of England).  My church struggles within it’s diocese, and I think this struggle is something I feel personally, as well as now being part of a larger church community that’s at odds with it’s peers.

Why can’t I see the habits of those in my faith that are different to mine as admirable, but not for me?  I think I see what ‘other’ faiths do, and think “good on them, that’s their way”, even in the shades of difference between the devout and the more cosmopolitan.  However, within my own, I turn each custom over and see if it fits, how it fits with others, and where I stand.

There’s a number of ‘things’ – habits, customs, doctrines, I’d like to explore over a collection of posts.  My aim is to verbalise my thought process.  It might not interest you – a-ok with me. (I’m as surprised as any that people continue to not only visit my blog, but comment too!) It isn’t my intent to offend anyone, and I heartily encourage counter thoughts and points, rather than agreeing.  And if there’s things you struggle to understand or resolve, I’m happy to use them to spark my own point of view.


Things first on my list are

  • conservative dress for Christian women
  • living together before marriage
  • marriage and divorce
  • bible directives – Jewish and Christians

What interests you about other faiths? Are you interested in religion, or think it’s a source of more conflict than resolutions?

12 Replies to “Religious curiosity”

  1. I'm an atheist and the further away from the religion I grew up in (Catholicism in Ireland in the 70s and 80s) the more glad I am. I have always found other religions interesting, but the most interesting ones to me were always ones that followed the ancient Norse and Greek gods. Actually, when I first realised the huge problems I had with the Catholic Church (i.e. when I first actually bothered to really think about it, early twenties having been really quite devout as a teenager), I thought perhaps I just needed to move to different christian faith and started looking into them. I also did some reading about paganism, as I was very drawn to some of the earth-based religions. And I realised that actually I was incredibly disturbed by the idea of worshipping anything/anyone. Around the same time my next-oldest sister had her first baby and I spent a lot of time with them and realised just what sponges kids are, which led me to something of an epiphany with regard to indoctrination. That was quite a land for me and it took me quite a few years to really come to terms with my thoughts and realisations, although to be honest, quite a lot of time I just tried not to think about it. Once I was a bit more comfortable with even admitting to being an atheist (even to myself), I actually started to read some of the well-known authors on the subject (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens etc.) and just found so much that resonated with what I had been struggling to understand and accept in the previous years. I tend not to talk much about it because, like you, I sometimes feel like if I do talk about religion and my non-faith, people will think I'm trying to "convert" them (as if atheism were even a belief system, but whatever). Most of my friends are similarly non-believers though so it's just not really a topic that come up. Although I do think the world would be a far, far better place without religion, if anyone's curious

    1. Welcome back – sorry I've not been on your blog in a while either.

      I can understanding the start of your exploration being to move to another Christian faith – as here are so many. To be honest, I know very little about pagan religions, except where they may intercept with Christian faiths (such as Christmas being suspiciously close to the solstice for example).

      Interestingly, I have come (at this age, and it could possibly change) to the opposite conclusion, that religion makes the world a better place, as it seeks for people to have discipline. I don't so much as worship anyone, though I take Jesus as an example of 'perfection' that we should aim for, and God as a benevolent guy who hears my prayers, and decides how my (and others) lives will unfold – I think that's called determinism?

      That being said, I can completely understand your point of view whilst holding a different view. And I'm certainly the faith I am, as my parents and grandparents (on one side). Whether it's indoctrination, I'm not sure, but at least within Christianity, I know there's an active 'choice' to follow what your parents have started with baptism, in your confirmation. I did this at 15, which is the right age to be questioning it all, rather than 8ish, when other faiths have first communions.

  2. Sarah, you're not afraid to tackle the big questions! I am interested in the teachings of world religions, but not so much the ones most like my own. I think about how different cultures, faiths, traditions and geographies affect people's world view. I admire how certain individuals live in accordance with their faith, and also local faith communities (congregations, etc.) But my experiences have led me to believe that religion is a great source of conflict and harm. For example, I was raised Roman Catholic and my family belonged to a small local parish that created a sense of belonging and did some good work. However, it was part of the global church that perpetuated so much abuse and intolerance. I think the efforts to "right" these wrongs have been negligible. I think that the mistakes of individuals are understandable (we're only human) but the mistakes of institutions need to be redressed in really substantial ways. I look forward to your upcoming posts!

    1. They've been rolling around in my head for a while, so it's nice to have started putting them in writing.

      I certainly think there's been a lot of harm done by the abuse (and hiding of that abuse) by the Catholic church, and as our Royal Commission in Australia is finding, also in other Christian faith communities. I have absolutely no idea how we right those wrongs, even after my pop culture education of every season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. However, I certainly feel that money isn't, at the core, the solution. Whilst money can help to fund a solution, a settlement now, or then, isn't really what's required to mend the hurt. I'm not even sure if Royal Commissions or similar cases help or further harm the victims, but it is the justice system we've chosen, so i suppose we have to let it run it's course.

  3. Really interesting topic, Sarah. Will look forward to your posts.

    I was also raised Roman Catholic and I married a Roman Catholic. I'm as conflicted as every other Catholic commenter so far! The abuse within the Church in Victoria is beyond description and I'm appalled – sickened – at the lack of any sincere response at the institutional level. There was a time when I wondered how I could possibly keep my child in a Catholic school. Obviously, I have other doctrinal challenges too (starting with our 'one child'!) and of course the role of women in the church.

    On a personal level though, I do think I've had a 'conversion' experience as an adult that makes my faith real (however conflicted.) I love the local community with the local church physically situated in our school ground and part of our school community. I genuinely enjoy going to church each week and find it a real source of solace.

    There is also a specific cultural outlook that goes with being raised Catholic (and from 6 generations of Irish Catholicism.) I love that my husband shares that and we share that outlook. I identify as an Irish-Catholic Australian background.

    1. I also genuinely enjoy church almost every week (helped by the fact that I go to a leisurely 10.30am service I think – school chapel always ruined sleep ins!) too. It's time to think, free from most distractions.

      Part of me wishes I was Catholic, only because I often feel Catholicism is a stronger faith community, like Judaism, than other Christian denominations. I did hope I'd meet someone religious, but most guys I've dated have either identified as atheist (but he prayed nightly!?), and others who've attended religious schools, which at least presents an understanding of the Christian faith even if they aren't active. That being said, I agree, there's some 'parts' of Catholicism that I don't agree on, but then again, we'll see that I don't agree with everything Anglicanism represents either, so there you go!

      My parents were unwavering in their commitment to have all three of us educated in schools that shared our faith, despite my brothers moving schools regularly. Interestingly, neither of my brothers identify as religious. I think I would share my parents point of view with children, and the BF is well aware of this,

  4. Hi,
    I look forward to this! I am Christian (Methodist) and was raised Presbyterian. I grew up in a very liberal church and still attend one. I come more from the "God is love" camp then "fire and brimstone".

    1. Thanks for stopping by Katie – some of the links I've read from your blog have got me thinking more deeply. I tend to agree with the 'love' vs 'fear' model of God and religion.

  5. Hmmm… this might be a duplicate comment – not sure if it "took" so I'm trying again. If it is a dupe, please feel free to delete it.

    I've sorta got the opposite experience from a lot of folks. I was raised as a strict atheist. My father, who was raised Catholic, has very bitter feelings toward the church and toward religion in general. My mother was never the hostile atheist that my father is – she always said that she thought religion and God were nice concepts that people believed because it made them feel better, but that they weren't really true. Sorta like Santa Claus.

    But the thing is… my entire life I didn't quite believe my parents. Of course, I didn't believe the Christians around me either. What I did believe was in the whole idea of reincarnation and karma – even though I'd never heard the words or been taught about them. This was all very upsetting to my parents, so I quickly learned to keep quiet about it. But when I got older and learned about Buddhism it was an epiphany. I couldn't believe there was actually a religion out there that believed what I had always "known" to be true! At any rate, these days I consider myself to be what you might call an "armchair Buddhist". I don't really meditate, and I certainly don't participate in a religious community, but I'm definitely a spiritual person and I generally believe the things that Buddhists believe.

    I have mixed feelings about religion in general though. While I believe that we are "spiritual beings having a human experience" rather than "human beings having a spiritual experience" I also believe that organized religion can be a scary thing. The opportunities for abuse are innumerable, and I think that far too often people use their religion as a stick to hit other people over the head with. And don't even get me started about the intolerance and that's built right into the fabric of so many faiths.

    So… I guess I'm conflicted like everyone else… just coming at it all from a different perspective. I'll be very interested to read your upcoming posts!

    1. The other comment needed 'approval' but it had some weird / all through it (wherever you had a ') so I chose to keep this version.

      What an incredible 'about face' journey you had! It's certainly not something I've heard happening before, so that's incredibly interesting.

      I better get my neurons firing, and post my next opst – rest assured, I've been thinking lots, it's just fingers to keyboard that's needed!

  6. I'm an atheist but religions still interest me. It really tells you what the people who believe in it value most. The closest thing I could come to believing is a Native American, "we come from the earth, everything has a spirit and should be respected" kind of philosophy.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all the topics you mentioned. 🙂

  7. I'm like Alison. An atheist with an interest in religions.

    I don't believe in supernatural beings but love reading about religious beliefs, customs, histories. Gets to the heart of humanity and understanding us. One of my sons, who is also an atheist, won the prize one year for his Christian Ed class, as he is likewise interested asking lots of questions and engaging in debate, not in a half-smart way but in a real way.

    I think we all have inconsistencies, paradoxes even, in our beliefs and practices – based on religion or not. I am very conservative in some of my beliefs, behaviours and expectations, and quite liberal in others.

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