The Round Table (Rational Pagans Forum)

What's your chosen path?
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Author:  Laura [ 12 Jun 2009, 05:13 ]
Post subject:  What's your chosen path?

Little background on me... I'm sort of an agnostic, for lack of a better term. I was raised a Christian in the Lutheran faith, did the whole Sunday school as a kid. However, as I grew up, I became less and less leaning with the Christian faith. I still believe 'something' is in control, but I'm not sure what? And it doesn't help that I hear what some of the religious people out there say on television and think you have to be kidding me with that?

For example, there is an actor from the UK that I love and he's gay. In an interview, he said that although he thinks of himself as a Christian, he doesn't align himself with any one denomination. Mostly because why would he align himself with a group that thinks he's going to hell and is a sinner. Have to admit, I kind of feel the same way.

So, I was thinking of this yesterday and I thought it might be a good discussion for us all. If it's too personal, don't feel you have to jump in. This is more an 'if you want to' type of topic. What do you believe? There are so many choices of religion out there to pick from. Wiccan. Pagan. Druid. Catholic. Atheist, if you so choose... How did you find your chosen path? What led you to being what you are and what you believe today? What advice would you give to someone who doesn't know where to begin?

Author:  HavenMage [ 12 Jun 2009, 21:10 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

I choose not to join or claim any doctrinal path or tradition. I have my own way of looking at things from a sociological and psychological point of view. Basically, I have a set of beliefs that are predicated on an essentially "Christian" base and altered to fit the reality I see around me. I accept that each person has a valid world view that they make work for them and accept that so long as it is not forced on me.

I reject any path that is created for the purpose of social control or engendered from a mythological source. I reject superstition (sacrificing virgins to volcanoes), but accept ancient wisdom (chewing certain tree barks help with headaches). I think that a person does not need institutionalized religion or traditional forms, but accept that some lack the will, desire, time, and/or intellect to establish their own world view and thus do not oppose their choice to let someone else think for them, though I reject it as my own path...

How I came to this path derives from my own search for meaning and the discovery that no one has it just right for me. I like many things about many faiths, but not everything about any of them. So when I was looking to find a path, I realized that I could not simply accept something just "because", or due to the fact that some "prophet" taught that path. It was right only for that one prophet. So I made my own belief system.

Advice wise, I would say: "learn, educate yourself. Never accept anything that has no explanation. Never accept an explanation that relies entirely on the dictates of another person."

Author:  Laura [ 13 Jun 2009, 07:32 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

HavenMage wrote:
I realized that I could not simply accept something just "because", or due to the fact that some "prophet" taught that path. It was right only for that one prophet. So I made my own belief system.

I really like this sentiment. I think that, for some people, it might sum up everything really well. Some can look out there and maybe say ooh, I agree with a lot of things this one says or that one thinks. And that's good for them. However, there are also others that may feel like you do, liking only half of a or part of b from different paths. It's like that famous line, I'd never be a member of any club that would have me...

Author:  jess [ 15 Jun 2009, 21:18 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

On some level I think I could be a spiritualist. I like the faith and peace in the religion, and sometimes I just think they have it right.

But I'm not keen on monotheism. I don't think they'd really care, though...

Author:  Forge Bronzebeard [ 16 Jun 2009, 15:35 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

What a long, strange trip it's been...

My mother is a secular Jew, and my father an eclectic, heterodox Catholic. I was baptized Catholic, but we rarely went to church. I was an early reader, and imbibed my share of religious guilt through the Little Golden Books children's bible. The stories seemed fantastic to me, but at the same time I wanted to believe they were true.

When I was in first grade, my parents thought I should have some formal religious education, so I was shipped to catechism class one day a week after school. I hated it. I remember being forced to memorize prayers, and doing "connect the dots" puzzles of biblical stories. There was a bust in the religious education room, and I wondered who "Pius X" was. I remember once really needing to go the bathroom, and running from the classroom across the front of the church towards the stairs to the basement, where the bathroom was. The priest happened to be in the church, and yelled at me for not stopping to genuflect towards the Jebus cookies. Never mind that I was ready to wet my pants! :angryfire:

By the time I was in third grade, I was fed up. One day, I just went home after school instead of going to catechism. My parents didn't think anything of it, until they realized later that it was Tuesday, and asked me why I hadn't gone. I told them I wasn't going anymore. I was eight years old at the time. :D They made me go the next week, but then relented after that, and that was the end of it.

Incidentally, this same priest, about ten years later, was removed from the parish very suddenly. A friend of my brother was "volunteered" by his very-church-involved parents to help clean out the rectory, and my brother went along to help him out. They found a HUGE stash of gay porn.

I went to public schools through eighth grade, but my parents sent me to a Catholic high school. For mostly secular reasons; the public school was good through middle school, but the high school wasn't good for much unless you planned to be a farmer. I had to take religion class and participate in occasional school masses. Religion class was interesting, because we actually read a lot of the bible. I got involved with music for the services, because I liked music, and at least then I didn't have to sit in boredom in the pews. I still had doubts, enough so that I decided not to go through confirmation.

By the time I started college, I was self-identifying as agnostic, leaning towards atheism. I wasn't happy about it, though. I thought there had to be some kind of truth "out there". I dabbled in wicca and occult stuff, to no effect. I visited a lot of different churches (UCC, Episcopal, UU, a few different "non-denominational" churches). The only thing I remember about the UU services was a woman showing a slide show of her trip to New Zealand, and gushing about how morally and spiritually superior the Maori were.

After college, I was still unchurched, and unhappy. All of my friends were Catholic; I saw how fervent they were in their "faith", and wished I had the same sense of connection. I decided to give Catholicism another try. About the same time, I met my first wife, who was Catholic. I figured that, if nothing else, I knew Catholicism enough to fake it. I really made an effort to buy into the whole thing, and did a lot of reading and studying on Catholicism, Christianity and theology.

Eleven years ago, my best friend from childhood was killed by a drunk driver. I was devastated. And I found no solace in Catholicism. My friend was a lapsed Catholic, and had lived a pretty dissolute life up until the year before his death. According to orthodox Catholicism, he was undoubtedly burning in hell for all eternity. I read and studied even more, to try to make sense of it all. None of it made sense! All the contradictions of the gospels became too overwhelming for me to ignore.

I hadn't become aware of my Jewish heritage until I was fifteen years old. My mother was born right after the end of WWII, and grew up hearing stories about the Holocaust. She was terrified of something like that ever happening again, and didn't tell us about her background until we were mid-teens, and presumably old enough to keep it "secret".

At that time, it really meant nothing to me, other than as a curiousity. But when I was 30 and spiritually seeking, I became interested in learning more about my Jewish heritage. Judaism gave me a ground from which to criticize and reject Catholicism. I started learning about it as avidly as I had previously studied Christianity. I started occasionally attending services at the nearby Reform and Conservative synagogues, and even talked once with an Orthodox rabbi.

But the same curiousity and skepticism that made me reject Christianity came to bear on what I was learning about Judaism. As much as I wanted community and connection, I valued TRUTH more. So ultimately I rejected the idea of the divine inspiration of Torah, both oral and written. And I rejected the idea of a personal god.

Like Hev over at SC, I clung for a while to a pantheistic concept of god as a "ground of being". But ultimately I had to admit that this was meaningless. Pantheism is simply atheism viewed from the other end of the telescope; there is no practical difference between them, just a difference of perspective. So I rejected the notion even of this "ground of being" god, and accepted that I am an atheist.

I didn't, though, reject being a Jew. One of the great things about Judaism in contrast with even Catholicism is that it is much easier to be a "cultural" Jew, while rejecting all the theological baloney. Half the people in the Reform synagogue were skeptics or atheists, and were fully accepted as part of the community. I like the community and its cultural aspects.

Philosophically, I am a humanist, and there is a Humanist movement in Judaism which tracks pretty well with my outlook. I realize that there is no imperative for humanism. Buddhism of an atheist variety, or stoicism, or epicurianism, are equally reasonable life philosophies. I prefer humanism because it is more contemporary, more optimistic and less quietistic than buddhism.

Author:  jess [ 17 Jun 2009, 12:35 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

That's interesting Forge. Are you a Jew now? I wasn't clear on your story.

I was raised a more liberal Catholic--- enough to have faith that if the Catholic I was taught is right, your friend, you and I are all still 'saved'. I'm seeing how my version of Catholicism may have been a bubble in an urban, educated area in an enlightened time, though.

I was taught that honest doubt is never enough to condemn someone.

Perhaps that's a reason I have no problems turning my back on the faith? And no desire to bad mouth it?

What amazes me is the religious person's belief that we've chosen alternative paths because it's 'easier'. <sigh> I think we all came to leave our birth faiths through trial and pain.

Author:  Forge Bronzebeard [ 17 Jun 2009, 13:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

Well, according to Jewish law, because my mother is a Jew, I've been a Jew since birth. And according to the Catholic church, since I was baptized, I'm still a Catholic. :cheeky:

I self-identify, in order of priority, as an atheist, humanist Jew. I'm still affiliated with the local Reform synagogue, although I seldom attend services. We did go to the community seder this year, though.

If Catholicism would just go ahead and split into separate movements, as Judaism has, it might be easier for cultural Catholics. The version of Catholicism I was exposed to in high school was the kind you describe. But when you learn more about it, you find that the "official" version of Catholicism is as medieval as ever. That's a lot to rationalize away if you are a serious Catholic, have problems with a lot of the theology, and have a commitment to truth and an aversion to hypocrisy.

Author:  jess [ 17 Jun 2009, 14:16 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

I grok. I'm hoping that this current pope brings it to a head.

My niece is pre Vat II though... <shudder> She's 18.

Author:  HavenMage [ 17 Jun 2009, 20:36 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

jess wrote:
My niece is pre Vat II though... <shudder> She's 18.

Personal opinion, having met the young lady, is that she is too smart to fall for fanaticism, provided that she does not choose to turn her brain off. I suspect that she is in for a painful awakening when she heads out into the great wide world. That awakening will be the crucible to test her "faith" to see if it is really what she believes or whether she is simply imitating the opinions of others with which she has regular contact.

My own path leads me to doubt that any teenager has truly "found" their path. The experiences of others, such as I know them, only reinforce my doubts.

Author:  jess [ 17 Jun 2009, 20:39 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

We were hoping a public college would do that, but she has insulated herself there by only associating with very religious types.

I think she will continue to do so.

aka: I think she will keep her brain turned off. :(

Author:  HavenMage [ 18 Jun 2009, 07:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

I always thought that college was just too much of an insulating factor all by itself. It does nothing to prepare a person for real life (unless that person is working to put them self through). It delays the inevitable need to grow up and begin taking responsibility for yourself. The need to have a job and support oneself is what matures us.

On that note, I have an observation. I have noticed living in Christian Valley Land, that many of the more conservative types are the stay-at-homes. They are usually wives that tend their children and are supported. The others seem more interested in simply maintaining the dominant role...


Author:  dug_down_deep [ 24 Jun 2009, 13:20 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

I am basically agnostic, but I have found the presence of synchronicities in my life to be compelling enough to believe that there is indeed some intelligence that works from a wider perspective than the normal human one we all know so well. I honestly (I swear) wouldn't believe in such a thing if I had found a good reason not to (and I've looked), but I haven't. Ontology is derivative of epistemology, and our capacity for knowledge is a finite set of possible values, in an infinite universe. Dogs will never understand the game of chess, and there may be games of chess being played in front of us dogs that look like people playing with chew toys.

The important thing is to be honest about what your reason and intuition tell you, which is why I don't bother with religion, which is usually preloaded with belief expectations. I don't think religion is the only social grouping to work that way, though, to be fair.

Author:  Otter [ 25 Jun 2009, 08:58 ]
Post subject:  Re: What's your chosen path?

I am a mutt mix I suppose. I think organized religion as in huge big church and these are da rules and if you dont follow them....your out, is so not my cup of tea.

Here recently on another board the discussion came up about a young lady 13 who was raped indeed conceived through that heinous act.....her church, catholic mind you. ex communicated her and her family for some dumb ass rule about being pregnant and unwed. WTF, that kind of shit is what gives them the bad rap. Seriously if Jesus whom they claim to be the one and only was to walk into that church I think he would throw his arms around them, not kick them out. Mind wasn't Mary a young unwed mother. Hypocrites much? So I guess I am prejudiced as well, growing up Lutheran and then finding my own path I can live with that, sure I may go into church and pray or even attend a service once in a blue moon but you will never see me on anyones member list. and I do have my lil box that my hubby has so eloquently dubbed "the witchcraft credenza".

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