Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Geography and Faith

I have been pondering a disturbing question in recent weeks.

Have I gone through this massive transformation from devout, conservative evangelical to, well, practically an atheist because my eyes are open, I'm willing to question things I was always scared to question, etc etc, or is it simply an expected outcome given my geography?

My Christian years --> spent entirely in the midwest (cradle of Christianity)

My doubting/skeptical/agnostic years --> spent almost entirely on the eastern seaboard, esp New England (bastion of liberalism)

Am I just really really suggestible to whatever influences are around me? If I lived somewhere else, would I eventually adopt whatever the dominant local spirituality/religion was?

10 comments:

Bonnie's Blog said...

Good question. I had just the opposite happen. I lived in the Northeast and was a conservative christian for 10 years. I moved to the bible belt and became an atheist within 2 years of being here. Go figure!

Gall said...

If you immersed yourself in, say, a Hindu village, you wouldn't all of a sudden lose the powers of rational introspection and logical criticality which drove your original deconversion. The beauty of Reason is that it inoculates against groupthink and works wherever you go: one can follow pseudo-logical lines of thought in an attempt to believe any arbitrary thing, but wanting to believe something doesn't allow you to brush away logical inconsistencies.
Oh, and love your blog by the way. Three cheers for conquering smart girls.

jennypo said...

Any chance it was a little bit of both? None of us is an island, yet you don't appear to be so mush-brained as to absorb and take on the thinking of those around you entirely without question.

A shake-up in thought can be dangerous, but so is everything that is worthwhile. It is an opportunity to shed the junk and put what is real into a secure place where it won't go falling off every time our situation changes. It sounds like you are still asking questions, which is healthy given that you are in the process of some pretty major paradigm shifts. It's hard to resist the urge to make a decision fast in order to get back on some kind of a stable ideological footing. The fact that you are able to resist that urge and allow yourself to remain in the very uncomfortable state of questioning the basics makes me respect your thinking.

People love to pat themselves on the back for questioning things they've already begun to reject, but it seems to me that you are willing to question the old AND the new.

Here's an idea for you - why don't you move back and see if you become a Christian again?

Um, just kidding!!

lowendaction said...

Madam Slapsalot....it's been to long!!!

I've been swamped at work, but praise be to the blog Gods...I'm back!

I don't know if I've ever thrown this one out to you, but if not, I would love to get your critical feedback on this little ditty (I think it's quite topical):

Everything Is Spiritual

I will personally refund your money (offer only valid for the dash of slap...we are in a reces...I mean slowdown here people!) if this doesn't tickle your brain. This is not a new spin on handing out pamphlets. I have no alterier motive to woo you to the dark side. I was just very inspired by Rob Bell's little lesson, and I've been dying to get a non-Christian perspective (an intelligent one that is!) on his musings.

enjoy

Slapdash said...

Lowen-D! It's been forever! Welcome back. :)

So I watched the clip. I want my money back! Just kidding.

I was actually thrown to see that you consider my opinion to be of a "non-Christian" variety - I'm not yet used to being considered outside the fold by others, even though it's quite clear that I consider myself to be out of the fold.

As to the vid. Huh. I have no problem with the idea that spirituality isn't some separate thing, apart from our corporeal lives but it begs a few questions, or at least inspires a few comments:

(1) How are we (or how is he) defining spirituality? I could see a secularist saying sure, I'm on board. I see spirituality as thinking of others in my everyday life; of making decisions that honor some higher principle I hold to be valuable; of tending to something other than base survival instincts.

(2) I would think this guy's idea would be threatening to a fundamentalist audience. It always seemed to me that they (or "we" when I was still an evangelical) needed a very definitive break between our earthly lives and our spiritual lives - how else could we claim to be aliens in this world unless we had something separate and apart from the rest of the world, ie a spiritual relationship with God?

Thoughts?

Slapdash said...

bonnie, that's interesting! I'm glad to hear there are counter-examples...

gall, okay, so I definitely appreciate Reason. But wow, couldn't we tweak that statement to say: "The beauty of Fundamentalism is that it inoculates against secular-think and works wherever you go..."?

Did I just get lucky to wind up in a place that values Reason so much?

Slapdash said...

jennypo: "Here's an idea for you - why don't you move back and see if you become a Christian again? Um, just kidding!!"

My heart skipped a beat when I read that!! It's funny, for many years I thought I *would* move back to the midwest. But now I've been out east long enough that I can't imagine living there again. I've become a coastal, urban gal, methinks. Hopefully one that will always question things, to some degree.

I'm glad you still come around. Your comments always challenge me, in a good way. :)

lowendaction said...

So at the risk of sounding safe, I'm going to have to defer my answers to Mr. Bell. I'm not trying to sell you something here, I just happily bow to someone far more eliquent and knowledgable then myself to elaborate on such a delicate and expansive subject. I can say with complete confidence that his talk will rock both the world of most self-confessing christians, as well as those who choose to live apart from God (not intended as a jab-but since no one can completely prove or disprove Him I can only express things from my side of the fence). And thus I can pretty much gurantee some very stimulating discorse will ensue.

What I love about this guy, is that when I'm listening/watching to him, I don't get the feeling like he's trying to sell/or push something on me. I just see this guy who has totally baught in to what he has come to discover as his truth, and he's totally stoked about sharing it with others. He talks about his faith as being a huge trampoline, which he then compares to the more rigid and traditionalist types, whom he discribes as having faith like a brick wall. If you remove (disprove, call in to question) one or more of their faith-bricks, their wall becomes unstable and could collaps. Whereas the trampoline is made up of many springs, and even if you remove/challenge a few of them, the trampoline still works fine. The example he uses is, if it turns out that the world was in fact NOT created in the litteral days (which he does not nessecarity perscribe to), the overall streangth of his faith would not be shattered. And then he talks about his open invitation for any and everyone to come and bounce on his trampoline. Mind you, this kind of faith is not exclusive to christianity or religion for that matter. Even you....at this very moment have faith in what you believe. If there where absolute certanties, then none of this would be relevant. And for this very reason you MUST watch his video.

Unfortunatley people like him have become rare commodities, but you know, where in the bible does it ever speak of Christianity being popular? In fact all you get is pretty much counter to that. And yet, the modern christian church (and I also lump catholics in with this) seem hell bent (no pun intended) on making itself as "user freindly" and popular as possible.

Anytime us humans believe we can out-think God....but there I go getting all preachy again. So there you have it. I have given you your homework assignment, and I patiently await your reactions.

peace. love. and rockband!

steph said...

this is a question that i've dealt with too (seems we have a lot in common). i moved from az to san francisco in my early 20's, and it was there that my deconversion took place. it wasn't right away, but it did make me wonder if i had never moved would i still be a christian?

what i've figured out, though, is that it wasn't necessarily the location that caused this radical change in my beliefs; it was that i had a lot of time on my hands and i actually allowed myself to question and look deeper into things that didn't make sense than i ever did before.

maybe to some degree it was the exposure to the people and a bigger worldview in sf that brought me to the point where i allowed myself to question, but to say that i, or you for that matter, are so weak-willed that a change in environment is all it took to cause us to lose our faith would be to cheapen the experiences and all the studying and thinking that brought us here. don't you think? in my case, it will take a lot of evidence - real, hard facts - to ever believe in anything supernatural again, no matter where i live.

mysteryofiniquity said...

I think it's totally the environment! I live in a small, rural town (p. 3000) and find myself constantly thinking "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" because there is nothing else to be had but evangelical Protestant Christianity. Freethinking gets to be pretty lonely. I always end up trying "to blend." Sad isn't it?