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This is a question God

Tell us your stories of churches and religion (or lack thereof). Let the smiting begin!

Question suggested by Supersonic Electronic

(, Thu 19 Mar 2009, 15:00)
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This will make sense to only a small number of people . . .
given the demographic I belong to - ie: second generation Greek, Greek Orthodox (Catholic school educated), university educated (OK, it's a medical degree so I guess that *just* scrapes in :))
GOs aren't Catholic, but once shared a common origin (I could bore everyone to tears with the Schism between the churches in Rome and Constantinople but I won't). We have similar saints, similar rituals (dunno what this Confirmation thing is though - we get baptised and that's it) and for some, a similar superiority complex.
You'll find those of my parent's generation are all religious and well-versed in the rituals - they don't question the teachings of the Church and follow most rituals without question (the importance of this will be seen later). Often, their children grow to be part of one of two camps:
1. the "fuck you" I've been forced to believe this stuff ever since I was little, I'm not bothering anymore - usually a result of parents not explaining *why* they're fasting, going to church or staying up until midnight to wait for the resurrection.
2. the "I'm just like my Mummy and Daddy" and I'm going to take my children to church every Sunday, make sure they have communion, fast and celebrate *every* religious holiday (if you'd like to know how many we have - ask Legless - lots!!!)

So where am I sitting in this spectrum? I have a number of life experiences/facets of my personality that modify how I respond to my religion.
Do I believe in God? Yes, I do - however, I don't see Him as the Earth's babysitter - if he made us intelligent beings, then he *has* to sit back and leave us to our day-to-day lives.
Do I follow everything in the Bible? No - that's impossible for anyone - and I've read a fair amount of to know that following some teachings will automatically make you reject others. Remember what I said about being intelligent? This is what riles me about fundamentalists - following the word of God literally via the Bible isn't possible - He didn't directly write it, and it's not a cookbook - it's more of a guide on how to behave - because we are intelligent enough not to need a cookbook.

As an aside - aspect of the text are instructive - very much so, especially with respect to the laws handed down in the Old Testament - dietary laws, how the tribes of Israel should dress, keep animals, etc. These were to prevent society from collapsing - much like laws today.

Where was I? Oh yes, how can I be religious GO, yet not follow everything listed as *compulsory* in my religion?
Well, let's see - a short summary of GO beliefs/rituals and how I respond to them:
1. God exists - check
2. Creation - um, nope. Scientifically impossible
3. Attendance at church on Sunday - yes, I feel the need to - NOT because I want to feel righteous sitting in the front row for 3-4 hours (yes - you read that right - our services are hours long, chanted in Biblical Greek).
4. Communion and fasting - a period of restricted dietary intake (no animal products) before receiving wine/bread - yes, and my agreement with this is thanks to my parents: if you were to prepare to meet someone important, you'd wash, dress up in clean clothes etc. Now, if you believe communion is important, then in addition you'd want to prepare your insides as well. BTW - the restriction also includes drinking and smoking; you eat modestly (no bingeing on a loaf of bread to make up for no meat).
5. Women should dress modestly for church (skirt, no sleeveless tops, no trousers, head scarf, no make up) and should not touch the icons if menstruating - no. I dress modestly because it's my habit - I'm pretty sure God doesn't care how I turn up to church, nor does He (or anyone with any sense) believe menstruation is dirty. To those that want to dress up with a scarf - more power to you - I have no desire to stand out as being ultra religious amongst the groupies who turn up every week.
6. Women stand separately to men, and cannot partake actively in the service (no girls help as altarboys (!), no women allowed in the rear section where the communion is prepared) - no. It's a pity that in 2009, we still do this. It's a ritual, not a strict teaching, and it needs to change.
7. Services in Greek - fine with me, although I acknowledge understanding what's going on can be tricky for most people of my generation; I didn't formally learn biblical Greek, however I speak modern Greek quite well and I know the English translations of the average service, so that I can follow a service quite well. My brother isn't as comfortable with following what's going on - perhaps it's time for bilingual services.
8. Divorce - not endorsed, but remarriage allowed for - fine with me; Jesus associated with the less *upright* members of society - I don't think any Church should exclude anyone who is happy to participate.
9. Abortion/contraception - frowned upon, but not to the extent of the Catholics. Left to the conscience of the individual, and most surprisingly, believed to be a private matter between you and the Big Man. My views on abortion will fill many pages . . . suffice to say, let each decide their own (without outside pressure).

Geez, I ramble on a bit don't I?
Well, almost done - I have one more issue to comment on - how I view various religions I've been in contact with. Bear in mind, some of my perspective will be coloured by the personality of the individuals I've known.

Catholicism - a traditional religion trying very hard to be *hip* - and not being very comfortable with it. Six years of Catholic teaching has left me with the impression that despite watering down things like no meat on Fridays, and Latin masses, other beliefs (abortion, divorce) smack of the same intolerance I see in more fundmentalist groups.

Jehovah's Witnesses - essentially, a group of hypocrites. Unwilling to acknowledge the contradictions in the Bible, claiming to follow it literally, and censoring the parts they don't like. Also putting lives at risk into the bargain (yes, you bastards, I mean letting people die because of refusing transfusions)

Born Again Christians - meet this lot at Uni (Monash Christian Union for anyone who knew them in the 90s). Funny lot - I agree with an earlier post of how they come across as friendly and genuine until you mention you're not about to be converted, and to leave religious conversation out of everyday talk - then - whoosh! They're gone. A little advice: practice some of that tolerance you preach.

Muslims - having had contact with both the liberal and stricter side of Islam, I must admit I quite respect the principles of what they believe. The whole culture of abuse of women, though can fuck right off (and is not universally accepted by Muslims). Having your wife covered from head to toe in a burkha while you stroll along the street in shorts . . . still makes me feel upset.

Paganism - for those who believe in reverence for our Earth - good luck to you. I spent waaaaay too much time arguing the point with "trendy pagans" (I'm sure they were Catholic school graduates) about the origins of current religions being pagan, and how we ripped off holidays and saints from them. Great, now show me what you believe, instead of bitching about how awful other religions are.

I think that's enough rambling . . . normally, I don't like religious discussions much, as they are more an argument about the logic of the rituals, *not* the beliefs. But hey, if you read this far, you either found it interesting, or you're getting your flame-thrower ready :)
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 3:03, 8 replies)

Well thought out, well written; well done.

I very much like this.
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 3:24, closed)
I like this too Mrs Legless
good points and ones I've seen in effect myself.

(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 3:43, closed)
Perhaps surprisingly...
... I'd go along with quite a lot of what you say about the Orthodox church. It's quite attractive - my only beef is with the belief in god. Oh, well. You can't have everything.

(For the record, I find Catholicism more attractive than Protestantism, and Orthodoxy more attractive than Catholicism. Why? Because it preserves more of the utterly mad-but-exhilarating spirit of the Greek and Roman polytheism that it blatantly bastardises. You can't read The Bacchae, for example, without thinking, "Hey! That looks pretty Christian... but with blood!" And then you think of the communion...)
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 9:54, closed)
We have our nutters too . . . and that's just the parishioners . . .
those that believe working on Sunday is a sin (that includes needlework!!); those that will tell you off for daring to sit down in church nd not offer the little old lady - who just arrived - a seat (I have hips like an old lady, sitting is more comfortable); those who will loudly complain and insult you because your car is blocking theirs at the end of the service (after listening to 3+ hours of messages of tolerance and forgiveness). My favourite is the ones who I call "groupies" - they arrive early, grab a seat, and will not move for love nor money for the service. Once it's over they dash to receive the bread (given out at the end of the service), often pushing past everyone, letting their little old lady friends in, whinging loudly if I'm in the way - waiting my turn - and loudly gossiping whilst waiting in line. I prefer to stand/sit in the back, keeping a low profile.
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 12:10, closed)
I'll go along with most of what you said there on the understanding that I have no real knowledge of the GO way of doing things (so I can't really comment). Well written.

One thing that I will pick up on though. Being what the PC brigade insist on calling a "Modern Pagan" (I give myself no such label), I should think that the point is that we don't "believe" in anything. We know that our focus of thoughts and meditation (call it prayer if it makes you feel better) exists because we are standing on it or watching it rise over the hills.

It would be like "believing" in chairs. You don't HAVE to believe because they actually exist.

This is an amazing facet of organised religion for me. It seems that it's only really any good if you can't prove your point. All of the great faith books are just that. They have to be read with faith as they can't be seen to actively work. However, if I plant an acorn, nine times out of ten I'll get an Oak...

A good place to start to read about the tenets of our beliefs is 'Living Druidry : Magical Spirituality for the Wild Soul' by Emma Restall Orr.

No, I don't dance around the spinney at dusk with antlers on my head. Nor do I sacrifice children.

I have no flame-thrower. I've no time for argument as I'm too busy looking at the trees.
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 11:00, closed)
Thank you Mr Duck,
I will try to find this reference . . . after my damned exams :)

I suspect the pagans I've been exposed to were the just-out-of-high-school-I'm-going-to-be-really-different-and-change-my-religion. Perhaps they didn't/don't know what they are getting into . . . perhaps they need to grab a copy of that book too.
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 11:53, closed)
Aye, I hear what you're saying about the just-out-of-high-school brigade.
I often get branded a "Treehugger" "Hippie" or "Devil Worshipper". I had a bit of a struggle trying to explain this to my (not very open-minded) family when I was younger.
(, Mon 23 Mar 2009, 9:03, closed)
On paper
I'm exactly the same -- second generation forren (Italian/Ukrainian), Greek Orthodox, university educated -- except for the (fairly hefty) fact that I don't really buy into religion all that much.

Despite that, I've always been of the opinion that if you're going to go for Catholicism, there's no point doing it half-assedly, and three or four hour liturgies are just par for the course.
(, Sun 22 Mar 2009, 18:54, closed)

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