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Thoughts on this Atlantic article titled "Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious Than Christians"?


pandora

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Was reading this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/05/american-atheists-religious-european-christians/560936/  and figured other people here might have read it and have some interesting thoughts. Any non-believers here ever attended a gathering like Oasis? I'd be really fascinated by any European FJers opinion on the article's take on spirituality and religiosity in their countries, the idea that only 23% of European Christians were certain of the existence of a god astounded me. 

I've never created a topic before, my apologies if this isn't the right place for it. 

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In the field of religious studies/sociology of religion, there is a consensus that belief in god(s) is not the primary component of religion. While there are many, often conflicting, definitions of religion within the field, it is now universally agreed that the notion that religion = faith comes from a Western and specifically Protestant mindset. Even the idea that atheism is some radical stance operates from Protestant assumptions about the soul standing alone before an angry god. I personally tend to take a Durkheimian approach to religion, in which culture = religion. This explains why seemingly tangential “cultural” issues like clothing, the role of women, and the status of minorities become hills to die on in intrareligious conflicts or why religious groups that have a lot in common on paper fight so bitterly in real life.

To provide a more concrete example, think of the Spanish Inquisition. I’ve read some of the transcripts from the inquisitors and they seldom ask their victims what they believe, presumably the clergy took it for granted that ordinary people in a pre-literate society will have odd personal beliefs. Instead, they are asked more prosaic question like what they are, who they ate it with, how it was cooked, and what day they ate it on. This is because cooking with olive oil rather than pork fat and refusing to work on Friday or Saturday could be signs of crypto Judaism or crypto-Islam. The inquisitors couldn’t get in people’s heads, but they could observe their religious behavior. And really, the entire point of religion is about ordering human life, rather than thinking about arcane theological points.

Consequently, I would say that most of Western Europe is post-Christian, but still has yet to make a clean break with Christendom and Christian modes of thought. Most European countries still have state churches, and even “militantly secular” France provides taxpayer money to churches. If these countries were really over Christianity, they’d have disestablished their churches but they don’t. Clearly, the populace sees some value in the churches, if only for purposes of national identity. This phenomenon has been called “belonging without believing”:

https://tif.ssrc.org/2010/08/30/belonging-without-believing/

While it’s true one can live without god, it is much harder to cut yourself off from the culture you were raised in, one which  is heavily influenced by the dominant religion. 

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I guess I don't see that as surprising. I grew up in a high control Jewish community, and I'd say roughly half the people I know who are still affiliated have admitted that they don't necessarily believe in Yahw-h. One of those people is a Rabbi. Nobody seems to think much of it - Yahw-h is distant and doesn't matter as much as compliance with the social norms of the group. I managed to ooze out of that group and now have a hard time mustering a belief in much of anything. That said I still identify as Jewish, maintain certain 'religious' practices/observances and will probably do so for the rest of my life. It's a large part of my culture and my ethnic identity, and it ties me to people with similar/interlinked culture and history throughout the world. 

I know several Muslim people who have admitted they feel the same about their religion. Some of these people appear outwardly religious (hijab, short pants, beards etc.), and they live a seemingly observant and traditional life, but Allah doesn't feature much in their personal belief systems. 

Based on these experinces it seems reasonable that many Christians would be similarly inclined.

I actually find the evanglical fixation on complete faith strange. Maybe because there is less of a shared culture/history/ethnic identity within these groups, and the near requirement of a belief in a deity is a unifying factor? I don't know, but it definitely sets them apart from some of the other religions out there.

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Since evangelicals prostelitzye more than other groups, they have a lot more hang ups about believing the right things. Adding to that, their belief in salvation thru faith alone and having exactly the right faith becomes a big deal. 

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On 6/4/2018 at 12:47 PM, Pecansforeveryone said:

Since evangelicals prostelitzye more than other groups, they have a lot more hang ups about believing the right things. Adding to that, their belief in salvation thru faith alone and having exactly the right faith becomes a big deal. 

Having spent 4 years at an evangelical Christian college, I got to see firsthand how they are sticklers for believing the "right faith" in order to be saved.  They (the students) didn't say it in so many words, but in spite of the college making a big deal about diversity at the school, they didn't know how to deal with those of us (myself included) who belonged to other groups.  They looked at us Lutherans, Catholics and Jewish folks like we were doomed.

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