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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Inventing a religion

There are posts at both Pray Tell and the Episcopal Cafe about a story at Religion Dispatches - Millennials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment. The story is from a college teacher who asked her students to invent their own religions. When the students all came up with religions that had no priests, no obligatory meetings, no absolute dogma, and no hell, the teacher flipped her wig .... some of the conclusions she drew about their choices sounded pretty defensive to me. Here's a bit from the article ...

There were several components of religion that were glaringly absent. Not one of them had career clergy who were in charge of services, rituals, or care of the congregation. There were, for the most part, no regular meetings of the faithful. Some had monthly or annual gatherings, like conferences, but most were very individualized religions, centering on personal growth and enrichment away from a physical community.

So, right off the bat, this generation has dumped its religious leaders, its priests or gurus, and has dispensed with the obligation of coming together each week as a community. I guess, if there's no one there to deliver a sermon or wisdom talk, what's the point of gathering together once a week?

She's never heard of Quakers? She's not read Garry Wills' book?

The most intriguing thing for me, however, was the fact that not one of the religions crafted by the student groups included a concept of hell, or any form of punishment for not following the prescriptions of the religion.

This actually seems like a plus - one of the most hard to reconcile inconsistencies of Christianity for me is how a God who is love and who wants us to always forgive others does not do so himself.

By ignoring the question of suffering of humanity, and role of religion in addressing that suffering, I am afraid that this new generation is denying itself the opportunity to truly connect not just with the divine, if that's their thing, but with each other.

She thought their emphasis on 'feel good" stuff meant they didn't take human suffering seriously, but I see it as just the opposite .... most religions spend an inordinate amount of effort in making human suffering acceptable (and in some cases even laudable) instead of outing it for the obscenity it is. The students seemed to get this problem of the problem of evil.

The one part of the article I agreed with was at the very end ...

The problem, as I see it, is not with the lack of imagination of this new generation, but with religious institutions themselves—many of which have allowed their leaders to become rock stars, their communities to become clubs of like-minded believers, and their doctrines to become rigid, with an over-emphasis on discipline and damnation for things (like homosexuality) that millennials see as simply judgmental and unfair.

When people are young, they're idealistic, they haven't yet made the kind of compromises with hope and faith and love that many of those who are older often embrace just yo keep going ... and that's a good thing.


Anonymous Richard said...

Hi Crystal, its just hard to imagine a good father who would consign his children to everlasting damnation. On the other hand, we seem perfectly capable of creating our own little hells in this life, I suppose the same could be true when we embrace the great mystery :O

8:50 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

The hell thing really bothers me. I can't see how it can be justified, and yet there are those gospel bits where Jesus threatens people with it ... eek! I think people like CS Lewis move the goal posts in their desire to reconcile a nice God and hell, but I don't see how to reconcile it.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Eek! is right. Thats not the Jesus I have coffee with every morning:)

5:12 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yes, that's how it seems to me too, but then I wonder if I'm just creating a Jesus I can live with instead of seeing the real one :( Wrote a new post about this.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

Please find two related references on how the would be world conquering power-and-control-seeking "official" institutional religion called Christianity was created/fabricated by the church fathers who won the culture wars of their time and place.


6:55 PM  

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