Friday, February 08, 2008

Why people reject conservative religious paths

In conjunction with a previous post on "why people choose conservative religious paths", I want to offer my thoughts (and that's all they are----thoughts, speculations, brainstorming, based on my personal experience) about why people reject conservative religious paths.

1. They are hurt and angry. They are hurt and angry about abusive authority figures, about being "lied to" by authority figures about religious doctrine, about being forced to attend religious services as children, about apparent or real hypocrisy of religious people, about abusive doctrine or doctrine which excludes the Other.

2. They have learned more about religious history and the questionable behavior of early church leaders, about the scientific process and its lack of importance to conservative religion, about themselves and their tolerance for supernatural doctrine.

3. They have redefined God and no longer accept the definition put forth by conservative religious doctrine.

4. They find a more appealing alternative, preferring to spend Sunday/Sabbath in secular activities.

5. They grew up non-religious and have never seen themselves as needing a spiritual part of their lives.

6. They are rebelling against parental values, for any number of reasons.

7. They marry a person who is not conservative in his/her religious path.

8. They have grown beyond the teachings of their early experience and find that they are unable to go back to those teachings.

For me, who grew up in a conservative home, the turning point was going to Denver as an American Baptist Home Missionary and working in a church-supported community center in the inner city. It was so clear to me that what people needed there had less to do with Jesus and more to do with food, rent, and health care. My early Christianity seemed to be more "about Jesus" than "of Jesus' teachings".

I never did feel angry about what I was taught as a child. My parents were loving and not dogmatic, even though they were very conservative. They had lots of anguish over the UU path I chose, but they had faith in me, as well as God, and I think they did a lot of praying that God would care for me.

I married into Unitarian Universalism, but I had morphed a great deal in that direction before I ever met my husband. And I needed to be in a religious community. That's one thing that growing up Baptist did for me: I could see the value and importance of a faith community and I knew I needed it.


Mystical Seeker said...

My parents were, like yours, "loving and not dogmatic, even though they were very conservative." Well, maybe a little dogmatic. Anyway, unlike you, I managed to become angry over conservative religion anyway when I finally rejected it. You are lucky that you came out of that process without feeling the anger.

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

I loved your statement that you could see the value of a faith community and wanted one. I feel the same way, but I learned this from watching Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid. No matter what the townspeople of Walnut Grove did during the week, no matter who was angry with whom, they all went to church and were in community together. Because they needed each other to find the sacred. That understanding stuck with me, for some reason.
At the real church I attended as a girl, everyone kept their coats on during the service and bolted for the door as soon as they could!

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Mystical Seeker and Elizabeth.

I think one reason I came through the search without anger is that I wanted so badly to maintain my connections with my family, whom I loved dearly. I knew I would never again be the "golden girl" of my family but I felt that I was not really so different from what I had been as a girl; it was just that my understandings had changed with my liberal arts education. I wanted them to know that I was not rejecting them or their path; instead I was taking what I had learned and going farther with it.

Joel said...

This is absolutely not meant to be snarky, so please be warned it might sound like it. :)

I've also known people who rejected conservative religious paths because they didn't want to be bound to rigid moral codes. Not that they had rationally examined the code and rejected it, but just that they didn't want to be bothered following it. So they decided that it must not be valid anyway. In that way, at least, liberal religion is much more convenient.

(Before you bridle, I'm not applying that to you, or even to anyone you know. But I've seen it happen.)

ms. kitty said...

What, me, bridle?

I think you make a good point, Joel.

I also think that most people need to see a reason for a rigid moral code and to have confidence that the rigid moral code really does do something good for humankind. There is often a sense that such codes are imposed by flawed human beings and are a power ploy, rather than something that is good for people.

Anonymous said...

The reason I left the conservative views is because they did not line up with reality - in some cases they were good guidance - but even in those the testing of the theology proved to be it's huge weakness.

And that's what I get lambasted for in conservative circles now - for examining doctrine through the lense of reality - how it works in interactions with others. They seem to believe, for some odd reason, it should be reversed - reality should be shaped by doctrine - that was the same view that caused mass confusion in it hearer's ears.

There a lot of reasons for leaving conservative views - mine was a process of about 6 years or so - testing ideas and having convo's with 'sinners' (just like me). Maybe I am slightly UU in some of my theology now - but not totally - but like I have said once before 'how can one not like the acceptance of the UU'?

Also I think a careful study of scripture lends itself to moving away from literalism to dealing with a lot of symbolism (which usually is trying to make a great point about God) - and this leads one away from conservative ideals alone.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for adding to our thinking, Societyvs. Here we all are in the difficult, complicated world of symbolism and metaphor!