emergent welcoming skeptics

From an article last year in the LA Times by Philip Clayton:

Although a recent bumper crop of pundits likes to proclaim that we’d all be better off with no religion, I suspect that the majority of us believe that religion, in spite of its flaws, offers individuals the inspiration to be better people and to create a better nation…

I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It’s a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion’s dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.

In my experience, the nones are not rejecting God. They are rejecting doctrinal requirements that they no longer find believable, along with the rigid structures of many organized religions. For that reason, the rise of the nones may well be a new kind of spiritual awakening, one in which doubters are welcome.

In the Christian tradition, for example, the Emerging Church invites participation from all who find themselves attracted to the teachings, actions and person of Jesus. It isn’t crucial that members call themselves Christians, or that they believe Bible stories literally (rather than metaphorically), or even that they are believers rather than agnostics and atheists. As long as people want to sincerely engage with the teachings of Jesus and with the communities that seek to live by those values — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Love your neighbor,” “Blessed are the peacemakers” — they are welcome…

(via Tony Jones)

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14 thoughts on “emergent welcoming skeptics

    • That is definitely one popular way to interpret the data. But, I really don’t think it’s that simple. I think Jonathan Haidt (as an atheist) is helping us see a much better way to think about this.

      • The data are actually very clear. Look at the obverse: the USA is by far the most religious rich country. It is also the most violent and the most unequal. Within the USA it is largely the most religious states that have the worst social problems. I haven’t read Haidt’s book, but from reviews, I am unimpressed. What is it specifically in his book that you think “is helping us see a much better way to think about this”?

      • We all know that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

        The way you seem to be using the term “most religious” is actually referring to the most fundamentalist. And, I think a toxic anti-theism is just as dangerous as a Christian fundamentalism.

        His approach is much more nuanced, and, from what I can tell, evidence-based, rather than reactionary (non-academic) like much of the “new atheist” literature. But, I’m definitely not smart (or patient) enough to go point-by-point on something like this. If you’re interested in considering a different perspective, check out his work.

  1. We all know that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

    True; but it’s evidence that needs taking seriously, while you have provided none.

    The way you seem to be using the term “most religious” is actually referring to the most fundamentalist.

    No, I’m not. By any measure, the USA is the most religious rich country. I know of no study that has suggested otherwise. Do you?

    I think a toxic anti-theism is just as dangerous as a Christian fundamentalism.

    Why is what you happen to think of any interest, if you can’t provide any evidence or argument for it?

    His approach is much more nuanced

    Much more nuanced than what?

    If you’re interested in considering a different perspective, check out his work.

    You’ve given me no reason to do so, and as I say, reviews have given me reason not to bother. I have a long list of books I do want to read, so I require a specific reason to add another.

    • You obviously think that religion (which you have not defined) is inherently a negative thing, and you assume that the sole, direct cause of higher levels of social welfare and personal happiness is a lower participation in religion (undefined). I’ve heard this over and over for the past several years, but the only people saying it are those who want to rid the world of religion; less hostile secular people are not. You may point out that the evidence is clear (and that to ignore it is because of some kind of social fear), but, to me, it only reveals ones bias.

      And, just to go back to the original article, what Clayton was saying has been evidenced by polls (in the U.S.) which show that “the nones” are actually not, for the most part, anti-religious. He was not making a scientific claim that religion is a positive thing, but rather that most of “us” (including the religiously unaffiliated) think it is.

      Religion, just like science, has had many positive and negative effects. But, I’m not going to take a leap of faith to say that because science allowed us to create nukes that it is inherently evil.

  2. You obviously think that religion (which you have not defined) is inherently a negative thing

    If I define it, of course, you could ask me to define the words I use to define it. No succinct definition is possible, because religion typically includes elements of belief, practice, self-identity, and probably others. I do think it has done and is doing immense harm, but I don’t think it’s “inherently” anything, because I’m an anti-essentialist.

    you assume that the sole, direct cause of higher levels of social welfare and personal happiness is a lower participation in religion (undefined)

    No, I don’t, and you will be completely unable to quote anything I have said which suggests that. As it happens, I think the causal arrow points in both directions, but probably more in the direction of higher levels of social welfare and personal happiness causing lower participation in religion. You’re very quick to tell other people what they believe, on no evidence.

    You may point out that the evidence is clear (and that to ignore it is because of some kind of social fear), but, to me, it only reveals ones bias.

    Again, why should anyone be interested in what you think, if you can’t provide any evidence or argument for it?

    • Sorry for making assumptions. Like I said, I’m not pretending to be smart enough, nor do I have the patience, to do this.

      According to Haidt’s well-documented research, most people don’t make decisions based on evidence-based reasons. A lot of people are interested in the kinds of things I am saying.

      I am going to go grab a beer now and spend time with my family. Thanks for the feedback!

      • According to Haidt’s well-documented research, most people don’t make decisions based on evidence-based reasons.

        What a deep and profound insight.
        /snark

  3. See, I find this to be really interesting (and becomes a lot of our conversations in our monthly group here): you don’t think that research (evidence) is important, but I do. Why? You find your evidence about the U.S. being highly religious but less this or that to be important, but I don’t see it in the same way. Why? We are looking at the same evidence, but interpreting it in different ways. Is it because you’re smarter?

    • What I’m saying about that point is that it’s blindingly obvious, not just from decades of psychological research, but from everyday observation.

      As I said on the “Nones” thread, I’ll stop commenting here now unless specifically addressed.

  4. Unless I’m specifically addressed, at least for a while; I recognise a tendency in myself to dominate (online) conversations. Not a problem if there are at least a few other highly opinionated and articulate people taking part, but up to now, this has just been me disagreeing with you, the original poster.

    • I’m glad to hear that you recogniz(s)e that tendency in yourself.

      I definitely want to to be self-critical, and you are making me think. I just can’t promise that I can keep up.

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