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  1. #11
    Senior Member MerkW's Avatar
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    Aug 2007


    Eh, well at least you have a straightforward, two-word name to describe your religious affiliation.

    Since I live in the City of New York (on a slight digression, yes, even most New Yorkers are surprised or shocked to learn that the official name is 'The City of New York,' not the ever-so-commonly-used 'New York City'), the overwhelming cosmopolitanism usually prevents people from naturally assuming my religious background.

    Regardless, people often seem perplexed when I explain to them that (1) I am of roughly half Jewish and half protestant heritage, (2) that although my father was baptized protestant, he is ideologically an atheist, (3) although my mother was of Jewish background, the state (USSR) virtually prevented her family from religious practice, (4) that although I was originally baptized protestant, I practice Reform Judaism, (5) although I observe Jewish practices, I interpret religious texts metaphorically, (6) thus I am strictly agnostic in reference to the most common image of a deity, and lastly (7) that in spite of this, I consider myself to be a pantheist, as I view the laws that govern the universe and ''God'' to be one and the same from an abstract standpoint (viz. Baruch Spinoza, Carl Sagan, and Albert Einstein, most prominently).

    On a side note, I just realized that I have only 9 posts left until I am able to change the sub-text under my displayed user-name. Woo.
    "The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics..." - G.H. Hardy

    "Another roof, another proof." - Paul Erdős

    INTJ (I = 100, N = 100, T = 88, J = 43)
    Solitary/Idiosyncratic, 5w6 sp/sx
    RL(x)EI (RlxE|I|)- Inquisitive Dominant
    Reserved Idealist

  2. #12
    Senior Member Anonymous's Avatar
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    Apr 2007


    I'm an atheist living in a fundamentalist Christian home, and I'm sure as hell not admitting it. I don't have to act the part, and I'm pretty sure that they suspect that I'm not as Christian as I used to be (what with not having gone to church in about half a year), but it would just make living at home way too difficult if I came out and said it.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by Rajah View Post
    I guess I should ask... why do you want to assert your spiritual beliefs? For me, they've always been private matters.
    It doesn't really matter if its just some crazy man on a bus trying to save my soul. Its only a problem when it happens with people I genuinely like and want to get to know better. If I'm going to be good friends with them, then I would feel like I was lying to them about this part of me that is actually pretty important.

    Also, this is part of an overall resolution to become more assertive. I tend to be passive and not voice my needs or opinions if I think it will avoid conflict. This hasn't served me well, and I'm working on it. I guess this is just one step.

  4. #14
    Senior Member NoahFence's Avatar
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    Jun 2007


    It's funny, but I have the opposite problem. Among most groups I hang out in, to say "Actually I'm a Christian" would be similar to saying "I sure like having sex with penguins", both in the "why would you ever admit that" and the "what could possibly possess you" departments. You might as well toss out any possibility of ever being taken for a thoughtful intellectual if you go around saying stuff like that!

    I usually have no problem with letting people keep their precious assumptions. The old nod and smile is rough on the self-esteem, but generally worth the price.
    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." - Galileo

  5. #15
    Senior Member htb's Avatar
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    May 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by NoahFence View Post
    It's funny, but I have the opposite problem. Among most groups I hang out in, to say "Actually I'm a Christian" would be similar to saying "I sure like having sex with penguins", both in the "why would you ever admit that" and the "what could possibly possess you" departments.
    I also face that in most casual groups with a median age under 40.

    Move to either coast, Arborvitae, and your problem will likely be solved.

    Of course, if you're born again, you'll need to move back.

  6. #16
    Senior Member sandwich's Avatar
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    Nov 2007


    I'm at a stage where I relate with both Noah and Anon. I grew up in a fundamentalist home (my father's a pastor and my mom works for a religious organization) and most of my upbringing was tied in with the church. When I went home for Spring Break, most of the people I saw had been connected with my church in some way or another. When I'm at school, most people I hang out with are of mixed backgrounds, but are generally opposed to Christianity and usually churches as a whole.

    I'm somewhere in the middle, maybe a permanent transition stage like a "living limbo." If I expressed my doubts and concerns with my parents, and many of my life-long friends or mentors, I would be the subject of concern and evangelism. I'd probably get the latest Rick Warren or Dean Edell work in the mail and little notes letting me know that they're praying for me. At school it isn't too bad, usually people don't care unless they're in a religion-bashing mood. I usually just get jokes on the side.

    I guess I feel a certain level of obligation to my parents. It would crush them if I "came out," so as long as I'm still ambiguous about it, they don't need to know. For people who are moderately involved within Christianity, they should know about Unitarians. I know I did, and I didn't even know any. If a church is evangelical enough they usually let the congregation know which quasi-Christian churches aren't "acceptable."

  7. #17
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Apr 2007


    Admitting I'm a Christian depends on what group I'm with. It's not even a matter of admitting it, it's just knowing who not to start the conversation with. My college friends are mostly atheist or agnostic, they know where I stand, I know where they stand, whenever conversation veers in that direction everyone is respectful of the belief systems of others not to go stirring up trouble. Oh and I don't often mention it or get involved with discussions about it here.

    My culture tends to assume everyone's Christian as well. I do understand how continuing to decline the events that you're invited to may cause people to have an inaccurate picture of you and may cause you to think you're being untrue to yourself. Maybe you can briefly or offhandedly mention your beliefs to one or two people and let the gossip grapevine take care of the rest for you? These people could be the one's you've assessed would take this information in a relatively neutral manner and yet still chatty enough to spread it around. Make gossip work for you instead of against you. Or maybe occasionally have lunch or dinner (or some other neutral event) with these people to signal that you're not disinterested in them, you just don't want to participate in their religious events?

    I'm guessing your bigger problem is what to do once (if) you've come out of the closet. Maybe you can use it as an opportunity to educate people about Unitarian Universalism. If they say it's a cult here's your opportunity to correct their perceptions. You can stress the commonalities between what you believe and what they believe and start a dialogue about it. You may even end up convincing them to attend some of your church events just to see what it's all about.

    A lot of this has to do with how broad-minded the people in your social strata are. I assume they know you in many different contexts and realize you haven't suddenly morphed into a emu or something weird just because you don't share their beliefs. If they really want to get nasty about it, use that on them.

  8. #18
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    594 sx/sp
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    My upbringing was in the church, and I only stopped going last summer, after being heavily involved in worship. I had to do it -- my beliefs had shifted (or, probably better, I was finally accepting that my beliefs had LONG been different but I had still been trying to somehow make the old ones work), and I needed out just to get away from the pressure to please people and avoid conflict and not contribute to dissent.

    So I understand the difficulty in what you are experiencing: These were all people I generally liked, a few of them I truly loved and cared about, but the assumptions they would make about what everyone believed would drive me nutty. I didn't even enjoy group prayer with them, because I felt like words were being put in my mouth that weren't mine... but I didn't want to cause conflict either. So either I sacrificed my own integrity, or I felt like I was disrupting other people's religious experiences.

    Essentially, anything that doesn't conform to a standardized Christian doctrine will be written off as cultish. You can't really avoid it. And that's not because people are being jerky, it's just that the viewpoint they've accepted does not allow for much ambiguity. (I think that is what the Universalist and the B'hai's and some other denoms permit: Ambiguity.)

    The more ambiguity a denom allows, the less the evangelical end of things will find it acceptable and more apt to write it off as a heresy of some sort... even with the postmodern thought filtering into the church from Leonard Sweet and Brian McLaren and Rob Bell (and so on).

    I don't see the point in making waves, if you can avoid it. As a Universalist, it's not like you are completely at odds with the generic Christian church, you still have some points in common and you could lump yourself in as "Christian" in the general sense, although your version might be very different than theirs.

    I wish I knew what to tell you. As far as attending church goes, you can turn them down easily enough, saying that you already are involved in one and only opening the door further if they pursue it. As far as spending time with them, I guess either you can tolerate being around people with particular views of reality that might clash with yours and don't feel pressure to conform, or you feel pressure from it and need to basically not enter those relationships in order to preserve your peace of mind. The only other option is to be willing to openly engage them on points of disagreement, in hopes they could learn to accommodate you... but that is definitely a commitment of time, energy, and sanity on your part.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  9. #19
    Senior Member 6sticks's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Don't admit you're not Christian. Say you aren't Christian.
    No offense.

  10. #20
    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Jan 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by arborvitae View Post
    I was wondering if other non-Christians in predominantly Christian cultures have trouble "coming out."

    I'm a sweet, upper middle class, white woman living in Texas, and the natural assumption is that I'm Christian. I find that I frequently get invited to church events by new acquaintances, or someone makes a statement around me that assumes Christianity. I don't want to be rude and curtly deny their attempts at friendliness, or be blunt and say "Actually, I'm not Christian." Somehow this would be too awkward and off-putting, and not really representative of my nature. But at the same time, I want to assert my spiritual beliefs. How should I handle this situation?

    The hardest part is that I belong to a religion that isn't well know - I'm a Unitarian Universalist (If you don't know what that is, I'd look it up ). I always end up fumbling through a description of it that makes Unitarianism sound more like a cult. It would be so much easier if I could just say I was Jewish or something.

    Anybody else have these experiences?
    Is that some form of Quaker? I'm agnostic myself and depending on the day and my mood I can be quite anti-religion. As far as I am concerned religion is an anthropological quirk of nature, but Quaker's are one of the few religious groups I have some respect for.

    Additional Response: So I looked it up and it seems Unitarian Universalist and Quakers are related. Both groups advocate social justice, which is what I like about the Quaker's. MLK's trip to visit Ghandi was funded by one of these Quaker linked social justice groups.

    I would just tell them you are a Quaker. People tend to know and respect Quakers. People who have not heard of Unitarian Universalist may just through plain ignorance unfairly brand your religon as a cult. When they ask you to describe your group, just describe your real group and what you do. You are effectively just changing the labels.

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