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How do you reconcile religion and intellectual freedom at a personal level?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Ridwando, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. Ridwando

    Ridwando New Member

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    Here's my situation. I used to be quite religious at a young age, a poster boy for childhood indoctrination, if you will. It was in college that I found myself gradually drifting away from religion. I was beginning to find the entire experience extremely suffocating. Eventually, it became apparent to me that rational/free thinking needs to be relegated to the backseat when it came to certain contentious issues, as the conclusions derived from going down that path would not sit well with what 'God' has to say on those matters.

    Of course it took me a long time to finally admit this to myself. You do not overthrow your most cherished beliefs overnight, you try to cling on to them for as long as you can. I found myself obsessively perusing through articles and books desperately trying to find justifications for my religion's stance on a host of controversial issues, including homosexuality, women rights, on the existence of eternal hell etc. etc.

    I truly was obsessed. I needed to know that there were good justifications out there, that I can go on believing in my religion without feeling any embarrassment or the need to appear apologetic. It finally dawned on me that my approach to answering these questions was as upside down as can be. I had already decided what the answers are, all that I was looking for were justifications for my predetermined answers (not that I got too many good justifications either). I was putting myself through this futile exercise only because I was born into a particular religion, these issues probably wouldn't have bothered me so much if I was born at a different place in a different time.

    The intellectual freedom that I now feel is a wonderful breath of fresh air. Now that I am no longer emotionally invested in my religion, I no longer feel agenda-driven. This in turn allows me to consider any particular issue without feeling afraid that I will stumble across an answer/notion that contradicts the teachings of my religion.

    Is there anybody else who has felt this way before? I was also wondering whether the religious people on this forum can clarify how/if they have dealt with this issue in their own lives. How do you reconcile the absolutist stance of religion (on certain matters) with the urge to remain unbiased and open-minded?
     
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  2. Philomath

    Philomath Sadhaka

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    From you post it seems you were raised as a fundamentalist Christian(correct me if I'm wrong). I was raised in a similar background though my family didn't take an absolutist stance on all topics.

    My "religion" has no absolutist stance on anything. My "religion" is dogma free, open minded, unbiased and open to intellectual freedom. In fact intellectual freedom is highly stressed in my "religion". I have no issues dealing with it.
     
  3. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    I think rationalize is the word you're looking for, rather than reconcile.
     
  4. Rainbow Mage

    Rainbow Mage Lib Democrat/Agnostic/Epicurean-ish/Buddhist-ish

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    I was raised Pentecostal and what you said describes my early 20s perfectly. I tried to hang onto Christianity as long as I could, but everything was slowly stripped away by intellectual arguments

    I doubted things like hell when I was a kid so I had a head start.

    I didn't become Polytheistic until I was 25 and was pretty much a deist at that point.

    I had some experiences I couldn't explain with the gods after deciding it was worth a shot to try invoking other gods. I was at the end of my rope with the Abrahamic religions.

    I really have no intellectual hangups now because Polytheistic religions really aren't dogmatic in that way.
     
  5. ChristineES

    ChristineES Tiggerism
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    You don't have to sacrifice your intellect in order to follow religion. A person who is religious can also choose to be open-minded, as well. I've known a great many religious people who were very open-minded and non-biased.

    I have found that the religious people with weak faith are usually the ones who are the most biased. A person with weak faith will do anything to keep that faith and that may include rejecting certain things and ideas. It doesn't work, however and instead weakened his or her faith even more. People with a strong faith will not need to do that sort of thing. Also, people new to a faith will also be rather "gung-ho".

    There are narrow-minded people everywhere, some are religious and some are not. Some believe in God and some do not. Being narrow-minded isn't limited to religious people alone. :)
     
  6. Alceste

    Alceste Vagabond

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    Good for you! I haven't had that experience personally, but I admire you for recognizing the errors in your thinking and taking steps to correct them.

    Although I haven't had a major breakthrough like this, I do constantly search my thinking for unjustifiable beliefs and pull them out like weeds. So probably the same thing, but over A longer span of time.
     
  7. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    This. :yes:
     
  8. Ridwando

    Ridwando New Member

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    I was raised in a Muslim family actually. Not much of a difference between Islam and Christianity when it comes to homosexuality, I guess. Muslims, however, will claim that Islam grants women more rights than Christianity.

    Incidentally, what exactly is your religion? Sounds fascinating.

    You are quite right.

    I only have a passing idea about Polytheism, but the notion of 'infinitely elastic' religious belief sounds fascinating. What led you to go down this path?



    Fully agree that being narrow-minded isn't limited to religious people alone. However, in the case of the particular questions that vexed me, it seems to me that adhering to a literalist interpretation of scripture can only be done by taking a biased approach. Rational and evidence-based approach have a serious possibility of over-turning the notion that, for instance, homosexuals do not deserve equal rights.

    Cheers :). An you are quite correct, we remain very susceptible to unjustified beliefs for our entire lives. I have found myself cringing quite a loot recently at how wrong my assumptions about certain political issues turned out to be wrong at closer inspection.
     
  9. Sha'irullah

    Sha'irullah رسول الآلهة

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    If something proves your religion wrong then it means your religion is not perfect and not divinely given.
    I myself cling on to some Hindu and Islamic roots but I know for a fact they were created by men who were imperfect and highly fallible. They may have had moments of 'divine inspiration' as us Deists call it but they were not meant for all of mankind because if they were, then all of mankind would receive them. We as humans can reach out to try to foolishly attempt to understand god but the plausibility of god reaching out to us is very low and illogical considering if one assigns the attribute of perfection and transcendence to him.

    I to was raised Christian and I found out numerous absurdities in the faith at a very young age. What shook me away from it was a very powerful moment when I read a book about Benjamin Franklin and heard the word deist and it read that he accept god without religion. I asked my mother about this and she said he did not believe in god because he did not accept Jesus. When I later learned about the atrocities committed thanks to Christianity it came to me that Christianity was false and not what it claimed to be. Powerful stories they may have but truth they do not.

    Here is a quote from me....
    "If god revealed the nature of hell to prophetic men as claimed in Judaic customs then surely it was those very prophets who were heading for it"

    :D awkward case of irony perhaps.
     
  10. Ridwando

    Ridwando New Member

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    Can a true believer remain absolutely open-minded and unbiased though? Will a believer, fundamentalist or otherwise, be willing to entertain the possibility that God might have been wrong in certain cases? Will he be open to the possibility that the injunctions laid down by God in the Qur'an or the New Testament (depending on whether you are a Christian or a Muslim) could turn out to be false? And if he is open to the possibility, how does he rationalize that with the idea that an All-Knowing God could not be wrong?
     
  11. ChristineES

    ChristineES Tiggerism
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    You will find that there are a lot of us who believe that at least some of our scriptures can be taken totally symbolically. There are some Christians who don't believe that homosexuality is a sin, for instance.
     
  12. ChristineES

    ChristineES Tiggerism
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    Although I believe the Bible to be divinely inspired, I believe it was written by men. So yes, the men who wrote it could be wrong and the translations could also have been translated wrong. I don't have to go as far as saying "God was wrong".
     
  13. Ridwando

    Ridwando New Member

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    Indeed, this seems like a reasonable enough stance to take. The problem is that if truly believe that your religion is divine, it will be nigh impossible to convince you that your religion is wrong on certain matters. I have seen people come up with the most extraordinarily vague waffle to justify their faith's stance on women's inheritance rights for example.

    I must admit that deism holds a certain degree of appeal for me, not least because the leap from Islam to Atheism is a formidable one.
     
  14. Philomath

    Philomath Sadhaka

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    My "religion" is Omnisim.
     
  15. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Personally, I find it only natural for everyone to be a priest of his own beliefs, and therefore to accept the responsibility of making sure that those beliefs are in fact truthful.

    So there is no conflict that I can see.
     
  16. Breathe

    Breathe Hostis humani generis

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    I'm a believer in God, and I'm willing to believe that some things attributed to God may be wrong. I'm not Christian or Muslim, though. I don't take any religious scripture as entirely and factual historical.

    I'm cool with the idea of a God who is not all knowing or all powerful, too.
     
  17. Nehustan

    Nehustan Well-Known Member

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    I actually became Muslim from an Christian background, although my mother is a secular atheist. It's funny that a good quantity of Muslims take a literal approach to the teachings of Islam, when the Quran itself states that it teaches by metaphor, allegory, thus sign; the Quran is even called 'The book of signs'.
     
    #17 Nehustan, Jun 4, 2013
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  18. AmbiguousGuy

    AmbiguousGuy Well-Known Member

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    It's like the moment when your parents lose their emotional power over you. You still may respect and love them, but they can't yank your chain anymore. Now you see them as just people who raised you, not as your masters.

    For some of us, it's the same with our childhood religions.

    Welcome to freethought.
     
  19. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    My life parallels your story in some ways, although college did not change me. I avoided 4-year dorm life college and many other things in order to keep from being influenced. I did complete community college, but I carefully avoided Philosophy classes, since I suspected them of indoctrination. I also avoided anyone who could pull me away from the truth that I knew. It was all for nothing, because I embraced too strongly the (false) teaching that a human being could be completely honest or could be in any way compatible with pure truth or could even receive truth in its purity. Such a belief inevitably draws one into an endless outwardly spiraling search, since truth itself depends upon context. The outwardly spiraling search caused me to question all things, always pursuing a chest of gold I could never find. It overturned my beliefs in the process, however it offered nothing to replace them.

    That is because the search for 'Truth' is unending for a human. Only the context will change for the seeker, contexts like layers of an onion of infinite size. Searching for truth you will find that your truth is false until you reach the next layer of context in which it will be truth...then false again outside of that context. This was what Godel found out mathematically and which he did not like, because he was like me. He believed as I once did that a human being could know 'Truth'. I'm not saying that truth doesn't exist. I'm saying that people are not equipped to know it.

    The way that I 'Balance' my head and my heart now is that I realize my head is much smaller than it feels. I allow other people to influence me, directly, as if their judgment were equal to mine, like they have a vote in what I think. Actually that makes sense, because it is true. I don't let go of my own judgment, but I try to be reasonable about the reality that my mind is very small (without announcing it). I'm trying to recognize that I'm not the only person with a brain.
     
    #19 Brickjectivity, Jun 4, 2013
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  20. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    My advice would be to ignore the labels for a while. You don't need to define yourself as an atheist, and agnostic, a deist, or anything else. In time, maybe one of those labels fits, but it will be because you work out what you believe, and hey presto...there is a label to describe that. Don't do it in reverse.

    Just be a freethinker for a while. That's a label we can all respect.
     
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