Religious nostalgia
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27-06-2011, 06:27 AM
Rainbow Religious nostalgia
does anyone else out there ever feel nostalgic about the cultural elements of the religion they have left behind? and if so, I'd love to hear your thoughts about how you deal with this.
I was raised in the Anglican church (like Episcopal), but my family wasn't openly religious, it was more a cultural thing... I can trace my family tree back several hundred years in England. In my parents' house, a bible was a book you looked for if you needed a homework answer or a crossword clue, but my mother was a musician who played the organ and sang in the church choir. So for me, church was all about the glorious music - the sound of the organ, the 4 part harmony, the christmas carols....
I never really bought into the religion or believed that any of the bible was literally true, and left the church altogether in the early 1990's when my beliefs started to conflict more and more with dogma over issues like gay rights, ordination of women, abortion, etc. Then I started reading, and you know what happened next... I became full-out atheist. I haven't set foot in a church now in almost 20 years; I've been "out" to my family for about 15 or more, and "out" to my friends for at least 10 or 12 years. The more I learn about religion, the more I oppose everything it stands for.
BUT... I still love that old church music, the familiar hymns, the memories of my mother playing the piano and me standing beside her as a child singing along. I sing in a semiprofessional choir that performs masterworks by classical composers (Mozart's Requiem Mass, Vivaldi's Gloria, and the like). I have piles of CD's of christmas music and I sing along to all of them.
Recently I sorted out and disposed of all my mother's music collection.... she is in a nursing home now and I have no use for it. In addition to piano music of popular songs going back more and 100 years, there were piles of church music. I donated most of it to antique and used book stores, just wanting to find it a good home. I should have burnt the religious stuff, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. And it was painful dealing with all those memories of Mom and disposing of her belongings. But it was cathartic to finally deal with it all. Looking at a lot of that music, I realize how cheezy the lyrics are....
I don't miss the religion at all, but there is something very nostalgic about childhood memories and culture. I'm glad I got out of the church while my kids were still really young - they won't have this emotional baggage. Anyone have any comments or suggestions?

Two hands working accomplish more than a thousand clasped in prayer.
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27-06-2011, 06:42 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
I actually sorta reconciled it. It was living in Japan that helped me...

In Japan, nearly everyone is an atheist, but they love tradition and culture, so they still practice things like Obon (festival of the dead) and such. I think that we shouldn't forgot our heritage just because we don't take it literally. A good story is still a good story. Just because I think Harry Potter is a made up story, doesn't mean I can't dress up like a wizard and have a Harry Potter party.

I still celebrate Christmas and Easter, but as a secular tradition, as a participant in the Christian culture. For me, Christmas is not about Jesus or any of that bull crap, but about family, presents, and loads of delicious food.

I guess it's hard to explain, but you can still have tradition, without religious dogma.

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27-06-2011, 07:14 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
I understand how you feel. When stepping out of religion, I felt a void too. What I am missing is the ready made philosophy, the mac-donaldisch quick inspiration when your mind wants to comprehend something ungraspable.

Part of the void was filled by coming to this forum. I found other people looking for more then a superficial talk. Finally I got to talk about what occupied my mind without being laughed at (well... I hope at least Rolleyes )

The thing is, there is plenty of secular inspirational texts but you have to find them yourself. There is something satisfying in finding what you're looking for

Compared to the way my philosophical hunger is satisfied now, religion was fast food.

Observer

Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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27-06-2011, 09:22 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
I dreaded going to Church and hated my brief foray into Sunday School as a child. Although I believed God was real until I was about 12-13 yrs old, I had no use for the Catholic sermons and rituals. Thankfully I didn't have to go regularly; most of my Sundays as a child were spent playing and reading and watching TV. Because my mother's side of the family is devoutly Catholic, we were still forced to put in an appearance now and then, and weddings and funerals always included a lengthy sermon by some Priest who delighted in having a captive audience that was not entirely made up of his usual parishioners. I remember wishing they would just shut up about Jesus and the Bible and get on with the ceremony. I was also innately horrified by the Holy Communion- the "Blood of Christ" and "Body of Christ" stuff struck me as cannibalistic even as a small child. I never did take first communion or learn the catechisms, but in order to cover for my parent's "failure" to raise us as proper Catholics (thanks, Mom- I love you!) whenever we were with her family in Church my brother and I had to join the line and take communion as if we did so every Sunday. (That is a serious sin, by the way.) I remember whenever we went to visit my grandparents on my mother's side we were always instructed to lie about attending Church regularly. My grandmother, who was such a devout Catholic she left all her money to the Church instead of her family, would always ask us "How was Church this morning?" whenever we arrived for a visit (which was always on a Sunday afternoon so we wouldn't get roped into attending a Saturday night Mass), and we always said, "Fine." Thankfully, she never questioned us beyond that, because it would have become quickly obvious that we hadn't attended Church in quite some time. I guess not questioning anything you're told helps the devoutly religious person maintain their comfortable delusions.

After my mother's parents died we no longer had to pretend to be practising Catholics and I do not miss those interminable sermons, the ritual cannibalism, the prayers and hymns, the guilt and the threats of eternal damnation one bit. If I never have to step foot inside a Catholic Church again I will be quite content.

The way to see by Faith, is to shut the eye of Reason. - Ben Franklin
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27-06-2011, 10:06 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
My parents only ever took me to church when I was really little, so I don't remember much about it and I don't have anything to be nostalgic about. But, that being said, I can understand your nostalgia. Instead of religion, I grew up with martial arts. My dad, my brother, and I were a part of a history that we could trace back to occupied Okinawa during Japanese imperialism. There are a lot of very formal, traditional rituals that are associated with martial arts (a lot of bowing, some meditating, etc.) and so I guess it's similar to being part of a religion. We also had a sense of community in that we got to know a lot of people in our dojo and in other dojos nearby and associated with us.

So, I guess what I'm saying - in a long-winded, roundabout way - is that one way to fill the void that an ex-theist may feel after giving up religion is to fill it with a secular equivalent. Nowadays, I fill it with the history of the English language and its literature because these things are an intrinsic part of English-speaking cultures. As for yourself, you just need to find your new niche as well, whatever that may be Tongue

"Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." - Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula
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27-06-2011, 04:36 PM
RE: Religious nostalgia
There is nothing like belting out amazing grace in the shower. Or burning incense in the evening. Just sayin'. Smile
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27-06-2011, 04:37 PM
RE: Religious nostalgia
Well, I do recall fondly that nice little village church with the whitewashed adobe walls and plain wooden furnishings; girls in flowered dresses and freshly-ironed hankies walking down the main street in pairs and threes; the quiet solemnity of sharing bread and wine.. . I don't exactly miss it, since it was so very long ago, but definitely feel nostalgic sometimes, and conjure up that image, that mood, whenever i feel very impatient with believers. I keep it as a touchstone in my memory.

I think that's what you can most positively do about the things you've lost - people who died or let you down, schooldays, triumphs that can never be repeated, causes you can no longer support, beliefs you can no longer carry - preserve an image of them in memory, at their best, like a photo portrait by Karsh, that you can call up any time you want. Just because you left something behind, that doesn't mean you must forever relinquish ownership. It's part of your experience, your history.

And i still enjoy religious music; sing it and whistle it, and get a charge out of visiting the Salvation Army thrift store, especially when they have on that record Eight Hundred Pound Jesus. I very nearly dance to that thing.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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27-06-2011, 05:06 PM
RE: Religious nostalgia
(27-06-2011 04:36 PM)LadyJane Wrote:  There is nothing like belting out amazing grace in the shower. Or burning incense in the evening. Just sayin'. Smile

Goddam, just 'cause I've given up on God doesn't mean I've given up on Mahalia Jackson. Wink

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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28-06-2011, 03:09 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
thanks everyone... there's some good suggestions here. Since leaving religion, I have found a lot more people (both online and in my local humanist group) expressing the sentiments of HotRodMike, who doesn't miss anything, than Peterkin, who shares some of my nostalgia.
I have yet to meet another musician who understands what it's like to sing Mozart's Requiem Mass as an atheist.... such glorious music with meaningless words. I have reconsidered several times recently whether I should continue with my present choir or whether I'm just torturing myself and prolonging my frustration by singing this stuff.... I could probably find another community choir that sings more fun stuff with less religious content. At our last concert we sang Poulenc's Stabat Mater.... if that's not familiar, google the title "Stabat Mater" for a translation. It's a 12th or 13th century poem supposedly of the lamentations of Mary watching Jesus on the cross, sung in Latin. Ugh!
But then is there a community choir anywhere that doesn't sing anything religious? Is it possible to escape religion anywhere in the musical community? It's pretty pervasive.
Finding other outlets is good. I do genealogy, so I can trace my heritage back in England and appreciate it. But I know if and when I get to England for a holiday, I will end up in old churches tracing marriage and baptismal records and looking for headstones. Like it or not, it's a part of my history. Thanks for that sympathy, Peterkin.

Two hands working accomplish more than a thousand clasped in prayer.
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28-06-2011, 04:07 AM
RE: Religious nostalgia
I still like to listen to Bach while almost all his music is religiously inspired...

Then again: I also never thought of Star Wars being a bad movie because it's fiction...

Observer

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Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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