What does it mean to be part of a religion?
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05-04-2017, 05:04 PM
What does it mean to be part of a religion?
Let's say that I announce that I am part of religion X. What does it mean, in real terms? This is an actual choice, and is different to whether or not you are a theist, or even which religious claims you accept (these are descriptions of belief, or lack of). It's more like becoming a member of a club, to actually announce yourself as being part of a religion, as I see it.

So in what way am I part of that religion? I can think of 3 different ways, and I'm interested in what people think and if there are any more.

1) A legal sense. What is required of me to be legally part of religion X? It seems to me that I just have to state that I am, or write it on a form. Can anyone legally challenge me?

2) According to human authorities. We're all familiar with religious people calling other religious people "not a true X-ian". So either a leader figure could announce that someone isn't really part of the religion; or else it could be the opinion of any particular person or group of people. I find this bogus, because religions are always incredibly vague and wildly open to interpretation. What gives any human the authority to state who is and isn't truly part of the religion? Any rules that have been laid down for membership cannot be demonstrated to actually be "from God/whatever".

3) According to God. I would think this is the sense most important to a religious theist. If being part of a religion is a relationship with God, then the only opinion that should matter is that of God itself. This is another reason why I find the above reason to be stupid and hypocritical. If I decide that I truly believe that God wants me to live according to interpretation Y of religion X, then who is anyone else to tell me I'm not part of the religion, or even can't be part of it? Am I to be called crazy or fake for my supposed communication with God, while other people parade their same relationship around without evidence? (This wouldn't apply to an atheistic interpretation of a religion, of course.)

In conclusion, what we generally have is a load of no-true-Scotsmans going on, with humans presuming to be an authority in place of God. As far as I'm concerned, only number 1 has any bearing on reality. And I use the same criteria. If someone says they are part of religion X, then as far as I'm concerned, they are. They make that choice to be associated with it, regardless of whether they actually believe anything they go on to claim about it.

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05-04-2017, 05:39 PM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
There are a lot of variables here!

I don’t think anyone can stop you legally from feeling or advertising yourself as a part of a particular religion. For stating it on legal forms, it depends on the country and the religion as some countries do keep records of religion. If a particular religion has a well-defined structure, then I would think it would be hard to pass yourself off as a member of that religion if your theology clearly and obviously contradicts common knowledge about that religion.

For example, Mormons claim to be Christians but it’s been my experience that the feeling is far from mutual and traditional Christians do not accept Mormonism as being a valid branch of Christianity. Those of us on the outside may be well aware of the dispute and take that knowledge into consideration when listening to a Mormon insist that they’re Christian.

As for the True Christian game, I think the Christians take it a little too far as they disqualify their fellow Protestant or Catholic Christians very flippantly and for very minor, technical reasons. People know this about those Christians and every time they pull the True Christian card, it loses some of its potency.
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05-04-2017, 06:03 PM
What does it mean to be part of a religion?
In my opinion, if you belong to religion "X" that means you accept all the silly doctrines and dogmas they teach and your brain happily marches along in lockstep without a care in the world.


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05-04-2017, 06:54 PM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
1. give them money
2. give them money
3. give them money

Srsly,
1. yes, if they think you're wacked, they can excommunicate you.
2. the community can "shun" you in all sorts of ways, if they think you don't "fit in".
3. there are tons of sincere heretics in the annals of history.

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06-04-2017, 12:54 AM (This post was last modified: 06-04-2017 01:03 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
Thanks for the replies Smile

Regarding point 1 above, can I be "excommunicated" from an entire religion though? Can I be legally told I can't be a Christian, or a Muslim?

What I was trying to get at here is the very fuzzy nature of religious membership. Say I own a gym, where I get to say who is a member and who isn't. People pay to join, and then I put them on the list of members. It's very easy to decide whether some particular person is a member or not, and I am the ultimate authority on this. My word trumps anyone else's, and can easily be backed up by evidence.

This just isn't the case with a religion. I can "join" Christianity for example just by sitting at home and deciding I want to be a Christian now. I can decide how I'm going to follow it. Maybe I'll pick a standard denomination, or maybe I'll come up with my own ideas. It's pretty obvious that pretty much every single religious theist has their own slightly different version of their religion.

This is another difference. With my gym example, you're either a member or you're not. I could introduce different types of membership, but even then, you're clearly in one group or another. And I get to say which one, again backed up easily by evidence. You can't "join the gym" by just deciding you're a member while sitting at home, nor can you choose your own set of gym rules. You can of course claim to have done this kind of thing, but there is a clear way of deciding whether that claim is valid or not. Again, this just isn't so with religion. A particular denomination might have a procedure where they put people on a register a bit like a gym, or perhaps the whole religion has a register. But ultimately it's presumably God who really has the list, and we don't get to see it. At the "day of judgement" or whatever, I don't think God will be too concerned with what a guy in a silly hat has to say about who did things right.

(I suppose the fact that some people are so eager to decide who is and isn't "really" part of their religion, rather than letting everyone get on with their own thing, shows how religion is so often about control and conformity.)

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06-04-2017, 05:39 AM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
You gotta be some sort of moron to believe the stupid shit fairy tales put forth by every religion in existence, just so you can "belong" to something...

.......................................

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06-04-2017, 06:51 AM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
(05-04-2017 06:03 PM)Rachel Wrote:  In my opinion, if you belong to religion "X" that means you accept all the silly doctrines and dogmas they teach and your brain happily marches along in lockstep without a care in the world.


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> I couldn't have said it better myself. Yes
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06-04-2017, 07:03 AM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
Only religions I've ever been part of are Dudeism and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Dudeism is where it's at, man.

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06-04-2017, 07:42 AM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
(06-04-2017 12:54 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  Regarding point 1 above, can I be "excommunicated" from an entire religion though? Can I be legally told I can't be a Christian, or a Muslim?

For which country? I remember that in Denmark, you're born into the national religion and you have to choose to opt out. Citizens pay a tax to support the church as long as they're legally recognized as a member. Suppose that the national religion can excommunicate people... then in that country, it makes sense to me that it could be illegal for you to misrepresent yourself as a member.

The same for Islam in some countries, and Judaism in Israel and Native Americans or First Nations in the Americas.

If you're talking about an English speaking country, I've never heard of any law where religion is legally controlled as such that people are prevented from saying that they're Catholic or Jewish or whatever, even if the majority of the religion disagrees with them.

The Messianic Jews run around insisting that they're a Jewish movement, and there's nothing we can do about it. What we can do is deny them acknowledgment internally and refuse to fund their programs. We can bar them from gaining automatic citizenship in Israel (a right afforded to every Jew). Judaism is as much a nation as it is a religion and they don't get to just insinuate themselves onto us. Nor can you insinuate yourself onto a Native American tribe. You can call yourself Native American all you want, but you're not going to get a slice of the casino money.
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(06-04-2017 12:54 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  (I suppose the fact that some people are so eager to decide who is and isn't "really" part of their religion, rather than letting everyone get on with their own thing, shows how religion is so often about control and conformity.)

If I moved to Great Britain, would I be grated automatic citizenship and right to work and vote?

If I decide that the stop signs in my community are hereby optional, would I be stopped by a police officer and ticketed?

If I decided to dye my hair bright purple and style it in a spiked Mohawk, might I find that my employer no longer feels that I fit into the culture of the upscale restaurant where I wait tables?

Everything is about control and conformity. We're social creatures and we live our entire lives dictated by the rules of our social contracts. Religion is no different in this respect to any other group.
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10-04-2017, 05:45 AM
RE: What does it mean to be part of a religion?
Regarding point 1, I forgot that some countries would enforce such laws. I was caught up in thinking about "free" countries where it's just a matter of stating it when asked and it makes no real difference to anything.

(06-04-2017 07:42 AM)Aliza Wrote:  
(06-04-2017 12:54 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  (I suppose the fact that some people are so eager to decide who is and isn't "really" part of their religion, rather than letting everyone get on with their own thing, shows how religion is so often about control and conformity.)

If I moved to Great Britain, would I be grated automatic citizenship and right to work and vote?

I'm not sure if I was clear. I was talking about a person, or group of people, saying another person is "not a True [whatever]" because of their interpretation of a religion. If they don't have legal grounds for saying it, this is rather a meaningless no-true-scotsman statement.

I totally agree with condemning the actions of other people in the same religion, and even saying you don't feel that religion X should be about [whatever they are doing]. But to just state that it isn't about [whatever] just seems pointless to me. Clearly they think it is, and apart from God, there is no final arbiter.

And it should be possible to condemn them as human beings, without needing it to be part of the religious framework.

This is just my take on things. Your above example is different because it deals with matters of law. Law is not subject to personal interpretation in the same way religion is.

Quote:If I decide that the stop signs in my community are hereby optional, would I be stopped by a police officer and ticketed?

Yes, because this is again about law. It's also about safety. It's not dangerous just to have a different interpetation of a religion. It's the actions people take which can be dangerous, and the actions which should be condemned.

Quote:If I decided to dye my hair bright purple and style it in a spiked Mohawk, might I find that my employer no longer feels that I fit into the culture of the upscale restaurant where I wait tables?

You might indeed. But the employer will probably have a well-defined framework by which to make this judgement. It's not a matter of interpretation.

Quote:Everything is about control and conformity. We're social creatures and we live our entire lives dictated by the rules of our social contracts. Religion is no different in this respect to any other group.

I don't agree that everything is about this. In the above examples, we're dealing with law, public safety, and the preferences of the image of establishments.

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
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