Religion not just about faith but belonging

Ian Finlay

Ian Finlay

First published in News

At the recent Interfaith Friendship Walk in Oxford, my wife and I visited the Central Mosque. We were shown round by a delightful and humble member of the Muslim community. After we had asked him many questions he confessed “I am not a very religious person but I do know how to pray.”

This moved both of us and got me thinking about my relationship with my own faith group.

Last week many Mormons were shaken by the revelation in the American press that moves to discipline two prominent members of the Church had been started. This may lead to their excommunication. One is the founder of the Ordain Women movement and the other has a blog that questions some of the basics beliefs of the Church.

Some members have asked if these individuals reject some of the basic teachings of the Church, why they wish to remain in it. I think this question fails to recognise that membership of a religious group is not just about belief; it is also about belonging. Like the two individuals involved in these Church disciplinary cases, I have doubts about some of the doctrines of Mormonism. I also have beliefs that are not currently part of mainstream Mormon theology. I am not what is referred to in the Mormon blogosphere as a True Believing Mormon or TBM.

However, I would never consider resigning from the Church and would be devastated if action were taken to remove my membership. Why am I so committed to the Church when I have differences with official Mormon doctrine? It is because being a Mormon for me is about who I am. It’s about my identity. It’s about being; not simply about belief.

Brian Mountford captured some of this in his book Christian Atheist: Belonging without Believing. I am certainly not a Mormon Atheist but I can understand the desire to identify with a religious group even if one can’t feel able to fully accept all its doctrines.

The Mormon philosopher and former US Commissioner for Education, Sterling McMurrin was himself a sceptic about many Church doctrines but he rejected the charge of apostasy, rather claiming the title heretic. The difference, as he saw it, was that apostates leave and oppose the Church whilst heretics have unorthodox beliefs but generally support the Church. There is probably no place in a religious organisation for apostates. However, the presence of heretics can only strengthen it. Either the heretics’ view will in time become seen to be stronger and will become the new orthodoxy or else their beliefs will be shown to be weaker than the existing belief and be rejected. As Dieter F Uchtdorf, stated at a recent Church conference, “We need [the] unique talents and perspectives” of all who desire to belong (Ensign, Nov 2013, p.23).

Compared with Abraham, Christ, Mohammed, Baha’u’llah and other great leaders none of us are very religious but hopefully we know how to pray.




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Comments (4)

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11:31am Mon 23 Jun 14

Zaxharias Ziegla says...

Love a good yarn - but don't take it all too seriously folks. Worth a little investigation of religions, in order to gain sufficient insight as to which consists of the largest amount of tosh. Mostly they are based upon ignorance, deceit and lack of scientific evidence; they therefore spread confusion, which partly precludes a broader more rational approach. Nevertheless, European Civilisation's acceptance of a Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism was and remains (just!) the most important moral guide.
Love a good yarn - but don't take it all too seriously folks. Worth a little investigation of religions, in order to gain sufficient insight as to which consists of the largest amount of tosh. Mostly they are based upon ignorance, deceit and lack of scientific evidence; they therefore spread confusion, which partly precludes a broader more rational approach. Nevertheless, European Civilisation's acceptance of a Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism was and remains (just!) the most important moral guide. Zaxharias Ziegla
  • Score: 0

6:01pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Oxonian says...

Zaxharias Ziegla wrote:
Love a good yarn - but don't take it all too seriously folks. Worth a little investigation of religions, in order to gain sufficient insight as to which consists of the largest amount of tosh. Mostly they are based upon ignorance, deceit and lack of scientific evidence; they therefore spread confusion, which partly precludes a broader more rational approach. Nevertheless, European Civilisation's acceptance of a Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism was and remains (just!) the most important moral guide.
I agree that many religions are tosh, but how is Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism the most important moral guide? Roman Catholic edicts have included no ordination of women, no contraception or euthanasia, and anti-homosexuality. All this plus ignoring widespread evidence of sexual abuse. If this is morality, count me out.
[quote][p][bold]Zaxharias Ziegla[/bold] wrote: Love a good yarn - but don't take it all too seriously folks. Worth a little investigation of religions, in order to gain sufficient insight as to which consists of the largest amount of tosh. Mostly they are based upon ignorance, deceit and lack of scientific evidence; they therefore spread confusion, which partly precludes a broader more rational approach. Nevertheless, European Civilisation's acceptance of a Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism was and remains (just!) the most important moral guide.[/p][/quote]I agree that many religions are tosh, but how is Judeo-Christian Roman Catholicism the most important moral guide? Roman Catholic edicts have included no ordination of women, no contraception or euthanasia, and anti-homosexuality. All this plus ignoring widespread evidence of sexual abuse. If this is morality, count me out. Oxonian
  • Score: 0

8:08pm Tue 24 Jun 14

Zaxharias Ziegla says...

I've no religious faith at all. But some of the very few reading my comments might possibly fail to appreciate Christianity's enormous role in the founding and dissemination of a European moral outlook, which was largely because of diverse elements within a centuries-long Roman Catholicism.

This was the basis for European development. And it would be well for thinking men and women today to consider Europe's heritage, from the late Roman Empire to the present, which would offer a clearer perspective on Christianity in shaping a strong moral outlook; and, in due course, a more logical, humane approach to social well-being.
I've no religious faith at all. But some of the very few reading my comments might possibly fail to appreciate Christianity's enormous role in the founding and dissemination of a European moral outlook, which was largely because of diverse elements within a centuries-long Roman Catholicism. This was the basis for European development. And it would be well for thinking men and women today to consider Europe's heritage, from the late Roman Empire to the present, which would offer a clearer perspective on Christianity in shaping a strong moral outlook; and, in due course, a more logical, humane approach to social well-being. Zaxharias Ziegla
  • Score: -1

9:52pm Tue 24 Jun 14

Oxonian says...

So the Inquisition and the Witch Trials both promoted by the Roman Catholic Church were fine examples of a "European moral outlook"? I think you'll find that nonconformists of various kinds (Quakers, Methodists, etc.) contributed far more to a moral viewpoint.
So the Inquisition and the Witch Trials both promoted by the Roman Catholic Church were fine examples of a "European moral outlook"? I think you'll find that nonconformists of various kinds (Quakers, Methodists, etc.) contributed far more to a moral viewpoint. Oxonian
  • Score: 0

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