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.




Our top stories:

Tributes paid to man found stabbed to death on Abingdon riverbank

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 21st October 2014

A WOMAN was last night being held in custody on suspicion of murder after a man was found fatally stabbed in Abingdon.

UPDATE: Woman, 40, appears in court charged with murder after a man was stabbed in Abingdon

Oxford Mail:

10:03am Tuesday 21st October 2014

A WOMAN has appeared in court charged with murder after a man was stabbed in Abingdon on Sunday night.

Pensioner dies in hospital after motorbike crash

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

3:39pm Tuesday 21st October 2014

A 74-year-old  man who was injured when his motorcycle collided with a car last month has died in hospital.

Robber sent to prison for part in £11,000 Park End Street attack

Oxford Mail: Oxford Crown Court

9:00am Tuesday 21st October 2014

A ROBBER who beat a man up as a distraction while his accomplice stole £11,000 from his victim’s wife has been jailed.

Let Oxford expand beyond its boundaries says housing crisis report

Oxford Mail: oxford city council logo

7:30am Tuesday 21st October 2014

OXFORD is an example of a city which should be allowed to grow beyond its boundaries, according to a national report.

Drop former English Defence League leader as speaker, Oxford Union urged

Oxford Mail: The Oxford Union

6:40am Tuesday 21st October 2014

NEARLY 200 Oxford academics, students, councillors and trade union leaders have signed an open letter calling for the Oxford Union to cancel an invitation to the former leader of the English Defence League to speak.

Comments (4)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

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

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree