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How closely linked are religious practice and religious belief?

How closely linked are religious practice and religious belief?

In a recent article at Religious Dispatches, Vlad Chituc, wrote about his Lenten practice of giving up dairy and eggs.  But he wasn’t Christian, in fact, he self-identifies as an atheist but;

I had just finished reading Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists, whose “maybe religion isn’t completely terrible, guys?” message made a lot more sense to me than the “religion poisons everything” vibe every other atheist book tended to give off.

Giving examples of secular Judaism, he explores the connection (or not) of religious practice and belief.  Looking at the decline of Christianity across America he wonders how that might play out if that trend continues, asking;

But what happens if—like Jews—American Christians become less religious? Do they drop the practice along with the doctrine?

And he wonders whether or not it is ethical to engage in practices that aren’t part of his personal cultural inheritance. finally deciding that there is value in such practices, even without the beliefs that once birthed and bolstered them.  Even going so far as to suggest that doing so might bring disparate communities closer together.

In Denmark, fewer than a third of Catholics actually believe in God, but the traditions and practices keep them together. I think this is more or less the future of both religion and atheism in America. I don’t think the future of atheism will look much like a Richard Dawkins book signing, but neither will Christianity look much like a bible study. Like secular Jews practicing Shabbat and atheists practicing Lent, we’ll meet at the crossroads of our cultures.

Have you experienced this?  Is this you?  Are we able to grant that accepting religious practice without belief is valuable or is it mocking?  What do you think?


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I’m not sure how I feel about this. Just like faith without works is dead, so also is works without faith. I don’t see a problem with allowing those who don’t believe in God to partake of the Eucharist—it is, after all, for everyone. But I do have an issue with such people being ordained. I firmly believe that our clergy should value their ordination vows and seek to keep the promises they made.

Lexi Grant

This brings to mind a 12-step program saying,” Fake it ’til you make it.” No opinion…just saying…
Also, for me, like liturgy, the practices take the focus from me to Other/G-d and keeps me on spiritual track when I can’t will myself into a spiritual connection, hmm, kinda like fake it til I make it, or maybe like “Function follows form” hhmmmm…

Susan Forsburg

Also, people may be interested in some of the stories Andrew Sullivan collected about religion-friendly non-believers.

Susan Forsburg

I have written extensively about this over at Friends-of-Jake, being a “secular Christian” or “cultural Christian” myself. (Although personally, I think of Lent as more about self-examination than self-denial. )

If the saying of many Episcopal churches “wherever you are on the journey of faith, you are welcome here”, it must surely mean everyone. Respectfully participating is not mockery. It’s finding common ground insofar as one is able.

Karen Armstrong wrote,
“Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.” ( The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness )

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