Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mourning the death of an idea (part 2)

Hebrews 10:24-2: The loss of a cohesive community

The ideas advanced by the brand of Christianity I grew up with may have been very bad, but the Christians I knew were really good people. Although I no longer accept the claims made by Christianity, I have a high amount of respect – and I still look up to – many of the religious mentors and friends I knew and still know today. They are some of the most caring, thoughtful and wise people that I know and many of them hold the same values as I do.

I will say it right now that I have no regrets growing up in the Christian groups I found myself in as a teenager and young adult (I've written about this before). I was lucky: as a shy 14 year-old, I joined the youth group of a local church and even now I consider that as was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Being part of a group that really cared for me, despite my social awkwardness, is something that changed me for the better. And I regard the stable Christian community of my youth as one of the things that successfully steered me through a turbulent adolescence.

As an atheist, I sometimes miss this support structure. One's religious identification is far more than just a private matter: it has social consequences on whether you are accepted into a group or not, and whether you can easily take advantage of resources or networks within that group, let it be emotional, social, or otherwise.

I often wonder if one of the consequences of living in a multicultural and multi-religious society is having to deal with the fragmentation of large support groups based on race, language or religion. No longer being religious, one has to concentrate on building other types of social support, through friends and family, for example.

But the sheer size and single minded vision of the Christian network - which emphasises community, support and acceptance - is something that I sometimes still miss. The warm smiles greeting me at the church door, the reaffirming of beliefs by a large group of people during praise and worship, and the cozy background chatter of friendly voices around muffins and coffee after the Sunday service. I feel a sense of loss for these things; a sense of loss for the community I left behind.

Next post: Psalm 139. The loss of fully being known.
Click here to return to Part 1 of 'Mourning the death of an idea'