26 votes

Crisis of Identity for A Guy Given No Direction

Hey Tildians,

This is going to be a really long post that is an ongoing search and conversation I am having with myself. Its going to be about religion and culture. Sorry for the shitty title, I am really bad at coming up with titles, I tend to ramble a lot.

I'm currently going through a crisis both of faith and cultural identity. Not because I am questioning either, but because I have never had either. I'm a white man from america. Growing up as a kid, my parents gave me the option to look at religions and choose one if any that spoke to me. None did, so I didn't go for a long time. In high school I attended Methodist Church every weekend because I felt pressured by my Boy Scout troop to be Christian, the Methodist Church let us use their church for our meetings despite none of the troop being members of the church, and the priest there at the time was a really great guy that I liked a lot. I spent a lot of time talking about faith with him and eventually, he said to me "let's face it, you don't believe the things I am preaching. That is completely fine. You're welcome in the church, it'll always be home, I'm always here to talk about faith or life or anything, but you don't believe in Christianity and you owe it to yourself to try and find something you do believe." And he was right, I didn't. So I studied a few things here and there and none ever stuck. So I've just been agnostic. But I desperately want to believe in a religion and have a sense of community and just, something to tie my individual beliefs to the world and know other people feel the same way I do.

Similarly, I grew up pretty much "American". I know my heritage is from Ireland, Poland, UK, Croatia, Germany because I did reports on ancestry in school, but they've never been a part of my identity. We never talk about being from Poland other than explaining to people why my last name is spelled the way it is (WHICH IS STUPID BECAUSE IT'S NOT A WEIRD SPELLING OR PRONOUNCED DIFFERENT THAN IT LOOKS). It just isn't a thing. I've always envied my friends whose families are very proud and invested in their heritage. And that's not for a lack of trying, I've tried to get invested in them, but there aren't really communities around me for it, my family doesn't give a shit, and even if I did, I'm like 15% everything so it doesn't feel like I'm REALLY from that culture. I guess that's why some people are so extreme about being American. They're such a mix of so many different European countries that if a parent isn't invested in a specific culture, it's hard to identify with any single one, so they rally behind America. It is all they have.

I don't know. It's very weird crisis that came out of nowhere in the stupidest ways (rewatching avatar and then having a crisis of faith looking at a chacra candle in a used book store). I've realized that I am paralyzed by the lack of a foundation of my identity. Personality traits and political views and hobbies are all malleable and change over time and so what I define myself as now could be completely gone and irrelevant in 2 years time and something about that terrifies me. It makes me wish there was something I could tie myself to that doesn't change, like what country my family is from. And if not that, an felling like I undestand the world around me would be great, and something religion provides. Also, the community wouldn't be something I'd hate to have.

Tangentially to this, I'm having a weird relationship with faith in another way. I keep finding myself gravitating towards budhism. I don't know why, but it just is what I keep ending up looking at. I have 6 different bibles, a torrah, and a quran that I've read. None feel quite right. I keep ending up reading more about budism. But I feel SO WEIRD about it. It feels like I'm that white dude everyone hates that wont stop talking about budism. I don’t know. I know I shouldn’t let the outside world’s perceptions affect my religious views. But that doesn’t mean it is easy not to.

Guess to make this more of a convo I’ll ask some questions to generate discussion:

Religious folks: How has growing up with a religion effected your life? Do you think you’d be a drastically different person without it?

Atheists: How weird does this sound to you? Did you go through a similar crisis before landing on atheism

People who grew up with a strong cultural identity: How has that effected your life? Are you generally happy that you have that identity and community? Were there ever times you wished you weren’t a part of it?

27 comments

  1. suspended
    Link
    First and foremost I want to applaud you for your brutal honesty and courage. Please, allow me to begin with some straightforward things that most of western society has been aware of for quite...

    First and foremost I want to applaud you for your brutal honesty and courage.

    Please, allow me to begin with some straightforward things that most of western society has been aware of for quite some time. These are, also, generalizations.

    Number one: We are social beings and seek to be a part of what is going on around us. This is sociology at its fundamental level. How we choose to organize ourselves is another endeavor.

    Number two: Our beliefs (or intellectual assents) are incredibly diverse. There are no black and white beliefs (i.e. false dichotomy). Furthermore, beliefs cannot be argued inside a scientific historical-critical method.

    Let me now, in my humble opinion, briefly discuss the issue of belonging/family/culture. First, there is a romanticized idea that people should have some such origin stories in which to cling to for their personal identity. And I have had this desire before and understand its allure.

    On the other hand, if you stop and contemplate who you are as a human being, then you can easily see that you are unique like every snowflake that has ever struck the earth. Your physical body is composed of everything that is contained across the entire universe. Simply put, every human being that is and ever was is a universe in and of itself.

    A very close friend of mine, who is agnostic, put it to me this way:

    The conditions in order to support the overwhelming biodiverse life on this planet is astronomical.

    Personally, the closest that I've come to defining my own beliefs is an agnostic theist.

    I am in the middle of my life, have struggled with most of what you have written, and I'm willing to guide you more. That is up to you, of course.

    10 votes
  2. jmillikin
    Link
    Do you have any other hobbies or interests? You may find satisfaction in joining a community based on what you do, rather than where you were born or the geographic distribution of your ancestors....

    Do you have any other hobbies or interests? You may find satisfaction in joining a community based on what you do, rather than where you were born or the geographic distribution of your ancestors.

    Atheists: How weird does this sound to you? Did you go through a similar crisis before landing on atheism

    I am not religious, and grew up in an extremely religious part of the USA. The wording "landing on atheism" makes it sound like being non-religious is a decision to be made carefully after research, but in my perspective it's merely the default behavior when no religious option is especially compelling. It's not like you must attend religious services, after all. And we are all born atheist.

    If you feel a strong desire for religion but dislike the supernatural aspects, you might try writing down a list of what you want instead (social activities, community outreach, ancient ceremonies). Then go looking for one that fits your goals.

    I'm like 15% everything so it doesn't feel like I'm REALLY from that culture.

    Many cultures have the concept of assimilating outsiders. You may not feel especially Polish, but it's not like there's a genetic test for Polish-ness, and nobody can stop you from joining a culture you feel comfortable with. You also don't need to restrict your search to cultures associated with your genetic lineage. The place in the world you feel most at home at may be Jamaica, or Italy, or even further afield. If you have the means for international travel, try visiting a few different areas of the world and see which ones match your personality.

    Note: depending on where you live in the USA, openly asserting a European cultural identity may be frowned upon. If you like to wear logos, be aware that in the US many traditional symbols are associated with nationalist groups (ADL has a partial list).

    7 votes
  3. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    It might be worth asking why you seek an identity, rather than what identity you should seek. I feel like it should be entirely possible to exist as a person defined only by what you are, in this...

    It might be worth asking why you seek an identity, rather than what identity you should seek. I feel like it should be entirely possible to exist as a person defined only by what you are, in this very moment, without burden or obligation to adhere to a specific compass.

    I'm a nihilist and have recently wondered about what that means for me. Even if everything means nothing, that doesn't mean that nothing has to mean anything to me. So far I'm still trying to figure out what my sense of meaning comes from as well, but I don't have any expectation for it to be permanent. My thoughts and feelings vary on a daily basis, so my core beliefs need not be any less ephemeral.

    “You're under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.”

    ― Alan Watts

    5 votes
  4. moriarty
    Link
    Honestly, it sounds like what you're looking for isn't a religion, but a community. Which makes total sense to me, seeing how American life is so disjointed and individualistic. As a new immigrant...

    Honestly, it sounds like what you're looking for isn't a religion, but a community. Which makes total sense to me, seeing how American life is so disjointed and individualistic. As a new immigrant to this country, this is what stuck me the most - there is no sense of community nor any sense of mutual responsibility of people to one another. There are many things I love about living here, but this (and food) is what I miss most. People live their lives ensconced in their homes and very rarely interact meaningfully with one another.
    I think I shared your sense of alienation growing up - I never felt like I belonged in my home country - I disliked the religion and the community that was thrust upon me seemed quaint and intrusive - so from a very young age hatched plans to leave. I travelled around a lot and got to live in 3 continents over 15 years. Ironically, this is what strengthened my sense of identity and belonging. I found myself missing home, missing my language and culture, missing understanding instinctively people's behavior, missing the holidays I always suffered through. It strengthened my relationship with my parents, despite the distances. I wouldn't recommend it - despite loving my life right now, I came to the realization that I will always feel uprooted here, I would never know how to behave instinctively with people, my children will never know my culture like I do. What to me was my life, to them will always sound like tall tales from the 'old country'. But I would definitely recommend traveling! There's nothing to give you perspective quite like traveling and seeing other cultures. Talking to people and listening to their lives. It's what allowed me to reflect back on my own life and culture. And what more - traveling allowed me to reinvent myself. When you're away from family and friends who've known you for years, you can try on different personas and experiment with the kind of person you maybe want to be. There's nobody there to hold you down and tell you 'this isn't like you'. You can try being more outgoing, friendlier, more direct and people wouldn't know this isn't you.
    As for day-to-day life, I would highly recommend getting out of your shell and looking for other groups of people to interact with. They don't need to be religion-oriented, you can try board-games or hiking, go out and try talking to your neighbors and maybe invite them over for dinner. Maybe try some volunteer work around your community. Or even go out and try to find other people also interested in Buddhism to talk to. The most important thing is - get out of your head. :)

    5 votes
  5. [8]
    Silbern
    Link
    Atheist here: to be honest, I have a hard time relating to this. I'm a very rational and science driven guy, and I've never felt motivated to believe or investigate any beliefs in a higher power...

    Atheist here: to be honest, I have a hard time relating to this. I'm a very rational and science driven guy, and I've never felt motivated to believe or investigate any beliefs in a higher power because there isn't any real world evidence to suggest that such a thing exists. I do have quite an interest in eastern and Pacific Islander religions (including Buddhism), but only from an academic and curiosity perspective, not from a genuine belief. If I really had to push to give myself an identity, I suppose I'd pick secular humanist, and you may find it interesting too. It's a philosophy of sorts that rejects theistic or superstition beliefs, but retains the communal aspects common to many religions, and where the higher purpose is the advancement and progress of humanity. That would be the cause I consider myself already dedicated to, and I'm only not really interested in the social nature since I'm not a very social guy in the first place.

    However, if Buddhism really speaks to you, I'd really encourage you to look down that path. Buddhism has, for the most part, always been an intensely introspective and individualistic religion; one of the core tenants of it is letting go of your attachment to the shallow nature of reality, and instead examine and embrace the permanence of things. It's a very tolerant religion that tends to be very embracing of outsiders, and nobody will think any less of you for being white. If it speaks to you, I sincerely think it's at least worth your time to go and check it out. And if the idea of a temple or a meeting group doesn't appeal to you, you can actually teach and practice a lot of aspects of it by yourself, using the internet and written works as a resource.

    3 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Impermanence (transient nature) of things, not permanence. :P And I second the encouragement, and can vouch for the tolerant nature bit too. I have been on Zen Buddhist meditation retreats a few...

      and instead examine and embrace the permanence of things

      Impermanence (transient nature) of things, not permanence. :P

      And I second the encouragement, and can vouch for the tolerant nature bit too. I have been on Zen Buddhist meditation retreats a few times over the years, and used to regularly go to a local Kadampa center too. At least in North America, nobody I have ever encountered in the Buddhist community cared about the colour of my skin. If you're there to earnestly partake and genuinely interested in learning, everyone is usually very welcoming and more than happy to answer questions and assist you.

      p.s. I do not consider myself a Buddhist as I don't believe in reincarnation or nirvana/enlightenment, but still think many of the core tenets are worth following and have practiced Zazen meditation for over 20 years now

      1 vote
    2. [6]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      These two (i.e. theism and superstition) are not equal.

      rejects theistic or superstition beliefs

      These two (i.e. theism and superstition) are not equal.

      1. [5]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        An argument could be made that theism is a type of superstition.

        An argument could be made that theism is a type of superstition.

        1 vote
        1. [4]
          suspended
          Link Parent
          Personally, I am an agnostic theist. I'd love to read it. On the other hand, as I've stated before in this thread, beliefs cannot be argued inside a scientific historical-critical method. Another...

          Personally, I am an agnostic theist.

          ...theism is a type of superstition.

          I'd love to read it. On the other hand, as I've stated before in this thread, beliefs cannot be argued inside a scientific historical-critical method.

          Another way that could be understood is thus:

          Science (or the scientific method) cannot explain or have the answers to everything that we would like to know.

          1. [3]
            Algernon_Asimov
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Superstition is a belief that there are magical non-scientific forces, which can be invoked or warded off with the right rituals. Religion is a belief that there is one or many magical...

            Superstition is a belief that there are magical non-scientific forces, which can be invoked or warded off with the right rituals.

            Religion is a belief that there is one or many magical non-scientific forces, which can be invoked or warded off with the right rituals.

            EDIT: I omitted a very important "non-"!

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              suspended
              Link Parent
              Religion is a man made construct centered around what a person does (i.e. practice). The etymology and current use of the word 'superstition' is muddled and can, therefore, be argued to no end....

              Religion is a man made construct centered around what a person does (i.e. practice).

              The etymology and current use of the word 'superstition' is muddled and can, therefore, be argued to no end.

              Again, our current use of the scientific historical-critical method cannot be used to argue about individual beliefs.

              1 vote
              1. Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                So is superstition: it's a man-made construct centred around what a person does. People avoid walking under ladders, people throw salt over their shoulders, people avoid numbering a floor "13",...

                Religion is a man made construct centered around what a person does (i.e. practice).

                So is superstition: it's a man-made construct centred around what a person does. People avoid walking under ladders, people throw salt over their shoulders, people avoid numbering a floor "13", people look for 4-leaf clovers, and so on. They perform these practices because they believe that what they do will influence the world through supernatural means: by doing certain things and/or not doing certain others, they will attract good luck and/or deflect bad luck.

                To me, that looks like a man-made construct centred around what people do - which is how you describe religion. Religion similarly has practices which are intended to attract good outcomes and deflect bad outcomes by influencing supernatural forces.

                This isn't about etymology. Otherwise, "awful" would be a good adjective used to describe things that inspire awe. It's about actual similarities in real life between superstitious practices and religious rituals.

                1 vote
  6. [5]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    This sounds very fucking weird. For context: I didn't "land on" atheism. I've been atheist since the day I was born. I was simply never raised to believe in any religion; my parents never imposed...

    Atheists: How weird does this sound to you? Did you go through a similar crisis before landing on atheism

    This sounds very fucking weird.

    For context: I didn't "land on" atheism. I've been atheist since the day I was born. I was simply never raised to believe in any religion; my parents never imposed that on me.

    And I've never felt a need to replace something I never had. I know, from reading a lot of ex-theists' stories on the internet (especially American ones), that they feel like something is missing from their lives after they deconvert. And that's only natural, because their religion took up mental space in their minds and temporal space in their weekly schedule. Take that away, and it feels like there's a gap that needs to be filled. But I have no such gap because my atheism is not an absence. It's not a gap left by something that was removed. It's a natural core part of me: it's just how I've always been.

    I desperately want to believe in a religion and have a sense of community and just, something to tie my individual beliefs to the world and know other people feel the same way I do.

    Belief and community are two separate things. Sure, religious people fill both needs with one thing: church. But it doesn't have to be like that.

    Why do you want to believe in a religion? Is it because there's a need in you to embrace the numinous? Or is it just that you feel isolated and want to be part of a group? If it's the latter, that's a very poor reason for signing up to a religion.

    If you want a sense of community, it should be based on something you actually believe and/or like and/or want. Some people get their sense of community from being part of a sporting team, or from joining a political/activist organisation, or from volunteering with a charity. Find something you actually connect with, and join up to a group that is involved in that thing you feel a connection to. That will give you a more authentic feeling of community than trying to fit yourself into a group that you're just not connected to.

    I'm like 15% everything so it doesn't feel like I'm REALLY from that culture. I guess that's why some people are so extreme about being American. They're such a mix of so many different European countries that if a parent isn't invested in a specific culture, it's hard to identify with any single one, so they rally behind America. It is all they have.

    I'm a mongrel like you (although not quite to the same degree). My parents are both migrants to Australia (each from different parts of Europe), and I'm a first-generation Australian. My culture is Australian. I'm not part-this and part-that and other-Australian... I'm just Australian. That's my culture.

    Why isn't "American" your culture? Why do you feel a need to identify with a culture that's not yours? Why can't you be American?


    EDIT: Typo.

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      jmillikin
      Link Parent
      American culture is extremely heterogenous, to the extent that whether "American culture" exists or can be described is an active topic of internet-debate in places that care about this sort of...

      Why isn't "American" your culture? Why do you feel a need to identify with a culture that's not yours? Why can't you be American?

      American culture is extremely heterogenous, to the extent that whether "American culture" exists or can be described is an active topic of internet-debate in places that care about this sort of thing. It would be like trying to define "Oceanic culture" by analysis of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Hawaii. Americans commonly group culture regionally (midwestern, north-eastern "yankee", southern, etc) for this reason.

      Second, Americans often have a very strong association between culture and ethnic background. Identifying as "culturally American" or "ethnically American" is associated with right-wing politics, whereas members of the left-wing prefer more granular identification. This effect is strong enough to see on electoral maps, e.g. In Donald Trump's America, more people claim 'American' ancestry; census data shows. This can be pretty tense if you have left-wing politics but don't feel connected enough to any particular ancestral culture.

      2 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        So is Australian culture. We're not all clones of Crocodile Dundee. Remember: 25% of us were born overseas, and another 25% of us have at least one parent who was born overseas. We're more diverse...

        American culture is extremely heterogenous,

        So is Australian culture. We're not all clones of Crocodile Dundee. Remember: 25% of us were born overseas, and another 25% of us have at least one parent who was born overseas. We're more diverse than we let on.

        And, just like in the USA, patriotism is becoming synonymous with racism. If someone has a tattoo of the Southern Cross (a southern stellar constellation depicted on the Australian flag), they're almost certainly a racist.

        But I'm still Australian, even if I don't drink beer, watch the footy, or hate non-Anglos.

        I was asking @Micycle_the_Bichael why he doesn't identify as American. He doesn't necessarily have to identify as a Trump supporter to identify as an American. Given that he was born and raised in the USA (just like I was born and raised in Australia), it would make sense for him to identify as an American ahead of any other culture, such as his parents' cultures (just like I identify as an Australian ahead of any other culture, such as my parents' cultures).

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Neverland
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        This is a defining aspect of American culture to me, and one the main reasons I love America as a whole. I love Korean BBQ tacos, I love Ethiopian food, I love American soul food. All of those,...

        American culture is extremely heterogenous

        This is a defining aspect of American culture to me, and one the main reasons I love America as a whole. I love Korean BBQ tacos, I love Ethiopian food, I love American soul food. All of those, and Phó are 2 blocks from home. Right now I’m looking down the bar at probably 6 different nationalities. I don’t like it for diversity’s sake, I just find heterogeneous culture way more interesting.

        But my experience is not average. I emigrated from Poland as a child, and I’ve lived there as an adult. I’ve seen what extremely homogeneous culture looks like and I just find it boring after a while.

        The whole melting pot thing is American culture to me, to a large extent. It’s the overarching thing. I’ve lived all over this country and the USA is a bunch of very unique states. Like you said, it’s impossible to try to identify a single culture in a giant country which contains the crazy variety we have, even of just people with European ancestry. But the melting pot thing holds in most states in the US.

        2 votes
        1. culturedleftfoot
          Link Parent
          I'd say the US is more of a patchwork quilt than any kind of melting pot. As much as there is great variety to be found within America, what has been generally accepted as American culture has...

          I'd say the US is more of a patchwork quilt than any kind of melting pot. As much as there is great variety to be found within America, what has been generally accepted as American culture has been pretty homogenous up until the last 15 years or so, the current era of the internet and "culture wars." Your perspective is gaining ground but you may only be very recently in the majority, if at all.

          1 vote
  7. SunSpotter
    Link
    In a lot of ways I feel similarly to you, but there are some differences. I was raised religious but eventually became an agnostic theist like @suspended. I was also raised in a very white...

    In a lot of ways I feel similarly to you, but there are some differences. I was raised religious but eventually became an agnostic theist like @suspended. I was also raised in a very white household without much real culture. My family is 'Irish' to the extent that we make a traditional Irish dinner for St.Patricks day. The other 364 days of the year we are very blandly American.

    I've found the answer is to culture myself.

    In terms of religion, believe what you want to believe. For example, I want to believe in a benevolent force that judges people fairly and independent of their tribalistic beliefs. I want to believe in an afterlife more complexed than unfathomable eternal splendor, or eternal fiery torment. There is no real reason for me to believe in these things, but I want to believe them because they give me security, and that's all that religion has ever been anyways. You must face the possibility that there is no 'right' religion for you, and instead form you own vague beliefs based on your own personal values.

    In terms of actual culture, form opinions, hobbies, interests, even new foods or clothing styles. Try new things, and see how they change you. Some people might say that doing so makes you 'fake' because you didn't seek these things out of a natural interest. But honestly that's just snobbery, plain and simple. If you try something out, make it a part of yourself, and end up enjoying it, that's something more wonderful than staying in any kind of bubble ever could be. Do it with a friend whenever you can, I have and honestly its made things much easier, and pushed me to do things I'm not sure I would have otherwise.

    2 votes
  8. knocklessmonster
    Link
    I was critical of certain things I was taught in Sunday School since I started going at like 4. Little logical things like "if God can part the ocean for Noah, why can't he make mommy and daddy...

    How weird does this sound to you? Did you go through a similar crisis before landing on atheism?

    I was critical of certain things I was taught in Sunday School since I started going at like 4. Little logical things like "if God can part the ocean for Noah, why can't he make mommy and daddy stop smoking so they live longer?" I had little questions like that that became mountains of doubt. The answer was never concrete enough for me as a four year old, and my entire life the "God works in mysterious ways" thing never really flew with me, nor did the idea you could be a terrible sinner and repent on your deathbed, even if you were Hitler. I had a series of nightmares about Armageddon happening when I was like 12, and decided I was done. There was a scary five years where I had to seriously rethink morality and ethics without the religious framework I had learned, but it sort of started to fit together around when I turned 18.

    I'm not quite Atheist, if anything I'm a Buddhist, but the approach I take it from is more philosophical, but I'm not searching for God or anything, as I'm absolutely certain he doesn't exit. There are schools of Buddhism that add whole heaps of mystical stuff to Buddhism, but I try to go by the very core ideas, and assume everything else was either a product of the region a particular interpretation (Indian schools), or venerate an individual as the reincarnation of Siddharta Gautama (see Tibetan Buddhsim with the Dalai Lama). The work of Brad Warner is pretty good if you want to dip your toes in to a very stripped-down flavor of Zen that he learned from his master, Gudo Wafu Nishijima. He said in one book what it took me a decade to realize about Buddhism (he, and his teacher Gudo Nishijima, take a very basic, literal interpretation of Shobogenzo and the teachings of Bodhidharma, the first person to teach Ch'an Buddhism in China, which would eventually get to Japan and become Zen). I'm still bad about meditation, but do it occasionally, but found, early on the eightfold path and four noble truths provide a decent framework to live by.

    1 vote
  9. vivaria
    (edited )
    Link
    I don't really spend any time at all thinking about god/religion. I'm less an atheist and more a "well, whatever? This doesn't concern me and my day-to-day life." It's not really something that's...

    I don't really spend any time at all thinking about god/religion. I'm less an atheist and more a "well, whatever? This doesn't concern me and my day-to-day life." It's not really something that's a part of my identity, and not something I choose to think about. A void, rather than acceptance/denial.

    Ditto with the cultural identity bit. It wasn't a part of my upbringing, and to be frank, I don't have any real ties to my family. I text my mum every now and then, but we're not, um... particularly close? My dad situation is even more complicated. (Dad 1: deadbeat, dad 2: divorced, wasn't over dead ex-wife, dad 3: died when I was 14, dad 4: BPD, wouldn't accept help, disappeared.) It's hard to imagine feeling any sort of connection to my heritage! I don't spend time with the people I'm connected to by blood. I don't talk to any cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents. I don't have any stories passed down from generation to generation. I don't have a clue what my genetics are, or where my ancestors are from. I'm just... me. A human? I feel like a bit of a lone wolf, and feel alienated when family and culture come up in media.

    As far as my personal identity goes... well, I go through crises on a weekly basis, lol. I feel like a bit of a black sheep, with or without the 2 factors you describe. I don't fit in with most of the friends and colleagues I've made throughout uni. I've never really felt like part of a group or community, despite craving that for some time now. Everywhere I look, I see people who are... living lives that don't interest me. Doing things that don't get me excited! Connecting over commonality that doesn't seem to include me. That's not for a lack of trying! I try and try to connect and spend time with others, but it just doesn't work for some reason. Even within my hobbies, I feel like an outsider. I'm hoping one day I'll feel like I belong.... somewhere? That's part of why I joined Tildes. But I don't have the highest of hopes, really. I float in and out of others' lives without ever finding anyone to stick to.

    To address your concerns (if I'm even an appropriate person to do so, hah): The two factors you list don't have to be an integral part of your identity. It's not mandatory! Despite how those around you prioritize these things, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to, too. Which is... a really tough pill to swallow. "Hey, you know the norms you're inundated with on a daily basis? Those don't have to be a part of your life!" A statement like that sounds nice and logical until you head back out into the world and continue to be bombarded with their influence on societies all across the world. It can feel isolating to have a void where other people have something, be it theism/atheism or a cultural heritage. But, identities are complex and multifaceted, and can be built from different foundations.

    1 vote
  10. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Humans are social animals. The desire to feel a sense of community, of being part of a larger whole, seems to be a universal human quest. Sometimes it's called religion, sometimes it's called...

    But I desperately want to believe in a religion and have a sense of community and just, something to tie my individual beliefs to the world and know other people feel the same way I do.

    Humans are social animals. The desire to feel a sense of community, of being part of a larger whole, seems to be a universal human quest. Sometimes it's called religion, sometimes it's called something else.

    I keep finding myself gravitating towards budhism.

    If you haven't read it already, I'd recommend Why Buddhism is True. The central thesis of the book is that Buddhism, unlike other religions or belief systems, has accumulated a large amount of peer-reviewed scientific evidence supporting its teachings.

    It feels like I'm that white dude everyone hates that wont stop talking about budism.

    What do you call a Buddhist who experiences anxiousness when talking about Buddhism?

    a Buddhist

    What do you call a Buddhist who does not experience anxiousness when talking about Buddhism?

    a Buddhist

    1 vote
  11. Dovey
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    It's funny, I've been wondering recently how it happened that many of my relatives ended up so strongly religious. We were mostly raised in the United Church of Canada, which is a fairly low-key,...

    It's funny, I've been wondering recently how it happened that many of my relatives ended up so strongly religious. We were mostly raised in the United Church of Canada, which is a fairly low-key, flexible form of Christianity, but some of my relatives switched to a more evangelical church when they grew up. They're not obnoxious about it but it catches me off guard at times, especially since I've moved away from the notion of Christianity and into... whatever it is I believe now. (A higher power I call God, but no formal institutions for me. The closest I got was exploring Quakerism for a year or two, but I don't feel the need to attend meeting with other people so I gave it up.) I've also just discovered an old high school friend is now intensely religious, although I don't remember her being into it back then. I guess this is all to say that being raised one way doesn't mean you can't veer off in any direction you want later in life. I think your core values are part of you whether you're in a religion or not. I imagine I'd be basically the same person if I hadn't attended church and Sunday school when I was young.

    As for cultural background, I don't feel much connection either. I was adopted, so do I identify with my birth family or my adoptive one? Doesn't much matter, since we're all WASP-y Canadians who don't pay much attention to what happened four or five generations back. I remember wishing in the past to "be something" less wishy-washy, but I think I'm over that.

    These are big questions you're wrestling with, but there isn't necessarily a final answer. Try religions if you want. Maybe you'll find a place where you feel you belong, maybe not. I live in a major city and nobody I know would care in the slightest if you're into Buddhism (unless you actually are the guy who won't stop talking about it. Don't be that guy), but maybe it's less accepted in smaller cities. Being able to talk every day to people from other cultures and religions is endlessly interesting, and makes me see that maybe I have more of my own culture than I thought. Chocolate eggs last weekend rather than this one (happy Orthodox Easter to anyone celebrating today), bland food rather than garlic and spices, a preference for BBC programs, that's my background and I'm comfortable with those things, but I also choose to learn Japanese and watch foreign films and eat food I'd never even heard of when I was growing up -- spaghetti and meatballs was a pretty exotic dish in my small town in the '70s -- because other cultures are pretty great too.

    1 vote
  12. Tygrak
    Link
    Yeah, as someone from a country where atheism is pretty much the norm this sounds very strange. But that's mostly what it is I think, in the US religion is probably so much of a bigger deal than...

    Yeah, as someone from a country where atheism is pretty much the norm this sounds very strange. But that's mostly what it is I think, in the US religion is probably so much of a bigger deal than here, so that's also probably why you feel so strange about not being part of one.

    1 vote
  13. Gaywallet
    Link
    I had a similar upbringing in that I was exposed to both of my parents theistic identities - Christian and Jewish. I did both Saturday and Sunday school for a time. Even as a kid I had a lot of...

    I had a similar upbringing in that I was exposed to both of my parents theistic identities - Christian and Jewish. I did both Saturday and Sunday school for a time. Even as a kid I had a lot of issue with figures of authority. Anyone telling me that I must do something without explaining to me the why only triggered me to question why it was important harder. I figured, if someone can't adequately explain to me, then they are likely hiding something. I ended up getting kicked out of both schools because I asked too many questions.

    I come from a somewhat wealthy family. We're not extravagant and by all means we appear to be middle class. As a child we took a single vacation every year, typically to a Hawaiian island, for about a week in length. Our house was modest, the cars were all middle class mass produced top sellers like civics and corollas. But the attitude of my family was that of a wealthy one - both of my parents would work late into the evening, with my mother coming home around 530-6 and my father often taking longer. We sometimes had dinner together, but typically we ate wherever we wanted to and kept a "healthy distance" from each other's personal on-goings. Because of this I was never instilled with any real "cultural" identity and I often found myself latching on to whatever seemed interesting at the time.

    Religion has never been an important part of my life. I understand why it is in others, but I personally believe strongly that if there is some sort of benevolent overlord, there's no way they could be so selfish that simply "not believing" would be enough to cast you out of their good graces for life. If they were truly benevolent they would measure your actions, and I already want to be a good person because it's the right thing to do for society - it's the right thing to do as a human because it brings the most progress and happiness to the world. In a way, I guess you could say my religion is humanism, in that I believe we have the tools and the reasoning to come to the same conclusions that religion dictates to us - without the contradictions and arbitrary rules that don't necessarily do any good for society and humans in general.

    In terms of cultural identity, I guess I got lucky because I'm bisexual (or pansexual if you want to get technical). I'm queer as fuck and fell in hard with LGBTQ+ folks. My hobbies also have pretty active communities - gaming, climbing, etc. so I've never felt a need to have something tied to my ethnicity or other arbitrary trait.

    I think my question to you is, why? Why must something about you be unchanging? The world is a changing place. Being adaptable is good!

    1 vote
  14. Pilgrim
    Link
    Have you checked out Free Masonry? It has spiritual aspects to it, but is not really religious in the normal sense. It does require belief in a higher power - so it does exclude atheists - but...

    Have you checked out Free Masonry? It has spiritual aspects to it, but is not really religious in the normal sense. It does require belief in a higher power - so it does exclude atheists - but seeks to celebrate the common good shared among religions and men. It has a lot of pageantry to it and there is a lot of focus on charity.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemasonry

    1 vote
  15. 9000
    Link
    I feel like I have had a very similar journey to you. My parents raised me in a Methodist church that was very tolerant to people having nonconforming views. So, while they became like an extended...

    I feel like I have had a very similar journey to you. My parents raised me in a Methodist church that was very tolerant to people having nonconforming views. So, while they became like an extended family to me, I actually moved away from Christian faith (really, all theist faiths) during this time. I have also been studying Buddhism, in addition to Stoicism, some Taoism, and a lot of Western Ethics, trying to find my own personal faith system. In terms of ethnic heritage, my family has been living in the U.S. for at least three generations, so I have never felt particularly attached to any specific nation group, though I don't really desire one. I desire having any kind of close-knit community more than one necessarily based around ethnicity.

    How weird does this sound to you?

    As I lost my faith, I had a crisis as well, which is still ongoing. Unlike others on this thread, I don't believe that science, nor atheism, nor even secular humanism can save us from the need for religion. Many (though, of course, not all) vocal internet atheists like to attack the religious for holding unfounded and non-scientific beliefs, but everyone needs axioms that they hold true without evidence. We have nothing otherwise. As David Hume pointed out, we can't even prove that science as an institution can prove or know anything useful. Of course, I still believe it does, but that's because I have decided to axiomatically hold the Law of Induction to be true, without sound evidence. Similarly, to hold any belief about the world, it must eventually fall back on some sort of axiomatic, superhuman belief. To reject solipsism or accept human rights —to make any moral statement— we must eventually have some basis that is believed on "faith". The system of these axioms will form personal beliefs, and while some will look like classical religions and some won't, everyone has beliefs that take this form.

    This has been a rather long-winded way of justifying your investigation. I think religion, while often derided on the internet these days, is a question worth seriously investigating, even if we reject the standard religions. I don't find your process weird at all.

    Did you go through a similar crisis before landing on atheism

    I don't know where my religious beliefs stand currently, but I'll answer anyway.

    I have found some of my faith process has been finding inconsistencies or contradictions in my axioms, and removing or modifying those that don't fit. In other cases, it is realizing that I don't have an axiom that covers some area, and I must now choose one. In either case, it's a very personal process that has been informed by deep introspection and long discussions with people I trust.

    As I said, I moved away from Christianity in my teenage years as I learned more about science and philosophy. I felt like I kept modifying my conception of God from the Sunday School version to this more-and-more abstract version, until I finally realized that what I thought of when I said "God" had almost nothing in common with others' perceptions. For instance, I felt I had no basis to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnibenevolent god, in part or in whole.

    After that realization, I transitioned pretty cleanly to secular humanism without knowing that was what it's called. I sat there for several years before being introduced to Buddhism and subsequently Stoicism in classes, and deciding to enter back into this investigation. That's about where I stand today. I do a lot of reading, a lot of toying with ideas, trying things out. I did a lot of meditation for a while, and while I fell out of that habit, I've been trying to get back into it. I wouldn't say I'm Buddhist nor Stoic, but I'm not faithless either. Questioning or exploring is more accurate. I'd be happy to talk to anyone about any of these philosophies, if you want.

    How has growing up with a religion effected your life? Do you think you’d be a drastically different person without it?

    I think I (perhaps obviously at this point) introspect deeply about my beliefs, and so when I decide to finally accept or reject one, I try very hard to live by it. I am by no means perfect, and you can't be too hard on yourself, but I do think that they've heavily shaped my behavior. To be fair, I don't know how many of my beliefs are informed by my personality, and how much of my personality is informed by my beliefs; perhaps I would be similar no matter how I was raised.

    1 vote
  16. DonQuixote
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    If there's one thing I've learned it's that you can't control everything that happens, but you can choose your friends, at least in the U.S. Over time, try to find some that you resonate with, and...

    If there's one thing I've learned it's that you can't control everything that happens, but you can choose your friends, at least in the U.S. Over time, try to find some that you resonate with, and see where that takes you.

    On the psychological spectrum, there are all sorts, extroverts, introverts, highly sensitive, asperger's spectrum, conformists and non, and so on. Maybe try to learn a little bit about yourself in terms of some of these human classifications. It can be helpful.

    1 vote