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How do people know if they believe in a religion?:

 1 Morwen Edhelwen, Wed, 5th Sep '12 8:00:53 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Please don't discuss the truthfulness or falseness of certain religions in this thread or bash religion.

Anyway, I'm an agnostic, and I've been interested in religion, specifically Afro-Caribbean religions like Santeria and Haitian Vodun for a long time, ever since I decided I wanted to really find out what I believe in in terms of religion and God (s). The thing is, for the tropers who are followers of a religion and recently got involved in their faith, (ie not raised in it), how and when did you know for sure that you really believed and wanted to get involved?

(For me, I expect I'll have to find a drumming group/someone who knows something about Santeria practices and start getting involved in ceremonies, but that's easier said than done, seeing as I live in Australia).

edited 5th Sep '12 8:05:28 PM by BestOf

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 2 Best Of, Wed, 5th Sep '12 8:07:07 PM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
With Mod Hat On
Religion threads have a tendency to go on derails and into pointless circular arguments. None of that here, please.

This thread is for people to discuss the basis on which they believe the religious stuff they believe. We don't really need anyone to go debating every argument that people give, as this thread is mostly about anecdotes and personal experiences.

Make sure to Holler any bashing of religion or nonreligion here.
I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day. - Douglas Adams
 3 Aondeug, Wed, 5th Sep '12 8:28:01 PM from  Our Dreams
Oh My
I converted to Buddhism about two years ago. I was initially incredibly hesitant to state that I was Buddhist. I spent a great deal of time researching the religion, I visited a temple on a regular basis, and I found a variety of the ideas sound after thinking about them and testing a few of them via research and pondering. But the question remained "Am I Buddhist?" To which I didn't want to say yes because to me that would require absolute commitment to the faith. I take religion incredibly serious and find that conversion should be made only if you're going to seriously take it up in some fashion. At the least with religions like Buddhism where it very much is a sort of all encompassing thing that surrounds ever facet of one's life and thought processes.

Now after about a year of such pondering and practice in meditation as well as talks with monks I finally accepted the label. My meditation practice was presenting the results that I was told it would give me. Examination of some of the psychology principles and problem solving methods Buddhism uses matched up with a variety of tried and tested ideas and methods accepted by the psychological community. Others seemed rather sound and seem to hold up when I put them into practice and examine them. Though I'm not certain if any of it is truth.

However what I had then was a method of problem solving and a framework that I trusted and placed faith in. I believed in what I was being told after much thought on the matter and sticking with it in terms of exploring. And so I became Buddhist.

But didn't accept the cosmology and metaphysics just yet. That's taken further research into both the religion's theology and other matters as well as my own personal thoughts on the matter. My reasoning for formally taking it on as something I accepted and believed in, while still holding the possibility of it being untruth, was that no one really knows whether or not souls and rebirth are a thing. Or if monism is a thing. We know that the body dies without the brain, but that isn't what I consider to be proof of monism. We know that damaging the brain damages one's ability to function and could result in a radically different person, but again I don't take that as proof of monism. I've taken on an idea of a very mundane semi-physical soul that breaks up and changes over time. Essentially dying many, many times. Which is ultimately what Buddhist metaphysics and cosmology preach. There's also issues of gods and other forms of life that could be defined as "aliens" within Buddhism. We haven't seen proof of such beings yet, but beings beyond our world could indeed exist and they could indeed be sapient perhaps. Though perhaps not in a manner we would recognize as such. Then you have the cosmology itself. Our lovely temporal cosmology that consists of big bang and big crunch cycles along with evolution and stagnation of the universe. The big bang is largely a thing we accept as is evolution after research. The big crunch and the stagnation prior to it remain popular theories though it seems.

So no one really knows, but I have faith in this body of work written by a great teacher who has claimed that he had ultimate truth. I have already placed my faith in his practices, but what about the ideas that helped form the basis of those practices? Given my experience with Buddhism's teachings and the lack of any solid evidence either way I decided to place my faith in what the Buddha had to state regarding that. He has been right about certain matters so I will take his word for it on these things. There has also been a sort of feeling in my bones you could say about there being something more. It's indistinct and vague, but very strong. However I will aim to test them. I'm still researching the issues and looking out for signs. And if at the end of things all I believe in is proven false so be it.

Until then I have a goal to work towards and principles and practices that mostly appear sound and have provided me the promised results for the most part. That is why I myself became Buddhist and that is how I myself know that I believe in the faith.

So it wasn't really a single moment of when, but a series of whens. It's still a series of whens.

edited 5th Sep '12 8:28:44 PM by Aondeug

If someone wants to accuse us of eating coconut shells, then that's their business. We know what we're doing. - Achaan Chah
 4 Morwen Edhelwen, Wed, 5th Sep '12 8:39:40 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
@Aondeug: Thanks. Basically from what I've found out about Santeria, the moral code is that you behave well and in accordance with your destiny on earth because it gives you a good, easier life. And you don't harm anyone because you will be harmed back. And you have to honour the Orishas by making offerings and sacrifices.

edited 5th Sep '12 8:49:11 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 5 tsstevens, Wed, 5th Sep '12 10:01:41 PM from Internet, Tasmania Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Researcher
In my experience it had been a case where my faith had been proven. I felt drawn to Christianity, prayers were answered and I felt my life made a change for the better.

By the same token I felt this way when I denounce or ignore problems within the church or do the wrong thing, so my feelings should not be taken as...pardon the phrase, gospel. It is merely how I found my god.
The mark of a good story means not feeling like The Angry Video Game Nerd hearing it.
 6 Aondeug, Wed, 5th Sep '12 10:34:33 PM from  Our Dreams
Oh My
I'm glad I could have helped in some fashion and I hope it does help you with your own problems of faith. Whether it be that you take it up or reject it.

Ah. That's intriguing. I don't know anything about Santeria, but I'm thinking I'll begin looking into it now. It oddly hadn't popped up on my "MUST RESEARCH" radar...

If someone wants to accuse us of eating coconut shells, then that's their business. We know what we're doing. - Achaan Chah
 7 Silver Star, Thu, 6th Sep '12 4:04:08 AM from Brazil (on exchange)
I'm afraid that I don't have any conversion experiences to speak of.

I'm an agnostic as well and at one point I did go through a phase where I really wanted to find a religion. I went to a Buddhist temple, a neo-pagan group, Christian church, and did a lot of research. I never found anything that I could really believe. However I am very happy that I did all that exploring - I learned quite a bit during it.

Anyways, I've within the past year or two I have come to a peace with my spiritual self. I guess you could describe me as 'spiritual but not religious'. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but I'm happy with it.

Don't be afraid to go to religious groups and ask questions. All of the religious groups that I visited were really friendly and the people were happy to answer my questions. Research outside of the internet can really help.

 8 De Marquis, Thu, 6th Sep '12 8:54:14 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Well, I never converted per se, because my parents sent me to my father's Methodist Church from a very young age, but I didnt adopt that doctrinal system and my parents are actually very secular. If that sounds like it might help you I'll be glad to share more.

I'm curious why Santeria? You don't see a lot of sincere interest in pantheons anymore.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 9 Morwen Edhelwen, Thu, 6th Sep '12 6:18:23 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
I don't know. I suspect it's because my ancestors are Chinese and I've always been drawn to magic and Afro-Caribbean culture and can see myself making offerings.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Euo will do!
[up][up]Kemetism is slowly attracting a crowd, you know. smile Can't get more pantheist than that (unless you're into Neo-Atenisim, or following the all-an-aspect-of-one school of thought tongue). [lol]

For quite a few people not finding answers in more established religions (or being satisfied with a "single" answer, either, sometimes), going multi-choice can seem like a more compelling "answer" or open compromise with the which to engage with the spiritual. smile Shamanism has also been attracting people since the '60s... and, as that can come in flavours, well... pantheist is an option. smile

edited 6th Sep '12 6:54:14 PM by Euodiachloris

"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
 11 De Marquis, Tue, 11th Sep '12 8:45:42 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
The only problem I have with the various forms of neo-paganism is the accusation by people of those traditions who see outsiders watering down the belief system for their own purposes, without any real understanding of what they are borrowing. Specifically "White Shamanism" has that reputation, and so does mainstream interest in "Voodoo". I'm hopeful that this isn't the case for Morwen since s/he at least used one of the correct terms. The very best thing you can do, if your interest is sincere, is find someone who was raised in that tradition and learn from them. That's hard, but ultimately rewarding.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 12 Inverurie Jones, Tue, 11th Sep '12 8:55:01 AM from Station 78 Relationship Status: And they all lived happily ever after <3
'80s TV Action Hero
They just turned up, unexpectedly. I didn't particularly believe in Them beforehand.
Winter is Coming

I don't always do stuff, but when I do, it's freakin' awesome.

 13 Gabrael, Sun, 14th Oct '12 10:43:18 PM Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
A Polar Bear Named Gabrael
Quick note: studying and meditating on your own is okay, to a point. Before you convert, it is important to study under a respected member of that faith for multiple reasons:

1) You want to be accurate. While traditions vary between cultures, religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, various classical forms of paganism and tribal religions, and Zoroastrianism have become quite popular in the West for their exotic nature. Sometimes it leads to sincere scholarship and devotion. But more often than not it leads to what we in the religious studies field call "White Shamanism".

People accidently or intentionally cherry pick a faith or get a superficial understanding from self-fulfilling or poor resources and then butcher the faith. The popularity of adapting Native American practices half-assed is what gave the name to this phenomena. It's cultural approperiation at it's worst.

2) You need a support group. Community is key in religion. Community helps the convert learn the path and sustain it as well as provides refreshing life and rejuvination to the part of the community that was born into it or has held their beliefs for a long time.

3) You need to know the context of things. For example with Hinduism, some things are strict from the Vedas. But other "Hindu" customs, relics, or holidays aren't actually Hindu at all, but are Punjabi or any other ethnic group and have been falsely attributed to Hinduism. Careful study is needed to make sure you are understanding the faith, and not accidently taking in things that don't apply to you as a convert. Understanding how things have evolved or adapted also helps keep you grounded in your faith. It also shows respect to the cultural groups that accept that faith from birth and builds credibility for yourself.

And all this builds to the ultimate challenge:

4) You need to be confident and secure in your reasons for conversion.

Do not convert because something looks cool, someone you love is there, or it possibly fills an immediate need. It's perfectly natural and healthy to have an initial curiousity and fascination with the new and novel. But religion isn't supposed to be a club, it's an ethos intended for the practicionar to filter their life through in order to achieve something fulfilling.

This shouldn't be done quickly or rashly. Curiousity is a good start, but conversion should only occur after contemplative study, respected consultation and guidence, and deep meditation. You will know if it's right by how you feel inside and a inner confirmation that is hard to articulate. Even if you are struck with initial awe, your newfound faith can only be enriched by paitent study and self discovery, never hurt by it. So no hurry.

After I left my birth faith, I just kept my heart open. I am a religious scholar so I studied many faiths, but when I began to study what I would eventually convert to, something seemed just, fulfilling on more than just an academic level. I made a mental note and proceeded onward, but it just kept tugging at me. I ended up following all the steps I mentioned above, even taking the intensely nerdy route of learning to translate the faith's text (which is great but not required a lot) for myself. And that pull grew to a personal fulfillment, not just an academic one. So I followed it.
 14 De Marquis, Mon, 15th Oct '12 6:40:20 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Whoa, necro. But that is an excellent explanation of what I was trying to say. Thank you.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
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Total posts: 14
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