Monday, February 09, 2009

This is Relevant to My Interests

Reading comments to one of PZ's posts, and I'm curious about one of them:
Bertrand Russell once wrote an article about the differences between ex-Christian atheists who had formerly been Catholics and ex-Christian atheists who had formerly been Protestants. (I think it might have been called "Catholic and Protestant Atheists" or something similarly unrelated to its content. I know it was published, and probably still is, in the compendium with the title essay "Why I Am Not a Christian.")
I think my brother has that book, so I can't read the bit myself right now. Anyway, I don't recall hearing much comparison, aside from some ex-Catholics commenting on having a hard time breaking from habitual rituals. (Hey, that rhymes!) Anyway, I probably don't qualify intensely as Protestant, since my family was relatively liberal and secular. So, any discussion on how being a deconvertee from something affects what sort of atheist you are?


King of Ferrets said...

Never having been one makes it very hard to understand what the hell they're thinking.

King of Ferrets said...

By they, I mean the religious.

Anonymous said...

When I attended a local freethinkers meet-up recently, most of the attendees were ex-catholics. Being an ex-protestant I noticed they were more likely to criticize the Church hierarchy (including anti-clericalism) and rituals whereas the few of us ex-protestants were more interested in biblical criticism and creationism. There are exceptions, of course, but the general rule seems to be that one would concentrate one's criticism towards what one used to believe or follow as a believer.

Gonzo said...

I've also noticed that Catholics (and not only ex-catholics) like to criticize the Vatican specifically. They have good reason to do this of course, but they miss the point that religion in general is the problem.

Valhar2000 said...

I agree with King of Ferrets; the religious mind is incrediboy mysterious, and its inner workings completely unlike anything I am familiar with.

However, one does every now and then finds islands of logic in religious discourse. By this I mean things like taking biblical innernacy an axiom and deducing things from it, which produces conclusions that actually follow.

Whenever I realize that I have discovered one such Island I am excited, as though I had made an important discovery, or saddened, as if I begin to realize that the chasm between me and them is even wider than I had imagined.

The feeling passes, though, and the fundamental incomprehensibility of the religious mind continues to baffle.

Clint Bourgeois said...

I'm an ex-Catholic. My wife is protestant (UCC) and I go to church with her even though I'm an agnostic/atheist. I think what Danny is saying makes sense. The Catholic church is a great deal about the structure of the church and going through a Catholic education I seem to remember a lot about the doctrines and edicts of the church, while my wife's church seems to focus a lot more on scripture.

So the ex-believes focus on that which they are most familiar. Since my upbringing focused on the Catholic church I have more experience with poking holes in their doctrines, I suppose if I was brought up protestant I would been more familiar with scripture and thus focused on that.

Then again this is all anecdotal evidence.

I've got to hand it to the UCC, though. The people who know my beliefs have been very welcoming to me.

Anonymous said...

I can kind of second the trend. My wife is a mostly lapsed Catholic--she still believes, but is fed up with a lot of the religious hierarchy (particularly including confession). She doesn't seem particularly concerned with silly stuff in the Bible.

MWchase said...

I kept on trying and failing to think of something to say, and I only just figured out what's actually important to me. Since my parents were both lapsed, I don't have a focus, as it were, internal to Christianity (which leaves me in flat contradiction of the idea of "Oh, the Christianity you grew up with was the wrong one and this other one isn't like that, not at all..."), so I have to focus on society as a whole.

(Keeping in mind that rebelling against my 'official' sect probably just entails refusing to tuck my shirt in. Bisexuality is A-OK, but scruffiness is a bit problematic. :D )

So, anyway, if the most significant part of your parents' faith is the 'lapsed' before the sect, you kind of have to look at religion from the outside.

Anonymous said...

My names Jimmy_Blue, and I was a Catholic.

Wow, that feels better.

I don't know if I have noticed a significant difference personally in what type of atheist you are depending on what religion you were, but I can offer this.

I was educated in catholic schools for 14 years, and so were both of my brothers. We are all atheists now. So are the majority of people I hung around with through high school. A friend who was raised catholic once explained this as:

"The more I read this stuff the more I said 'But this doesn't make sense.'"

The catholic school system is largely responsible for my deconversion!

I do think that I may be one of the exceptions that Danny was talking about, because my focus is definitely biblical criticism and creationsism.

Valhar2000 said...

Stories like Jimmy_Blue's always make me laugh. I've talked to several ex-catholic school students myself, and it seems that here in Spain catholic schools are veritable atheist factories as well.

Don said...

As an ex-Catholic who also attended Catholic school, I can also heap another anecdote on the pile: it was definitely a big part in my "deconversion."

Contrary to other ex-papists here, though, I find that the aftereffects are more benevolently-inclined. I spend precious little time poking holes in Catholic doctrine compared to the time I spend poking holes in Biblical literalism and creationism, and I find myself defending the Catholic church sometimes.

I think this comes from the people I grew up with. Most Catholics are emphatically not Bill Donohue. Ideologically, there's tons of variability, and lots don't take most of what the church says seriously. They can be liberal or conservative, pro- or anti-choice, etc. Most of the Catholics I grew up around were fairly decent people who didn't give a shit for the church's obsession with abstinence and sexuality in general (i.e. they used condoms and didn't hate gays), didn't think that the bread really turned into Jesus, and didn't get their politics from the pulpit.

While I won't defend destructive Catholic practices or lame-ass doctrines, I have sometimes come to the defense of Catholics, many of who, by and large, are either ignorant of or actively disbelieve and disobey many of the lamest doctrines.

Tom Foss said...

There's one thing that I think the Catholic church deserves some props for: a built-in mechanism for change and correction. Having a central authority and established hierarchy allows the church to change with the times, to revise previous understandings in light of new scientific findings, to revise dogma in light of changing social mores, and so forth. They rarely do, and their dogged adherence to a doctrine of infallibility--even when some edicts contradict others--opens whole new problems, inconsistencies, contradictions, and absurdities. Catholicism has the potential to be the most doctrinally modern and progressive of the major Christian denominations, and their stubborn refusal to make such changes has them hemorrhaging followers.

Mormonism has a similar structure, but as I understand it, it's mostly been used to tack weird sci-fi stuff onto their dogma--which is not to say that Joseph Smith didn't have enough weird sci-fi doctrines of his own, what with Quakers on the Moon and so forth.