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Thread: Is pretending to be a Christian for purely pragmatic reasons wrong?

  1. #1

    Is pretending to be a Christian for purely pragmatic reasons wrong?

    I occasionally go to church with my wife. We also have a lot of friends and family members that are devout believers. We want to be close to them and to be a part of the church community, which is full of wonderful, helpful people. Yet I don't believe in most of the doctrines of faith the church teaches. Sometimes I pretend to believe in these doctrines just so I don't get into unnecessary arguments. I consider myself to be an agnostic, but Christian faith still plays an important part in my social reality. Sometimes I pray, but I don't know if there's anyone on the other end of the phone call. I'd like to believe that there's a god of some kind - maybe we're all part of the nature of god like the eastern wisdom teaches. However I cannot discuss there thoughts with my churchgoing friends, because it's not a part of the church doctrine and would only show the that I'm still a child in my faith and need to read more Bible to find out the truth that the church is teaching. I have an academic background, so I find it difficult to be indoctrinated into blind faith.

    To be honest, I think there are a LOT of churchgoers just like me - going there for purely social, pragmatic reasons.

    Am I a bad person?
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  2. #2
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    I did too I went to church both catholic and church of England but for different reasons. I went because I wanted to see what is was like.It was purely out of interest.

    and no there is nothing bad about it.

    what does pragmatic reasons mean?
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    what does pragmatic reasons mean?
    I meant just the fact that I attend church sermons since it's beneficial to me socially and that I pretend to adhere to the church doctrines because it's easier than arguing about everything I don't agree about.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  4. #4
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    Am I a bad person?
    Yes, you're a bad person.

    Okay, I'm kidding, but honestly, how should I know if you are a bad person or not? This is the Internet, and anyone of us to could have a basement full of skeletons. But I am willing to extend a kind of faith, not really knowing who is on the other end, and give you my uninformed opinion that you are probably no worse a person than I am (and there's nothing in my basement but dust bunnies).

    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    I occasionally go to church with my wife. We also have a lot of friends and family members that are devout believers. We want to be close to them and to be a part of the church community, which is full of wonderful, helpful people. Yet I don't believe in most of the doctrines of faith the church teaches. Sometimes I pretend to believe in these doctrines just so I don't get into unnecessary arguments. I consider myself to be an agnostic, but Christian faith still plays an important part in my social reality.
    Damn right it does. And quite a bit of your cultural reality, too, even if the West has talked itself out of God's existence. By the way, any Christian who isn't lying is also an agnostic, just not agnostic in the wishy-washy vernacular sense. And it is (in my view anyways) a profound act of faith to offer up a prayer without knowing if there is really a God of love and justice to hear it. Oh, sorry--that's from the next quote. In this one you have conflicted your church community, "which full of wonderful, helpful people." I've never noticed such a place, but okay--how nice for you. Just the same, you are confusing going to church with being a Christian, a very common and often knowing misunderstanding. I wouldn't recommend you continue to be a hypocrite (in the true sense of the word) but there is no reason not to participate in a community you seem to be getting something out of. If you don't want unnecessary arguments about doctrine, just shrug and smile and say something like: "Well I don't see it that way, but I'll give it some thought". (But if you're not really going to think about it then skip the latter part). Then come here if you like and we can have the enjoyable, necessary arguments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    Sometimes I pray, but I don't know if there's anyone on the other end of the phone call. I'd like to believe that there's a god of some kind - maybe we're all part of the nature of god like the eastern wisdom teaches.
    Maybe. You can't really know. On the other hand, it's not really a question of the God you want to believe in. Do you seriously think I want to believe in a God who remains silent in the face of injustice and suffering? I have faith in God despite that, not because of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    However I cannot discuss there thoughts with my churchgoing friends, because it's not a part of the church doctrine and would only show the that I'm still a child in my faith and need to read more Bible to find out the truth that the church is teaching. I have an academic background, so I find it difficult to be indoctrinated into blind faith.
    That doesn't sound like such a wonderful and helpful community to me. I mean, faith is impossible if you already know something--wouldn't you agree? So how could uncritical acceptance of doctrine be less mature than a faith informed by questioning? That wouldn't necessarily negate a given teaching, of course, but it makes us personally responsible for what we choose to believe. That sounds like a moral approach to me.

    By the way, doesn't your wording tar the Bible with the same brush as the doctrinal right think you/we find a problem? Or perhaps it's a bait and switch. You say your friends would expect you "to read more Bible to find out the truth that the church is teaching." So faith becomes a matter of indoctrination (to use your word) rather than moral choice. But since you are an academic, why not approach the Biblical text critically? You could dispense with naive harmonies and supposed literalisms (which I doubt either one of us has much use for) and ask yourself why a Biblical religion should be, as as you say, an important part of your social (and I would argue larger) reality. That would be a worthy pursuit in itself. It would also allow you to make an informed decision about what if anything you might be prepared to receive as faith, and to do so as a moral choice. I don't know where you are located, but Harvard, Chicago, and Yale all offer the kind of secular course I am thinking of. Harvard probably offers it to the public through the Extension School. The others may have something similar, I don't know. Or perhaps your own institution does.

    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    To be honest, I think there are a LOT of churchgoers just like me - going there for purely social, pragmatic reasons.
    I'm sure you are right. But not believing in God is no reason to stay out of a church. There are way better reasons than that.

    One last point, then I'l let you go. I have indeed extended some faith to you. I don't actually think you have a basement full of skeletons, but it is entirely possible that the story you tell above is fiction--that you merely considered the apparent paradox of an insincere church member and thought it would be fun to watch a sincere but uneducated Christian squirm over it (and, hey, maybe even damage some faith). But I've chosen to take your word for it. All I want to say is that as long as we treat one another with good faith and mutual respect, we can have enjoyable and hopefully meaningful discussions here. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading it.

    P.S. Oh, I guess there was one more thing. You mention above that you "don't believe in most of the doctrines of faith the church teaches". Out of curiosity, which are the ones you do believe?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Yes, you're a bad person.
    Thank you for your response Pompey Bunny. I can assure you that everything I've said here I've said with 100 % honesty. I might be an agnostic today, but I have been I devout Christian earlier in life. The fact that I've lost my faith doesn't make me bitter or resentful towards believers - as I said, people in my Church community are wonderful, kind and helpful people.

    I live in Northern Europe, which probably is relevant to the conversation here, since most people in Northern Europe don't go to any Church other than to attend marriages and funerals. Mine is a very secular society, but this makes Christians here also flock together even more tightly and support each other even more strongly. This is why I also appreciate the communal activities of the Church - everyone comes together genuinely wanting to built strong and lasting friendships and to help you with any problems you might presently have. These kind of communities only exist in societal peripheria - in communities, that feel like their existence is in a way "endangered". I don't want to make this an intellectual argument, it's just something I've observed over the years.

    Not all Church communities are as nice as the ones I've been involved with - I have been lucky I guess. People here really go out of their way to get to know you and your family and to aid you in any way they can. This is not self explanatory feature of all Church communities by any means - I've visited churches where there's no love, compassion or caring, instead they're places where people are lurking each other and don't even get to know each other properly.

    I feel that being intellectually honest in my church community is at present time very difficult for me. I cannot verbally question the nature of God for instance without making others instantly shut down and starting to view me as someone who is in need of an intervention or re-indoctrination. There's only one allowed truth inside the church walls. Just to mention one example: the church pastor often brings up how we should all support Israel, whose existence is on constant treat by it's hostile neighbors. This truth is unquestionable and there's no room for conversation about how we perhaps should separate the spiritual concept of the children of Abraham from the current nation of Israel or the current political leadership of Israel. Instead, we are encouraged to help the nation of Israel both financially and in our prayers. I listen to this speech, biting my tongue. It's not why I've come to the church. I'd rather be a hypocrite than to be shun by my friends, family and community.

    The question for me is not really whether I find Christian faith or church community valuable - I find them very valuable and worth preserving. I just have been completely disillusioned by the teachings of the church. While listening to the preachers, I often think about Jonathan Haidt, Nietzsche and Plato. I cannot read the Bible without exploring it through the lenses of historical phenomenology and without reflecting it to the philosophical, psychological and sociological understanding I've accumulated over the years. I've listened to hours upon hours of academic theological lectures, but they don't really have anything to do with my personal faith. Faith cannot be purely intellectual, it has to be personal and felt. I don't think I will be able to achieve that naive state of faith that I had as a teenager. Back then I really believed and wanted to believe, but I never had any kind of personal experience that would have confirmed to me that there really was a god out there. Nowadays I mostly read the gospels, since to me they offer the concentration of what is good about Christianity. I find Jesus an inspirational figure of kindness and compassion and reading about his life makes me believe in a kind and compassionate god, who has an interesting and fulfilling plan for all of our lives.

    I don't think it's psychologically healthy for a person to be constantly hypocritical about his beliefs. But then again I have social communities online that let me be intellectually honest.

    You asked about what church doctrines I do believe in. Well, I do believe that there is a god. At the same time, I'm also skeptical and agnostic about whether there is a god. I pray to god, but at the same time I doubt whether there is anyone listening. To me this is a natural state of being, since it has continued for almost two decades already. I believe that Bible can teach us important moral and life lessons through it's symbols and metaphors. I don't believe any of the Biblical stories are literally true, but it doesn't negate their profoundly important meanings.
    Last edited by Freudian Monkey; 07-05-2018 at 02:19 AM.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  6. #6
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Thanks for your thoughtful and intelligent reply. Agnosticism as I understand it is a state of not knowing, and where God is concerned, it seems to me that this is a fundamental part of the human experience (or predicament, if you want to put it that way). That is why I contend that all Christians are also agnostics whether they know it or not. "All things must be doubted" or faith itself in impossible. So I start by asking myself why our existence should be like that. If we take the story of Eden as a comment of the human condition--a dream about the human condition is another way to look at it--then our alienation from God has to do with something fundamentally flawed in the human character. I don't have a problem with that: it accords with most of my experience. In fact, it goes a way towards reconciling me to the human predicament. Because faith in a silent God calls us to moral courage, it opens us to the possibility of healing--of returning to Eden. And that, for me, is where Christianity starts.

    So in short, in addition to being agnostic, you sound like a rather good Christian to me. Praying in the face of the kind of doubt you describe requires moral courage. So perhaps the difficulty in your church is primarily social. Not that there isn't also an ethical aspect--pretending to believe things you don't is not honest. But my point is that your situation has more to do with the expectations of the institution (the source of the problem) than your integrity as a Christian--much less Christianity as a faith. You may want to bear that in mind as you reconcile your beliefs to your social situation. Good luck to you. Here in America, going your own way is less of a stigma.

    As far as the innocence of your young mind goes, you can't go back so you may as well go forward. As you know, morality and integrity were supremely important to Nietzsche, and whatever I may think he got wrong about Christianity, he was correct about the tide of Nihilism resulting from the death of God in the West. If you haven't read Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (first and foremost) and The Idiot (after that), they may at least provide another honest perspective--and a faithful one. From your signature, you seem to have read some Kierkegaard. But none of this is going to bring your innocent faith back. It's like dancing. Children know how, then they forget and have to find new ways. That apple tasted mighty sweet going down, though, didn't it?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  7. #7
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    You are certainly not a bad person and if you decide to commit yourself to a search for the truth, rather than a church, that search will lead you to God. From that point on, the paths will become more clear and discernable. Good luck to you.

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