An apt observation

There is a difference between being an observant Christian and the way one was brought up. I was baptised and brought up a Catholic but have now ceased to believe in God but I remain a Catholic by my culture and nothing will take that away

From somewhere in The Guardian.

I rather think this happens to a lot of people. Not just Catholics. The culture, the manner in which one thinks about a point or a problem, will persist long after the initial reason for that culture existing does.

Certainly has happened to me. I\’m identifiably Catholic in the way that I structure certain moral arguments for example. Don\’t always come up with the same results, but the structure, the method of approach, is much the same.

28 comments on “An apt observation

  1. Although it is a problem when looking at the social changes of the past 60 years. It is easy to say that the sky hasn’t fallen in so the fears of the old fuddy duddies were baseless, but of course a lot of people are like TW. They remain close to the values of the religion they no longer believe.

    The problem will come with the next generation. They will not share those values. The religion is dead to them and hence the values will be too.

    Take something like polygamy. There is no rational reason for a ban on it except it is very socially damaging. Especially to the poor and to the young of the male tendency. Virtually every society on Earth allows polygamy except the Christian West. Therefore it follows that we will not maintain a ban on it for long – even though it is socially damaging. Notice that the incidence of democracy is highly correlated with the incidence of actual de facto monogamy.

    We destroy the social fabric of society at our peril. We have no idea where it will end up. But as long as the sky isn’t falling now, we assume all will be well.

  2. Only a slight link to this post and Tim, but it amused me so much I thought I would share it.

    My son is a mature student at Bath University (link to Tim) in his final year doing Social Science (a tenuous link to the post). This conversation took place on Facebook:

    Son: “800 words in 4 hours. I forget how quickly I can blast these things out.”

    Mum “But when you re-read it in the cold light of day, does it make sense?”

    Son “It’s a sociology essay, it’s not supposed to make sense”.

  3. I think this is true for many people raised by Christian parents.

    It’s a lot less true for younger people who were raised by non-Christian parents, and the generation that is coming into adulthood now includes many more of those people.

    My parents weren’t religious, and I don’t structure my thoughts the way you suggest you do.

    Tim adds: I actually suggest it as a much larger phenomenon. Everybody, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Atheist, whatever, is conditioned by those original beliefs. Even if others supercede them later. That supercession never quite obliterating the original structure.

  4. I was trying to hit on a christian chick, so now I’m an Anglican Modernist! “A cross between a socialist and a socialite”

  5. I’m with SMFS @ 1 in thinking that, although pretty anti-religion in general, the liberals have thrown the baby out with the bath water in ridding British life of religious practices. I’m not saying the ridding wasn’t necessary to a large degree, but there are aspects of the traditional family life which were tied to religion which are now missing and seen as a problem.

    For instance, I know one demented lefty who is always harping on about how religion should be expelled from British life completely, while at the same time complaining families don’t sit down to eat any more, or get together at weekends. Once you remove the need to say grace before each meal, or go to church on Sundays, then yes, the family unit will break up that little bit more.

  6. SMFS>

    “Take something like polygamy. There is no rational reason for a ban on it except it is very socially damaging.”

    Oh, so now you have something against polyamorists as well? (Apart from the fact that it’s a bastard word and should either be multiamory or polyphilia, naturally.)

    The only reason polygamy’s illegal is that unlike civil partnerships it would make the most unholy legal mess to allow multi-way marriages, divorces, and so-on.

  7. @ Tim Newman

    “Once you remove the need to say grace before each meal, or go to church on Sundays, then yes, the family unit will break up that little bit more.”

    OK. So let’s accept that the loss of religion is a notable factor in people not sitting down together for food (a premise I’m wholly unconvinced by).

    If that’s the case, we’re saying that people didn’t actually value sitting down together for food.. but they felt compelled to do it because of something a magic beardy sky man apparently said to an ancient beardy storyteller.

    Sod that. Let people sit down and eat together because they want to, not because they’re totting up points in a quest to avoid eternal damnation. If it was the state that required us all to sit down and eat together, whether we wanted to or not, you’d (I’m guessing, here) be all kinds of angry about it.

    There are a whole bunch of religious values that seem to have been ingrained in human culture since long before the beardy people wrote them all down. Those values sit happily across all the world’s faiths, and the people who have no interest in faith. Murder and stealing aren’t suddenly going to become socially acceptable because people stop caring about what Jesus thinks.. just like they weren’t before Jesus thought.

    I was raised a lapsed Catholic. I’m not much interested in God, or the church, or any of that.. nor were my parents.. but they passed their values on to me, and I’ll pass them on to any children I might have… just as all my (generally fundamental athiest) friends are doing with their children.

  8. “Fuck ‘em” “Hang ‘em” *Murphybollocks” etc

    Not myself being a twitter follower of Pontifex can anyone tell me what is Catholic about Tim’s blog posts?

  9. “Once you remove the need to say grace before each meal, or go to church on Sundays, then yes, the family unit will break up that little bit more.”

    not sure I buy this. People have been breaking bread together for a lot longer than any established religion has been around.

    I’m massively culturally CofE and given that the CofE doesn’t really mind what you actually believe (as long as you’re not a Satanist, and even then I’m sure there are some churches that could find a place for you) but is mostly founded on social ritual it suits me down to the ground.

    I’ve noticed that it’s getting worse though. People with tambourines, people playing acoustic guitars in church*, almost every church now rendering the Lord’s Prayer as “those who” and not “them that” tresspass against us, hymns written since 1900 with boring repetitive lyrics and bloody choruses. Overhead projectors or screens rather than Hymnals. And all in the name of ‘relevance’. Or getting young people involved. Ugh.

    *nothing against acoustic guitar music, inter alia. Huge Nick Drake fan, for a start, but don’t like it in church.

  10. Well, this is the basis of my general schtick/analysis of Lefties, in a nutshell, kind of thing. The Proggies are basically the crazyhead wing of evangelical Protestantism, with God removed from the picture.

    Among other consequences of this is that one can recognise in the ire from “seculars” against Christianity, a repurposing of the old hatred of Catholics. So for instance when conservatives like SMFS say something like-

    The problem will come with the next generation. They will not share those values. The religion is dead to them and hence the values will be too.

    I would argue taht this fundamentally misunderstands the situation. The problem isn’t people losing their values. It’s them keeping them. The problem is that they aren’t the moderate Christian values of, say, traditional Anglicanism and liberal Christianity. They’re the hysterical, millennialist values of the barmy wing.

    We are living in profoundly, and increasingly, religious times, equivalent to the “revivals” and “awakenings” of the past. They just dispensed with the need for God, that’s all. But religiosity- fervent, burn the heretics, totalitarian, absolutist religiosity, is alive and well.

  11. Life is hard and then you die. It can be a frightening prospect for lots of people. Many derive support from faith in a higher power. Others trust to drink and drugs or choose to immerse themselves in their chosen profession or calling. Whilst I find a bottle of Balvenie works better than icons and incense, the church provided a decent moral grounding as a kid – one that has served me well. I don’t attend a church but wouldn’t hesitate to dispatch my offspring there on Sundays. If nothing else it remains a cultural touchstone in our increasingly diverse society.

  12. Dave – “Oh, so now you have something against polyamorists as well? (Apart from the fact that it’s a bastard word and should either be multiamory or polyphilia, naturally.)”

    Oh come on Dave. I have something against everyone. That is what being old and conservative means.

    “The only reason polygamy’s illegal is that unlike civil partnerships it would make the most unholy legal mess to allow multi-way marriages, divorces, and so-on.”

    No. The only reason it is illegal is that most people don’t like it. And it would also have serious social consequences. In a polygamist society, all the young pretty women and owned by the older richer men. That makes those societies unstable, prone to violence and almost never democratic. Democracy and monogamy go together. Polygamy and the most serious forms of autocracy do too. You don’t have to take my word for it either.

    We have every interest in banning polygamy. But how? Apart from the fact God does not like it, there is no longer any credible argument against it.

    9 The Thought Gang – “Sod that. Let people sit down and eat together because they want to, not because they’re totting up points in a quest to avoid eternal damnation.”

    Well sure, but they won’t. Durkheim once said that the quest for perfection made everyone less happy, that is, the quest for the perfect girlfriend means you end up alone. While marrying the one you’re with means a happy family life with grandchildren. It is perfectly possible that a little bit of localised misery will result in longer term happiness. But if people don’t have some compelling reason to get over the localised unhappiness, they will never get to the longer term happiness. Just as fat people always put off going to the gym and always eat the last donut.

    “If it was the state that required us all to sit down and eat together, whether we wanted to or not, you’d (I’m guessing, here) be all kinds of angry about it.”

    Yeah but it isn’t. Just as children would be totally ropeable if it was the state instead of their mothers making them do their homework. If people decide to have children because God thinks that is great, that is a good thing in a way that the State making them do it is not.

    “Murder and stealing aren’t suddenly going to become socially acceptable because people stop caring about what Jesus thinks.. just like they weren’t before Jesus thought.”

    Ummm, you may have not noticed, but as soon as the West stopped believing in God murder and stealing became government policy all too often. That has not changed either.

    ” but they passed their values on to me, and I’ll pass them on to any children I might have… just as all my (generally fundamental athiest) friends are doing with their children.”

    No you won’t. You cannot now defend the basic foundations of a middle class life. Why study hard, defer pleasure, get a good job as an accountant? Produce an argument that any child would take seriously when they know dropping out, becoming a musician, getting a few tattoos and knocking some chick up is way more fun.

  13. ‘“Fuck ‘em” “Hang ‘em” *Murphybollocks” etc

    Not myself being a twitter follower of Pontifex can anyone tell me what is Catholic about Tim’s blog posts?’

    Quite so: if he were really a papist it would be “Burn ‘em”.

  14. Ian B – “I would argue taht this fundamentally misunderstands the situation. The problem isn’t people losing their values. It’s them keeping them. The problem is that they aren’t the moderate Christian values of, say, traditional Anglicanism and liberal Christianity. They’re the hysterical, millennialist values of the barmy wing.”

    Except if people stop being Christians they do not become any nicer. Their general dislike of other people and their desire to seek power over them will just be manifested in other ways. That is not a feature of their religion, but of the human condition.

    “But religiosity- fervent, burn the heretics, totalitarian, absolutist religiosity, is alive and well.”

    And it is not going to go away. We had the sad little people who needed this nicely penned up. They were confined to narrow areas of society where they could not do other people much harm. Perhaps even some good. Now the fence has been broken down and they are free to graze where they like in the public arena. Which means instead of ticking people off for abusing themselves or being Berlusconi, they are now running our renewable energy policy.

    People’s bad instincts don’t change. We are born in sin and we get a great deal of pleasure out of making other people suffer. Religion constrained that a little. Now it is gone. So people are free to think of reasons why they should exercise their worst instincts to murder Capitalists, or Jewish Capitalists, and steal all their property, or whatever, and no one can stop them. They will win in the end. You won’t.

  15. SMFS (1)
    Read Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach and you’ll see that the “long withdrawing roar” of the sea of faith has been going on for at least seven generations. So your pessimism is unfounded.

    My fear is that Christian observance becomes the preserve of a cognitive elite. Not quite what Jesus envisaged.

  16. dearieme – “Quite so: if he were really a papist it would be “Burn ‘em”.”

    Yeah but he would be able to say it in impeccable Latin and what is more, he would be fine with everyone having a pint and a quick fag while they waited.

  17. bloke in france – “Read Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach and you’ll see that the “long withdrawing roar” of the sea of faith has been going on for at least seven generations. So your pessimism is unfounded.”

    How is that unfounded? I have read Arnold’s Dover Beach. The sea of faith did not rush out all at once. It did so slowly and gradually. Starting from the top and working down. It had a great leap forward in the 1960s. Now, it has gone out completely. Who was Arnold followed by? Dover Beach was written in 1867. Stalin was born in 1878. Hitler in 1889. His pessimism was not pessimistic enough in my opinion.

    “My fear is that Christian observance becomes the preserve of a cognitive elite. Not quite what Jesus envisaged.”

    Well that is not going to happen surely? There is a social cachet of going to Anglican services in the countryside and some suburbs. But religion has been the preserve of the poor-ish for a long time. Now it is mainly immigrants from the Philippines or Africa.

  18. Smfs 19
    “But religion has been the preserve of the poor-ish for a long time. Now it is mainly immigrants from the Philippines or Africa.”

    And these groups will prosper.

  19. bloke in france – “And these groups will prosper.”

    Assuming all forms of religion, or even all forms of Christianity, are the same. That is not true for Islam. As we can see in the present Euro-crisis, Catholics, especially those from Southern Europe, are unable to run a decent economy either. It looks like Max Weber was right and capitalism goes with Protestantism.

    After all, those Filippinos are hardly prospering back home and they have had centuries of being Catholic. They tend to be good at it. Nor are Africans, Christian or not, doing all that well. There or here.

    The modern world, with all its goods and bads, with its science and its miracle cures, with its ability to send men to the Moon and invent Tang, was the work of White Protestant males. As they decline into persecuted minorities, it is likely that their modern civilisation will decline too. No more moon missions. No more new antibiotics. No more democracy.

    It is not as if any other part of the world is much good at emulating them except to a limited extent East Asia.

  20. Sam –

    Huge Nick Drake fan, for a start…

    Snap. We may well, though, be the only two such left.

    …but don’t like it in church.

    Double snap.

  21. I’ve been having a weird scene with my first born seven year old, its taken much assurance and insistence by the old man that Jesus really did exist and was horribly killed by the romans, he’s still sceptical about it.
    I’m now working on the idea with him that Jesus was a good man, and that christanity is important, that you don’t need to believe in god to be christian.

    I’m fed up with militant atheists banging on about the godless world we live in, leave theists alone! they’ve got something precious that we’ve all lost by being too bloody clever by half. Now I’m left trying to give my son something worth having when there isn’t really, and I’m having to start at the begining with “Jesus was a real man, and he really did live”.

    I coming to wonder that Christianity may outlive God!

  22. Jonny Bonk

    Me too! I thought I was in a minority, now I know I’m in a minority of at least two.

  23. johnny bonk – “I’m now working on the idea with him that Jesus was a good man, and that christanity is important, that you don’t need to believe in god to be christian.”

    The problem with the “Jesus was a cool dude who said some interesting things” is that much the same can be said for Buddha, or Aristotle or Charlie Brown for that matter. Look what a great influence they have on people. It cannot make people do decent things.

    In the end you not only have to believe in God, you have to fear hell fire. The rest is just middle class masturbation.

  24. Tim,

    In respect of the issues that arise from defining oneself as a ‘cultural Muslim’, try Aatish Taseer’s ‘Stranger to History’, in particular those parts of the book relating to his dealings with his father, the late Salman Taseer, a Pakistani politician and businessman. It’s a very, very good book – I anticipate quoting from it at some length in the near future.

    The most extreme example of cultural Catholicism I’ve ever come across was the late Robert Hughes, a cheerful denier of God and godliness whose thought processes, from top to bottom, upside down and inside out, bore all the hallmarks of a Jesuit education, even down to his prose style, who dedicated ‘The Fatal Shore’ to his godson and who died in a Catholic hospital.

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