Sociologists have identified a common belief in a “religious convergence” during the twentieth century, which posits America as a nation of diverse religious views that nonetheless yield consensus on basic values — what researchers have termed the “common creed.” Under this theory, people express hostility toward atheists because they disrupt this emerging narrative. (Leong, “Negative Identity,” 1379; bolding mine)
I really love this quote. I want to eat it and digest it over and over.
I’ve been having some really interesting conversations with friends about unity vs diversity, generalizations vs connectedness…
One friend has a very cool belief system regarding symbiotic unity, in which pieces retain individual identity and diversity, yet all form a part of a whole, and benefit each other. This is a beautiful vision of unity.
Yet in so many of the books I’ve been reading (especially Finding Your Religion), there is this…prescriptive unity, this “we are all the same!” and “we all connect to the same Truth, just in different ways!” which is very, very…alienating to me.
It feels reductive, and simplistic, and insulting to me to say that no matter what, no matter how I feel or interpret or relate to my experiences, they will always lead me to the same Entity, which is differently called God or Science or Nature or Truth or the Universe or the Ultimate Reality or the Way or some other [definite article Capitalized Transcendent Sacred].
As if no matter what I do, no matter how I deconstruct and reconstruct and shift perspective and am critical of any Platonic Essence or Universal Truth — no matter what, anything in which I find meaning, is merely another facet of Your God.
As if I will always and forever be tied to this inescapable association, even if my most basic premise is “NOT that.” As if I can never actually reject all of Christianity, specifically, because it is too damn big and I’m only allowed to reject the pieces that hurt me directly, but that’s a fundamental misapplication and mistranslation and Not the REAL Christianity / Understanding of God.
ffjfgnjfsdkbg. I seriously need some distance from Christianity, and it is extremely hard to find (at least, in the UU and atheist and New Age books I’ve been reading). And I’m not sure if that bleedover is what’s affecting my sense of “holy shit, why is everything about The Way and how This Solves Everything and how Universally Relevant it is and how every other thing is Actually The Same” (here I think about what I’ve read of Taoism and Buddhism — maybe Confucianism too).
My, like, actual philosophy, is so centered around Not Assuming Experience and around Infinite Diversity, and around deconstructing “same”ness as a reason for Worth (and instead calling on innate worth even and especially in difference)…that I just. Am having a really hard time hearing about Unity.
And it’s weird, because I’ve very much had experiences that I would describe as connecting to The Universe and to The Timeline. …except now that language feels kinda tainted. (And also the way I conceptualize this is changing…multiverses, and deconstructing Alpha timelines versus how they can be simply different, etc.)
In some ways it’s like “prayer.” The word is too fraught with connotations I don’t want; I really doubt I could ever reclaim it for my purposes, and I don’t really want to. It still, however, is closer than any other single word somehow, in capturing something about focusing willpower and sending wishes out into existence and letting them go, and hoping they bring goodness. It’s a kind of magic, but not a spell (not that I really do spells actually), a kind of energy work maybe, but…I dunno. Damn. I don’t mean to simplify prayer, or magic, I just. Liminal things, in different frameworks.
I guess I’m just so so wary of how Unity gets wielded in a universalizing, homogenizing way and becomes this Default that assimilates without being change. And that quote up there, about how atheists (and secularists and nonbelievers) are a sticky thorn to the we-all-really-believe-the-same-thing narrative, means a lot to me in that context. Like, not in a moral, we-agree-killing-is-bad way, but in a…a, Believing in Ultimately the Same thing, isn’t necessary or an important goal, and is kind of a messed up priority.
Iiiii feel like I’m talking in circles now. It’s hard for me to get at what I mean here. And I see “atheist” being too easily twisted into “Sciencist” and being appropriated into the narrative of ultimate-truth(-and-its-facets). Which is why “secularist” is becoming important to me. And “nonbeliever,” too.
I don’t think this is a pedantic semantics thing. It feels meaningful and important and significant.
(Also…unity/universalizing and “we are all human” and. Heh. Being nonhuman. And just generally being outside of “we all” statements, to some extent intentionally. But also things like “we all have inherent worth and dignity” are good! But not “we all experience X” because when is that ever 100% true, actually — not for various definitions of attraction, love, “empathy,” probably even things like happiness.)
waves hands inarticulately. D E C O N S T R U C T I O N