Replies on Relationships (with Chaplains and others)

My two recent posts on relationships (with loved ones – God included, and with the Yale Chaplain’s office) have both gotten responses I’d like to draw to your attention.  First off, JT fired back after I disputed the idea that Mass-goers were having time stolen from them by religion. Here’s an excerpt:

But that doesn’t respond to what I said. I bolded the important part. [If you’d rather be at home cuddling someone who means the world to you than sitting in a pew, then your religion has stolen a bit of your life. -- interpolated by Leah] There are many people who would rather be doing anything other than church, or who subvert things they would otherwise do, out of fear of judgment, not because of any other reason. That’s where religion starts stealing people’s lives.

And Leah’s post even solidifies the content of mine. The meaning she assigns to her life is going to church. She goes because she wants to. It’s not externally assigned, but a meaning she’s given to her own life. But let’s not imagine that everybody at Mass/church isn’t wishing they were somewhere else. Let’s not imagine that every person of faith doesn’t wish to trespass upon the taboos of their faith, and would if only they could realize their faith is not true.

Eh, I think this is the point where our disagreement just dissolves to the overarching disagreement about whether religion is true.  I can write a reframe where an atheist feeling bored stuffing envelops for an anti-theist event is, by this definition, having time stolen from her, because she would prefer not to be doing this if she could realize her philosophy was incorrect.  Or that a boy who would like to take a physical relationship slowly, but feels constrained to “be a real guy” and get intimate quickly is having his modesty stolen by an oversexualized culture.

But at that point, we’re just both saying that “People would regret some things they do because they are consistent with their current philosophy if they found that their worldview were incorrect.”  Which I think we both agree is true and trivial.

I think the more interesting point of disagreement is whether you should expect to be discomfited by your worldview.  Is it evidence against a philosophy if it has taboos you’d like to transgress?  What if you don’t want to follow them, but you want to want to (i.e. like wishing you wanted to go to the gym).  I suppose we could sit down on Chesterton’s fence and discuss this point instead.

 —  —  —

In response to “Is it Hard Out Here for a Humanist?” (and every other piece on the Yale Humanists being turned down for membership in the Yale Religious Ministries), Chris Stedman has posted two statements: “Regarding the YRM Decision” and “Clarifying our Relationship with the Yale Chaplain’s Office.”. From the former:

Why Did We Apply?

We applied for membership in this group because the YHC is an intentional moral community. We weigh and discuss questions of ultimate concern. We are bound by a shared identity that speaks to our core values. Humanism is a worldview and life-stance that is, per the third edition of the Humanist Manifesto, “guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience.” Like many religious traditions, Humanism has a rich history replete with evolving ideas, narratives, and many profound thinkers. Importantly, it is an identity for people who are often classified by what we do not believe in.

He goes on to say that the YHC was denied membership because it is non-religious, but that no one is angry with each other and that YHC will work with the Chaplain’s office in other capacities.

I’m still completely at sea as to what the Yale Religious Ministries actually do, and what the rights and responsibilities of membership are, and whether Stedman and the Humanists think that all philosophical groups are a fit for the YRM.  I still think the Objectivist Study Group at Yale hits most of the benchmarks in that blockquote.  (Well, profound is always debatable, but I will confess I was more enthused about architecture after reading The Fountainhead).

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Ben L

    I think you missed JT’s point again – if the atheist thought atheism was dumb, and only was stuffing envelopes out of a desire not to be ostracized by her/his atheist friends, *then* it would be analogous to going to church. JT isn’t saying religion is stealing your time because it’s wrong and you think it’s right, he’s saying it’s stealing your time because as an institution it brings a lot of force to bear to make you go *even when you think it’s wrong*.

    • Ben L

      ^…Nevermind, I apologize for not reading mroe closely. Consider the above what I think, and I agree that JT’s post becomes somewhat trivial as he goes on.

  • Kristen inDallas

    I originally wrote this on JT’s page, but I think it’s relevent for Christians or atheists. It sums up what it is that really rubs me the wrong way about the stolen time metaphor (whether in reference to church-going or anti-theist envelope stuffing) Time can’t be stolen, it’s there regardless of what you’re doing, you’re living your life, like it or not, ALWAYS. If anything gets stolen, it’s not time, it’s me. When I choose not to be present in the moment, because I’m dwelling on some choice I didn’t ultimately think was good enough to make.

    “There are different levels of want…. there’s the superficial “I want to stay in my warm bed”, and there’s the deep down want of wanting to grow spiritualy, or hang out with the kids, or volunteer for some charity. What we do all boils down to which want we let win. But every single human being does what they want 100% of the time. I don’t necesaily “like” getting up and going to work every day… but when it’s all weighed and balanced, I want to continue eating more than I want to play a video game. A life-coach friend of mine started a group called “I do what I want” to explore the idea that true happiness comes from (not necesarily caving into every whim) but recognizing that even the disagreeable things we do are actually in line with our greatest desires.”

    …that’s why we choose to do them. Even people who don’t really crave God, who only go to church out of fear of ostrication (I have not ever met that person btw)… even then, that person “wants” the approval of their fellow churchgoers more than she wants that extra snuggle time. If she wantted to sleep in more, she’d be in bed (as I’ll admit I am many mornings). Not all of our wants are healthy, and not all of our actions are healthy as a result. But our choices are way more *ours” than the “stolen time” metaphor gives us credit for.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Well, there’s a lot of things we would rather be doing than the thing we’re doing, but we have to do the thing we’re doing rather than what we’d like to do.
    Most of us, for instance, are probably working in jobs that are okay but we don’t find ourselves waking up in the morning going “Yippee! I get to go into work today!” We have to do it because we have to earn a living.

    Is that job ‘stealing our time’? Maybe. But life is all about delayed gratification and not doing what we want to do when there is something else we have to do instead.

    JT says if it’s a choice between ‘do I stay home and eat icecream (for those of us with no sweeties to cuddle) or go to church’ and we go to church because *whatever reason* when we would prefer that pint of real Madagascan vanilla icecream, then we are having time stolen from us.

    But what if I assign more meaning to the church going (or the taking a walk or running on the treadmill or minding my brother’s cats while he’s on a week’s holiday) in the long run than eating the icecream? It’s not quite as simple as a ‘this nice thing versus this nasty thing’ choice right this minute. Icecream is always a pleasure, but I may find that I have to do *two* hours walking to shift the inches I’ve put on my hips from staying in and eating that pint, instead of taking that walk in the brisk cold air that I didn’t want to take, so I end up cheating myself of more time than I would have done in the first place?

    Also, you may prefer to watch that football match than cuddle with your sweetie that particular evening or morning, but if you ignore the things your sweetie wants to do that you don’t, then you may find yourself without a sweetie to cuddle anytime :-)


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