We Define Ourselves by What We are Not.

Protestants in Europe have defined themselves by not being Catholic.  That is, if you ask one to tell “his/her story”, it would be, “My ancestors were Catholic, now we are Protestant.”

Today’s Protestants in the U. S. do not have such a story.  Their country and the Protestant faith sort of merged together.  In that sense, the country became their faith.  Today, they think of themselves as “Americans” instead of Methodists or Presbyterians.

If you ask an American Protestant his/her religious journey, or story, it is not about Catholic ancestors and current Protestants, it is about being American and choosing a church.  They start with no religious story.

Religious leaders do not like the concept of writing one’s own story.  There is one true story, from their point of view,  and it should be yours.

The author of the attached link has an interesting observation about this new thing of writing one’s own religious story.  Since we cannot define ourselves like European Protestants, “We are no longer Catholic,” we have to look for something else we are not.

Tragically, what we fall into is saying we are not other societies or countries.  We are superior to those others and, sometimes, we are willing to die to correct them. Our story is this combined religion and country often going to war.

It’s harder to go to war over religion because we are constantly shopping for a different one.  The will to fight is there, but the justification has changed.

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/07/02/3794561.htm

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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13 Responses to We Define Ourselves by What We are Not.

  1. entech says:

    Very interesting article. But like most Christian writing something anti atheist seems to be necessary.
    In this article they have come up with the most devastating putdown I can imagine.

    American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists in America. The god most Americans say they believe in just is not interesting enough to deny.

    Don’t worry Jon, realist, et.al. I think you are all interesting, couple of the opposition are doubtful.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Entech; You may be shocked to know I pretty much agree with you. While interesting, there are so many holes in this link I won’t even bother to start.

      • entech says:

        Wanna, surprisingly we probably agree about more than we know. It is only the fundamentals that keeps us apart ;)

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 1:34 “..there are so many holes in this link I won’t even bother to start.”

        I think we would all find most of a stretch will generalizations that go too far. I did like the part where he says people (some people) define themselves by what they are not. It seems to me atheists do that more than Christians. But, many Christians do also by saying they are not atheists.

  2. Avatar of realist realist says:

    Interesting article. I found myself thinking about what half-hearted Christians Americans really are. Many are casual about following the dictates of the church and if it is inconvenient, don’t even do the basics. Summer at the cabin means missing church services, but oh, well. But they still define themselves as Christians even if they don’t really care that much for what that really means. I know many who never take communion and some who haven’t baptized their kids. Lighting fireworks on the 4th of July is a more steadfast tradition than going to church on Sunday. No wonder fewer people go the church. “Americanism” has taken over for religion perhaps. Interesting.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      I kinda-sorta-almost- agree. I do think “dictates of the church,” and “do the basics”, is a little strong in proper context. It is difficult if not impossible to follow or accept the “basics” if one does not know or care what they are. This trend is clear almost everywhere one looks. Certainly, knowledge is not faith, but “growing in the faith” includes growth and interest in that which defines faith. I am reminded of the term; “luke warm”. There are over 52 verses that relate to this topic. Some words come to mind; “Saltiness, the parable of the sower. Some abstract, some concrete. It seems that almost everyone knows how to maximize a smart phone with all the available apps, yet care so little for what they supposedly profess.

      • Wolfy32 says:

        Yet one could argue that the “luke Warm” statements is a form of black and white thinking. If you are not for God then obviously you are for evil seeking the doom of all spiritual beings.

        Yet, if you are for God, yet, not a full extremist for God, then, you are still plotting the doom of all things spiritual.

        Where is the moderation? The balance? Without Good there is no evil and without evil there is no good, so, would it not suffice to say that if everyone was all God / for the good of Christianity, that it would be self destructive of the faith? By eliminating Evil one eliminates the need for faith / belief in God?

        In other words. The biblical must be “all or nothing” is a self perpetuating guilt factor. You should feel guilty for not believing enough because you’ll never believe enough you should feel guilty all the time. OH and your punishment for not believing enough is well, eternal damnation…

        I have issue with the fact that churches feel it necessary to condemn, judge, and use manipulation tactics to garner followers.

        …. Don’t drink the koolaid! That’s not to say I’m not Christian! I do believe in God, and I do believe that Christianity serves a purpose, I don’t believe people are qualified to run churches. Even Christ was disgusted with churches of his time, arguing with and dismissing many of the organized religions of the day. I have a feeling that he’d be just as upset today about churches as he was then.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Wolfy; You seem to forget everyone is on different levels of development in the faith. Someone just starting to believe certainly isn’t as mature in the faith as someone who has been there for 70 yr. Yet they are there. It looks like you have more black and white from your position than others. You simply don’t like the structure of various churches. That’s fine. That’s where you are. Your history/experience with the church you were in is probably part of the cause. It certainly isn’t the only church, yet you remain a Christian. Good for you. Watch out for logs, when slivers are all around you. Continue to learn and grow in the faith.

  3. Michael Ross says:

    “We are superior to those others and, sometimes, we are willing to die to correct them. Our story is this combined religion and country often going to war. ”

    I agree Jon. American has this hubristic attitude of “American exceptionalism ” and if it takes war to prove it, so be it. If we seriously considered this New Testament principle as a cultural mandate, it would prevent most wars we have been involved in:

    “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”.( Philippians 2:3)

  4. Henry says:

    Jon:“We Define Ourselves by What We are Not.”

    So true particularly as this blog demonstrates. Virtually every topic is about some aspect of Christianity, what the atheist is not.

    • entech says:

      That is what we call in the old dart, “stating the bleeding obvious”, a tautology in all forms of the would, especially rhetoric, of which you are such a sophisticated proponent (a self-reinforcing pretense of significant truth).

      About as significant as saying a mountain is valley.

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