Friday, February 25, 2011

Abdicating Responsibility

So, this started with the realization that I was attracted to the more...strict interpretations of religions for a long time because I did not want to be responsible for my life. I had a desire to interact with the rest of the world as little as possible, and I wanted an excuse to do that. I wanted to believe that my discomfort with other people, with making decisions and taking responsibility was because the world was out of order and my feelings were indicating how the world was supposed to be.

And I found other people who seemed to be saying what I wanted to hear. That women were supposed to be under the men. Set apart, not looked at, not talked to, etc.

I'm not saying that that was the correct interpretation of any of the religions I looked into, just that that was the one that appealed to me, and why.

I've gotten better though. :D

But this led to the idle thought: how much is religion, in general, the abdication of responsibility for both our own lives and the state of the world around us?


  1. As much as you want it to be. My religion (or at least, my interpretation of it) calls people to take responsibility and make the world better. There's not a deity or a perfect order that's gotten lost - things are the way they are because that is fundamentally who we are and what the world is. We can change some things and try to push towards the best of what we are, but we're still the same people and work the same way, and (from my perspective) there's nothing wrong with that. It just means we have to pay attention to what we do and what the consequences are.

    That's not unique to UUs. I know Christians and Jews who feel much the same way, and also some who are more conservative and do feel something is wrong with the world, but also that it is their responsibility to be God's hands and help restore the world to perfection. And then I know some who take themselves out of the world (in terms of interacting with it, not like dying) because they see it as evil and think they're not supposed to be involved, and others who think God or someone else will do the work and they just have to pray for it. There's a wide range of interpretations, and that probably applies to most religions.

  2. Sanil's answer is great as always.

    I am pondering your idea that you could abdicate responsibility by choosing an interpretation of religion that confirms this. I can imagine hiding yourself away or covering yourself so you won't be responsible for some man lusting after this the sort of thing that you mean? And now you are OK showing off your body because you realized you were hiding under religion?

    Because I've always been a "religious" person, yet I have always been taught personal responsibility and accountability. Am I misunderstanding?

    Did you maybe choose and think like this because you had a poor self esteem and didn't think your decisions could possibly have any goodness to them?

    I'm trying to figure you out! :)

  3. A lot of Muslims seem to interpret "Inshallah" in this way. When my husband does this, I try to remind him that Islam actually teaches that God will help those who help themselves.

  4. sanil,

    My religion (or at least, my interpretation of it) calls people to take responsibility and make the world better.

    And that should be the function of all religions, shouldn't it?

    I know what you're saying. It's not the religion itself that forces believers to take or reject responsibility but each individual interpretation of it.

    I was just thinking...even at the core of any given religion, isn't there an element of, 'well, it's not *my* fault. Because x happened at the beginning of time and it's doomed us all. So it's not my *fault* that I have 'bad' thoughts. Or that there's suffering in the world.' We feel guilt and shame at the state of things, which should drive us to try and make even a little bit of it better, or force us to adapt to that part of ourselves. But how much of that is hampered by the underlying idea that none of this is our fault and therefor not our responsibility?

    But it still all boils down to individual attitude, of course.

  5. Susanne,

    That, but also...I wouldn't have to have made decisions. Did I want to go out? Ask the husband. Theological problems? What does the husband think. No responsibility.

    It's not so much that I'm okay showing off now because my view on religion has changed. I'm still not okay with showing off. But as far as the body goes, I've realized that I just have a really freaking awful self-image. I have 'body issues'. It's not that it's gone away, just that it's getting better. But my change in understanding about religion has helped me to understand that there's absolutely nothing intrinsically shameful or sinful about my body. I might not have a very good opinion of it, but that in itself is actually a bad thing. This is the body that God gave me. So it is good, intrinsically. I just can't always manage see it that way.

    Natch. I wasn't saying that religious people don't feel as though they don't have personal responsibility and accountability. Not all of them. I'm saying I was *attracted* to certain aberrant ways of thought in religion that said that. But I understand now that they are aberrant and are not at all what the proper, core teaching of any of those religions really is. And yes, I think I was attracted to them because underneath all my anger and the million and one *other* issues I have, I didn't think anything of myself.

    And honest to God, losing weight has changed that. I feel better about myself. I feel attractive and that's made me able to see the flaws and the lies in the other way of thinking. And to look back and *see* how painfully unnatural it was. Not that people who are overweight all have poor self esteem, of course. But I did.

  6. Zu(hura),

    I saw the email of your comment and thought, 'Who's Zu?' :)

    We have our own version of that down here. Lord willin'. Most people just use it as a...force of habit, really. Just in case something happens. 'Will you be able to deliver that lumber tomorrow?' 'Lord willin'.' But others do tend to treat it as a disclaimer that they have no responsibility.

  7. Sorry about that! I tried to change my name on my blog to make myself a little less searchable but didn't realize it would change how I post comments on other people's blogs!

    I didn't mean just that using the phrase itself abdicates responsibility, but rather that it encapsulates that perspective.

  8. No need to be sorry! It was just funny to me. :)

    And I understood what you meant. It's just like down here. They can say that, meaning that it's out of their control if something does or doesn't happen because of exigent circumstances, but it doesn't actually absolve them of responsibility to finish out their side of the contract. It's entirely about the attitude. No one will take, 'Well the Lord didn't will it.' as a valid reason their house didn't get built! :D

  9. Interesting thought and question! Religion shouldn't be about forgetting your social responsibilities but somehow it is, isn't it? Sad.

    Word verification - Undress!!!

  10. Far too often it is. But when you look at the religions, that's never what any of them say. So it's maybe just genetic laziness? We don't want to have to put in the effort so we interpret things to give us an excuse?


    HAH! Captcha is being saucy today!

  11. I think this is what often attract converts (especially women), as you can choose to convert to an entirely new way of living. I'm going to use Islam as an example here since that's what I'm most familiar with.

    How to dress? You just follow the rules set out by men.

    What to eat? Follow the rules.

    How to behave in public? Follow the rules.

    How to act in marriage? Follow the rules.

    How to worship God? Follow the rules.

    Etc., it can take a huge burden off so that you no longer have to think for yourself, or figure things out for yourself.

    I've personally (thankfully) never been part of this though I can see the attraction in it. When I converted to Islam it was after seeing women who were very religious and cared about their religion, but who didn't cover their hair, who were working, had male friends, were assertive and so uniquely themselves - that showed me I could convert without having to give up my identity or core beliefs.

  12. Becky,

    I know for me this was why I was attracted to Islam in the first place. And I didn't have any personal interactions with real life Muslims to show me that the 'strict' interpretation I was seeing from Muslims I met on the internet wasn't the way it was meant to be. I've run across/met online other Muslims, not that I've stopped looking and I can see where what I was looking at before wasn't what was meant to be. But at the time, it appealed because it meant I didn't have to think and I wouldn't have to be responsible for anything. I wanted to disappear, and that's what it seemed to be offering to me.

  13. Yeah I understand what you're saying Amber, I think this goes for many many Muslim converts (especially women). I'm actually sort of the odd one out for not going that route - which is why I've always felt odd identifying as Muslim, because I've by no mean ever been standard/mainstream Muslim. Guess I'm too independent and free-thinking for that.


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