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Atheism and being Armenian

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  • Atheism and being Armenian

    I suddenly had the urge to come back after a long, long, LONG time. I hope this will be interesting.

    I recently gave a presentation on 'Faith and Reason' at a philosophy conference, and afterward I was asked by someone if it is particularly hard for me to be an atheist as an Armenian. It wasn't a question I had thought about much before, as I tend to consider culture and religion two separate categories (though there absolutely can be overlap between the two). Certainly someone can be an Armenian who is also an atheist, such as myself, but my question to you all is if you believe religiosity is something necessary (or at least extremely important) to the Armenian experience? Why or why not?
    Last edited by Jinx; 04-24-2011, 08:06 PM.
    "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest" - Confucius

  • #2
    Re: Atheism and being Armenian

    Im an atheist too. I still go to church with my family for major events like easter. Its hard to be an atheist in America, much less in an Armenian setting, but I just go through the motions in church.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      Well for Armenians it's different. Almost all Armenians identify themselves with the Armenian Apostolic Church - however not everyone is really religious (especially armenians of armenia because of Soviet Union). We respect the church, its traditions, attend during important holidays, but that doesn't necessarily make us very religious, it's just a very important and essential part of armenian identity. If you look at statistics of Armenia when asked religious questions, you will see Armenia is not a very religious country, though when it comes identification with faith, over 98% identify themselves as Armenian Christian. It is different in the West, because in West if you identify yourself with a church and attend service once and a while, you are automatically deemed religious.
      Մեկ Ազգ, Մեկ Մշակույթ
      ---
      "Western Assimilation is the greatest threat to the Armenian nation since the Armenian Genocide."

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Atheism and being Armenian

        Do you think perhaps Armenians in the diaspora being religious or defensive about the church is some sort of reaction to feeling a need to cultivate what you could call their 'armenian-ness'? The Armenian church provides a cultural connection and a place for Armenians to congregate in a way that no other institution really does, at least not on the same scale, and I think this is the reason why the idea of being an atheist can seem to many people also wanting to 'not be Armenian,' or something like that. It's not so much about denying the truth of what the bible says that makes some Armenians feel that being an atheist is incompatible with being Armenian, but rather that they feel atheists are rejecting the single most important anchor in the Armenian community.
        Last edited by Jinx; 04-24-2011, 08:06 PM.
        "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest" - Confucius

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        • #5
          Re: Atheism and being Armenian

          Originally posted by Jinx View Post
          Do you think perhaps Armenians in the diaspora being religious or defensive about the church is some sort of reaction to feeling a need to cultivate what you could call their 'armenian-ness'? The Armenian church provides a cultural connection and a place for Armenians to congregate in a way that no other institution really does, at least not on the same scale, and I think this is the reason why the idea of being an atheist can seem to many people also wanting to 'not be Armenian,' or something like that. It's not so much about denying the truth of what the bible says that makes some Armenians feel that being an atheist is incompatible with being Armenian, but rather that they feel atheists are rejecting the single most important anchor in the Armenian community.
          Well the way I see it the atheists are rejected because they reject the Armenian Church rather than their rejection of the existence of God. The Armenian Church is very important and sacred to many Armenians regardless of their belief if God exists or not. And yes the Armenian Church serves as a meeting place for Armenians, you will see where ever there is considerable Armenian population there is also an Armenian church. Usually, however, Armenians who don't believe in God usually keep it to themselves and will continue to identify themselves with the Armenian church - it just isn't something that is brought to the open that much.
          Մեկ Ազգ, Մեկ Մշակույթ
          ---
          "Western Assimilation is the greatest threat to the Armenian nation since the Armenian Genocide."

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Atheism and being Armenian

            I think the reasons atheists reject the church is because they don't see it as a benign institution. Sure, it can be very useful as a cultural tool, and it would be fine if everyone saw it that way. But it does spread ideas and values that many atheists are very uncomfortable with. I know many Armenians aren't 'religious' in the traditional sense, but there is no denying the rampant homophobia and antisemitism in the Armenian community, and I have heard enough Armenians in my life justify these beliefs by citing biblical or religious reasons to have reason to believe that the Armenians who go to church aren't tuning it out just for some cultural experience. A significant percentage are absorbing it.
            Last edited by Jinx; 04-24-2011, 08:06 PM.
            "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest" - Confucius

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Atheism and being Armenian

              You'd be surprised that most Armenians who attend church aren't religious at all. In fact they only show up on Easter and Christmas. That doesn't mean that they don't see value in the Armenian church or its teachings since those same values have been passed down generation to generation. As far as homophobia and antisemitism, you don't have to be religious at all to form stereotypes... most people form their bias and opinions from random encounters with people from those two groups who happened to rub them the wrong way (no pun intended). If atheists are uncomfortable with Armenians and Christianity, then it just means their faith in non believing isn't very strong. It's human to be doubtful.
              "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X

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              • #8
                Re: Atheism and being Armenian

                Absolutely, anyone can hold any reprehensible belief, whether or not they are religious. However, I stated that I have experience with many Armenians directly citing their religious faith and beliefs for such opinions, which indicates that it is not a benign institution.

                As for your comment ("If atheists are uncomfortable with Armenians and Christianity, then it just means their faith in non believing isn't very strong."), I actually do not understand what you're saying or what the connection there is. As for being doubtful, that absolutely is human, and something atheists embrace. Atheists say that they don't believe in God, rarely do they say there absolutely is no God. Some do, but most don't think that way, and to do so would be foolish. Uncertainty and doubt is inherent to atheism, what atheists are uncomfortable with is religion's certainty.

                Though this is starting to go off topic, I'd really like us to focus on the Armenian community and how an atheist would relate to/be a part of that. robertik1 gave one way to go about it, which is just going through the motions, but I'm wondering what the view is of an open atheist is or should be within the Armenian community.
                "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest" - Confucius

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Atheism and being Armenian

                  Originally posted by Jinx View Post
                  Though this is starting to go off topic, I'd really like us to focus on the Armenian community and how an atheist would relate to/be a part of that. robertik1 gave one way to go about it, which is just going through the motions, but I'm wondering what the view is of an open atheist is or should be within the Armenian community.
                  Just don't be too outward about it, go to church during the important holidays, be respectful to the church, and you should be fine.

                  I wouldn't say the homophobia is a result of religiosity rather just of Armenia being a more conservative society than in the West.
                  Մեկ Ազգ, Մեկ Մշակույթ
                  ---
                  "Western Assimilation is the greatest threat to the Armenian nation since the Armenian Genocide."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Atheism and being Armenian

                    Nice thread ,
                    I agree with the above responses and i believe its accurately true,even if we talk about the progressive western society and the lack of faith we can be considered part of this western motion,i think its part of the enlightenment and all of the maturing period western nations have gone trough.
                    You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.

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