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    Thread: Atheism and being Armenian

    1. #1
      Registered User Jinx's Avatar
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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 at 07:06 PM.

    2. #2
      Registered User robertik1's Avatar
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      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.

    3. #3
      Սասունցի Mos's Avatar
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      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
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    4. #4
      Registered User Jinx's Avatar
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      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 at 07:06 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

    5. #5
      Սասունցի Mos's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      Quote 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
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    6. #6
      Registered User Jinx's Avatar
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      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 at 07:06 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

    7. #7
      Anarchist KanadaHye's Avatar
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      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

    8. #8
      Registered User Jinx's Avatar
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      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

    9. #9
      Սասունցի Mos's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      Quote 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
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      "Western Assimilation is the greatest threat to the Armenian nation since the Armenian Genocide."

    10. #10
      Registered User UrMistake's Avatar
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      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.

    11. #11
      Registered User Jinx's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      Quote Originally Posted by Mos View Post
      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.
      Well, that's not going to happen. But thanks for the advice.
      "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

    12. #12
      Death by Internet jgk3's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      I read these today and thought it might help answer your question:
      http://www.armenianchurchlibrary.com...yfindikyan.pdf
      http://www.akn-chant.org/en/chant

      You do the right steps and your participation makes the ceremony happen. It's like dancing to a song. Do you need to deeply believe in the message of the lyrics to somehow feel close to that song, maybe even identify yourself with it out of its familiarity to you?

      The whole thing is quite complex and not simple to understand unless you show up to church often and try to make sense of it:

      1. the language is ancient and impossible to fully understand without some research
      2. the procession is a long, animated dialogue between the priest, deacons and choirmaster
      3. feast days vary the themes during mass and colour the calender (saint days, holidays...)
      4. the sacred objects which decorate the church or which are used by the priest and his helpers each have their own significance.

      The Badarak is basically an approach to God's divinity as something mysterious and unfathomable to man, whom we as a church seek to unite ourselves with through holy communion with Jesus Christ. In practical consequence, the liturgy is executed in a way that is mysterious and unfathomable to those who attend it (unless you've spent considerable time and effort learning the significance of all the things I described from 1-4), and that through your attendance and following of the guided steps of the priest, you join with the church to achieve its sacred rite. Thus, being a Christian is not emphasized as a personal faith one keeps cooped up in their heads, but as an act one partakes in church. That is why Armenians, even if they're not that religious in their private lives, are so easily identifiable as Armenian Apostolic Christians. If an Armenian wants to feel closer to God, all they have to do is make the liturgy less mysterious to them by learning more about it and following its ritual requirements with more conscience.
      I was taught how to think.

    13. #13
      Anarchist KanadaHye's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      Quote Originally Posted by Jinx View Post
      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?
      I suppose you'd have to define the Armenian experience and most people can relate to other Armenians in their communities by doing the same things that other Armenians do. The church along with schools are tools to promote Armenian culture. The church isn't all knowing, nor does it claim to be but it provides a ground for discussion. I'd also like to mention that people who grew up under communism were exposed to Atheist ideology but many who were later exposed to religious settings or teachings changed their views of the world. Leaders who were also atheist made themselves to be gods, if there is no belief that there exists a higher power then that yields ultimate power for rulers over mankind. This is also a reason why there is a divide among Armenians (those that were raised under Atheism vs. those who left for the western world or maintained their beliefs in secular but majority Muslim populations).
      "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X

    14. #14
      Դէպի Հայրենիք Yedtarts's Avatar
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      You do not need to go to church to be considered as a religious person, it is one of the biggest sins to do it if you do it for a show. Lighting the biggest candle, putting big amount of money in the tray while flashing it, donating large amount of money but asking so they announce it out loud, praying out loud so everyone hears that your praying, or crying and asking forgiveness out loud are some of sins that most religious people do these days even priests and most high ranked clergy people, wearing big golden crosses and holding tall golden batons, wearing golden capes and hats and walking like kings and extending thier hands to people so they can kiss it are big sins too. You can be religious even more so than the pope or the catholicos if you can communicate with God in your privet room and if you accept Jesus’ as his son and accept his way of translating god’s words, you're a Christian, forget all the other hocus on focus b/s that the clergy people feed you. it's as simple as that!

      I have no problem with atheists as long as they don’t mock god or believers, I respect they way they think and I want them to respect the way we/us (believers) think.
      Last edited by Yedtarts; 04-25-2011 at 05:11 AM. Reason: Adding a line.
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    15. #15
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      Re: Atheism and being Armenian

      I have no problem with atheists as long as they don’t mock god or believers, I respect they way they think and I want them to respect the way we/us (believers) think.
      This is impossible because of a few things like:

      1) Religious views being imposed on Atheists i.e. Religious opposition to civil unions or marriage for homosexuals, and abortions.

      2) No taxation for churches or even worse Atheists being forced to fund churches or faith based schools (through taxation), or for religious people being forced (through taxation) to fund abortion clinics.

      3) Discrimination against Atheists i.e. treating Atheists like they are servants of the devil or less moral (even though statistically religious people are more likely to commit crime than Atheists, and Atheists are less than 1% of the prison population), refusing employment or accommodation simply because they are Atheists.
      ^
      Atheists will never truly respect how religious people think, nor will religious people ever truly respect how Atheists think. If you want a reason why Atheists mock god and believers it is because there is no god (or non religious evidence of god), and Atheists thus see religious people as living a lie or a delusion. Atheists and religious people are different depending on the individual, some have bad experiences of Atheists just like Atheists have some bad experiences of religious people.

      Just like with anything else, respect has to be earned, Atheists and Christians for example can be good friends and respect each other but as far as views are concerned, would you respect a view that declares Christ is a man and/or that the bible is a mix of fairy tale story's and a work of fiction, that supports genocide, persecution of homosexuals, the inferiority of women, and murder? I doubt as a Christian you could without being a heretic, denying Christ (as well as the good nature of Christ) by your own faith sentences you to an eternity in hell.

      Popular figures of Atheism like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are more vocal and hostile to religion, because they are forced to be because they are in the spotlight, just like popular figures of religion like the Pope are more vocal and hostile to Atheism. The sad thing however is that religious people and atheists don't get along because of the most extreme elements in both, corrupt and spiteful preachers or pedophiles in the priesthood give heavily negative vibes, so that is why Atheists get pissed off when religious people claim to be morally superior or of special moral status when they don't even follow or adhere to their own moral beliefs (aka love thy neighbor).
      Last edited by hipeter924; 04-25-2011 at 08:26 AM.

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