Believing without Belonging

A recent article from Reuters describes an ongoing trend: fewer and fewer people of faith feel the need to attend church. “The phrase ‘believing without belonging’, coined by British sociologist Grace Davie in the 1990s, describes the growing number of people who say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ and leave organised religion behind.” The position of Cardinal Timothy Dolan –namely that believing without belonging poses a real problem to the Roman Catholic community — gives light to the way that this community functions. In order to belong to this community, it is not enough to share and ascribe to the same beliefs as other community members. In order to belong, there are certain ritual actions that one must take. Church attendance functions as sort of rite of passage. It serves as a physical commitment.

Global Community

Global Community (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this way the Roman Catholic community is unlike The Global Community, for example, which the Dalai Lama suggests we are all a part of “whether we like it or not”. This community is made up of all human beings, regardless of socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, gender, or location. Interestingly, membership in the global community is not voluntary, not by choice, and in this way, it is a very distinct type of community. What other communities are this way? Members of this type of community are necessarily tied together by some shared trait (in this case, humanity). Perhaps another example of this would be ‘the community of women’, although the question becomes whether biological females that choose not to be defined as women would be a part of this community. This is related to voluntariness, and whether  membership is ascribed on a “whether you like it nor not” basis. This doesn’t seem to be the membership basis of the Roman Catholic community (at least according to this article). How would you characterize communities that have non-voluntary membership? How would you characterize other communities that ask members to complete certain actions?


3 thoughts on “Believing without Belonging

  1. Pingback: You’ve got so many identities. | The Community Talks

  2. What an interesting reading this post was. For the past several months I have been debating with myself if I belonged to the Episcopalian or the Roman Catholic church. I never understood or believed that my being a Catholic required going to church. I’ve always felt that being Christian was not about regularly following a ritual. Then I realized that maybe I was lying to myself, maybe I was wrong. Maybe going to church was one of the sine qua non condition to be considered a member of that community of faith. If this is the case, I can no longer say that I am an Episcopalian or a Roman Catholic or any member of a church. Then I am just a believer. I believe in God and I believe that my way of life is my only testimony to that belief. All the rest is accessory. And I am ok with that.

  3. Pingback: Spiritual but Not Religious |

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