I doubt it will come as any surprise that I have atheistic tendencies. If anything I’m an atheist that believes in mythology, or if I want to be pretentious and pretend I’m an Italian New Wave film director, “I’m an atheist with a nostalgia for religion“.
Mythology’s the stories we surround ourselves with and which shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world we live in. So, yeah, there’s Greek Mythology with Zeus and all that, but there’s also Christian mythology, and national mythology (like the Myth of the Frontier if you’re an American). Religion not only supplies one of these mythologies but builds a scaffolding around it in the form of texts, rites, community, personal practices, or shared references. When I say someone’s Culturally Catholic, Culturally Muslim, Culturally Buddhist, etc. it’s referencing their ability to navigate that mythological framework.
I joke about nuns. My buddy jokes about the Talmud. My other buddy answers his dad’s phone call with “as-salaam alaykum” while we’re sitting in a bar eating pulled pork sandwiches.
Some folks might see all this as hypocritical or cynical, but I find it all healthy and in its way respectful. Where it comes from is a maturing of religion away from one thing and towards another, a cultural identity, and more and more as I encounter ex-Mormons I wonder how long we are away from having people say “Yeah, I’m Culturally Mormon, but I drink coffee and support gay marriage.” Or they’ll sit over a beer swapping “war” stories about their missionary year. From a devout perspective they’ll be outside the fold, but from their own place it’ll be the framework they’ve inherited and can share, and as more and more people leave the fold, find life outside to be pleasant, and stay on good terms with their family and friends inside the fold, I won’t be surprised to see people saying culturally Mormon as a way of acknowledging their experiences.
I give it a decade. By which time we can all wonder about the Cultural Scientologists and puzzle out what their deal is.