Remembering alt.lifestyle.furry: Exploring Furry Spirituality

Remembering alt.lifestyle.furry is an essay in three parts. This is part two.

When one looks back on the sincerity and passion for furry life that many participants on alt.lifestyle.furry expressed, we may not be surprised that religion eventually became a topic of discussion. In fact the alt.lifestyle.furry FAQ specifically addressed religion in Part 3 (Appropriate and inappropriate topics), point number four. Briefly excerpted it said,

For many furries, furry spirituality and religion are inseperable topics… we would like to assure everyone that it is ok to mention your religious beliefs here… if you believe they are important to your personal sense of furriness.”

Here are some voices from an extended discussion about religion and dignity.

F said:

“Okay, I have a serious question about the whole furry sub-culture. When I compare the peer group I’ve had up until last year (namely the church) with the peer group I have now, there’s one big positive and one big negative that stands out.

 

On the positive side, furries are much more open-minded and tolerant, while my old group had narrow guidelines for “right” and “wrong”, and if you were outside those lines they very quickly distanced themselves from you. However, there’s a big negative that stands out too. My old group had far more dignity. They had much stronger mutual respect and admiration for an individual’s personal struggle to live ‘a better life’. They had loftier ideals (right or wrong), and they spent their lives pursuing them. They spent far more time trying to strengthen each other’s ideals, and individuals who tried to weaken other’s ideals (ie. seduction) were not tolerated, whereas I’ve seen lots of otherwise nice furries who live by “If it feels good, and you have informed consent, do it”, irregardless of whether their partner will be emotionally hurt as a result.

 

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m *NOT* saying that furries don’t have these things (I can think of examples of furs who do), but they *are* far less common in comparison.

 

So, here’s my question: Is this because my old peer group was stronger than average in this area, or is it because furries are weaker than average, or is it a combination of both? I have only my own life experiences to look at, and I’d like to hear others opinions. Anyway, I’d say more, but I want to hear some responses first. And please, I’m not trying to be a jerk, this is something I really want to figure out…”

 

FoxR replied to him, saying:

“Think about it and you will see the question almost answers itself. Church goers compared to an oft-misunderstood subculture. Hmm, I would think the answer is ‘both’ then. On a side note, reguarding church people being judgemental; not all are. At my church, many people know I am zoo, yet don’t shrink away as though the sight of me burnt their eyes. They even pray with me that the Lord might take away my desire for animals.

 

Then take CFox for example, another Christian who, although he surely seems to hold himself to a high moral code of conduct, doesn’t judge. Surely he has his limits, but I believe that he is very open to befriending those who aren’t on the same page as him…after all, he’s a furiend I count among the closest of my own, yet look at me? I am far from the image of a traditional Christian. Hope that helped a bit?”

 

CFox replied:

“It’s probably a combination of both. Many furs whom I personally know have rejected the Church because they were austricized by it. Furry is a tough culture to deal with if you are a religious person. I don’t think the furs were weaker, as much as some of the Churches that they went to – might have been weaker at accepting those not like themselves. It’s hard when you’ve been “judged” by some, to realize that one church does not a religion or The Church” make. Unfortunately, in some communities… one church is all you get… and one set of parents is what you have to cope with. And too, how much should religions be asked to accept? Some churches need to be strict for those weak of faith or will…. others, more tolerant for those who need to be accepted… and there are still those who help those who have fallen, or entered difficult times, regain their footing.

 

How much difference is too much? When does it turn from “Sin” to “In?” And too, we have to be careful, else we end up with the idea that we rationalize away our own morality completely… that it becomes okie to kill, maim, steal, or be contemptuous – in order just to get ahead. That’s a personal choice to make, and my own personal choice to not be friends with anyone whocares to do those things or like things on a regular basis. Heh, because at some point you are seen by others as by the company you keep… and too…given time your true colors will be shown for what you are, and how you handle yourself.

 

Too, for some furs, Churches and Religion just won’t go together with their furry personaes. That’s their choice, and their decisions to deal with. I’ve know some good furs, and not so good furs have their share of difficulties with the Church and on clashes with important Religious issues. They deal with theirs just as I must deal with my own issues and concerns. Just as a church must cope with the ever changing societal requirements for being above any moral code of conduct. For me, I have little conflict remaining… and most of who I am I place here for all to read. And while I appreciate Renegade’s vote of furiendship… I’m certainly no saint. I do hold myself up to a higher moral standard… because I want to,and because I can. I also won’t cowtow to those who judge me or accuse me of things I never did, just because they feel the need to climb on a soap box and point a pawdigit. And yes, I screw up. Know what… that’s part of the great part of life…. We screw up from time to time! Sometimes it’s taking a risk… or stepping out to be seen. I don’t mind being questioned as much as I used to… it’s expected. It’s natural. I look for understanding in myself first, and as a Christian, I look for guidance from a source that’s well known to me. Whom I respect as a peer. Then if needed, I’ll share what I know. I don’t take things at face value very often, and yet I’m sometimes an Eternal Optimist. I don’t always make it… but at least I try. I’m probably a stuffed shirt to a number of furs… to others, I’m probably an enigma, a cypher, and even a falsehood. That’s fine. I tried to find the all amazing hug fest in the Church and in Furry… and it’s not in either place. Dignity is inside… we all have it. And with furry, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, how much money you make, who you sleep with… and allows you sometimes more dignity than a church might… and too… it sometimes fails to give you guidance and understanding of how to maintain that inner dignity. Worse, it sometimes asks you to shed it, just for the sake of being furry. And remember, no one can give you your dignity… they can just take it away if you let them… or you just can’t stop them.

 

IMHO, Look at the Lion, the Tiger…. Dignity, thy name be roared from those majestic muzzles. Grace and Speed, look to the Cheetah and the Gazelle. Strength… who could hold against a bear? And for slyness and guile…well… *sly fox grin*… we like to pounce and have a good time too. Yet too, each one can be kind and gentle… if they want to be.

 

Still the name, and the place you hold… is your own doing, and by your own paw.”

 

SFox entered his comments:

“As one who knows what F is talking about, the support of organized religions for the morals and dignity of it’s parishioners after seeing that growing up as an active member of my own church. Yet, even knowing this I shied away from it, during personal times of crisis, or just put on a fake facade. Thus my fight with God began.

 

The furry community feels like it has that kind of support, but being that the community is so detached from one another through the great wonder called the internet, it just doesn’t have the depth and resource that can match that of a conventional “Church” of people. Physical people who can touch you in the truest meaning of the word. People you see every week or just on the street, bound in a common, accepted belief. Man is a social creature and while the internet gives us the illusion of social contact…the brain is not fooled by it. Your average church has a leader. A person not only trained in the scripture, but also in people. They’re almost, if not actually, a social worker. They’re best qualities are helping folks to rise above their hurdles and rejoice in times of good fortune. They are, most of them, fine people doing a fine job. I miss them.

 

The furry church, because the term is applicable, has no discernable leader. It has folks who are held in esteem, but generally there is no one furson at the top to guide and direct. So the church is headless and tends to wander amorphously.

 

Now each of these esteemed personalities have different ways of pursuing life. Each one has their own spin on furry and advocate different ways of living out the lifestyle to those who seek out their help and advice. These fursons are often untrained in how to understand the cognative functions of man and offer guidance by personal experience rather than clinical research. Also, the internet spawns a certain amount of anonymity both on the part of those in search of help and those giving it. It’s very easy to tell someone hundreds or thousands of miles away to “Do what feels good and to heck with anyone who stands in your way.” It’s also hard to offer true help to someone who’s not standing in front of you and only gives out what he/she is comfortable sharing. It makes it real easy to hand out erroneous information based on that kind of relationship.

 

The lack of frequent physical, flesh and blood, gatherings seriously limits the ability of the furry community to equal that of religion to serve in the same capacities. While furry tries, the simple lack of meaningful human contact stymies our benevolent efforts. Being one of the furs who feels disconnected to modern religion and can’t really find the courage to embrace alternative ones as fully as I would like, I find myself in an uncomfortable limbo, belonging to nothing. There was a special feeling that’s not present since I’ve again stopped attending church. I live in secrecy and worry now in my neighborhood and town. Worried that I will be found out and the whispering that may go on behind my back. I used to be able to walk down the streets with my head high, confident that I was an acceptable member of society. Now I avoid contact and social interaction in town.

 

I’m at a loss at what to do anymore…I understand furry for what it is, and my faith in religion is so shaken that I really don’t have the support structure I need to maintain more than just my dignity, but my self-respect, self-esteem and confidence that I’m living right. I depend on myself…and that’s not enough. Furry is less organized and has an illusionary foundation which causes it to fail more often when compared to the neighborhood church of any denomination.

 

That’s my spin on things.”

 

 OZ said:

“Among furries, interest seems to be focused on animals, while at the hurch, it is focused on the Bible. These are not contradictory interests, but they do produce differing philosophies. In the church, ‘leading a better life,’ has a somewhat specific definition in itself, which is not universal across other groups. ‘Leading a better life’ may be important to furries as well, but that furries have their own idea of what a ‘better life’ is, and it is not dictated by the furry philosophy to make sure others change their lives to meet this ideal. In other words, different groups such as the Church and the Furries simply have different priorities and values.

 

In order to strengthen each other’s ideals there has to be agreement within the group on what the ideals that should be strengthened are, and assume that it is the duty of group members to reinforce those ideals in each other and oppose those who would weaken the ideals.

 

The furries you refer to, in attempting to embrace the ideal of tolerance of a diverse community, have a very small set of other ideals in common, and don’t tend to support the practice of imposing one’s standards on others. This leads to a certain amount of anarchy (and a reasonable argument that furries don’t really constitute a community, but a simply a number of people with somewhat related interests).”

 

ARGriffin said:

“What I’d like to add:

 

Furry spans across many religions and nationalities. If Furry was to rigidly define rights and wrongs as do religions and constitutions, then Furry itself would become like a religion or a nation. It would basically become a cult. We don’t want that! Part of being tolerant means not encroaching on others’ religious or constitutional beliefs.

 

All furries are united by their animal identities and general respect for animals. Outside of that, we are all very different from each other, practicing different faiths and abiding to different nations. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the same kind of “togetherness” among furries that you see among individuals of the same faith, such as at a church.”

 

Lion continued the discussion with:

(Quoting from F, above) : “So, here’s my question: Is this because my old peer group was stronger than average in this area, or is it because furries are weaker than average, or is it a combination of both? I have only my own life experiences to look at, and I’d like to hear others opinions.”

 

Well, still having a foot in both worlds I’ll take a crack at this. It’s personal opinion but it might give you some insights or trigger something for you. I think that the church group was more focused and thus able to evaluate who and what they were more easily. They could look at what they did, who they were, how they acted and compare that to the expectation of their teaching and say ‘yes we’re on the path’ or ‘no we’re drifting’. Because of this it was easier for them to hold their heads up and take stock in who they were or to look at others and respect them or acknowledge that they were following the path.

 

Furries are far more diverse and there are so many different paths that it is not easy to say who’s right or wrong, doing good or getting lost. In part I think our openness is what allows us to exist together with all this diversity and not be constantly ripping each other apart. As you have said there are those in the furry community that have dignity and strive for very high ideals in their lives. One of the areas that I’m heavily involved in is fursuiting and I can tell you that for some furs in that group there is a tremendous amount of dignity and desire to do good. So much so that it would rival some church groups I know of.

 

So I would have to say that your answer is a combination of both. Each has weakness and strength but each also has potential for doing great good and helping other members to grow.

 

Furry does carry with it certain baggage that is hard for certain churches and religious groups to follow. I’ve got to say at first I didn’t even look at this because I was just too excited about having found others who felt the connection with animals I felt. It was only after the fact (after I was hooked you might say) that I took the time to see the conflicts. It took time but I resolved the conflict to a level I am comfortable with. . . . So yes religion can pose big problems (and dangers) to a person who is religious. But it is possible and I must say I’ve had great success in the past of helping others see that its not a matter of being furry or religious but that its a matter of finding the blend that works for each of us.

 

About ShiningRiver

Shining River lives in the high lands of Utah and began participating in the furry community in 1998. Besides furry art and literature, he is interested in Scottish and Irish culture and Western American folk culture and history. You may see him in public performing with a local Scottish bagpipe band.

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