The Churchless Sunday

canstockphoto1218783With the heated-up rhetoric about a war on religion, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve kept my status as a non-believer on the down low. Most of the people I know are believers of one ilk or another. We’re polite with each other and very rarely does the issue of theology come up. We’re not in college anymore, so having deep conversations on the nature of the universe has been replaced by discussions about our crappy health insurance, should we be so lucky to have some.

Today my family did what it usually does. We went to visit my mother-in-law at her nursing home and then went out to lunch. We returned home ready to unwind. My husband took his Sunday siesta. My daughter played her viola in the garage. I went out and started working in the garden beds, which usually entails me staring at bugs and birds a lot. Tonight I’ll be reading, he’ll watch TV and she’ll be playing some more until I tell her to knock it off. It’s a simple, low drama, casual dress routine. I thought about how other people spent their Sundays.

Both my husband and I grew up attending church. He has fond memories and connections to his Lutheran church – a church attended by his neighbors with a strong Scandinavian bent to it. I grew up and was baptized in the Seventh Day Adventist church which at the time was pretty fundamentalist and in the 70s, literally preparing for the second coming.

canstockphoto42249646I attended church on Saturday with very strict rules about not working, not playing with friends, and not eating things with cloven feet. I memorized the Bible and did what I was told and believed everything that the pastor said. We were a poor family in a wealthy church. When we got scholarships to attend the private church school, my mother took us out of the school I’d been attending Kindergarten through 6th grade and stuck us in a school where girls couldn’t wear pants with pockets and rock and roll music was forbidden.

The next year we moved to a community with no Seventh Adventist church. That was the end of my churchgoing. It wasn’t the end of my belief system, but as I got older and read more and met more people, I knew that religion in and of itself did not provide the answers to many of my questions. Every few years I’d go through a church search, attending Catholic, Methodist, Universalist, Episcopalian and some church where I was creeped out because we had to hold hands in a circle in the park.

canstockphoto31872630Perhaps it was that I’d begun to read more history and took an interest in Eastern religions which seemed to have more wisdom and fewer rules. Or it could be that my introverted introspective nature began to dominate and anywhere people gathered was where I didn’t want to be. I decided that I didn’t know if there was a God, but since I didn’t know, I didn’t want to spend time trying to sort it out or hanging out with people who knew they were right and wanted to tell me how wrong I was.

Having a child returns the issue to the forefront. In respect to my husband’s beliefs, I told him he could take her to church if he wanted. But by the time she was old enough, something changed my mind and I think, his as well. She asked a lot of really good questions. She asked so many good questions that I couldn’t bring myself to lie about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

This got her in a little trouble along the way. One of her friend’s parents called me. Your daughter told my child that I was lying to him about Santa Claus. I was mortified and secretly proud. I apologized and then talked to my daughter about how families have different belief systems and that we need to respect that.

It got me in trouble on the way, too. In parent education classes, when we talked about the holidays, one mother was horrified that I’d essentially ripped my daughter’s childhood out from under her. Never mind that we have lovely holidays with our own family traditions. And that her kids were constantly in meltdown/ sugar crash mode, while mine had a pleasant, consistent temperament. Yeah, I judge a little when attacked.

It hit me the other day that I’ve raised a skeptic with critical thinking skills. I don’t know how I feel about that. It sometimes gets suggested that nonbelievers of deities are lacking in beliefs in general. But we have some pretty strong beliefs and we’ve passed them onto her. Be kind and considerate. Be stewards of animals and the earth. Work hard. Appreciate your good fortunes. And believe nothing without verification from multiple sources. It’s no surprise that she wants to be a scientist (with a side job as a violist in a movie soundtrack orchestra).

canstockphoto3744371There is something to be said for the sacred and taking the time to honor being alive, being here with whatever patchwork of friends and family we have. There is something to be said for turning off and tuning out and slowing down and being grateful. Right now I’m sitting here and I can hear mowers and blowers and trimmers in our neighborhood and I think that maybe it’s a bit of a shame that not everyone has a quiet day. But it’s always an option, with or without our Sunday best.

How did you spend your Sunday?

58 Comments on “The Churchless Sunday

  1. Went to Mass this morning ( I’m Catholic ), did some household chores, and now catching up on my blog reading…….. then something wonderful happened….. I got to read this, your post.

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  2. It’s tough being a parent and sometimes overwhelming. It doesn’t get easier as they get older but you do your best and that’s all God can ask….🤔

    >

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  3. My husband and I met on an atheist usenet group. I was in the process of leaving a Christian church and breaking up with a Christian boyfriend. I landed in the UU church for the next 20 years, and have felt welcome as a non-believer. I still go to UU church for the sense of community I get there and the opportunity to meet people who share my values, even if their beliefs about deities may be different from mine. I also had some anger towards Christianity and Christians left over from the difficult “break up” (from the boyfriend and the church) that UU Christians helped me work through, for which I am grateful. But after we moved my family, especially my son who is now 13, decided that they are done with church and want to do something else on Sunday morning. Sleeping is a favorite at the moment. And a couple of years ago I read this article, “How secular family values stack up,” http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-oe-0115-zuckerman-secular-parenting-20150115-story.html, and it made me feel better about respecting that decision of theirs. I know bad it felt when I was rejected by that boyfriend for not believing the same things he did, so I didn’t want to do that to someone else. And today, we went for a walk in the Baylands for Earth Day and picked up trash that mostly wasn’t there, had lunch, caught some Pokemon, I worked on editing my novel for Camp NaNoWriMo and my daughter had a dance rehearsal. I feel close to the divine in nature and playing music.

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    • These days I’m leery of any groups, especially those with extremist views or views that make them hostile to other belief systems. For me, the patriarchal aspect of organized religion and biblical interpretation was also something I did not want to pass onto my daughter.

      Thanks for including that link to the article. I think because a majority of people still align themselves with a religious belief system, it made me much more conscientious about what lessons I wanted to teach my daughter for fear that I was somehow shortchanging her.

      And yes to music and nature! I think I got my first sunburn of the year today!

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  4. Thank you for this posting. I too am not a religous person, but was raised as a Methodist. I find people are people no matter what they believe. If what people believe in is healthy for all then that is great, but if aspects of what people believe in are harmful to society then I am not in favor.

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    • I agree with you and so much of what people believe is subjective. I think the harm really comes when people use their beliefs to establish a sense of moral superiority to others and lately, there has been a toxic mix of that sense of “rightness” and political legislation in the US. But all we can do is keep talking to each other, be respectful and try to live with empathy.

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  5. yes, I too have churchless Sundays. I got tired of being told that my beliefs did not fit the various little boxes that churches want us to fit into. You and I have a lot in common in our beliefs

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    • It’s funny, I used to love to sing church hymns. After the military, they seemed so incredibly full of battle references that I no longer enjoyed them. Everything changes in different context and with each new experience. I imagine my beliefs are continually evolving, but my hope is that they are growing more compassionate.

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  6. My Sunday was spent churchless – thanks for asking – as have all of my Sundays since I was 16 – before that, I was a regular Lutheran church-goer – sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and helped out at Vacation Bible School – the whole nine yards.

    At 16, however, I was more inclined to want to sleep in, to play tennis, to hang with my friends. So, the 1972 Sunday when I went to church dressed in my jeans and tennis sneakers, scandalizing my fellow parishioners was my last Sunday. To hell with their hypocrisy, I cried. Part of me was looking for an excuse to ditch church, I”ll admit. Part of me, though, was realizing that this wasn’t a place for me.

    The community part is what I miss. The gathering together and sharing and working toward common good. But the price of admission is too much for me. As well as the fact that as an introvert, I hate being in a crowd.

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    • You bring up a very important aspect about religion that many people appreciate – a sense of community. We’ve had to work a little harder at that, mostly through volunteering and being out and about in our neighborhood. And also being part of a blogging community has helped me feel a little more connected. Maybe that is what I like about living in the metro area – there are so many communities to get involved in. But like you, I’m an introvert, so it is definitely in measured doses!

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  7. I remember church fondly from when I was young. You did get an automatic sense of belonging, a this-is-my-people moniker to wear like a religious badge. Then life and college happened, and now I stand, looking back, as though that life were a childhood dream. Nice, but eventually you had to wake up.

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    • As I mentioned, we were odd ducks at our church. Even in a small town, we were known as townies versus the people who lived around or near the church campus. So belonging was never an issue. Maybe that was a good thing – it likely lead to earlier independent thinking about religion.

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  8. Sundays at my home are spent with me at the computer and my husband at his brother’s watching some movie. I know, odd, to say the least. I was raised going to a Luthern church but when I had a life-changing experience right after high school, my days at the church stopped and I became agnostic, which I still am today.

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    • Life-changing experiences tend to drive people deeper into religion or farther away. For me, it was likely away as well – growing up in a dysfunctional home where once a week we acted like we were normal. I’ve generally referred to myself as agnostic, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with “nonbeliever”, just in case someone thinks they can convert me.

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  9. Can really relate to this though the UK is a more secular environment. As a sun-worshipper I would like to celebrate Sun-day but … hey, it’s the UK!

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    • I was curious as to the UK statistics. It looks like over 25% of the population say they have no religion. It runs about 23% in the US, but over 70% identify as Christian and the culture seems saturated with iconography and the toxic mix of religion and politics.

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      • I would only become concerned if rational, logical modes of thought such as science are eroded. Love those science marches and their protest calls: What do we want? Evidence-based science! When do we want it? After peer review! Wonder how many of the 70% would find that amusing …

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  10. Sunday, for us, is our day to run errands, grocery shop, do laundry, garden, and then reward ourselves with extended and uninterrupted reading time. As we drive past crowded church parking lots, I am grateful that it means there are fewer cars on the roads and fewer people at the grocery store.
    My parents were both raised in strict and unforgiving—though very different—religious homes. As adults, they were at most agnostic and, more likely, atheists. They gave us a choice of going to church or not. I chose not to; my older sister went for several years. My father died when I was 11, which was the impetus for our mother to become a militant atheist—a state which extended to her last breath. Shortly before dying, she was visited by the church chaplain, whom she sent from the room instantly, and quite forcefully for a woman at death’s door.
    Over the years, friends and even teachers(!) have tried to “save” my soul and show me the error of my ways—some gently, some not so. I am reminded of the long-forgotten and overlooked poem from 1970, “The Pusher,” by Barry Stevens. http://conwayhall.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ETHICAL-RECORD-JANUARY-1972.pdf (poem is on page 5 of the document—well-worth digging for).
    When I see how much hatred and violence have been instigated in the name of religion, I can’t help wondering whether more good or more harm has been done by it.
    I so agree with you that taking time for reflection and gratitude—and finding the sacred in our lives—is essential. And also that these things can be found in many ways beyond religion. Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post, Michelle.

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    • You know, Donna, learning this about you fascinates me because you are one of the kinder, more compassionate voices on the internet. I used to get very frustrated with people who assumed I was a Christian because I was polite, raised a decent kid, volunteered, because there is this idea of religion being equated with morals and decency. Yet, I would never have guessed at your background. It makes me think that I’ve internalized some of those stereotypes.
      Thanks for the link to that poem and thanks for sharing your experiences. Your Sundays sound a bit like mine!

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      • It’s been clear over the last 2.5 years of blogging about kindness that many people assume I am writing from a Christian perspective—assuming, I guess, that Christians have a corner on the franchise. I’ve actually never mentioned god or any religion (it just doesn’t occur to me). I suppose as long as my message resonates, people are welcome to assume whatever they want about me. It’s probably human nature to impose assumptions that support our world view. When there was talk earlier this year about a “Muslim registry,” I figured I’d sign up just to be among those adding chaos to the intolerance. I suspect that’s the closest I’ll ever come to organized religion.

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        • I haven’t been particularly strident about my beliefs either, but it’s like anything else, if the quiet people don’t speak up then we get represented by the loud extremists on either end of the spectrum. I think so many people fall in a mild to moderate belief system, but we’re so mild, we’re practically invisible.

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        • Wanted to correct my mis-attribution of the poem, “The Pusher.” After further research, it appears that the author is Peter Goblen.

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  11. As a Lutheran pastor’s (later, bishop’s) kid, I truly grew up *in* the church. And I was a very committed, active member of one church or another well into adulthood. And I’ve seen tons of genuinely good things happen in and through churches of all sorts. But my dad was never a gloss-over-faults or absolutist kind of guy (being, in fact, a good Lutheran), so I also knew from early days that, as he was known to put it, ‘there’s no better place than a church to see people at their most un-Christian.’

    And it was that lack of compassion, that frequent and blatant hypocrisy, that drove me to feeling out of place in most churches, most of the time. Nowadays, I tend to attend only for special events of one sort or another, and primarily those occasions that are not religious services but held in churches—concerts, where the music and art are what I have learned I always found the most spiritually inspiring and fulfilling.

    Just as in the rest of the world, humans are humans in organized religion, with all of their gifts and graces and all of their fiendishness and faults. So I prefer, mostly, to let others worship what and whom they will without me, and happily so as long as they let me believe and be what and whom I feel called to do. Sundays, like any other day of the week, are days when I seek peace and calm and sweetness no matter what the calendar requires or where I must/am able to be. I like your approach very well, myself….

    Kath

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    • You make a very good point about religion, as it is of and by humans, that it is bound to carry with it the flaws and excesses you’d see anywhere else. Friends have explained to me that they see their religious practices as a breathing part of their everyday lives. But religion is based on dogma and I’ve never understood how they could feel part of something that they only accept in bits and pieces.
      It made me think, though, that I might be generally dismissive because I’m being a purist and maybe this is not a good thing. However, I’ve found that my horizons and thought processes have grown beyond the borders of the religion I was raised in and to me, that means that they might not have had I stayed.
      Admittedly, our Sundays look like other days, but perhaps it is simply habit that says it’s a special slow-down day.

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      • That ‘bits and pieces’ approach is kind of the central problem for me with any kind of dogmatism: I find quite often that those who are the most ‘hard line’ in calling themselves fundamentalists and their sacred writings and practices a direct pipeline from their God/s are the ones most inclined to cherry-pick both the parts they wish to believe/emphasize and the versions, expressions, or translations of those parts they find the most palatable and acceptable.

        It seems to me humans are hard-wired to long for simple black-and-white facts even when we want to think ourselves more sophisticated than that, so I’m okay with each of us choosing what to believe, as long as we also remain open to the possibility we’re misguided or imperfect *ourselves* at times and unable to understand or prove everything unequivocally. How a ‘Christian’ absolutist is able to feel cozy with claiming word for word perfection in an English translation of the bible from, arguably, German, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic in backward succession by mere mortal scribes is no less mysterious to me than how a sincere believer accepts wholesale the creeds and rites of any other sort of faith, secular *or* sacred.

        🙂
        K

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        • Absolutely (ha!). I find that being a heavy reader and writer has impacted my ability to see many religious scriptures and text as anything but heavy-handed metaphor. But understanding metaphor means having the ability to see beyond literal words and I don’t think people are often that skilled – especially those who want dogmatic answers to life.

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  12. I’m agnostic, but my wife and I wanted to at least give our kids some exposure to organized spirituality, so we attended a couple fairly liberal churches for a while. When my son was 7, we moved to a neighborhood that had a strict, conservative Christian family down the street (the woman stuck a VHS video of “Jesus” in our mailbox the first week). This family had a couple boys my son’s age. One day, Nick came home and told my wife “Mom, B.J. and Danny asked me if I’m a Christian.” My wife asked him what he answered. “I just told them we were regular.”

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    • This made me laugh. We live next to religious home schoolers (6 kids!), so we’ve had some interesting conversations over the years. The kids used to come over to our yard and chat us up, telling us that our raspberries were “God’s juice boxes” and asking bluntly if we were Christian, which always took me off guard.
      I’ve talked to my daughter about biblical stories over the years, because Christianity is so woven into our culture and our literature that without that biblical knowledge, a lot of references can go over one’s head.

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  13. So I’m sitting here with an in-box FULL of new posts to read on blogs I follow. I skim through two or three, but I’m not really in the mood, and frankly the content is pretty ordinary. I tell myself just have a quick look at one more. I swear I was just going to quickly skim through this, but see Michelle, you write so well that I’m immediately caught, and read every word right to the end. I like your beliefs a lot. They are pretty similar to mine. Sundays are rarely unlike any other day for me. I have no time for religion, but lots of time for truth.
    Alison

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    • Well, it always a privilege to have you read my posts, Alison. NPR does a series called This I Believe and I’ve been thinking about doing my own series on the blog and inviting others to contribute. I think other people’s belief systems are fascinating. It’s sometimes difficult to enunciate what one’s beliefs are and they often come out sounding like a Hallmark card, but in this age of irrationality it seems more important than ever to be able to say out loud what we believe in and to have those conversations.

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  14. What a great post Michelle and great comments from your readers. It’s really interesting to read them all. You have such a wonderful way of expressing things that I often find myself thinking,” well, that is something I don’t need to say because Michelle just expressed it perfectly!” I went from a childhood with little exposure to church, to a very fundamentalist believer in my twenties. What I learned over time is that organized religion is a lot about control, and is often most appealing to authoritarian types, which is not my gig at all. I still find the figure of Jesus very appealing, but I don’t feel that he is well represented in most of Christianity. I think that the most alarming thing for me these days is how people of the faith seem to want to dominate the world, and often believe God has called them to promote and create a Theocratic United States of America…and that he would use a Donald Trump to do so. BIG disconnect there.
    Having said that, I know people who self identify as Christians who are truly wonderful people whom I genuinely admire, but I’m not one of them. While I sometimes tackle Christian themes in my blog posts, I would say my status is not believer or non-believer, but someone who is open to all possibilities. Thanks for making this such an open forum for your readers to share their thoughts Michelle. I love the blogging community for that.

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    • I’ve enjoyed how willing people are to jump in and share their lives here. You’re right, the blogging community is a great place for these conversations.
      I had an “aha” moment when I studied ancient near Eastern history (ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia) in college. I learned how political leaders changed which deities were worshiped in order to suit their purposes – basically controlling the population. It really made me think about the purpose of religion throughout history and the issue of control.
      While I live and volunteer in a diverse community of faith, I’ve found that the nature of someone’s religious beliefs relies heavily on what kind of human they are and not vice-versa.

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    • Thank *you*, too, Ms. Elliott—despite your comment about Michelle’s writing (a sentiment I often feel, myself)—you just managed to say it so well I don’t need to reframe it. I appreciate your angle on this!
      Kathryn

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  15. I think the question of whether there is a god is the most important question that can be asked. I spent a long time as an agnostic, but I always felt if one person says there is a god and another says there is not, one of them is wrong, and that’s a pretty big question to be wrong about.

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    • I’ve come to much the opposite conclusion, but I’m also a pragmatist. What guides me is the idea that we need to ameliorate the suffering of others. When I think about the possibility of some higher power, it angers me. With all the suffering experienced by the vulnerable on this planet, I have little patience for that which is not empirically in evidence. At this point, the idea of being wrong about the existence of a god doesn’t bother me much.

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  16. Memories of a hell fire and brimstone childhood keep me home on Sundays, unchurched but not unwashed. Easy mornings around the table with family, sometimes friends, help deepen my gratitude for the many privileges and pleasures we enjoy and share with others every chance we get.

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    • My church experience was much the same. Everything was about us being on the verge of going to hell, which is a terrible way to explain life to kids. I’m occasionally/frequently unwashed on Sundays, but that’s to leave room for gardening, where I get filthy anyway. Your Sundays sound lovely.

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  17. Michelle,

    First off, I always enjoy reading your posts so thank you. I spent this past Sunday in church. I have been going to church my whole life. However, I haven’t always had the same perspective. Growing up I was bored by church. The words spoken by the pastor were empty to me. When I was 5 I asked my parents how much we got paid to go to church. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had been hinging my faith on the wrong thing, going to church. The lynchpin of Christianity is not the presence of the church it is the resurrection of Jesus. Buddha is in a grave, so is Muhammad, but is there an empty tomb in Jerusalem? I too like yourself can be skeptical. I believe that most people have a bologna meter, especially children. Mine rises when I hear people talk in a Hallmark Card manner or when I read corporate mission statements. I needed evidence and I found it in history not science. I love science (chemistry was my best subject) but science cannot answer the fundamental questions of Christianity to prove or disprove it. If I bake a cake and send it off to a lab, scientists can almost definitely distinguish what the ingredients are, perhaps how it was made too. However, the scientists couldn’t prove who made the cake and why. These were/are the fundamental questions surrounding Christianity so I was forced to rely on another type of evidence, the historical kind. I found plenty of non-biblical testaments to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Secular historians even agree the Bible is incredibly well-accounted for as an ancient text. So what do we do then with Christianity? Justify our church attendance by this historical evidence? We must decide whether Jesus was an absolute lunatic, a liar, or the Messiah. That question began in me a new journey to discover who Jesus was. The more I read the Bible with this intent the more I realized Christianity is about a relationship with our Heavenly Father not our religiosity. I don’t like the term “religious” to describe someone of faith. To me it characterizes Christianity as some fear-based moral grading system. Some of the kindest, generous people I have met on this planet are not Christians. Christianity is not a moral report card exercise. I am human just like anyone else. Who am I to judge? Christianity is about acknowledging that I am not perfect (far from it) and that someone else paid the price for my imperfection. Talk about freeing! “Good deeds” are evident in someone who has a relationship with Jesus Christ, but that is not the driving force. Church is a place where I can meet and have fellowship with others who share a common belief and experience an instant mutual connection, but Christianity is not about the church. At the end of the day we still have to deal with the ultimate question: what happens when we die? Every attempted answer to that question requires faith. Life itself is a series of decisions in which we place faith in our choices based upon anticipated outcomes. Faith is something that should not be denigrated. I digress and apologies for the lengthy comment. I can’t help but feel misunderstood regarding my faith nowadays and I felt that this environment was a safe one to explain myself in! Thanks.

    – SH

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    • First of all, what a lovely compliment that you feel this is a safe environment to talk about your faith. Secondly, I appreciate anyone who can clearly enunciate what they believe in and why. In a world where any group’s “representatives” tend to be the loudest, most extreme and sometimes the cruelest people in the media and our culture, having moderate people talk about their faith is a gift.

      It is interesting, as I read these comments, what people believe to be ultimate questions, which I think relies more on human needs than an absolute truth. Is there a god? What happens when we die? Is someone watching over us? For me, I stopped pursuing the answers to these questions because I would have to bridge a gap of proof in my need for empirical evidence. Some people would say that’s where faith comes in.

      I am very comfortable with the “dust to dust” metaphor. I am more concerned about the day-to-day principles that guide our behavior, without regard to whether or not we’re rewarded or forgiven at the end of the day. I’m not comfortable with the idea that any of us should be freed of that burden, believing instead that we are ultimately responsible for the damage or joy we cultivate. And mistakes are opportunities to learn and redeem ourselves.

      All that being said, there is a lot of negativity in the public discourse about faith and in this country, Christianity, because some of its representatives are not particularly decent humans and are trying to impose their belief systems on others through legislation. I understand that a huge part of many religions is proselytizing and some people take that to mean that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. That’s a hard tack to take in a world where diversity in thinking is a feature not a bug.

      Thanks so much for contributing here and sharing your experience of faith. These are such great conversations to have!

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  18. Amen, Michelle. Amen. 😉

    Raised Catholic in a hypocritically un-Christian peer environment based in the church community (nothing severe, just unkindness), my brother and I were allowed to stop going to church pretty early on. Around puberty, I began to worship Thoreau, and soon after, I majored in philosophy. From high school on, the main reason I had started going back to church was so I could sing. The Catholics really know their church music. Since college, I have gradually leaned strongly secular humanist–a moral code of general goodness, attempted humility, and straining for self-control, without the anthropomorphized supreme being. Fear of hell need not be one’s motivation for goodness; I actually see it as a weak, backwards one. At times atheist, others agnostic, and rarely a smidgen of hope in the direction of cosmic synchronicity (i.e., Jung), I’ve probably centered myself most in the philosophy of American individualism with an incorrigible company-girl attitude (collectivism).

    With touchstones like watching Bill Maher’s scathing film Religulous several years ago and, most recently, Leah Reminy’s series about Scientology (i.e., cults), while witnessing first-hand in family members the fervor of world football fandom and American Libertarianism, I’ve come to believe that just about anything and everything can be treated and implemented as a religion. Drug addiction, any fandom, Eastern medicine, psychoanalysis, science, technology, social networking, Nascar, cooking and foodie culture, socialism, exercise and fitness, gaming, animals and nature, arts and music, politics–you name it. It’s all about what we’re drawn to and what rituals we favor, but mainly, where we get our endorphins, dopamine and/or oxytocin rush. Family is some people’s religion. Imposing their sense of family values on other families and non-families is other people’s religion.

    Skepticism is probably closer to my religion. Reaching for deepening wisdom, humble Socratic doubt, increased critical thinking skills, as you said, and learning, always learning. I favor caution fueled by logic and reason over what I see as misguided, bleeding-heart emotionalism and do-something-ist activism (including Trump’s). Populism could be the umbrella term. My occasional attendant disdain for emotionalists comprise my moments of strong leaning into the hard edge of the Libertarian spectrum. Perfectionism is my drug. Inferiority complex and careerist frustration, my motivations for judging others. I’m full of it, I “know” it, and I know you are too, I guess could be my motto. I’m most skeptical of self-love, even the basic, healthy kind. I’m just another messed-up human person. C’est la vie.

    Fundamentalist, fanatical fixation or calm, disciplined, balanced practice? Religion at its base is all about a way of being. What will the dominant “religion” be in the future? Whatever feels right to the most people in the context in which they find themselves.

    Spirituality is another topic entirely.

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    • Very interesting to read and made me think about the fact that so much of what we choose to believe depends on who we are and what our needs are.

      I am automatically suspicious of vicarious worship – sports, Hollywood, music, fashion, anything where all it requires is money and butt in chair. But as you point out, almost anything can have a cult following.

      You mentioned self-love being suspect and in today’s vernacular, I think it is as well. For me, most things have to land and evolve organically and the franchise of memes or bumper sticker sayings on loving one’s self rings empty. You can make deliberate choices and maybe arrive at a better acceptance of self, but you can’t read something and suddenly have decent self-esteem. This is a entire topic unto itself.

      In regards to “emotionalism”, I am a fan, as long as it is quickly followed up with critical thinking. Understanding what motivates us and why is often the missing piece in populism, which I find to be a sloppy and inaccurate rendering of needs and pain. It’s easier to sell in a sound bite, but is not the path to solutions, just dogmatism. Our current politics as exhibit A.

      I really like the phrase “way of being”. It’s not just religion, but whatever you’ve chosen as your personal guidelines. It’s also a “way of doing”. Important to remember, since so many people say things which are disconnected from what they actually do. That, to me, is where the sweet spot is – living one’s values through action. As you say, we’re human. It’s not always easy to accomplish and all we can do is practice, practice, practice.

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  19. I went through some very similar issues. I grew up religious and had a positive experience and fond memories, but as an adult I decided it didn’t work for me. The community was great but the theology didn’t provide a useful, consistent framework for viewing the world. As a parent I decided I would never lie to my kids. I never said there was or wasn’t a Santa Claus. If they asked if Santa Claus was real I’d just answer with a question, ‘What do you think?’ I worried I’d made life less magical for them. On the other hand I think believing in good magical things also means you’re open to believing in bad magical things. If there’s a Santa Claus why can’t there be ghosts and monsters under the bed?

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    • I kept thinking that someday, I’d really want her to trust what I’m saying, like don’t drink and drive or healthy love doesn’t involve someone hurting you. It seems, especially at whatever age we had to disabuse her of mythical beings, there would be an erosion of trust, if only a little. I could not trust the adults in my childhood and so I too, had vowed that I would endeavor to be honest.
      The “what do you think?” question is the best parenting tool ever. And those answers are often amazing.

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  20. I’ve never been religious. I was self inoculated at around twelve while attending Sunday school at Mt. Tabor Presbyterian. My parents, who never attended church, thought exposure to religion was learning experience not to be missed. Can’t blame them really. Religion is in your face everywhere. It’s the U.S.A. after all. My wife and I did the same with our three children and they weren’t having any of it either. I think it had a lot to do with their age when they were exposed. Sunday holds no special significance other than a no school day. The abrahamic god means the same to me a Zeus, Poseidon or Ixchel.

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    • I still like Sunday as a slow-down, get-ready-for-the-week kind of day, but that is more about its place in the week. You’re right, religion is everywhere, which is why the “war on religion” is such an empty claim to make. It is a war on proselytizing and imposing beliefs on the rest of us unrepentant sinners that is heating up. And it should. People have become a little too comfortable with believing their way is the only way.

      The education piece of it seems important to me because the majority still claims a religious belief system and I think that should keep the rest of us curious. I wish that it were a two-way street, but the very nature of dogma is that curiosity is quashed in favor of easy answers.

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  21. Amazing that I am reading your blog whilst waiting for my teenage daughter to come down and we go to Church. I love being in Church any other day.
    Have a lovely sunday, however you spend it x

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