Thursday, December 8, 2011

I believe in God ... sorta kinda ...

Religion is a big deal. At some point the conservatives and Christians and Republicans in our country all got mixed up with one another and (though there are certainly exceptions) it seems like a lot of the Republican values and beliefs are very tied up with Christianity.  They really want to push the boundaries of the separation of church and state thing.  I mean go ahead and be Christian. I'm glad you love God and Jesus but not everyone in the country believes the same thing you do.

I LOVE religion. Personally. I don't think that means you need to love religion, too.  Do your own thing, man. Believe what you want to believe. If you want to believe that everything the Bible said is absolute truth and the inerrant word of God, then please do. If you think that there is no such thing as God and that science explains everything, then by all means, go ahead and believe that. But don't tell me that I'm wrong or that my beliefs are wrong. In either direction. Let me come to my own conclusions and I'll let you come to yours.  Seriously. Can't we just all get along?

Granted, it's taken me a little while to get to this point.  I was raised Catholic but once I got past the stage where I just accepted what I heard. I think I was 6 when I couldn't get my mind around the concept of God.

"So God and Mary were Jesus's mom and dad."

"Yes, honey."

"So who were God's mom and dad?"

"He doesn't have any."

"So where did he come from?"

"He just always was."

That didn't make any sense to me.  I went through the motions but in middle school started reading a lot of books about Wicca and Witchcraft.  Which my mom was okay with.  I think she didn't like my brief atheist phase ("I swear to the non-existant God!") but was okay when I at least believed in something.  I think she was okay when I called myself agnostic.

I did go through my reject religion and you're wrong and I'm right phase.  But then I got over it.

In college I came up with what I thought was the really unique notion that all religions had merit and that God was just the name for all manner of different concepts that people got to in different ways (well, okay, except for atheists I guess). :) When I found out there was a whole religion (Unitarian Universalism) that basically believed what I believed, I was thrilled.

And decided I wanted to be a UU minister.  As I talked about briefly in this post, I ended up getting the (2-year) Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree instead of the (3-year plus internship) MDiv (Master of Divinity) and sometimes regret it.  Becoming a minister has now become my retirement or win the lottery plan.  Or maybe eventually when I have more time (HA!) I can take one class per semester to finish up the requirements I'd need to get the MDiv (essentially 2-3 full-time semesters of classes).

So until then I chair the music and worship committee at my church and lead services (yup, including writing sermons) a few times per church year.

I also really like to pray.

So who am I praying to?  Well, I'm not exactly praying to God. When I pray I center myself and then think about the things that I want to pray about.  But I do believe in God. Kinda. My own definition of God changes frequently depending on what's going on in my life.  For awhile recently I flirted with Jesus, but then decided that I wasn't sure he really was the same person people say he is (after reading way too many books by Bart Ehrman) so I'm kinda in the "eh, God is in everyone and everything and probably isn't a separate being" phase.

But ask me again in 6 months, I might give you a different answer.


  1. As an atheist (yes, for real) I find religion fascinating. I think the profound effect religions of all kinds and the conflicts between them have had on human history should be taught in schools in a much more thoughtful and all encompassing way. What I decided long ago is that all religions boil down to this Zoroastrian belief: Good thoughts, Good words, and Good deeds. Whether or not people need to believe in God to make that happen is fine with me. And, I agree. I don't and won't push my belief system on anyone and I request the same respect in return.

  2. Also an atheist, I too find religion fascinating. I'm a big fan of the UU church and attended one briefly during my time in Santa Barbara. I loved how the Sunday school classes introduced kids to a variety of religions and philosophies.

    I have no quarry with religion as you describe it, Lauren. Live and let live is a great motto. However, many world religions have a legacy of persecution despite all the goodness they proclaim, which makes me wary of any religion as a formalized practice.

  3. Like you stated there are nuts on both sides. Those who shove the bible and their version of it down our throats, and those who are so atheist ( I call them born-again atheist) that their hatred of anyone's faith and one drop of religion, along with (heaven forbid) a mention of God, has them so rabid and foaming at the mouth it is almost scary. I actually get more upset with the Atheist than the Ultra-religious because with the uber Christians have a formula. You know what you are going to get. You know the bible quotes and chapters and verses they will quote you in their arguments. It is almost to the point that they have become a mockery and caricature of themselves. God bless them!
    We can't deny religions exist and that there are people of great faith and of great character in this world. I am not offended by anyone mentioning their god in a prayer in public. Have at! I am secure in myself and my beliefs. I think those that are threatened are those that need some type of faith the most. We fear what we don't understand. To understand faith means we have to understand that there is no tangible answers. To understand faith means we have to believe in possibilities. That maybe there was Jesus, maybe there is God, or Shiva, or any other deity or form of God-head you like. Maybe it wasn't the big bang, maybe there was a flood, maybe just maybe they are true. Maybe you can believe in both? I can accept both as possible answers. I work and socialize in reality (science) but function on faith (religion).
    I would much rather spend an afternoon with the the Sisters of Mercy than an afternoon with Richard Dawkins any day. To me one takes more courage and a bigger leap of faith. The nuns who give up everything, including self and family, to work with the poor and disenfranchised and show nothing but love and compassion for those in need. Plus, I mean where would we be without Trappist Beer and Jelly :) Thank you Monks!
    I think faith and religion are important to everyone and to erase them completely from thought and mind like the born-again atheists would like is just silly.
    I am Catholic and you are UU we are complete opposites on the religion scale. But as long as you don't push your version of God (or lack thereof) on me and I don't try and get you to join the Convent we are good. Although we all know I am going to heaven and you aren't and Nate is going to be a Priest ...wait what? :)

  4. Ooooo, I love this discussion! Jen, did you ever read my paper on flood myths? There's some good evidence that there was an ancient flood (on a small scale though, but to the Mesopotamians, that was the World). The fact that there are 3 religions from that area that all have a flood myth is very telling.

    Lauren, yeah, people sometime do (or have done) bad things in the name of religion. And that's sad. But ultimately it's because we're human and humans are fallible. And whatever one believes, ultimately the documentation was recorded by humans. And humans are fallible. Even if inspired by God that inspiration still needs to be interpreted.

    I forgot to actually link to Bart Ehrman (fixed it), for anyone who's interested, the book of his I read recently that really got me thinking hard about Christianity is called Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium. Really interesting if you like reading about theology, the New Testament or Early Christian History. (

  5. I've studied Christianity deeply because I do believe the need for a Savior in Gods plan. I too went through a phase where I wanted to know who I am, where I came from and where I am going. I've only found ONE religion that could truly answer all of those questions. I think most people are searching for answers and frustration or natural man makes them settle on what just feels right, not necessarily what is solid truth.

    I believe that most religions are the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. I also believe that if all the do gooding was asked for no reason there would not be a bigger plan. If you believe in God as a creator, you must be led to believe that He is a master planner. He would not have created this scientifically complicated world and human race for nothing. There must be a plan for us while here. Our test is to find it and follow it using the tools he has given us (unmolested scripture, prophets testifying, and the Holy Ghost).

    To me, there are two choices in this world, to find and follow the truth God had placed all around us (we just need to ask) or atheism. I've found the truth and know it with the core of my being. I simply asked God (or whoever because when I sent my question out into the cosmos I wasn't sure what I was talking to) what I should do. The truth was dropped in my lap and my test was to recognize it and follow.

    I don't bother others if we have different views, I simply state what I know to be true when asked. I don't care if people do things differently than I do. I live my life as an example of my beliefs and that usually speaks louder than quoting scripture or doctrinal arguments.

    Anyway, thems my two cents!

  6. Do you know of Matthew Fox, the former Catholic theologian (he was silenced by the Vatican)? He wrote "One River, Many Wells" which sums up much of what you believe. He's probably closer to UU than Catholicism, though my experience with the UU organization is that they are often made up of former Catholics and Jews. In any case, check him out...I read Original Blessing and it saved my belief in Catholicism as my own faith.

  7. I have heard of Matthew Fox though I don't know that I have read anything of his. It's not incorrect that UUs are frequently former Catholics. I'm sure there are former Jews as well, though my congregation is mostly either lifelong UUs or former Catholics. :) I'll check out your suggestions.