Friday, November 08, 2013

Again I resist being put in a box, religion edition

 I read a blog by a woman, Swistle ("rhymes with thistle") very regularly. She is funny and smart and insightful but also humble and down to earth and real.

Recently she posted and asked her readers to weigh in and let her know how religious they are. I wanted to answer; really I did. But I couldn't. She had been as inclusive as possible in her descriptions of "religiousness" and was clear about people making choices that were close to theirs even if they didn't exactly match.

So I think I am closest to this description from her choices:
4. Medium-High Religious. You belong to a church, and you participate regularly (or you don’t right now but really feel you should as soon as it’s possible). You teach your children the stories belonging to your religion; you pay attention to their religious education, and think it’s important that they get it. You would be upset/worried if they didn’t grow up as believers. You pray fairly regularly and/or think you should do it more. You accept your religion’s structure for how things work: there is an actual supernatural world with actual real supernatural entities in it; there is a heaven and/or a hell and/or other supernatural location where humans go after death. If there is a difficult issue to figure out where you stand on it, you’d take your religion into account while deciding. If you had to make a short list of words describing who you were, your religious affiliation would be in there for sure. You feel your religion is the right one, though other religions may come close. If you found out your religion was untrue, it would be intensely upsetting and you would have to completely restructure your life and beliefs around this new information.
However. There are a number of statements in there that are NOT true of me at all.  I turned those colors to help you out. So let me handle those issues one at a time (color coordinated, of course), after I say that I am a Unitarian Universalist who was raised a Lutheran Christian and who today rejects magical thinking in religion and looks to science to help me make sense of the world. I find ritual intensely meaningful and felt it was important to give my kids a base that would give them basic knowledge of many world religions.


  • I would NOT be upset if they didn't grow up UU. Our religion allows for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Where my kids find meaning is not as important to me as that they DO find a place where they fit in and feel like they are part of a faith community.
  • My religion has Seven Principles that guide its adherents, not a single set of beliefs we all have to agree upon. Some people believe in supernatural things (there are UU Christians, for example), but some people don't. We have no doctrine or dogma. One of our slogans is "Many Beliefs, One Faith."
  • I feel that my religion is the right one FOR ME, but that all religions are equally valid as a place to find one's moral center and that all paths to the divine are valid because spirituality is such an intensely personal issue. There is nothing in my religion that one could find untrue, so there would be no restructuring necessary.

So there you have it. A simple explanation that really opens up more questions. That, too, is a very UU thing. We don't answer questions -- we question answers. We think. We meditate. We ponder. We potluck. We sing. We ... well, let's just say that the word "prayer" is pretty loaded so we don't really use that word. But we worship, together, and we are a spiritual community.

We are Humanists, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, Pantheists, and much more. We believe in social justice, in the democratic process, in the interdependent web of life. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. My church has a Pinterest page where you can find out about lots of those things and how they fit into UUism.

Here is Swistle's next post in case you want to participate in the discussion.

And Swistle/Swistle readers, if you are here, thanks for taking the time to stop over. Want to ask questions? Feel free!

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