Archive for November 2011

Beliefs

11/01/2011

I am not a religious person, but I do have deep and personal spiritual beliefs.  And my beliefs are ever-evolving as I learn more about the world I live in and the beliefs of others.  I do not belong to a church. I lean more toward what I call the “natural” religions – such as those of the native Americans, the Druids, the pagans.

My early religious training was sparse.  I only remember going to my parents’ church a few times in my life, usually on Easter Sunday. My parents were members of a very fundamentalist church – no Sunday school, no piano or organ music, no Christmas programs, etc. There was a table at the front of the room, right in front of the preacher’s podium, that held an offertory plate, a plate of unleavened bread and an iced tea glass full of wine. On Sunday morning, the preacher would read a short verse directly from the Bible, say a prayer, then ask for the offering. The congregation sang from the hymnal while folks walked up to the front and solemnly placed their money in the plate. As a very little girl, I was puffed up with pride whenever my Grandma would give me a dollar or two to take up to the front.

After the offering, the preacher read from the Bible again, the congregation sang again and the bread and wine were passed around the congregation, up and down one row after another. The Baptized adults would break off a bit of the bread and eat it and take a sip of the wine and then pass it on to the next person. Then the congregation sang again and the preacher began preaching.  Again, he read directly from the Bible with very little, if any, explanation of what it meant or how it applied to our lives. He read with vigor, though, and although I didn’t understand what he was talking about and my mind often wandered and my butt often wiggled, he would bring my attention back with a particularly loud comment or bang of his fist on the podium. Children were to be seen and not heard and were definitely NOT encouraged to ask questions. Needless to say, I really didn’t learn much about the Bible or my family’s religion in church.

At home we never really talked about religion that I remember. I remember that a blessing was offered at special occasion dinners and that Mom liked gospel music, but that was about the extent of it. I do recall going to a gospel music concert with my mother once when I was very young. There was some preaching too and she became very emotional. I believe she was “saved” that night.

When I was in the 6th grade, we moved into a new neighborhood. The preacher from a nearby church came to our door and Dad invited him in. They sat and debated the Bible for an hour – and my Dad, whom I had never seen reading the Bible, matched him verse for verse. I was impressed  – and so was the preacher. As he was leaving, he told my Dad that he didn’t remember ever having such a stimulating evening. That was the first time I knew my Dad knew anything about the Bible or religion at all. He’d certainly never discussed it with me, or with anyone else while I was present. (It was also the evening I realized how smart my father was.)

It was about that time that I was allowed to go to church with one of my new friends from school, and the experience about scared me to death.  She took me to a Holy Roller church and the Spirit was with the congregation that night. People shouting and speaking in tongue, one woman fell to her seat and looked like she was having seizure.  My eyes must have been the size of teacups while I watched this alien sight.  I had gone expecting to be bored (after all it was at church), and I was anything but!  I never went back to church with her.

A year or so later, I did go to some social functions at church youth groups.  Really?  Youth groups at church?  Social activities?  Amazing!

At 13 I started “going with” a young man from school.  Imagine my parents’ surprise when they found out my boyfriend was a Jehovah’s Witness.
Since the only time we spent together was at school or in the presence of my or his parents, they weren’t too concerned.  I learned a lot about this new religion from him and his parents.  The main things I learned were that (1) overall their beliefs weren’t that different from other Christian churches, (2) that they, like so many others, believed that theirs was the only real truth, (3) they had at least as many restrictions as my Mom and Dad’s church, and (4) they really didn’t like their children to be to be too involved with, and especially not to marry, anyone outside “The Truth”.

I think that because I was sort of left to my own devices, I had more of an interest in the different religions and belief systems than I might have if I had had more formal training in any one specific church.  I read books from the library about different religions – here and in other countries. Over the years I attended many different churches and joined a few.  I joined and was baptized at a Baptist Church, later joined a Moravian Church (mainly because I was drawn to the music), and still later joined a small Universalist Unitarian Church.  Of all the churches I’ve visited or been a member of, the UU Church is dearest to my heart. No matter which church I was at, I enjoyed the energy of the people there.

The main things I’ve concluded from my personal religious quest is this:  I personally do not believe in ALL of the tenets of any church, but I do believe there is truth in each and every religion. I believe that each of us is on our own personal journey and that we each look at life with our own experiences and backgrounds, so no two of us can ever see the same thing in quite the same way. I do not believe that a Christian’s beliefs are any more or any less valid than a Jew’s, or a Pagan’s, or a Muslim’s or an atheist’s, or whatever.

My beliefs are personal and they run deep. Here are a few of the things that are true for me.

  • I am not a Christian, but I believe in a Creator – or at least a purpose.
  • I believe we are a part of one another and everything surrounding us.
  • I do not believe in tolerance; I believe in acceptance.
  • I do not believe I am better than anyone, but I also do not believe anyone is better than I.
  • I believe I can gain spiritual strength when I’m around water – especially at the ocean.
  • I believe we all have a lot to learn and we will learn if we just listen to one another.