Last night Katie, of Sluiter Nation shared a great article about religion. Specifically Christian evangelism and how non-Christians tend to receive their message. I found it to be very relatable without being argumentative (not the way some atheists choose to rebuff evangelism).
So the article got me thinking. Most bloggers talk about religion at one point or another. Whether they simply talk about what they did “after Church/Temple” or they talk purposefully about how their faith helped them through difficult times, or like me, choose to respond to an interesting article they read online.
I grew up right outside Washington DC in a culturally and religiously diverse area. The halls of my high school were crowded with Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Islamists, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, and a few lone Evangelicals. We coexisted as the bumper sticker suggests- more or less without incident.
I went to college close to home and had a similar experience. I went to graduate school in North Carolina. It became evident almost immediately that I was out of my element. On my second or 3rd day at work my boss said “and if you have problems with your staff you might have to have a come to Jesus meeting with them.” I had never heard that before. I didn’t live in an area where Jesus and God were injected into conversation more frequently than I used the f-bomb (which was quite a lot in those days.)
I was invited to church. Constantly. By my staff, students, pretty much anyone with a pulse. They had the best of intentions. They wanted to help me feel a part of their community. But I felt awkward, smothered. An when I politely declined I often saw judgment in their eyes.
I knew better than to say “No thanks, I’m an agnostic.” I knew it would be impossible to have a real conversation about what I believed and how I explored those beliefs. I kept my mouth shut.
I had friends, and luckily family, in the area. They were lovely. Warm. Kind. Welcoming. But there was this difference between most of us. Christianity was a large part of many of their lives. And my non-Christianity was a smaller, less consuming part of my life. Being there solidified for me that I wouldn’t ever identify as Christian again. And I was quite the Presbyterian, for a time. Conferences, religious retreats, and bible studies.
I really, really like a crazy tangent digress. So I read this article Katie shared. And felt compelled to talk about it. Because I often feel when I identify as a non-Christian that Christians see me as an amoral, goat-sacrificing, devil-worshiping, heathen.
To explain- secular humanism includes the idea that people are not inherently good or evil. They are able to make choices and guide their own morality. Which is to say I disagree with the idea that the Devil can make you do something bad. I believe in ownership of our own choices, and therefor find more sincerity in repentance when someone says “I made the wrong choice.” Or “I did something mean.” And not “The Devil made me do it.”
Agnosticism seems pretty self-explanatory. I’m not certain that how I feel is right. Or what I know is Truth. And, and it doesn’t make me uncomfortable to question. I embrace my uncertainty.
NeoPaganism. This is where things are complicated. I believe it’s important that my belief system come from a basic knowledge and understanding of some of the oldest religions. Not necessarily in the sense of a revival, but in the sense that you need to know where you come from in order to find where you are going. Also. I believe in the earth. I believe our planet should be preserved and treasured. It resources should not be exploited. We should marvel in the way plants draw nutrients from the earth and in turn nourish our bodies. The beauty of an ecosystem in perfect balance. A sunset. The Grand Canyon.
Yoga- which has origins in Hinduism and shared many texts. I believe in the 8 limbs of Yoga: 1.Yamas (self restraints, like the 10 commandments), 2.Niyamas (ways to behave, purity, restraint, self-study), 3.Asana (the physical practice of yoga e.g. Tree Pose), 4.Pranayama (breathing, breathing exercises, breath awareness), 5.Pratyahara (withdrawal from sound, light, distraction), 6.Dharana (concentration), 7.Dhyana (emptying the mind), 8.Samadhi (bliss which defies definition.
I believe that the 8 limbs of yoga will help me to better myself. Help me to be calmer, have more energy, attain greater understanding, maybe even achieve enlightenment.
My religion is not absent. It’s not amoral. It’s not without important ritual and practices. It helps me be a kinder, more patient, more thankful person. It makes me feel a part of something greater than myself. But it isn’t based on a belief in Christ and I’m okay with that. Are you?
What about you? Is your religion/ faith/ belief system complicated? Do you feel misunderstood or misrepresented? Tell me!!