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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 11:57AM #1
NotAnAtheistMama
Posts: 58
This past weekend I was reading a couple of books on clutter-clearing, space-clearing and Fung Shui to get in the mood to clean house (oh boy, has it been a wreck for months!).  And I found myself sort of skipping over the more religious sections of the books.  It was Monday before I realized, hey, back in college, those passages spoke to me.  I believed in chi and believed in cleaning house and getting spiritual and reawakening the chi and all of that.  Now I can't get into it.  I'm not feeling the energy in my home.  I'm not even trying to.  And I don't understand it.

I grew up Baptist.  Then, when I was a young teen, I went to an Episcopalian school from grades 8-12.  I recognize that there was something special about that community and that a part of me has been looking for it since, but I don't honestly think I can find any place like that again.  Being a school, it had different purposes than a regular church.  Namely, to make everyone feel included, and that meant people of different faiths.  Attendence twice weekly in chapel was mandatory for everyone, but actual participation in communion or prayers or singing was not.  You just had to be part of the community; your religious exercise was up to you.  It did take me a while to get over my Baptist upbringing and get more comfortable in (no offense to anyone) a pretty catholic church.  But by my senior year, I was pleased and honored to take the traditional blessing of the graduates from our priest.  In fact, everyone took it but our one Jewish student, and he and our priest worked out a sort of well-wishing and hand shake, so that his faith was not insulted, but he was included in the ceremony with everyone else and knew that the members of the school wished him as well just as much as anyone else.  So, a pretty unique environment.  Spiritual, but not limiting.  Never any pressure to be Christian or Episcopalian in particular.  All that was important was that you counted yourself among the community of fellow students and teachers. 

So, ahead to college.  It was non-denomenational, so I didn't get any organized religion anymore.  Took some religion classes and liked our female pastor who taught some of them, but still drifted away from some of my religious leanings.  Started to study the Tao Te Ching and get interested in chi, spirits, and other concepts fairly Eastern in thought. 

Also went to several Passover Seders and went to synagoge a couple of times (one Conservative, one Reform).  I found myself fascinated by the way that Jewish faith looks at the Bible and God.  There are no bad questions.  You are SUPPOSED to question.  That's how you get faith--by questioning and finding you own answers.  This is very different from my Baptist upbringing, where faith was something you held blindly.  You had it because you were supposed to have it and you pretty much believe what everyone else around you (especially family) believes.  Case in point: As a child, I asked my mother, "If God made everything, then who made God?"  I was told sharply, "You're not supposed to ask that!"  And I spent the next few minutes wondering if lightning was going to strike me for asking a wicked question.  I have since seen that such a question in the Jewish faith is perfectly legitimate and that you're not only supposed to ask it, but seek for an answer that works for you.  I much prefer that stance since I'm NOT prone to believe what just anyone else says.  I like to ask questions, I like to puzzle things out. 

So here's the puzzle that I'm not getting.  How do I go back to having some amount of spirituality/religion in my life?  I don't feel connected to protestant churches at all anymore.  My mother has become something of a fanatical Christian and the more she talks, the more I am repelled.  Certainly, she's not the worst that I've seen, and I know of good Christians, but she just makes me recoil more and more from faith in general, I think.  I mean, that's how I came up with my screen name.  I don't believe what she believes, so I must be an atheist.  There's just no room in her mind for someone who believes in God but who is not a Christian.  Oh, and aside from Jews who get a free pass into heaven, and good Christians who earn it, everyone else in the world is going to hell.  So she has to try and convert me back to Christianity to keep me from going to hell.  She wants me beside her in heaven for eternity.

Um, heaven is not looking so good anymore.  I'm having problems tolerating my mother here on earth for a finite amount of time! 

My mother is not the entire problem, but I think I've gotten so in the habit of rejecting her constant barrage of Christian-themed e-mails (some of which are downright hateful--we won't talk about the one that condemned Muslims), that I have developed a knee-jerk reaction to anything that smacks of spirituality and I automatically reject it. 

In the Feng Shui books that I mentioned earlier, the author says that in Bali, religion is everywhere.  That it's just an integrated part of life.  She says that it's sad that in the West most of us have no sacredness in our lives.  No shrines to God or the protector spirits, no offerings of a meal or flowers.  No elevating something (like holy water) and treating it as sacred.  Just a religious service once a week, if that, for most people.  In short, there is a lack of communing with God, prayer, meditation, etc. on a daily basis.

And what she said struck home with me.  I think that's lacking in my life too.  But I don't know how to go about getting it.  I wasn't raised on shrines and offerings and things like that.  To a protestant, those things are idolatrous.  Funny, but I find I have an immense fondness for medival religious art.  I bought myself a Renaissance-style painting of the Madonna and Christ Child back in December and I love it.  I have three very ornate crosses in my living room.  When I do medieva re-enacting, I like to wear crosses.  The larger and more gaudy, the better I like them!  And yet, personally, I don't think of myself as a real Christian.  I certainly think that Jesus had a good message and was sent by God, but I don't believe in the virgin birth (although I don't think that lessens Mary's goodness) and I don't believe that Jesus was the literal son of God.  I think he was just like any other prophet, selected by God and given a message.  I think that Lao Tzu was a prophet, the Dalai Lama is a prophet (repeatedly), the Buddha was a prophet, etc.  From what I have been told, if you can't believe that Christ was the only and literal son of God, you are not a Christian--no matter how much you may think that Christ had the right idea about living, nor how much you try and follow it. 

So, I am basically a person who is lacking religion, who wants religion, but has no idea where to get it.  Obviously, one brand of religion is probably not going to be for me.  I like elements from a bunch of different religions.  But, in being so fractured, in being without a single doctrine to adhere to, I am without ritual--which is what I'm really looking for.  Something to put sacredness into my life daily. 

Has anyone else been in a spiritual void like this?  Not felt comfortable with any one organized religion?  If you overcame it, how?  Anything else anyone recommends in helping me find what I'm looking for?
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 12:10PM #2
boodlebear
Posts: 1,053
Sounds like I could have written that post. I've been a recovering S.baptist for many a year. I enjoy spirituality without the religiosity.  Read. Spirituality for Dummies may help. And despite several opinions of Spong his book Rescuing the bible from fundamentalism was a big help. After a year passed and I got over my indignation....
Keep what works for you. Become a spiritual Agnostic. A friend's pastor calls himself an agnostic christian. Brave man, that.
Search these forums. There are loads of helpful people here.
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 1:42PM #3
Gandalf_Parker
Posts: 1,188
You might try taking the religion quiz here and see if your basic assumptions about religion have shifted. That could save you from spending wasted time on it. It asks basic belief questions then gives you the top hundred or so religions that closest match with a percentage for how well they match.
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html
Its always pegged me pretty well.
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 2:09PM #4
NotAnAtheistMama
Posts: 58
I'm not sure if the definiton of agnostic has changed, but it used to mean don't know/don't care if there is or isn't a God.  That's not me.  I do believe in God.  I just don't believe in organized religion.  Or, not even that.  I'd do organized religion if I thought there was a group that matched up VERY close to my own beliefs.  As one Christian accused me, I have a religion unto myself.  (That's not allowed, by the way; only other people are apparently allowed to branch off and make their own religion, I guess.)

I took the "What religion am I?" quiz.  Have taken it several times over the past couple of years.  Keep coming up reform Judaism at the top, with Quaker pretty close behind. 

Maybe I'd make a good Jew, except for that picture of the Madonna and Christ child in the living room, LOL.  Tolerant as I have found most Jews to be, they do have to draw the line somewhere, and knowing a bit about the history of Jews in medieval Europe, I can't say I blame them. 

Or maybe I should look at the Messianic Jews?  That's one thing I keep remembering when I study the history of Christianity--Jesus was reforming Judaism, not making his own religion.  Or, as one professor said in a documentary, Christianity could have existed without Christ, but not without Paul.  That's because Paul was the one person exclusively in charge of breaking Christianity into a separate religion instead of leaving it a sect of Judaism, as the aspotles had done.  It was Paul who said convert the Gentiles, and circumcision and dietary laws are bunk.

I thought that was a fascinating observation.  Personally, I've never cared for Paul or his preachings; my reading of the New Testament stops at the Gospels, and even then I certainly don't believe them to be infaliable.  But I think they're a lot closer to what Jesus said and meant, because the people that wrote them were mostly there to hear it (some debate if one was written by a student of an apostle after he died).  Paul never knew Jesus.  I don't even know if he met one of the apostles.  So who was he to say how things were going to be run?  If you are Christian, you say he was divinely inspired.  I say why didn't Jesus say all that if that's what he meant?  Do you think Jesus just forgot to tell people not to circumcise or keep kosher and God needed to pick out Paul to get that message through??? 

See, this is what I am on about with the questioning!   

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Do you mean you got over your indignation about the book?  What was it that made you indignant?  Or was it just your first step away from your Southern Baptist roots?  (Also the kind of Baptist that I was.)
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 3:19PM #5
One_World
Posts: 289
First off, Jesus Christ wasn't a big fan of judging others in a negative light. Remind those so-called Christians who work so hard to tear others down or point out their lack of faith in dogma. I'm pretty sure you're on a fine path by questioning the details.

Like another poster said, your post could have been written by a number of us here at Beliefnet. After all, why else would we spend time asking questions? It's all a part of the journey...once I truly have all of the answers, I'll likely be dead anyways. I grew up Catholic but never felt much of a connection...from age 17-25 I didn't even think about religion much...in the last half year or so I've been pulled back towards a consciousness of spirituality, as are you.

I have a feeling that the more you search, the more elusive the answers will seem. Perhaps you're just not at a place in your life right now for a faith practice...there's nothing wrong with that! If you recoil from a particular path (or its adherents), it's probably a good sign that your inner spirit isn't meshing well with that practice. Likewise, explore faiths or belief sets and listen to which ones appeal to your soul. It sounds silly I know, but I think we are naturally drawn to our path when it's the right time, and trying to stop that pull is like stopping the ocean's tides.

You may also want to look into a UU service...it's quite open-ended in a good way and they often make an effort to celebrate various faiths and their practices.

Good luck with reawakening your spirit!
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars ~ Oscar Wilde
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 4:28PM #6
NotAnAtheistMama
Posts: 58
<>

This is such a favorite saying of mine, I wish I had it on a bumper sticker: What part of 'judge not' do you not understand?

Oh, I'm not saying I'm perfect, and that I don't find myself judging too, but at least I'm self-aware enough to know that I do it.  Hypocrites really get on my nerves; they're never wrong, but everyone else is. 

I had thought about a Unitarian Church.  Maybe I will try it.  My husband said he tried one but found it so intentionally vague that he didn't derive any spiritualness from it.  But I'm sure that depends on the church; some may lean more towards one specific religion than others. 

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That's an interesting thought.  I was thinking something kind of similar this morning.  Here I am finding myself repulsed by Christianity on all sides, but then I keep putting medieval-style icons and crosses in my house.  I just made some paternosters (precursors to the rosary) for some new, incoming members of our medieval household. 

Here's something I've not mentioned.  I am looking into going into business for myself... making ecclesiastical garments.  I want to make them in the old, medieval style, with lots of embroidery and beadwork.  Again, back to this love of medieval religious art. 

So I think I keep getting signs that I need to put some religion back into my life.  I keep doing it unconsciously.  The images are there, but not the feeling yet.  I need to find a way to connect.  Since I haven't found a Christian church that doesn't turn me off, I guess I have to figure out how to connect by myself. 

And no, despite all of my interest in the medieval church, the modern Catholic church isn't doing it for me.  I don't get behind a lot of their beliefs or doctrines and I am not exactly a fan of the pope.  Not saying the pope is bad, but I don't think he's God's mouthpiece on earth either.  Even the Dalai Lama humbly admits that he doesn't know everything and doesn't speak infaliably for the word of God.  Now the Dalai Lama I can get behind.

Do I sound as much like a pile of contradictions to others as I do to myself?  LOL.
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 6:33PM #7
boodlebear
Posts: 1,053
No I wasn't raised SB thank gods. I was raised methodist and only became baptist because of well meaning folks inviting me to their church.
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9 years ago  ::  May 07, 2008 - 6:37PM #8
boodlebear
Posts: 1,053
You sound human.
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9 years ago  ::  May 08, 2008 - 5:39PM #9
Fighter
Posts: 15
You sound like you are evolving.
First of all, you need to realize that spirituality does not equate religion and vice-versa.  Stop trying to look for a set of beliefs to believe in, a dogma, a group... and start looking inward.  Once you become comfortable with yourself and your spiritual "unknowing" and realize it's ok to "not know", THEN you will stop looking and everything will come to you naturally.
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9 years ago  ::  May 08, 2008 - 5:54PM #10
NotAnAtheistMama
Posts: 58
I don't think I'm looking for knowing as much as feeling.  I just don't feel spiritual anymore.  Don't feel a connection to God.  Don't feel like there's a spiritual element to my day.  That's what I'm looking for.  I'm wondering what I might do to encourage the revival of that feeling.
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