WARNING: I am a very expressive lady and am currently procrastinating, so this is going to be long.
Well, I was raised Roman Catholic with a very strict, hardline Roman Catholic father. However, I've realized that my own beliefs are NOT compatible with Roman Catholicism...ironically, I completely lost my Catholicism while attending a Roman Catholic college (which I am transferring out of). I then considered other types of Christianity...but do not identify with conservative Christianity or evangelicals; for one thing, I'm a leftist/feminist (gender-equality feminist, not man-hating feminist) and it was incompatible with my views; plus, I see a lot of hatred, bigotry, and other things I find very disturbing coming from those sects; plus, after meeting some from this group, I could tell immediately that it was not for me. I then wondered if I believed in Jesus or not and to this day have not resolved that issue...I can see the issue from both sides but cannot really come to a decision yet about what I think. I then explored Wicca/Neo-Paganism/New Age schools of thought, but I never really felt 100% sure if that was right either (though I do think that there are some good ideas there, especially tolerance of/acceptance of others, a view of the divine as both masculine and feminine, and a deep connection with nature). For awhile I just stopped looking, but then began looking at Judaism (Reform and Conservative, not Orthodox). However, no one in my family is Jewish and, while I agree with Reform Judaism on a lot of things, I do not connect to the Jewish culture as it is not something I was raised with and I still don't know about the Jesus thing and cannot count out the possibility at this point of my believing Jesus was the Messiah; I honestly don't really feel like I have enough reason to believe either way and I can see the logic behind both points of view. I hope to resolve this issue at some point; right now, though, I'm just taking it slowly and am just trying to give myself as much time as I need to figure it all out. However, I do agree with some of Jesus' ideas/views; at this point I look at Jesus as a philosopher. Currently I identify as agnostic/spiritual but not religious. I thought I would leave it at that. However, currently I am taking a Hebrew Bible class that approaches the Bible from an objective point of view (i.e., it teaches the bible with historical, literary, social, political, and other contexts and my prof does not teach it as truth; rather, she just simply states what the texts says and applies context to it) and that has renewed my search. Currently, I am exploring Episcopalianism (LIBERAL Episcopalianism) as a possible path. Part of this is that based on my reading of articles by Episcopalians and about the liberal end of Episcopalianism, it seems like it is much more open-minded and flexible than Catholicism and not hateful and, in my view, backwards, which is how I see some sects of Christianity. It seems to be a religion that is accepting and tolerant and does not require everyone to see every single thing in exactly the same way without any room for individuality or personal opinion. I realize I should resolve the Jesus question before I ever officially join the (liberal) Episcopalian community and eventually if I do decide that in my heart I believe in Jesus, I'd like to check out some Episcopalian churches in my area to get a real first-hand look at things. I'm basically just trying to keep an open mind at this point.
Here is some of what I believe:
*I do believe in and practice astrology, not just Western, but many kinds. However, as an informal student of psychology and philosophy, I do not use astrology to make predictions. Rather, I use it as a personality/character index, along with other indexes (including the Keirsey temperament sorter and the enneagram). Basically, I look at it from a philosophical/psychological point of view and consider it a form of social study/personality study; both of those fields interest me a great deal. I find that it helps me to be more patient and understanding with others and myself. Plus, at least Western and Celtic astrology are both heavily tied to mythology, which I find fascinating. I personally believe that these systems complement each other and I have found them to be true in my life, but regardless, I feel that they help me to be more understanding and accepting of others, especially those with whom I have a very difficult relationship.
*I believe in keeping an open mind toward other religious/spiritual traditions and see nothing wrong about incorporating practices that do not conflict with one's own beliefs into one's faith (e.g., a Christian practicing medititation or yoga). I also think interfaith prayer services are a very positive force for peace.
*I do believe in spirits; this beliefs leads me to conclude that there is some sort of afterlife.
*I do believe that there is some sort of higher power/energy...and that religions are just different approaches/different interpretations of it.
*I also feel that this any form of divinity is not just masculine, but also feminine...I tend to believe in God, not sure about Jesus yet...and when I think of God, I think of Holy Wisdom/the Holy Spirit...and I usually picture Holy Wisdom/the Holy Spirit as a woman. Sometimes I just call it "Sophia" to keep things simple.
*I believe that it's what you do that really matters; i.e., I think it's more important to be kind to people, to be good to the earth, to help and love one another, etc. than to subscribe to any strict regiment of ideas. I feel that if there is a God/higher power/what have you, that this entity loves and accepts all people of all creeds and I don't feel that anyone is excluded from a positive afterlife on the basis of what they believe; for me, it doesn't matter whether you are Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Christian or Wiccan or whatever. It's what you do, your ethical character, and how you treat people that's important. I don't feel that those who are not Christian are going to hell (or if they are, it's not for that reason). I feel that repenting for wrongdoing is important and is more important than never screwing up. I also feel that all paths to the divine are acceptable as long as they are moral and ethical and they do not involve harming others.
*I do not feel that one has to stick to a strict dogma/set of dogmas in order to be a 'good' person of faith, nor do I feel that everyone in the faith has to agree on every little thing: while core beliefs are important in defining one's religious identity, I feel like diversity, freedom of thought, and (healthy and respetful) debate should also be present in religion
*I feel that for those with a religious text in their faith, it is very important to actually study the text with a critical eye and taking context into account; I also feel that one should question and challenge ideas before accepting them. I feel that this strengthens faith because if one does this, the answers will be 'hard won' and will be more precious; I also feel if you question and challenge and research a theological point, you will be forced to use logic and reasoning to defend it and also you will have a better understanding of what this point really means.
*I'm a bit rebellious by nature; I don't just believe something because someone says so: I have to examine, question, weigh other options against, and research an idea/ideology before I subcribe to it.
*I believe in gender equality. I believe that both men and women should be involved in religious ministry at all levels.
*I am pro-choice, pro-environment, anti-death penalty, pro-stem cell research, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights/do not feel that it's wrong to be gay, bisexual, asexual, etc. I am a gender-equality feminist. I am pro-social aid when it is really needed, pro-saving social security, pro-unions, pro-peaceful diplomacy, anti-war, pro-euthanasia (but only under very, very strict conditions and only if the patient specifies before hand that this is his/her wish should a situation arise; after seeing my grandparents suffer and die from heart disease and from cancer, and after hearing their expressed wishes to die rather than suffer, I feel like patients should have the right to choose, though I do realize that this has to be strictly controlled in order not to be abused), pro-separation of church and state, pro-animal rights.
*I am also pro-all types of birth control and feel that it should be up to the couple as to how many children they have (if any children at all) and whether or not they educate their children in a faith or if they let the children decide on their own whether or not to follow a religion. As for sexuality, I feel it's a personal issue. While I am against polygamy, polyandry, multiple simulataneous partners, incest, rape, assault, and adultery, I am NOT against homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality. I feel that sex shouldn't just be for procreation; I feel it should be a personal, 'physical love poetry' between a committed couple that loves each other and is dedicated to one another.
*Favorite books in the bible include: Song of Songs, Wisdom, the non-sexist parts of Sirach discussing Wisdom, the book of Judith, the book of Ruth, some of Proverbs. Least favorite books: anything written by Paul (no offense, anyone), any sexist portions, a few other sections that kind of bug me (especially Leviticus--again, no offense to any Leviticus fans out there)
*It kind of bugs me that certain books were excluded from the canon.
*I am not a biblical literalist.
*I'm not a traditionalist and I'm very much against collectivism/conformity; I'm someone that feels the need to challenge ideas and arrive at my own conclusions after careful weighing of evidence before I accept something as truth
*I have many interests outside of religion; mainly intellectual and artsy sort of things.