Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Religion

I've heard that church attendance is on the rise all across the nation, but I think it has always been an important part of the fabric of southern life.

K and I were at a child's birthday party recently and the other parents got to talking about church. We weren't saying much so someone finally turned to us and asked us what church we attend.

Though I live in the south and understand the importance of faith, it surprises me when people ask me direct questions about it.
I guess I think of faith, spirituality and religion as personal, maybe even somewhat private.

I would say that I am a faithful, hopeful person but admit that I lack absolute faith in any particular doctrine.

Don't you worry about my soul though because I've discovered's Belief-O-Matic which tells me I should be a Liberal Quaker and that Liberal Quakers believe this.
BELIEF-0-MATIC! How cool is that? It has solved all my issues related to faith on-line! Heh.

Okay, they're not quite solved...

I do have deep respect for the Quakers, but I find their meetings so... QUIET.

I know I'm supposed to think about God in the meetings but I inevitably think about my "to do" list. Then I feel guilty so I adjust my thinking pattern: "It must be God that really wants me to switch the laundry, pick up cilantro and get the dry cleaning and that is why these thoughts are coming into my head right now." Not good. I cannot be still and quiet for God or anyone.

So the truth is we don't go to church.

Lack of absolute faith used to be my reason for not going to church. I figured that if I didn't
fully subscribe to the doctrine of any particular church then there was no point in my going.

My Grandfather was arguing with me about this and he said, "Church isn't about absolute faith, it's about community."

That stopped me in my tracks.

Oh, right. Of course.

A good church would be one where you struggled with your issues around faith with a community. It would also serve as a support community in regular, everyday life. His simple arguement opened me up to the idea of going to church, made me willing, even interested.

But my husband was raised Catholic. Like many others he is one of those Catholics that doesn't go to the church. He struggles with non-negotiable doctrines and strongly held positions of the Catholic faith that he can't follow or support. That said, he is so culturally identified as a Catholic that he can't go anywhere else.

K, his siblings and his mother got into a long discussion about their individual status as Catholics on our recent family reunion vacation. One of K's sisters argued that
the Catholic church would never change if progressive Catholics didn't show up to make change possible. Though this seems like a good argument for us attending Catholic services, K's decision making process is one he refers to as "geologic."

So we don't go to church... and it's K's fault. Heh.

Spiritual community life potential aside, It is hard to not go to church on Sunday mornings now that we have children.

First, it's what is happening. (Seemingly) everyone's doing it. Which leaves you high and dry for alternative, kid friendly activities. We struggle with how to entertain them each and every Sunday because almost nothing is open until noon. (Meanwhile, is there or is there not a kiddie room at church?!)

It feels almost tacky to try to schedule a playdate for a Sunday morning. I might as well publish a photo of my family in our local paper with the words "BLASPHEMING HEATHENS" underneath.

The only thing open on Sunday mornings is the Zoo. I can't tell you how many hot summer mornings I have spent there this year with the poor animals panting in the hot Southern sun.

Ah! How ripe they smell! ...and by lunch I smell like a beast myself!


So until the tectonic plates shift, I guess I'll be stinking it up near the elephant poo.



Sayre said...

Very interesting!!! I went to Belief-O-Matic and discovered that although I was raised Episcopalian, I am a closet Unitarian or Neo-Pagan. Apparently my ideas about God, Salvation and contemporary issues put me a bit outside the norm, religion-wise.

I would say that overall, I am not religious, but I have faith in life, in human ability to be "good" and that life doesn't end when you die (but what happens afterwards is a question mark - we'll see when we get there).

We don't go to church either. I only go when I feel the need for some sort of ritual with other people.. but otherwise, no.

And my husband was also raised a Catholic. Boy, can they mess up people's minds. That guilt thing is terrible!!!!

Mel said...

The bravery of the woman! J, I think you rock. I have lots of things I'd like to say, but instead I'll simply say: Good job.

Christina_the_wench said...

Um, being a preacher's wife I got lots to say too, but I will leave it at at least you believe in God.

Yes, really...a preacher's wife. Don't look so shocked. :P

Plain Jane Mom said...

We don't go to church either. And that beliefnet quiz is SO LONG! I apparently need a speedier religion...

Waya said...

Great post Jessica!! I was raised Buddhists. We used to attend temple when we were little but once we arrived in this country, living gets in the way.

Personally, religion is really a philosophy of life, be a good person, love thy neighbor, don't lie or kill kind of things and you're fine. You know, Karma.

I don't need to attend temple to believe in those basic human traits. And I can't stand when zealots try to convince me that my soul will not be saved if I don't go to church or temple. Puh-lease!!

Guess what I'm humming now...the Benny Hill theme song. ;-)

wendy boucher said...

Hi- your basic godless heathen here. I'm an out-of-the-closet atheist and even I like the kind of community that develops around faith. I just look for similar community in other places. I like what Waya had to say up there.
As for Sunday mornings, they are for dads so that moms can read the New York Times. Let him smell zoo poo while you do the crossword. Oh, and I live in the south too.

liberalbanana said...

I'm also an atheist and have some pretty strong feelings about religion. (I'll spare you and your readers.) I loved when you wrote about going to church for the daycare! My favorite part of church growing up was when we would get donuts and punch afterwards. In the summertime it would switch to cookies (NO FUN!) and all the kids would rejoice (REJOICE!) when September rolled around again. Yes, school's back in session but HELLO? FREE DONUTS! To this day, I cannot sit through a service when I go home to visit my family without writing some smart-ass comment on the program to my brother. And I still say "Peas be with you" instead of "Peace be with you."

Domestic Chicky said...

Scoot over- I'll bring the peanuts...

Psst..Did you see that? Christina is a preacher's wife! Heehee...

Lisa Goldstein/Kelly Kelly said...

Amen to you! Apparently, I am a universal unitarian, according to beliefnet. very interesting.


Blonde Vigilante said...

My father is the same way and was raised Catholic. My stepmom goes to church without him and brings my little brother with her. I think it's great. She would love for my father to come, but she also understands why he doesn't. And, I can understand why you don't go to church b/c you husband doesn't want to. It all comes full circle.

Gwyneth said...

I will say that a UU congregation is a wonderful place to meet people with a more "liberal" attitude towards religion. Families there come from all religious backgrounds and share with each other their journeys.

If you ever care to visit our local UU congregation, just let me is not too far from the LARGEST LATINO MALL IN THE SOUTH (is that how it went?), you know. You can always head there for a margarita afterwards.

The Medium Swede said...

I am categorized a Unitarian.

Still creeped out by Peter Pan.

mothergoosemouse said...

Secular humanist. Both according to BeliefNet and my own reluctantly applied label. Like Wendy, I prefer the term "godless heathen".

Stefanie T. said...

Hmmm...I did the Belief-o-matic thing and my top five matches were:

1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (97%)
3. New Age (92%)
4. Liberal Quakers (83%)
5. Mahayana Buddhism (82%)

I was raised Catholic and it was waaaay down on the list. Like your husband, I no longer attend mass (or go to any other church.)

I know what you mean about church being king in the south. It's as if everyone just assumes you go to church. The question is never "Do you attend a church?" it's "What church do you attend?"

Thanks for visiting my blog and adding me to your blog roll. :)

MommyWithAttitude said...

Lacking "absolute" faith... I've tried to explain that concept about myself and never could figure out how to say what I meant... so I'm totally stealing that next time it comes up!

Also, I can totally relate to your husband. I was discussing why I rarely go to church (though I'd say I'm Catholic) and my girlfriend said, "Why don't you just become Lutheran then instead..."


Mommy off the Record said...

I can relate to your husband as well. Raised Catholic and now identify so strongly that I can't really see myself trying other religions.

However, about 4 years ago I found a church with a progressive priest that I really like and he inspired me to go to Church again. Now we go ocassionally. We don't go every Sunday but we go now and then. For me, it's all about the priest and getting something from mass. If I don't get anything from it, there's no point in going. I never go out of a sense of "duty". I look for community and a priest that speaks to me.

If I can't find that, then I guess I'll just see you at the zoo!

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

In my house Sundays are for football.

Kristin said...

We are lucky in that we have such a good priest at our Church...makes all the difference.

I suppose I should say that it doesn't... but, I would be lying.

Kevin Charnas said...

I was raised Catholic and Greek Orthodox. And now, I don't even consider myself a "Christian" - at least not by the perverted standards of today's organized religious groups. There's that saying; "God gave us religion, then the devil came along and organized it." I say this and it TOTALLY freaks my parents out.

I don't say it to freak them out, I just want them to question things. I do find comfort in knowing that there really isn't anything original in Christianity and that it is a collection of ancient, pagan beliefs steeped in metaphor that people have celebrated for thousands of years. And it has just been incorporated into the church. And I would LOVE to meet the man that was Christ. He's one of the top on my list.

But, I've found my own way and continue to do so. I study Buddhist teachings and also pagan worship to more fully understand today's Christianity. I eventually want to read the Koran, so that I understand Islam more.

With all of this being said, Jessica, I never feel closer to what I think "God" is then when I'm outside. When I'm hiking in the mountains, naked in a mountain stream, or a lake, or an Ocean, or just a field at a park (not still naked). Taking in the natural world around me and letting myself be enveloped by the fresh air, the sun, the water, the stars at night - knowing that without them, I wouldn't be living. I know that there's a god and feel connected with all living beings, not just humans and this motivates me to live a good life, to be kind and loving and compassionate, because we're all interconnected and god is all apart of everything.

Wow. I think that I just went into some sort of trance or something...sorry...I kind of rambled on there.

Anyway, outside is open on Sunday mornings, isn't it?

julia said...

Funny, I was raised a liberal Quaker. According to that site, I'm 100% secular humanist, but I consider myself an athiest (godless heathen is good, too).

Cool quiz....

Leslie said...

I'm so glad you linked up this post. I wasn't a reader, yet, when you originally wrote it. But, it is pretty much where Dave and I are sitting right now. It's good to know we're not the only ones at the zoo. I feel a little less lonely.