or, an Atheist Lutheran who used to be Wiccan and thought about becoming a member of Society of Friends (Quakers) finds community in going to Church and Buddhist Meditation gatherings.
Ok, so at this stage in my life, my core belief is that there is no supernatural anything outside of our imaginations. This is essentially a natural progression of my thinking from childhood, where I was a good church kid, Acolyte and everything, through teenager-hood, where I had a stint going to Baptist church with a friend which made me feel like I was evil and about to be struck down by God at any moment, to breaking free of that fear-of-god church with help from a Jewish/Wiccan girl who had Zen Buddhist grandparents. I learned that God need not come in a patrician, angry male body. God could reveal herself as motherly, which made much more sense to me – if God is love, then why not a woman? Besides, Wiccan ceremonies looked really fun, and involved crystals and herbs and such. Later, I went to Quaker high school and college, where I learned about the “quiet, still voice” of god that exists within everyone.
Which brings me to today: I really do believe that God exists within everyone – as a part of our imagination, conscience incarnate in the mind.
Ideas are extremely powerful. God is an extremely powerful idea. Sometimes it provides us with the strength and courage to do what is right and good in the world, to help others, to overcome suffering. Other times it serves as a force of divisiveness, fear, and control.
I am very comfortable and at home in this philosophy, my non-theistic Quaker-ish humanism.
Aside from that brief stint with the fire and brimstone Baptists, my experiences in organized religions have been mostly very positive. Lutheran and Episcopal churches structured much of my childhood, and provided connections to family and culture and values. So unlike many of the atheist writers I enjoy reading on a daily basis (Pharyngula’s PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Dana Hunter, and others on the Free Thought Blog network), I don’t feel the need to lash out against religion in general. I feel like I’ve stepped out of the need to either rebel against specific religious doctrines or accept them as real. I can set them aside, or look at them like jewels or tangled roots.
I am enjoying this freedom, this ability to attend church and sing songs and participate in communion and become a part of the community. The ability also to attend a Buddhist meditation group, to feel the silence deepen, to be wrapped in the energy of others experiencing this silent, focused breathing.
To find in myself the ability to be truly kind to others, to realize that we’re all a bit (or a lot!) awkward, that meeting new people is difficult, that a new person in an established group is a weirdness, that it’s hard to balance the need for wanting to include and being inclusive with your need to be alone or with an old friend you haven’t seen in many years.
Accepting that nothing is permanent, not even God or the Universe, is a step towards freedom. A scary leap, actually, but not into the void you fear, but into the life that is.