Salix's Shiny Things

A magpie blog.

An atheist Quaker attends Church and Buddhist Meditation Group August 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 7:07 pm
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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.

or something.


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.


Sunrise over Yolo Bypass Wilderness Area


Life, the Universe, and Stuff (mainly, depression and coping) May 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 7:14 pm
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Hello, hello, hello!

So, it’s been a month and a week since I’ve posted here.  Battling depression and suchlike.  Writing this blog and journaling does help, but it requires a fairly significant amount of energy, which has been pretty much nonexistent this month.  It’s a stupid catch-22 with depression:  doing the things that make you feel better is great way to cope, but actually having the mental energy to do those things isn’t there, so you just sit at the bottom of the depression pit.  Blegh.

But the mood is lifting, mental energy is finally growing to the point where I can do more than 1 thing a day, like clean AND write!  Yoga And clean!  And Write!  Clean and crochet and yoga and help kid with homework!

Every little is a Big Accomplishment after you’ve had to live at the bottom of the depression pit.

One thing that I’ve really wanted to explore in my writing but didn’t have the energy for this month is my experience attending church these past several weeks.

Yep, I’ve become a regular church goer, and my son is now a choirboy!

Which is weird and strange and odd and oxymoronical due to the fact that I’m a Super Secular Science Person.

But… I’m also an anthropologist.  And a pragmatist.  And heavily influenced by my study of the history and philosophy of the Society of Friends (Quakers)  and experiences in  Friends affiliated schools  (meeting for worship is pretty awesome, actually!)

Going to church is a great way to meet people, of course.  And I chose to attend a small church of the same denomination that my mom and her family belonged to instead of one of the more “cool” churches in town (Unitarian Universalist, for example).

As an anthropologist, I analyze my behavior in this way:  I have a human need to connect to my family and my ancestry through familiar things – and absent their physical presence, I can find connection through rituals and traditions.  And because my mom’s denomination (Lutheran) is not very popular in the US, it tends to attract folks who have established connections the culture and traditions, so there are plenty of midwestern germanic old-school liberal types like my mom and her family  in the congregation.  Folks who are very kind if not greatly effusive, emphasizing practicality and scholarship over spirituality.

So, my “people”, in other words.  My family’s culture.

And because I have social anxiety that’s fairly significant, just this once a week thing has been an enormous energy drain.

But it’s an expense that is starting to become an investment.  The energy I spend to go to church and interact with people is great practice.  It’s a gentle and nurturing environment where I don’t have to be “cool” or show off how witty and hip I am, or demonstrate how intelligent I am, or otherwise prove my worthiness to a group of strangers I want to associate with.  I can just relax and practice socializing, work on my conversation skills, be a bit awkward but still accepted.

In other words, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

So I guess that makes me a secular Lutheran?  Well, why not?  So many of my college friends are secular Jews, so why not a secular Lutheran?