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This and this alone is true religion: To serve thy brethren. This is sin above all other sin: To harm thy brethren. In such faith is happiness. In lack of it is misery and pain. Blessed is he whose life is lived thus ceaselessly in serving God. Bearing others' burdens and so alone is life, true life, to be attained. Nothing is hard to him who, casting self aside, thinks only this: How may I serve my fellow man? Tulsidas -- 16th Century (translated by the Mahatma Gandhi)

How Do You Imagine God?
God in America and USA WEEKEND Magazine are partnering to explore Americans' images of God.

How do you imagine God? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator When I need a sensory image of God, I remember the drawing in some intro physics book of the warping of spacetime that demonstrated spacetime as a cosmic fabric that supported the planets. More rarely, I imagine floating in the warm, briny, primeval ocean. As a child, I imagined an archetypal grandfather about the size of the Lincoln Memorial into whose lap I would crawl for a snuggle.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that there is something that transcends our individual human consciousness, that is more than the universal unconscious. I believe there is a sentient, conscious, creative impulse inclusive of but infinitely surpassing our human creativity. I choose to call that transcendent something God. I believe that human beings can commune with God if they choose. Because of my heritage as an American Protestant, I choose to use the myths and metaphors of the teachings of Jesus and the traditions of Christianity to facilitate my communion with God. 1 person liked this
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator when I was questioning whether to return to a Christian description of faith. Could I be a Christian without discarding, discrediting, disrespecting the twenty-some years of spiritual journeying I had done as a heathen? Could Christianity allow a skeptical, doubting, questioning humanist, feminist, scientist? The Christianity I had left in my 20s had no place for such as I; could I find a new understanding of Christian faith that would encompass everything that I was? The most terrifying thing I had ever done was to leave Christianity in my twenties--knowing, as I'd been taught, that I was gambling my immortal soul on the capacity of my own rational mind. Deciding, two decades later, to identify again with Christianity was even more terrifying. In denouncing the doctrines and creeds of fundamentalist Christianity, I had lost the respect of Christians years ago, but I had gained some respect among the heathen intellectuals for critical thinking, research and well-thought conclusions. I risked losing that by assuming the Christian name again. It came down to a question of self-respect: could I maintain my integrity in any community if I didn't respect my own self and the perspective I have on reality? I am now largely a heretic to religious, academic, and scientific communities, but I am becoming comfortable in my heresy. I am sure of myself and I am sure of the Divine, and that allows me the grace to be humble in the face of those who think I cannot belong. (Well, sometimes...!) 1 person liked this
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the lens through which I understand life. If life is not merely as series of random and unrelated events, it must be infused with meaning. What that meaning is differs from person to person and is largely defined through the mythologies--whether cultural, academic, religious, or otherwise. Myth is the overlay on the circumstances of Life by which patterns emerge that we interpret as meaningful. 1 person liked this
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that the creeds and deeds of the institutionalized church and her members are reflective of Jesus' teaching. 2 people liked this
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator anyone whose faith inspires him to a life of humble and gracious service to his fellow man. Anyone who lives in such a way that her children, students, clients, patients, customers, neighbors or friends can become more creative, healthy, loving, and whole.
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (English Standard Version)

My Faith History

My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator a spiral. To some, it might seem as though I've "come full circle" in leaving and returning to Christianity, but since the Christianity I profess now is denounced by anyone who follows the teachings I grew up with, the progression is hardly a circle. A spiral is a more accurate representation of my path in that I am back in the same territory whence I came but at a wholly different place.
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the first-born child of a fundamentalist Evangelical preacher.
Are your beliefs or practices different from your parents? If so, how and why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator My beliefs about the nature of spiritual realities and how I express and manifest those beliefs is night-and-day different from how my parents believed and practiced their religion. My mother died almost two decades ago but my father's subsequent life experiences have led him much closer to where I am now than where we all started out--much to the consternation, I think, of my siblings!

How I Practice My Faith

Where and when do you practice your faith? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Every moment of every day in another opportunity to experience and extend grace--to respect my kids, my neighbor, my spouse; to act justly, kindly, humbly; to make the choice to improve the quality of life for someone, even if only for a moment with a smile and courtesy. Do I succeed at this absurd ideal? Of course not. Out of all the minutes in the day, the number I use wisely is oh-so-few. But the good news is that the very next minute is another chance to better my average!
Does your family practice more than one religion or faith? If so, how do you blend the traditions? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Both my husband and I come from conservative Evangelicalism, though my background was much more fundamentalist than his, and we both were adamant that Sunday School did more to screw us up than any other single aspect of religious training. So we determined never to send our children to Sunday School. We did look for a church community during the early years of our marriage (for probably 6 or 7 years) but were so disgusted by the close-minded, single focus on having children in all the groups, Bible studies, and church services that we gave up altogether. We have raised our children to practice the Golden Rule but have consciously avoided teaching specific religious doctrine. I think my kids have learned more about Christian doctrine and practice from watching The Simpsons and Bugs Bunny than from our own practice. I'm not at all sure what my children believe about spiritual realities but, at 12 and 13, they probably couldn't articulate it well themselves. Most people don't develop the capacity to understand rationally the complexities of spiritual beliefs until at least the early teens, often not until the 20's or 30's. Until then, what passes for beliefs are simply parroted teachings of parents or religious leaders. I want my children to develop their own faith, as ultimately we all must do, without having to deconstruct teachings that make no sense to them.
How easy or difficult is it to live your faith? Why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Faith should be incredibly simple to understand and difficult to live in that it should infuse every thought and action. If it isn't permeating every aspect of my life, do I really believe it? My faith can be summed up in the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." When the rubber meets the road, however, sometimes it isn't always automatic to offer the respect, service, and divine love to everyone. There are lots of people to whom I'd really rather not extend grace, not respect as equal pilgrims on their own spiritual journey. I find, though, that the more deeply I can immerse myself in the Divine, the more automatic and easy it is to see all people as my brothers and sisters (even my brothers and sisters!) 1 person liked this

Religion & the Public Square

What should be the role of religion in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Ideally, politics are the negotiating and legislating of communal life and all public servants would truly work in service to their community. A person's religion should inform and inspire his or her public service but not dictate specific public policy. 1 person liked this
Should courses about religion be taught in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator In the understanding that becoming more knowledgeable about different religions would lead to greater respect and appreciation of the many spiritual traditions followed by our fellow Americans and our global brothers and sisters, I would dearly love to see a quality world religion class taught in the public schools. But I doubt that any religion curriculum that actually got into the classroom would be even close to a coherent, comprehensive, and respectful treatment of our major faith traditions. For real tolerance and understanding of our many religious similarities and differences, respect must be taught to our children through the actions of parents for their neighbors, policy-makers for their entire constituencies, and corporations for the real costs to all the people reflected in their bottom line.
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I have very few conversational inhibitions; I will generally discuss any topic, any issue, any question, with anyone--except faith! It has been my experience that only the closed-minded have any willingness to discuss religious faith and then only to bully me into their way of thinking. Actual discourse on religion has been extremely rare in my real life. I've had a few good discussions online but not nearly as many as I've had abruptly end when it becomes obvious that I'm not quickly going to submit to the other person's Scriptural trump card. Apparently I am a religious masochist, though, because I keep trying to have conversations about faith and spiritual realities with all kinds of people despite my unsatisfying experiences!
Do you feel that you have a duty, because of your faith, to put your beliefs into action? What are some of those actions? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Absolutely! Not because of any sense of duty or obligation, however. I think that our actions and behaviors result from our most deeply held beliefs, whether those beliefs are coherent with our consciously-stated beliefs or not. If I truly believe in the tenets of my faith, my actions will reflect them at every level of behavior. If my deepest beliefs are not consistent with the tenets of my faith, that also will be obvious in my actions, whether I wish it or not.

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Published October 11, 2010

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