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Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti. "The truth is one, but the wise call it by many names." Rg Veda 1.164.46

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 I imagine "God" as nothing, which is why I often identify with atheism. God as a concept cannot simply be defined for me as knowing there's something larger than me or my world or the world. I don't disagree with the idea that there is probably something bigger out there, but even if there is, it's nothing we can describe or imagine. Like equations, we can map the divine in a similar way we can describe gravity: we use equations to describe gravity in the same way we can use descriptions of God(s) to talk about the divine.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator in a lot of different things... I believe that you don't need to believe in God to be a good person. I believe that the idea of God is changeable depending on mood and region of the world. I firmly believe that not all religions believe in the same god, and that is the most important part of understanding the Other. And I believe it is our duty as humans to learn about other religions; the Pew Religious Knowledge survey shows more of a lack of public education than our own inability to learn more. I believe both in the power of the individual and the power of the collective. I believe in the ability of religion to promote peace, despite it's tendency to cause wars. To me, the beauty that others, and that I, find in religion -- in the practice of a belief -- is more important than the shape of the belief in God. This is why humanists, atheists, agnostics, and others, are as important in my eyes in terms of (a)religion as the traditional religions.
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the many women Episcopal priests I know, including my mother. In terms of faith, I am so very different than they are, nor do I strive to be one of them, but I admire all of them.
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the emphasis on questioning. I believe this is why I as a person can accept stranger parts of other religions as well as science. Education should be an important part of religion.

My Faith History

As a child I believed ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that Sunday mornings were best spent throwing temper tantrums and that it wasn't fair that I wasn't allowed to play soccer in travel leagues on Sundays (not because of "rest day" thing, but because I could never get a ride anywhere).
My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator a journey of skepticism and enlightenment. Doubt is as important to any faith as belief: we cannot all be Job, more often we are Thomas. Like many 20-somethings, I have gone through periods of faith and periods of vehement atheism. I studied religion in college, which certainly fueled my "journey," though i didn't study it specifically for my own enrichment. I'm very comfortable with my religious views now. I always want to learn more, and I always hope that leads to me becoming a better person. Everything on my journey that i've done, I've tried to do with my eyes and heart and mind open and never to accept something blindly.
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator an Episcopalian. Both my parents are Episcopal priests, so I grew up knowing most of what went on behind the scenes at churches and on the larger diocesan scale. This may have been one of the things that led me to study religion (not Christianity) in college. The most important thing from my childhood religious education was that I was always encouraged to question what I knew about religion, God, and my own faith.
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 I can't say they're all that similar, but they aren't that different at the core, either. I'm not ordained, so there are certainly things different about my practice from my parents. I don't attend church weekly, which is as much a product of my age as not having found a community.

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 I practice my "faith" every day that I think about or talk about religion, since I consider my faith to be that of pluralism. It doesn't require church attendance or prayer or meditation. I no longer know what it really is to pray. I assume as my journey continues, I may appreciate prayer differently.
In my house, the thing that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator my bookshelves. Because I've spent 7 years studying religion academically, I've accumulated an odd variety of books about religion. My shelves are dominated by books on Hinduism and Hindu scriptures, specifically the puranas, because that has been my focus for the last several years. But I own a Qur'an, somewhere between 2-4 Bibles, a Talmud, several Buddhist sutras, and puranas, vedas, and upanishads.
The song/book/film that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Hands down. The runner up: Becoming Divine by Grace Jantzen

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 We cannot assume that a politician will come to the table as a blank slate. In a postmodern world, even an anthropologist or a scientist is understood to have some leanings (not necessarily religiously) that will affect his or her work. I would not assume anything less of a politician. But I don't believe that faith should dictate policy in our country. EVEN IF our country were founded as a Christian nation, not everyone practices the same kind of Christianity. The Christianity of Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Christine O'Donnell is very different than the Christianity that I know, and they cannot tell me what to think, feel, or believe. Neither can a liberal Christian politician tell me what to believe. When the First Amendment was written, it was done so to protect the churches from politics, now we need to protect politics from the churches. We cannot expect someone to check their religious beliefs at the door, but we can expect them to respect the First Amendment protecting religion (and the government) through the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.
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 WIthout a doubt, religion MUST be taught in public schools. This may be my firmest belief about religion, actually. In order for us to be citizens of the world, we need to know what others believe. We need to know the history behind all religions, including our own. We need to know more than just why the pilgrims came to America, we need to know why Henry VIII left the Catholic church, why India and Pakistan will always be at odds with one another, and why exactly three religions claim parts of the Middle East. Those parts of history, along with the tenants of each faith, help us understand what makes our neighbors tick. Just as importantly, we must study secularists/atheists and their role in shaping the faith of our country and the world.
Should the Bible, Torah, Quran or other religious texts be taught as works of literature in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Absolutely, because they ARE great works of literature. For thousands of years, religious texts were also used for entertainment, so it isn't sacrilegious to celebrate them as literature. It would be depriving children of great stories from other cultures that they may not know. Reading about Noah's ark won't indoctrinate someone, and neither will reading about Ganga or Gilgamesh and their flood stories.
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator YES! I wrote my college senior thesis on religious pluralism, which i defined as "the active engagement of religious diversity." The best way to engage: with other people in dialogue. One of the most important things I've learned since studying religion, and probably knew subconsciously before that, is that religions are not static things. Each person has a different perspective on his or her religion and understands his or her God in a different way. Therefore, talking with people of different religions about their belief is remarkably important. When you engage in dialogue, you'll find a few different things: the other person's understanding of God is very similar to yours AND is completely different than yours.
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 do, but I know a lot about my faith as well as those of others. Not everyone does, or should. I've spent most of my life framing my perspective in terms of religion or lack of religion, but I know most people don't think that way. I also love any conversation about religion, mine or anyone else's (or the study of, or the latest events involving, etc.)
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 I do believe that I need to put my "faith" into action. For the time being, I blog about religion at www.thebusysignal.com, which is my way of writing about religion and current events and public policy. I want to teach religion at either the college or high school level some day.
Are religious beliefs compromised by engaging in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I don't know how they could be, honestly, at least in America. As Americans, we are obligated to participate in Democracy, which to a certain extent means engaging in politics. Politics, politicians, and governments may be corrupt, but to withdraw from politics is to silence the needs of your community. Minorities have fought for the right to vote in this country, and it's part of the package of doing your duty as an American to vote and engage in politics. Religion has nothing to do with it.
Has 9/11 had any impact on your thoughts about religion? Are you more/less interested in learning about other religions? Do you feel more/less comfortable expressing your religious beliefs? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was 15 on September 11, 2001, so I was just beginning to learn and appreciate my own religion then. I can't say 9/11 changed MY views, but it did change many of the books that I read as a college freshman and sophomore, which led to my eventual senior thesis on religious pluralism. I'm more interested in other religions because that material became available to me just as I began my academic journey. Because of my age, I'm not sure how much impact 9/11 had on my religious views or beliefs, though I like to think it influenced me to become more religiously open.

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Published October 11, 2010

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