God in America
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‘Polytheism is cosmotheism. The divine cannot be divorced from the world.’ (Jan Assmann)

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 think we all have a tendency to anthropomorphose the Gods just to conceptualize them. In reality, they are unmoving, unchangeable forces that combine to animate the Universe, inseparable from physics or biology or what have you.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the world is full of Gods.
My most powerful moment of belief was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator when I first read Sallustius's “On the Gods and the World” and everything started to make sense.
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator between second and fourth grade when I stopped believing in the Christian God. Eventually, I realized that the model of divinity proposed by Christianity didn't make sense to me, but at the time it was very traumatic because I thought that the adults were supposed to have all of the answers to my questions.
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that Hellenists have sexual orgies. We don't. There are surviving stories of repentance from people who conducted themselves wrongly in temples and attributed streaks of misfortune to the transgressions.

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
In my house, the thing that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator my shrine, the center for household worship.

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 It is impossible to separate religious or moral teachings from a person's decisions, but ideally religion would take a back seat to a more humanistic ethical and moral system. It's one thing to believe something and another thing to decide you need to police everyone else, too.
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 I approve of the inclusion of classes about religion provided that they cover non-Christian or Jewish religions and that they do not demean other faiths in their approach. However, I think that a teacher's bias towards any one faith could harm objectivity.
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 They should be brought up in a religion class or in an appropriate college course. Quite honestly, we covered Biblical history in our history class when I was in a public high school. Everything was treated as though it actually happened, and the teacher didn't take time to explain things. I was the only non-Christian in the class and felt somewhat irritated that the narratives were expected to make sense.
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Yes, it's important. It puts faces to other religious beliefs and makes everyone more likely to recognize our common humanity.
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator As a religious person in the sciences, I don't feel comfortable discussing my faith. The assumption is that if you're not an atheist, you're somehow mentally damaged. I don't want that to interfere with my career. In other social settings, I am also anxious because I worry about retaliation by Christians who want to legislate my personal understanding of the divine and the unwritten religious litmus test we're all forced to go through as Americans. I was much more comfortable about being open when I was an undergraduate student because I wasn't aware of the consequences back then.
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 have a duty to live by my religion's moral and ethical codes. These include striving for self-knowledge, judging responsibly, and maintaining personal integrity. Ultimately, I don't feel that there's a huge difference between my religion's teachings about morality and ethics and the humanistic ideal --- with the exception that I worship Gods. On the other hand, I feel a personal religious obligation to speak out against religious atrocities against fellow non-Christians worldwide in the face of zealous missionary activity. As a polytheist, I have a lot of baggage about atrocities committed against my spiritual ancestors in Europe by Christian Rome. Since I can't do anything about the past, I might as well make a difference today by speaking out against similar actions.
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 in high school when 9/11 happened. There has always been anti-Islam (but NOT anti-Muslim) sentiment in the polytheistic community because Islam holds that shirk (polytheism, or attributing companions to Allah) is the only sin God does not forgive --- making polytheism worse than genocide and rape. It is very difficult to relate to people who believe this about your religion. No matter how much I support moderate Muslims, I can't help but wonder whether they would stand up for me if the situation were reversed.

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Major funding for God in America provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John E. Fetzer Institute, Inc.  Additional funding provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. God in America is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
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Published October 11, 2010

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