God in America
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"The soul cannot be confined within man-made boundaries. Its nationality is Spirit; its country is Omnipresence" --PY

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 to be all the love I have ever felt or known at any time in my life. I imagine God to the the One who always hears my thoughts and prayers, who always provides understanding, and the One who knows all my fears, needs, hopes, joys and struggles. I imagine God to be the source and sum of all consciousness and wisdom. I imagine God to be the One who, when I am in tune, gives the deepest comfort and deepest peace, tranforms me into my best self and transcends all time and distance. I imagine God to be the source of my intuition, and the intelligent force that is all light, energy and matter.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that every religion has some truth to be found in it. I believe that there are many different religions because there are many different kinds of people and that anyone who lives by the ideals of their faith is blessed. I believe that even those who do not believe in any God are still blessed if they live by nobel ideals and with compassion. I believe all religions have some honest devout followers and some hypocrites. I believe God is found within, not in the outward rituals and dogma of religion. I believe we can all know God by our own individual experience and i practice a yoga that helps me take the steps that i believe will transform my consciousness and my actions to be in tune with the Divine. I believe we are all individualized sparks of the Divine and we need only remember our true nature.
My most powerful moment of belief was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator when I was in an auto accident. I had been driving when i hit and ran over a pedestrian. Before any emergency services had arrived, I found myself standing on the sidewalk, looking at the scene that made no sense. I was in shock and i began to pray. I prayed with a force of urgent and desperate need. I prayed in a way I had never prayed before. A vivid response came and the response I recieved was two-fold: there were words that brought a deep clarity to my mind and more than that, was a profound sense of calm, comfort and peace that I cannot quite describe. It was a pivotal experience in my faith.
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator when i was in 8th grade, i met a man who was a 'fire and brimstone' minister. Fired up with fears and vivid imagery of hell and damnation, spreading fear more than faith. Being perhaps too susceptible to his influence I turned away from God in fear. For 4 years i would leave the room if the word 'God' was even mentioned. I was devistated. I began to renew my search for God again when i began university. This time i looked away from Christian teachings and began to look to Eastern religions and philosophy.
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator everything to me. It is the source of my strength and that which helps me to endure any hardship. It has helped me to change myself, to live more in line with my ideals, to change my environment, my attitude and my direction. My spiritual life has helped me to make the changes that have allowed me to become what i wanted to be.
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that because I do not choose only one saint, one saviour, only one aspect of God that I could be understood and accepted by God. I have known honest, loyal and devout prationers of many different religions and I believe that as I have had the power to love each one, so God has the greater power to call each one His own loved child. I have drawn closer to God through the religions of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and even through the intellectual study of Philosophy. I believe God knows the course I have walked and has blessed it with His presence at every step.
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator firstly: Paramhansa Yogananda, my guru. But also: Jesus Christ, Buddha, Shiva, Krishna, St. Francis of Asisi, Daya Mata, Dalai Lama and my maternal grandmother (This is by no means a complete list. I have had the great gift of meeting many monks and nuns and devoted householders over the years that serve as shining examples and inspirational role models.)
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the idea that the most important thing is personal experience of the Divine, to go within, in meditation, communion, and know God... Not mearly to believe but to know for ones-self. Also, and very importantly to me, that the religion i follow gives me scientific techniques that i can do daily to transform my thoughts and feelings from old habitual grooves that side-track and distract me or lead me into self-defeating behavior, and instead leads me into the presence of the Divine, and being able to change my-self and my life.

My Faith History

As a child I believed ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator that God was always near me...that God anwered me when i needed answers, was near when i played in the woods or by the creek. I believed that the life i saw in the trees and the wild animals were evidence of God's presence.
My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator a process of evolution. As a child my experiences of the presence of God in my life was the source of so much joy and contentment that i used to long for the ability to reach into my heart, grab that experience and share it with those closest to me whenever i saw that they were unhappy. I was always seeking for a religion that could explain and encompass the experiences i had.
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator a Methodist
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 dad never spoke about his beliefs and would not answer any question i may have asked. My mother was raised Methodist and had all her children attend Sunday School until the time when they were allowed to choose for themselves to stop or continue. She did not attend chuch regularly herself and she used to read books that indicated to me she was searching, books by Elron Hubbard, Edgar Casey and the like. So, in the fact that the question of belief has been important enough to keep seeking answers, i suppose my mother and i are alike. I do not know if she ever found what she was looking for before she passed. The religion i now follow is the answer i have found to my searching.

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 try to practice meditation and yoga techniques every morning and evening. We have a room in our home that is reserved just for this purpose. I try to practice the presence of the Divine daily and especially when any decision or struggle is at hand. I also attend services and volunteer and our local church. I believe it is important to bring one's faith into every aspect of ones life.
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 I was born Methodist and my husband was born Hindu. The practices we follow are non-denominational and a church of all religions. We find no conflict in maintaining our beliefs in Christ, Shiva and Buddha. At different times in my life I have had need of Buddha, of Christ, of Krishna, of Shiva and others and i feel no conflict in valuing and maintaining a faith in each one of them. I read books on the lives of many saints. I think all wisdom is valuable and find reverence for all who love God deeply and sincerely. Of my siblings, one follows Wicca, another follows Lutheranism, 2 have attended Catholic Church, one has been interested in Evangelicanism, another attends a non-denominational christian church, and one follows Native American traditions. All of us have a sense of the Divine presence and were raised with open minds. We have never had a single disagreement about faith between us.
How easy or difficult is it to live your faith? Why? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Some aspects are easy and some difficult. Love and devotion come easily to me but regular self-discipline is often a struggle. This path provides me with intellectual and metaphysical understanding as well as emotional and mental guidance. I have found this path to be the most comprehensive and best suited one to my nature and beliefs.
In my house, the thing that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the meditation room.
The song/book/film that most represents my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator the book: Autobiography of a Yogi

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 I believe that the highest ideals of honesty, compassion, kindness, service and duty should be a part of all private and public life. However, the dogma of any specific religion should be put on the sidelines because pushing forward any specific religious agenda will only create conflict. People's political opinions are often informed by their religious philosophy and beliefs, but one religion should not be politically legislated. I believe in the philosophy of seperation of church and state.
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 When i went to University I took courses in Buddhism, Neo-Confusianism and Native American religions. I absolutely think courses such as these should be available to everyone at community colleges and universities. I think there are many individuals who are uncertian of their concept of the divine and their own spiritual life. Having the opportunity to explore religious ideas in an eduational, non-religious setting may give the opportunity for many to uncover or define their own beliefs in a way they may never have a chance to do. I'm not sure about these courses being offered at a high-school level or younger. Religious education for children is usually guided by the parents and it is they who decide how much of this kind knowledge is appropriate within their own families.
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 On a University level, i would say that perhaps such courses could be offered as electives, but for high school or younger i would say probably not. The complication in studying these texts as works of literature is that even the scholars and leaders within these various religions do not agree to the interpretations of much of what is contained within them. Trying to give an impartial or intellectual view, devoid of any spiritual connection will be controversial in itself. To really get at the depth of meaning behind such books requires more intuition than intellect.
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Absolutely, Yes! Interfaith dialogue is very important. Such interaction not only increases understanding but also reduces fear of those who a different from yourself. When you have the opportunity to meet those from different backgrounds they become real, human and are no longer some abstract 'other'. Also it is proven that those who have very strong narrow views will very often, over time, become more and more extreem in their beliefs when they are cut off from those who think differently.
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 not generally start converstions about faith. I am perfectly comfortable having such conversations when the subject arises. I enjoy debating ideas but i do not try to convert others. I am very confortable in my faith and do not feel threatened by those who may disagree with me. There is much about one's inner relationship with God that is beyond words or explanation and so is never discussed. At the same time when one can communue with others in the joy of divine understanding great love can surface.
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 believe that faith is something that is a part of my everyday life. I don't think i can seperate my actions from my faith. When an important decision is to be made i ask for guidance. In struggling against bad habits i try to apply techniques i have learned through my faith to become better. In finding my strength in difficulties i turn to my faith. In the joy of good things i find gratitude to God. In my relationships i try to live by spiritual values.
Are religious beliefs compromised by engaging in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I don't think religious beliefs are necessarily compromised by engaging in politics. One's politics may be informed by one's religious beliefs. Or one might decide to compromise their religious values thinking it will help them get ahead politically. If one professes a religious belief for political advantage but does not live by those values in their daily life then there is no gain. One might have to chose between them, but i think that where there is a true sincerity in both religion and politics one can be sucessful.
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 don't think that 9/11 changed my beliefs. I've always been interested in learning about different religions and my expression of my faith has not changed much either. If there is one thing i could define that may have been effected by 9/11 i would say that perhaps i pray more and my belief in the power of prayer has been strengthened.

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Published October 11, 2010

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