Saturday, November 19, 2011

Modern Girl

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Larry Tanner for his very interesting interview of last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us all Larry!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Modern Girl. Modern Girl is a Unitarian Universalist and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Modern Girl's Introduction:

Modern Girl has a complicated religious path. She was raised by an observant Catholic mother and a non-observant and secular Anglican Dad. Both parents allowed her to explore different religious options, which led her to Neo-Paganism, New Age, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Unitarian Universalism, Humanism and more. At the age of 24, she started to blog about her religious experiences and different stances on religion. Now she blogs about many secular, political, and trivial matters as well, but 3 years later, she still loves the religious blogosphere.

Twitter name M0DERNGIRL (all caps, with a zero as the second character)

1) What religion do you practice?
Currently, I’m a lapsed Unitarian Universalist. In the past year, I have worked as a worship associate for my Unitarian congregation and have been heavily involved in the young adult programming, but since January 2011, I’ve been taking a break (attending maybe once a month. I attended yesterday but felt nothing during the service – my current minister is terrible which is why I’m lapsed). Also in the past year, I have observed many of the Jewish holidays with my fiancé and future in-laws, and I have observed Christmas with my parents. Despite all the religious affiliations, the best description I have for myself is “Agnostic Humanist” which to me, means somewhere between a secular humanist and a religious humanist.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
The long answer to this is the content of 9 very long blog entries. Here’s the short version. Mom was an observant Catholic – but liberal minded. Dad was raised Anglican but disliked organized religion. I went to Catholic church and Catechism until I was 8, then we stopped going (they changed priests, we didn’t like the new guy). My parents gave me free range to explore, I started to get into Neo-Paganism and New Age stuff (astrology, tarot cards, oujia boards, past lives, ESP, animal sages, Native mythology, Celtic mythology, etc.) That was fun until I was about 20 and taking a Comparative Religious Studies minor in university. Then I developed a taste for Buddhism. I tried to get back into Catholicism when my Mom and Grandmother were sick, and a few years before that I gave Evangelical Protestantism a very short try (when my Pennecostal friend asked me to). By the time I was 21 or 22, I discovered that I believed in a higher power, but not Jesus, and not the Bible. According to Karen Armstrong’s “History of God” I was a Freelance Monotheist. I disliked the label Agnostic at the time because I believed (and still do) that there is something greater in the universe that we don’t understand. When I was 23 I met my Jewish fiancé, and was totally infatuated with Judaism for a year or so, then discovered it was too patriarchical and still too literal (though more metaphorical than Christianity). Almost exactly 2 years ago (and a year into my blogging about religion) I discovered Unitarian Universalism – the idea that what we believe doesn’t matter as much as what we do while we’re here. I love UU, the principles really speak to me, and it's a great “inbetwen” the liberal Christianity of my parents and the liberal Judaism of my fiancé. It’s not perfect, and after being involved with the UU congregation for 2 years, I’m a bit disenchanted with organized religion in general, but I know that UU is the best fit for me out of all the options. And nowadays, I’m comfortable knowing that it’s not so much how I label myself, as what I do. I love and feel connected to the Pantheism theories of Spinoza and Einstein, although I’m getting closer to Atheism all the time, I do believe in something bigger than us is out there.

So, I guess I officially converted from Catholicism to UU. The process was simple. I filled out a membership form and a few months later was asked to stand up during the Sunday service so the minister could announce me as one of the new membership. I wore a flower lapel pin and received a free book.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Unitarian Universalism is really too small for divisions yet. But we do have some people who are more spiritual and some who are more secular. And we have congregations like that to. In the more Humanist and secular congregations, there is a greater emphasis on social justice and politics. In the more spiritual congregations, there is a greater emphasis on interfaith committees, and finding meaning in the world without believing in God or an afterlife – necessarily. Despite not believing in an afterlife or a deity who cares, I’m spiritual. My congregation has recently gone very secular. Sermons used to be about forgiveness, growing, connecting to a greater sense of purpose. Now they are dry stories about politics and current affair with no spiritual guidance. There are also some UU congregations with a greater Christian emphasis, and some with a more pluralistic or interfaith emphasis. I like the interfaith stance better.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
Sorry I think I just answer those above.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
In UU, we don’t have a clear idea. It’s not emphasized and the purpose of the faith is to pay attention to this life, not what comes after it. Among UU’s, perspective do vary quite a bit. For me personally, I no longer believe in an afterlife. I did once. Heaven, Hell, all that. Purgatory I was unaware of until I was 20, and never really bought into it. Once I even believed in reincarnation. Now, I believe in science and that when we are dead, we cease to exist. Our consciousness ceases to be, and we decay. I think that the matter which composes our body never really ceases to be, but that is recycled into other things, and that the organic particles that make us up will be absorbed into the environment and will reappear as other forms of life and organic material. For this reason, I’d like to be buried without being embalmed so that I can naturally and non-toxically decay and return to the earth. I’d also like a tree planted near my grave so that my cells and atoms and particles can be recycled and turned into atoms and particles that make up a tree.
I believe Heaven and Hell are more of a state of mind. I believe in a type of karma, more like a Chaos theory of natural cause and effect. The more negative hormones that are released by your body, the more negative hormones go up in the people you are around, etc. If you do negative things, you have a negative impact on your environment and things can come back to bite you in the ass. So, Hell is basically when you are in a funk, and you keep doing things to screw it up and let the funk continue. Heaven is when you’re self-actualized, things are going well (but not too well) and you are routinely exchanging positive energy and interactions and motivations with your surroundings.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
No. With Heaven being a state of mind that only exists, during this lifetime, then I’m aware that not everyone reaches that. Innocent people suffer, and those people unfortunately don’t always find the bliss that others do. I do believe every life has a purpose and an equal opportunity to impact the world. I believe we are born innocent and good and are motivated more so by good forces than by bad forces.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
UU is a good fit for me because it promotes pluralism, a focus on social justice and compassion, and freedom and liberty. It’s a very progressive faith which fits for equality and equity for women, people of color, glbt communities, and more. It promotes pacifism and helping others before helping the economy. It allows me to feel like I’m part of a larger system of progressively minded people, and gives me resources to find writings written by enlightened individuals. It helps push my understanding of the nature of the universe and the purpose of life and existence.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year. I celebrate this by eating apples and honey to symbolize a sweet new year and to get things started off on the right foot. This happens in September around the first of the school year.
Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement. My fiancé does the traditional fast with his parents. I take the day to dedicate myself to a higher calling – such as a charity, etc. I purposely pick the most non-glamorous job (in 2010 I dragged tables through a dewy wet field at 7am) and I don’t brag or act for recognition for it (unless this counts). I concentrate on making myself a better person.
Thanksgiving – Second Monday of October. I try to get together with others for a good meal, and think about all that we have to be fortunate for.
My Birthday – November 3rd. It’s “Me Day” the most sacred day in this egocentric Western society. I spend the day spoiling myself. Most of the time, a birthday cake is included.
Hanukah – December. I have a Hanukiah (like a menorah, but with 9 candles not 7) and I light the candles with a Humanist blessing I wrote. I usually get together with my fiancé and eat latkes and chocolate on one of the days.
Christmas Eve – December 24th. My parents make a large turkey dinner, Granpa drinks whiskey, Santa drives past our house on a Fire Engine, and we each open one gift.
Christmas Day – December 25th. We wake up early, and sit under the tree, opening gift after gift. Then we eat massive amounts of yummy things all day, cheese and cracker spreads, crock pots full of hot dips, peanuts, chocolates, caramel corn, peppermints, open faced sandwiches on expensive breads, turkey leftovers, cheese balls, peanutbutter balls, and much more. We don’t do anything Christian really, it’s much more of a secular Yuletide thing.
“Holidays” December 26-31. Take it easy at my parents house and continue eating and being a glutton. Dad usually has a shut down at work, so everyone is home and spending time together the entire time.
Maple Syrup Day – February 6th. A day during the winter festival season in which I go and look at ice sculptures and frozen lakes, etc. Buy hot chocolate next to the ice rink, eat pancakes and maple syrup in the morning, and spend the day thinking about Canadian winters. It’s also close to Omelc, Imbolc, Candlemass, St. Briget’s Day, etc.
Passover – Jewish celebration of the escape from Egypt. I observe this by attending seders with my fiance’s family. We sit around a table for a long time, eat loads of food, and sing songs in Hebrew. I found the afikomen both times in the last 2 years.
Good Friday – I don’t eat meat on Good Friday out of Catholic superstition traditions.
Easter – I don’t really observed Easter anymore aside from not eating meat on Good Friday. Once in a while I’ll eat a chocolate bunny, or a cream egg, but that’s it.
Mother’s Day – Second Sunday of May. Call up my Mom and give her something nice.
Father’s Day – Third Sunday of June. Call up my Dad and give him something nice.
Canada Day – July 1st – wear red, sometimes dye my hair red, and go to Parliament Hill or an outdoor concert. Eat street meat (hotdogs) listen to bands, wear glow bracelets, watch fireworks. Have sunburn the next day.
August Family BBQ – get together with the extended family. It’s like the opposite of Christmas, at least weather wise. Having sprinklers going, eat taco salad, enjoy the bask of summer one last time before school starts and the whole cycle goes over again.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely! I only have 8 UU friends and we’re a pretty small group. Plus, UU really promotes an interfaith feel and encourages interfaith dialogue, we’re the faith that all the other faiths can get along with!

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
As you can see above, there’s really no UU holidays. Not really. My holidays are a mash up between Jewish and Christian holidays and Canadian secular holidays. So, I have no problem joining in on others’ holidays. I plan to raise my kids Jewish, but they will still celebrate Christian with their maternal grandparents. I’ll try to teach them that it’s not “their” holiday but that they can help their grandparents to celebrate it.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I’m all for freedom, but allowing the burka is not promoting freedom. Even if some women wear it out of their own choice, other women wear it because they are peer pressued, or financially pressured or pressured due to family shame and pride. I also think that it causes social isolation while out in public, which is a form of self abuse. I would like to see the burka banned. As far as Shariah Law goes, I live in Canada, which is a secular nation state. I believe the secular laws of Canada should have more authority over the Canadian people than the laws of a religious group.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Yes, in UU women have equal rights and transgendered people have equal rights. I think it’s great and the way it should be. Just because your genitals are different, it doesn’t mean you lack skills to lead a congregation, think spiritually, or have good ideas.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Nope. I hate segregation. I’ve gone through it when I attend Orthodox Jewish events, and I absolutely hate it. Even in people’s homes, when men daven and the women are separated, it drives me around the bend. I don’t have very much in common with women, I’m one of the guys and I like staying with my fiancé, so that’s irritating. Even at my family BBQ’s (which are sacred to me) it tends to get very gender segregated, but it’s not rigid. I can sit with the men outside as they grill meat and talk politics, and current affairs. Once in a while, an aunt will make fun of me for not being with the women as they prep salads inside and talk about kids, illnesses and domestic affairs, but at least I can go against the trend.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
This is tricky. My religion doesn’t dictate how I feel about abortion, gays, etc. But my perspective on that almost perfectly matches that of UU. But it didn’t influence me, UU is the place where progressively minded people go. UU is sort of a secular faith, so I don’t think it’s my “faith” that I think about everyday, but I think about my left-wing progressive stance on the world almost everyday, which happens to match my faith. When I need to make a decision, I don’t turn to my faith for answers. I turn to my humanist insight and my secular understanding of equality and right and wrong. If the humanist and secular understanding of right and wrong is my faith, then I guess you could say I do that. But I don’t follow what a minister says or what is preached on the pulpit. The minister said once we should try to avoid meat on Mondays, and he pissed me off by doing that, because I don’t think a faith should lay our concrete laws like that.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would be perfectly fine with it. I plan to raise my kids Jewish which is my fiance’s faith. If they don’t want to marry a Jew, I’ll be ok with it. My fiancé might have a hard time with it, even though he’s going to marry outside his faith.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I don’t believe in Hell per say (see previous answers on Heaven and Hell). I think people of all faiths can suffer or flourish, and it’s a state of mind. It’s up to what they do, not what religious ideology they feel they follow.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I’m not sure I follow. UU have historically claimed many figures, like we say Thomas Jefferson and Susan B. Anthony and John Adams were UU’s, but they were actually Christian Unitarians. And some people who were plainly against organized religion have been cited as having UU-like sentiments, but we don’t have the right to state that. Today, there are not many famous UU people.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
My work colleague told another work colleague that she was sick of all “this Jewish stuff” in my work group. My boss is Jewish, I have one Jewish colleague, and I’m engaged to a Jew. My boss and colleague are extremely secular, don’t keep kosher and only observe the holidays in a secular way. Jewish stuff has only come up around the Jewish holidays and it’s always spoken of in a secular, inclusive way. Yet, this anti-Semitic colleague in my work group said she’d like to become a Nazi to stop it. I wrote her an email explaining I could report her to the Human Rights and Equity board, she panicked, said she realized it was wrong. Later told me she still thinks she was in the right for saying those things because she’s a person of color.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No. It’s hard explaining to secular people and people wary of Christanity that I go to church but I’m not Christian and it’s not evangelical and my church friends are not Jesus freaks. So sometimes I restrain from mentioning my beliefs.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Depends on how good the minister is.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Nope. Please see above for the comments on the afterlife.

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