Saturday, February 18, 2012


Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up I wish to thank Ian Crossland for his wonderful interview last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us all Ian!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Courtney. Courtney is a Buddhist and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Courtney's Introduction:

I am thirty-one years old and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was raised in a Christian environment and have been generally encouraged to think for myself. I’ve enjoyed talking about religion since I was twelve years old, and have often felt like an outsider because of that! After high school, I was a nanny for a family that practiced Judaism. During that time I went to meetings about theosophy. I also explored existentialism and atheism during this time. Later in college and afterwards, I practiced Christianity, following along with my then-husband’s religion. Afterwards, I explored Buddhism and practiced meditation. I spent last year teaching in a private Islamic school. So I like to think that these experiences have exposed me to many different religions and perspectives on life; I’m so grateful to have had the opportunities to explore these different outlooks on life! I blog at

1) What religion do you practice?
I’m not sure I would say I practice a religion—I’m a very lazy religious practicioner—but I consider my religion to be a mix of Buddhism, Christianity, and atheism. I would probably say that I’m a practicing Buddhist because I meditate and try to bring myself to the present moment whenever I notice that I’ve lost that moment. Buddhism probably encompasses my viewpoint, but I feel very uncomfortable calling myself a Buddhist because then I either feel pretentious or ignorant.

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?
I was raised in a Christian church and I converted to existentialism in high school. After high school, I spent some time studying theosophy. Then I went back to believing in Christianity. That period lasted a while and then I began practicing meditation and Buddhist principals in my late twenties. Right now I find a lot of reassurance through Buddhism, and I go to a Methodist church when the mood strikes. I also have fun believing that it’s all absurd (most of the art I love arises from thinking about life’s absurdity). I’ve done a lot of sifting through ideas that I once loved and came to reject and then loving ideas I used to reject (oftentimes over and over again). I think, in all, I’ve converted to allowing myself to let religion take the role I want it to take (and not the role I think it should take, based on my background, beliefs, etc.). So, I do think religion is important because, to me, religion is how we are framing our worldview.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Oh, you have to be a radical observer if you’re going to do religion this way! Pema Chodron writes that you should stick with one boat (one religion) because you’re going to find what you need no matter what you observe. I’ve decided that my boat is my own boat; and if you’re going to stick with your own thing, then you need to be critical and heartfelt about everything that comes your way. I think that’s a radical and liberal process.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I chose this radical observance because I think it’s the only way that makes sense to me. I tend to think that Orthodox and conservative views stick to what a book says or what clergy say. I can’t put a lot of belief in books or people because meaning is so slippery and both, in my opinion, are fallible. So I choose to be liberal because I think it’s a way to think for myself and agree or disagree with things that come my way.

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)
I have no idea what happens. I know that our body particles will find their way into the Earth again; I know my body is made up of various other particles. As for the spirit, I just simply don’t know. I love the idea of reincarnation. I don’t really believe in a reward/punishment system, other than the concept of reaping what one sows. But I haven’t really found a direct relationship between reaping and sowing—usually things are more complex.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
When I was young, I heard the phrase that we make our own heaven and we make our own hell. As a kid, I took this to mean that my heaven didn’t have to be a boring place, like church made it out to be. As I’ve gotten older, I see that we don’t have to wait until we die to have a heaven or hell. So I do think everyone makes it into heaven here on Earth; or they don’t and they make their own existence a hell. In such cases, I think this makes someone closer to heaven because you learn (eventually, I believe) another way to exist in your world. I do believe that everyone makes their own world however they want it to be. And I don’t believe that any form of afterlife is going to exclude some people.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
Well, I need a religion that is smart because there are religions that ask its adherents to take certain texts literally. A literal view of many religious tracts mean that women, for one, are subservient—I refuse that position. A literal view frequently means, too, that there are loads of contradictions that people don’t know how to sift through and they do so without logic. I don’t think religion is a logical thing, but I do think logic is a type of religion. So I need a religion that can support all aspects of my rational and emotional sides; I need a religion that promotes curiosity and values the material world without taking that world too seriously.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
I really like Lent and the idea of doing without in order to prepare for a rebirth. I try giving up something little so I can observe my patterns of responding to the world. I love Easter for its symbolism, but I don’t do much to celebrate—maybe cook a nice meal. I enjoy celebrating Christmas with my family; everyone has his/her own views and we’ll read the Bible before opening presents. Now that I’m taking time thinking of this, pretty much any holy day involves eating an involved meal. Maybe food is my first religion?!

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
I would have to or I would have no friends!

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Yes, and I think it’s very exciting to do so. I’ve had the privilege to nanny for a Jewish family, and I enjoyed celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah with them. While teaching at an Islamic school, and I tried my hand at fasting during Ramadan and then celebrating during Eid. I celebrate Christmas, and I don’t generally feel like an insider during that holiday. I like when others are excited about something, so in this sense it’s fun to be around different faiths during holy days. I like learning why others would do things.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I think the burqa is different from the hijab, which covers a woman’s hair, but not the face, like the burqa does. Even before war in Afghanistan began, a fellow undergrad wore a burqa to raise awareness about the Taliban and what women in Afghanistan faced. During one talk, she let us take turns wearing the burka, and I was horrified by how it felt. It was heavy and I felt invisible. I know I have a Western perspective, but I think burqas are repressive and I think they should be discouraged.

Where I worked, all Muslim girls/women needed to veil once they were in the fifth grade. I think if the goal is to promote female modesty, then this is (frankly) a poor practice because women still look beautiful in a hijab and there are still ways to decorate your garments to distinguish yourself from other women. I don’t think it should be mandatory for girls or women to wear the veil; I think it should be a choice. I see some girls who struggle with their hijab—they hate it! And I know plenty of women who embrace the veil. I just think putting choice at the forefront of the issue is what’s important.

In America, I think fretting over Shariah Law is asinine. I think it’s pure fear of Islam and Middle Eastern cultures. Oklahoma, where I live, had a vote on outlawing Shariah Law; I found this embarrassing and a waste of money, which is always on the forefront of political conservatives’ lips, but not their practices (in my opinion). I’m not knowledgeable about Shariah Law, but I know it’s not going to supersede any local, state, or federal laws.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
I don’t think we should trust systems that discriminate on the basis of gender. It’s real hard to believe a system that tells me and/or shows me that men can do things I can’t. From my own experience I see that men are no more special than women—I honestly don’t think this should have to be said in 2012! While I was married, I was part of a Christian denomination that had just, in the ‘70s, allowed women to hold office. It was interesting to see these arguments in comparison to their discussion on whether openly gay individuals should hold office.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
There is gender segregation where I worked, and I didn’t like it. That’s just my opinion, though, and I understand arguments for and against gender segregation. I think segregation doesn’t allow those in positions of power to learn as much as they otherwise could. And this ignorance affects everyone, sometimes to a very detrimental end.

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?
I have long been for abortion and gay marriage, and I couldn’t understand my Christian friends telling me that I was wrong for believing in these things. This is partly what turns me against Christianity. Religion very much affects my everyday life. I try to approach everything with a sense of gratitude. I try to worship by smiling and by being in the moment. I try to end my own suffering and to promote happiness and joy. I very much feel that there is something larger than myself at work in the world, and I feel comforted by this thought. But I know that even if there was nothing larger than me that I would still want to live my life the way I’m living it now. It’s difficult for me to make decisions and so when I put happiness first, things become easier. That’s how my religion works in my life.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would be bummed if I had a child who was a conservative adherent to a religion. And if s/he was marrying into a conservative faith, I would worry that s/he wasn’t making her/his own decisions. Similarly, if I had a child who didn’t have some thoughts about religion, I might worry that I raised a selfish person.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I think heaven and hell is what we make of it. I’m less concerned about what might happen in the future compared to what is actually happening right now. And, right now, many people are suffering, and I think that’s a hellish existence. There are many ways out of that type of existence, and I believe everyone should have the right to find out what works for them.

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 think a whole bunch of Christians aren’t practicing in loving each other or in turning the other cheek. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people speaking up for mixing together a bunch of religious practices. I see many atheists who profess to not believe in anything, but then pursue that idea with some vigor . . . I tend to think that their denial of a god becomes their religion. I also see some Buddhists who talk a good talk, but don’t put into practice what they say, either. But I don’t really hear Buddhists talking about how others should live their lives, and I respect that fact. I look up to religious thinkers like Pema Chodron and Thich Naht Han. And I look up to good writers and musicians—that’s probably where I draw my main source of religious fulfillment!

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
I have had people not talk to me because they disagreed with my views. But I haven’t had crimes committed against me. Unless ignorance could be classified as a crime--I’ve had a lot of that thrown my way (but probably not intentionally)!

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?

When it does, then I change my views. I can’t believe in some things Paul has said about women, for example. When something feels bad or dumb to me, then I am learning to devalue it and find something that feels better and promotes my true nature.

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Yes and no. I think it’s important to find peace of mind and I think the pursuit of that is a religious pursuit. I think not having peace of mind is a good place from which to seek out some peace. I don’t ever feel content or that I know all aspects of my religion, but I find that comforting because it’s a sign I’m still growing.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I do believe in reincarnation partly because it’s a fun belief to hold. Sometimes I imagine what other lives I may have lived in order to explain the life I have now. This helps me learn why I do some things I do. It helps me make some sense out of what is, really, either a completely absurd or absolutely lucky life! I like to think of doing my best now so that I can get even more out of my next life. I’d hate to screw things up for me in the future! Basically I think reincarnation is a fun mind game and it promotes a positive morality. I don’t really think it matters a whole lot whether or not we can prove reincarnation exists. It doesn’t hurt me to believe in reincarnation—in fact, I think it helps a lot.

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