Saturday, May 5, 2012

Barry Bell

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up I wish to thank On Her Own for her wonderful interview of last week. Thank you so much for sharing your faith journey with us!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Barry Bell. Barry is a Unitarian and I know you'll enjoy his interview as well!

Here Is Barry Bell's Introduction:

My early past was baptised Church of Scotland, brought up as an only son in a non-church-going extended family which included my mother (divorced). I attended Sunday School/Life Boys/Boy's Brigade with Congregational church until I left all religion behind around age 15. I have always credited the combination of Bob Dylan's ""With God on our Side" and the films "Little Big Man" and "Soldier Blue" for seeing the non-sense of Christianity.

I underwent a spiritual awakening in 2005 following yet another divorce, and have been a member of a Unitarian community but with involvments elsewhere since 2006. I see Unitarianism as a view of the reltionship between humanity, spirituality, knowledge, and religion rather than as either a Christian denomination or a separate religion. For me human spirituality comes first and is a reality, religions come second and involve meta-narratives which remain speculations.

Please bear in mind below that where I may appear to "define" what it is to be a Unitarian that it is my personal understanding.

1)What religion do you practice?
Unitarian, though I see it as something other than a religion (see Introduction).

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 discovered Unitarianism on-line after awakening (see Introduction). It accepted me, I did not have to"convert". My spiritual practice was virtually non-existent before awakening (see Introduction), and is now personal to me.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Observance is essentially a matter of sharing the objective of trying to be a good person - Unitarianism is without creed or dogma (although originating from within Christianity which is intensely creedal). It is wonderfully open.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
This question is largely irrelevant, as all Unitarians are free to follow their own spiritual path. Rather than being united in a shared and well-defined set of beliefs, we are united in free search for, and valuing of, what we may each find to be of worth and meaning in life.

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) .
We are allowed our own belief, although very few Unitarians believe in any sort of external heaven or hell.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
A physical and external heaven/paradise is for me a man-made concept, a response to our understandable insecurities as a fully self-aware life-form and to our need for justice in a clearly unjust world. Sadly, I must live with it's non-existence.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It allows me to try to get closer to my spirituality, and so become a better person, without imprisoning my spirituality in a box.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
You will find holy days af all sorts being celebrated within Unitarian worship

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely - I believe that every human is a spiritual being, and that their following of a different spiritual path to mine is unimportant and should not be allowed to become a barrier.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Yes, and I have done so. And for the reasons stated in answer to question 9)

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I'll let the burkah go for now, if I may. On Shariah law I am very clear however. I have no problem with any group, religious or otherwise, applying law agreed by the group. It MUST however be subservient to the law of the land. Clear division between Church and State is essential.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Yes they are, and I am wholeheartedly in agreement with this

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
No it does not, and again I am wholeheartedly in agreement with this.

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?
It is not so much my Unitarianism (remember, I do not see it as a religion!) which affects my daily life as my personal spiritual practice, which Unitarianism allows. My position on abortion, gay marriage, etc remains my own, but is much in line with the position taken by the Unitarian movement generally.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
Absolutely fine.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
How can they go to somewhere which doesn't exist?

17) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Did you mean "because of my religion?" - if so, the answer is No.

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

19) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
 The Unitarian community I belong to gives me a safe space to explore my spirituality. My personal spiritual practice does provide me with increasing peace of mind.

20) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I do not think it at all likely, but I find it one of the more appealing religious speculations.

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