Addendum to Hypocritical Churchgoing

December 10, 2009

Mike’s (my boyfriend, for those of you who don’t know him) comment on the previous post reminded me of a few things I need to add to “hypocritical churchgoing.”

Saying the Creeds
Around the time I first started questioning my faith I wondered what to do about saying the creeds.  They are the pillar of the faith, in the sense that they declare our beliefs as a catholic (in the universal sense) church.  When the church leaders met in Nicea in 325 CE, they needed to unify the beliefs in order to establish the church.  People calling themselves Christian in different parts of the Roman Empire were worshiping different things.  This move also distinctly separated the new gentile religion of Christianity from followers of Jesus within Judaism.   Of course, much more was involved to found the Church than just this one council, but in the Episcopal Church we still use a version of the Nicene Creed every Sunday.  (The creed is usually dated to 381 CE, though from what I’ve always heard the ideas came out of the 325 council.  I just assume it took much longer to get anything done in ancient Rome, since there was no internet…)

For the better part of my adolescence, I stayed silent rather than recite a Creed I didn’t fully believe.  The same went for the Pledge of Allegiance.  I was unsure of my beliefs, so I couldn’t state them aloud.  By the time I started studying religion my understanding of stated belief began to change.  (And I think it still changes.)  Most of religion is formed through metaphor. For much of history, I think creeds have been used as a concrete pinpoint of faith much more easily understood than dogmatic mysteries.  (I don’t know the linguistic history of the Nicene Creed, though there’s a wikipedia article on it, and I assume like most doctrines of early Christianity it was written in Greek originally and then translated to Latin.)

I quelled my uneasiness with the creeds while researching my religion senior project at Bard.  Spring semester of my junior year, I took a seminar with [the now late] Rev Paul Murray called “Belief Within a Religiously Plural World.”  Paul was never known for his stimulating class discussions, but he may have chosen the best reading lists out of any of my professors.  The Pluralism class, as I called it, became the foundation of my bibliography for that senior project.

Most of what was available in 2006 on pluralism (and even still now) is a category of Christian theologians justifying the possibility of correctness of other religions.  I generally abhor that entire theological category, finding it unproductive in the progress towards a real religious pluralism.  Theologically I dislike John Hick‘s encompassing form of pluralism, since  it philosophically references everything back to “The Real”, his term for the God we cannot imagine.  Through his imagination of the Real, he imposes a theological category on unsuspecting religions, and promotes a kind of inclusivism.

However, John Hick redeems himself to me in A Christian Theology of Religions in the very last chapter.  In a section called “A view from the year 2056” he describes what he hopes is the progression of mainline Protestantism in a few generations (pg 134).  He predicts, with every other scholar of religion and secularism today, that there will be no “steady decline” of religion in the postmodern era as was assumed in the middle of the 20th century.  Instead a transformation:

The life of the church continues essentially as in the past, even though the prevailing theology, and therefore some of the language, has been changing during the last fifty years. … The central messages of liberation theology, feminist and womanist theology, and ecological theology have been assimilated and the mainline churches have been increasingly dedicated to working for social justice, gender equality, and a sustainable human life-style which preserves the fragile balance of the global environment. … In those sections of the universal church in which the pluralistic vision has become established, worship is explicitly directed to God, rather than to Jesus, or to the Virgin Mary, or to the saints. This has been the result of a continuous process of liturgical revision…

The “Apostles'” Creed [a version of the Nicene Creed] is still generally used, not, however, as a literal expression of contemporary belief but as a symbol of the continuity of the church through the ages. (Hick Christian Theology of Religions 134-137)

While it’s clearly the last portion of the quote that is important to my own revelation about creeds, that revelation cannot be reached without the background Hick imagines.  Important to note is that for Hick to imagine this transformation of the church, he had to have seen much of it already when he wrote this in 1995.  And almost 15 years later, in many of the mainline churches his writing is already coming true. (I’ll post the entire passage, or a link to it somewhere, possibly exegete it).  The creed cannot be considered metaphor without the progressive theological doctrine Hick describes.

More than just as symbol of continuity though, the creeds are a vehicle of communitas.  They connect the one reciting to the history of the tradition (i think somewhat passively though), yes, but also actively connect her to the rest of the congregation.  So when I recite the Nicene Creed at church on Sunday, I’m not saying “We believe in one God, The Father, Almighty…” I’m saying words that link me to the rest of the church present and historical.  And yes, I’m saying things that link me to the Episcopal Church, which, especially after Mary Glasspool’s election in the Diocese of LA, I’m happy to be a part of.

This is what Mike actually brought up in his comment on my last post.  Confession is one thing for which no intercessor is required, thankfully.  Your confession is between you and God.  No one likes being told that they are sinful and there is nothing to do about it but accept Christ as Savior.  I don’t believe in that.  But my sins are real.  There is no one who cannot make themselves a better person in some way.  I believe that the seven deadly sins are sins, but that it is our nature to want to lust, glut, or sloth at some point.  (Are glut and sloth appropriate verbs?  I’m guessing no.)  And I believe that it is my responsibility as a human to confess my sins, admitting to myself (and sometimes to a version of God?) that i’ve wronged people.

What I don’t believe is that my sins will prevent me from attaining glory in the next world.  And I don’t believe that Christ really can erase everything that I have done.  If I am truly repentant of my sins, I will be able to live out my life as a better person: loving, forgiving, kind.  If not, I won’t burn in fire and brimstone, but more likely be a miserable person.

I also believe that I forget to contemplate my wrongdoings on a frequent basis.  Every once in a while, I find it productive to sit and think about everything I’ve done wrong to others and to myself and ways in which to ask them for forgiveness.  Sometimes, I need an external imposition to remind myself to think about those things.  (Hence the beauty of Lent.) So to confess silently to myself for fifteen seconds on a Sunday morning is a brief way of reminding myself that I need to work a little harder, not to have someone tell me how awful of a person I’ve been.  (Besides, I know if I make it to Santa Claus’s “naughty” list.)

If I don’t believe in a strict version of the Incarnation or of Christ, is it hypocritical of me to receive communion?  Technically, no. No matter my beliefs, as far as I understand, as a baptized Christian I’m welcome to take communion at an Episcopal church.  I suppose that theologically I can justify my participation via panentheism–the belief that God is in everything–which is something process theology resembles in many ways.  If I’ve considered everything at least somewhat divine, then taking the Host at communion is taking a part of God, just like any other meal.  (One of my favorite things the Cathedral does is a Maundy Thursday Agape meal, in which we share a vegetarian Mediterranean dinner and give one another communion–instead of from a priest–as a representation of the Last Supper.)

More important than the differences between transubstantiation and consubstantiation and what exactly I believe it is that I am eating (homemade bread at my church, gluten free crackers for those who need it) is with whom I take communion: the community with whom I worship.  To Episcopalians in general (as far as I understand my religion) and to me specifically, participating in communion is the pinnacle of the faith.  It is a celebration together with one another of being together.

The symbolic aspect (transubstantiation squared?) of the body also plays out here.  Bodies are under regarded in Christian theology.  (I’m guessing in all religions, too, with the possible exception of some aspects of Hinduism through prakṛti and tantra.) I did not give as detailed an explanation of Grace Jantzen in the first “Hypocritical Churchgoing” post as I hope to later, but what I did mention is her emphasis on the body in Christianity.  Once we regard flourishing as a viable religious option, we can respect the idea of bodies as a religious asset instead of detriment.  In turn, we can look upon women and upon the earth via feminist and ecological theology as real beings deserving of respect not only within a political but within a religious realm.

The physical body is one aspect, the communal body is another.  The body of the congregation, of the community.  These are defined and brought together by communion.  I absolutely believe there are other ways in which to define a community, even a religious one, but to me communion (and singing, i think) is the strongest means of binding people together.  [Aside: you scholars of religion out there should know that the Latin root religio means “to bind together” for that is the ultimate goal of a religion.]  To eat the “body” as the “body” holds significant theological implications.

I’m sure I’ll think of more things in the future about the theological hypocrisy that is an atheist in the pews, but the more I talk to people, the more I find I’m in good company. Especially in an Episcopal Church.


Hypocritical Churchgoing?

December 7, 2009

This Thanksgiving I brought my boyfriend home to meet my family.  As for probably anyone, this was a pretty big deal for me.  I have a large extended family–most of whom can drink even me under the table–which can be intimidating.  But my family is more intimidating than most for a new boyfriend: both my parents are priests.

It’s one of the things I warn close friends and romantic interests about, because it’s only fair.  Combined with my field of study, it’s even more daunting.  Most often, it means long-winded explanations of what it was like growing up as a “Double PK”, the term we use for children of two clergy-folk.   For some, it becomes  a more in-depth discussion of the general beliefs of  my church, of my parents, and of me.  Especially for the agnostics/atheists I’ve dated.  (This really concerns boyfriends, not particularly friends.  For friends, it’s a matter of interest.  For boyfriends, it’s altogether scarier when my Dad isn’t just Dad, but is also “Father Mark” because he’s ordained.)  So Mike, my boyfriend, got the rundown prior to meeting the family of what it might be like, the nature of my church, and why there’s no reason to be more scared than if  my parents were accountants or lawyers or something else.

In the past, Mike and I have talked a bit about religion and beliefs.  I’m religious (see prior post for disambiguation of my religiosity) and he’s not.  He’s interested in religion only inasmuch as it’s what I study and do with my life.  [And believe me, he’s relieved that I’m not considering ordination.]  But with the explanation of the order of things at my home comes the additional explanation of how my non-traditional [non]belief in God fits with my erratic but loyal churchgoing.

More than a week after  I was tongue tied in my explanation to Mike, I’m finally clarifying why I don’t find it hypocritical as a a/post-theist to attend a church.  I don’t mind if others find it hypocritical.

1) I don’t attend church to gain salvation in the next life.  I don’t think I believe in an afterlife, at least not a typically Christian one, so my eschatological views aren’t a concern.  Primarily though, I don’t think the concern of the modern church should be focused on the afterlife.  It should be focused on “flourishing” in this life.

Essentially the entire spectrum of my beliefs in salvation versus flourishing comes from Grace Jantzen, one of my favorite philosophers.  I’ll dedicate an entire post later to the glory of Grace Jantzen.  Her general theory, though, is that our religions should focus less on our intellectual pursuit of the afterlife and instead that we should turn our religious pursuits to the betterment of the world.  This shifts importance from masculine intellectualism to feminine embodiment, from salvation to flourishing.

2) I don’t attend church in order to further my relationship with Christ.  Episcopalians, while being very incarnation oriented, tend to talk less about Jesus than other Christian denominations.

3) I don’t attend church to hear the sermons. Unless it’s my Dad preaching.  I don’t attend to be lectured on the proper behavior of a Christian or about the gravity of sin or the evil in the world or the end-of-times.  Rarely will an Episcopal priest preach on most of those things regularly anyway.  More often the sermon is an interpretation of the lessons in application to current events.  I’ve been known to heckle during sermons.  Quietly and usually to myself, though.

So why on earth do I attend church?  I should clarify that  really only attend The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore City.  That’s my home church.  I haven’t found a community to equal it yet, though I keep looking.

1) I attend church for the community. The community is the most important part of religion in my eyes.  Emile Durkheim says, “Religion is an eminently social phenomena.”  Victor Turner highlights communitas–the realization of being-within-community–as the most important part of a ritual.  I’m not there just for coffee hour; there are parts of the service in which you feel more connected to your neighbor.

2) I attend church to sing. Song is prayer.  And while I don’t believe in a personal God who can answer prayers, I believe in the importance of the power of prayer.  Song is the most powerful form of prayer. And I love to sing. Since I’m not a trained singer, my voice is best suited to church hymns.  Episcopalians believe in song.

3) I used to attend church for my youth group. But now I’m too old.  I had an amazing youth group.  We used to skip the service to get coffee and talk about religion and philosophy on our own.  We watched Top Gun every Sunday for a stretch of 6 weeks (during which our leader Dina was serving at another church while she contemplated ordination).  We played Risk together. We saw movies, religious and not.  I don’t have an entire list of the movies we saw together, but they included Saved, Wedding Crashers, Spiderman, City of God, and more recently Slumdog Millionaire.

And yes, at the age of 24, I still attend church to appease my parents. Perhaps someday I will take my kids to church and instill my atheist-church-going sensibilities, too.

And there is still more to think about theologically here too.  I’m still working it out.  But that’s one of the other things I love about my religion: it’s always unfolding, and i’m always thinking about it.  There are no final answers.

Check out my pages!

December 7, 2009

So listed in the right column are my pages.  They include:

My academic papers.  Links to their google documents or pdfs.  (also all available by email requests.)

A suggested reading list.

The reasons we need to talk about religion.

Post-Theism and Religiosity vs. Spirituality

December 4, 2009

Our society likes to categorize things. I don’t know if that’s a postmodern trend or if it’s an information age trend or if it’s simply a human trend. From wherever that habit emerges, we feel the need to identify with a category–religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic, etc. Or we call ourselves “Atheist Jew-Bus” (the common name for those practicing Judaism culturally and Buddhism spiritually) or “transcendalist non-practicing catholics” or “spiritual non-religious meditater.” I call myself a “post-theistic Episcopalian pluralist.” What the hell does that mean!? Why do I need to identify myself as such? Are most of us that loathe to identify with a single religious structure?

Last question first: Religious structures and insitutions. From casual obsveration, I do think that most people–my peer group in particular, are hesitant to identify with a religion/church/anything resembling religious institution. (I’ll wager a guess, refute if you like, that most of my peers don’t like identifying with anything institutional. For example, they’re less likely to register as an independent voter than one of the big political parties.) Modern media has been giving religion a bad rap for a long time, largely thanks to the rise of conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups and their opposition to science and politics. My peers, mostly liberal twenty-somethings with at least college if not graduate degrees, represent the scientific and political worldviews abhorred by more conservative groups, clearly creating a tension. And it is often these more conservative groups who call themselves religious, and representing all religion (though certainly not always!), making their more liberal counterparts uneasy about religious identification.

Another contributing factor to the liberal fear of identifying with religion/a religion arises from Reformation stigma against Catholic ritual. (Thanks Adam B. Seligman for ruining my life by making me think only in terms of Protestentism and the divide between belief and ritual…) Religion, ritual and socialism are closely related (thus Catholicism, Judaism, and Hinduism are also closely related), while spirituality, belief, and individualism are more closely tied to Protestantism and Buddhism. Max Weber with his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism notes those trends of the work ethic and the belief capital of American Protestants and the drive towards individualism. Translated this means our society values the internal belief process rather than the external ritualistic religious process because it produces more belief and monetary capital for an overall more effective and productive system. This paradigm for belief is so deeply entrenched in our socio-poltical views that we fail to realize their origins in Protestantism and thus anti-Catholicism.

And of course the anti-Catholic sentiment still lives strongly in most of our worldviews. Catholicism, more than Protestantism or any other religion [in America], represents the ultimate institution. They have the Vatican. They have His Holiness the Pope. They have more ritual than almost anyone else in the western hemisphere. And as Americans we’ve still only elected one Catholic president and think “scandal” and “misogynist” when we hear the word. This is the structure Protestantism rebels against, which is in turn the structure liberalism rebels against.

Then why do I need to identify myself as something? Well, one, society seems to ask me to. But for my own sake, I need to know where I fall within the construct of religious systems and beliefs as one who studies religion. I must frame my work within the subjectivity of my own experiences. And about three times out of four when I mention that studied religion, their next question is “do you practice religion?” Having been raised as an Episcopalian I was taught to continuously question my beliefs in an effort to make them stronger. Much of this post is a reflection on those meditations, both academic and personal.

As I said, I identify myself as a post-theistic Episcopalian pluralist. What the hell does that mean? Yes, it’s mostly a postmodern construction of an identity that I’ve wrapped around my discomfort with the category of “spiritual” while still maintaining my respect and love of all things religion. Each portion of that label has some meaning to me, and presumably to others as well.

The easiest of categories is that I’m an Episcopalian. In other settings often called “catholic lite” for our use of ritual and creed while not submitting to the pope or all seven of the sacraments, or “whiskeypalians” for our Southern brothers. In the news recently we’ve been marked as the most schismatic of the Christian denominations because of our turmoil over the ordination of women and open LGTBQs among other things. To be an Episcopalian means so much more than that, though. I’ll save some of the collected Episcopalian jokes for something later, but a few that I’ve found and that I’ve heard are worth sharing. [If you don’t get them, you probably aren’t an Episcopalian, or just don’t know many.]

  • Question: What’s the difference between a Southern Baptist and an Episcopalian?
    Answer: An Episcopalian will speak to you when he runs into you at the liquor store.
  • Jesus asked a group of Episcopalians, “Who do you say that I am?” They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma of which we find the ultimate meaning in our interpersonal relationships.”And Jesus said, “What?”
  • Episcopalians feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
  • And then one of my absolute favorites…..

Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian
(from the comedian Robin Williams, who is an Episcopalian, on an HBO special)

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.
There are so many more jokes about us, and that’s because one of the most important aspects of Episcopalianism beyond the dogma is that not only can we make fun of ourselves, we love to, and I often think it’s part of our creed. I highlighted the last one because I’ve found it to be the truest of all. There is a better chance that in a pew on a Sunday morning that not a single Episcopalian believes in the same thing (except that there will be coffee after church).

To be an Episcopalian means to believe in community and the power of communion with one another. We come together to eat, to drink, and to be merry. And we come together to sing, to pray, and to rejoice.

Episcopalian is the modifier on pluralist for me. I’ve identified as a pluralist since college. In my senior project at Bard, I defined pluralism as “the active engagement of religious diversity” (Gatza 2). [I intend to write much more on pluralism in the future, considering the name of this blog is the same as the name of that senior project Engaging Religious Pluralism.] In my definition I’ve taken cues from John B. Cobb, Jr. (a la Alfred North Whitehead) and Charles H. Townes.

David Ray Griffin describes two forms of pluralism: Identist pluralism surmises, “all
religions are oriented toward the same religious object (whether it be called ‘God,’ ‘Brahman,’
‘Nirvana,’ ‘Sunyata,’ ‘Ultimate Reality,’ ‘the Transcendent,’ or ‘the Real’) and promote
essentially the same end (the same type of ‘salvation.’).” The other form is differential pluralism
in which “religions promote different ends—different salvations—perhaps by being oriented
towards different religious objects, perhaps thought of as different ultimates.” Griffin notes that
identist pluralism is pluralist ontologically only, whereas differential pluralism is plural
soteriologically and possibly ontologically (Griffin “Religious Pluralism: Generic, Identist, Deep,” Deep Religious Pluralism 24). I identify with the differential pluralism, the deep pluralism that acknowledges differences rather than similarities. It is the differences in religions that encourage us to practice them (see: Cobb “Responses to Relativism”). I don’t practice a form of Christianity because it is similar to a form of Islam, I practice it for its differences. So it is the differences between religions that we not only celebrate, but engage in dialogue and work with to find new approaches to social justice.

As I said, I hope to continue to explore the category of pluralist more later. For those of you who are impatient, my Bard College senior project “Engaging Religious Pluralism” is available to read online here.

My imaginings of the divine are by far the hardest to describe. I’m not an atheist, nor do I believe in a personal god (usually). I consider myself a Post-Theist. I’m not sure where I got that term, but i think it’s from Paul Tillich. If it isn’t Tillich, it’s certainly someone who has been influenced by him.

I think quoting Neil Gaiman is appropriate here. From American Gods, I used the whole paragraph from which this comes as the preface for my senior project:

“I can believe anything. You have no idea what I can believe… I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.” Thus says Sam, the hitchiker that Shadow picks up about midway through the book.

I can’t believe in anything and everything, despite my overactive imagination, but the quote describes the paradox of belief and creates the realm in which belief suspends and exists. In a sense, my explanation of post-theism has to be neti neti, the form of explanation popular in the Vedas and the Upanisads in which you repsond around the answer because you cannot directly talk about the answer.

Post theism isn’t strictly atheism, though in some senses it’s wiser for me to consider myself an atheist. I’m much more closely alligned with atheism than most forms of theism, for to be a post-theist means that one’s theologies have evolved from something that was initially theistic. Atheism is a direct rejection of theism, whereas post-theism is an evolutionary process. On those days for which I consider myself an atheist, it’s primarily because I don’t believe in the popular conceptions of the divine. I don’t imagine an old man with a grizzled beard sitting on a throne in the sky, or an infinite and indefinable divinity, or a crazy ageless woman hanging out with her galpals. Simply put, God cannot be defined, so why bother trying: there are no answers to our questions about who/what is out there, so try as we might, we cannot pinpoint the divine.

The closest thing I can imagine as the divine comes from theological and ontological developments of Alfred North Whitehead’s process theology. (see bibiliography below for selected resources and explanations) Whitehead, mathematician and philosopher, used early quantum theory to describe the philosophical mechanisms of “events” or an occasion of experience and processes. In basic terms, the world is made up of distinct or quantized events (events loosely describes everything in the world that happens, each action or thought) which are all connected. Prehension, then, is the way in which one entity incorporates another, or some aspect of the other, into itself. Looking at the grand scheme, each occasion of experience “begins as an open window to the totality of the past” (Cobb) (and according to quantum theories, the future is potentially included in the totality, making each occasion of experience an open window on the totality of the temporal plane). Somewhere in that mix is where I can relate to divinity–I still cannot see it, cannot define it, cannot know it, but i can realize its effects and reprecussions. Out of the process it emerges.

On the other hand, I believe in incarnation, and the “body of god.” Perhaps that has to do with being an Episcopalian, in our incarnation-heavy theology. Perhaps it’s because for the whole of my adult life in the church I’ve attended the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. But I think primarily it has to do with my feminist leanings. In order for women (most frequently identified in philosophy and theology as the body or matter as opposed to the male spirit) to hold importance in the theological spectrum, we must talk about bodies, matter, and essentially everything else Plato and St. Augustine ignored or refuted. We can only know parts of the divine, and only through these incarnations–people, places, other beings.

All of this is a rough sketch of how I define myself. Because I believe in the process of things above all else, all of my thoughts continue to evolve and change their shape as I grow. Of course I believe in other things as well–physics and mathematics, love, friendship to name a few, and in my personal religious landscape these are included. Perhaps because I have lived all of my life within religion, despite beliefs and disbeliefs I see everything in my life as culminating in a religious setting. It’s not that I’m not a “spiritual” person, but I see religiosity as the foundation of community and therefore of belief. Spirituality has its place, but one cannot be spiritual outside of some form of religion (even if it is atheism or secularism). According to renowned Sufism scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “…One cannot claim to stand above the exoteric teachings of a religion and to practice an esotericism without them and in the void, any more than one can plant a tree in the middle of the air” (Nasr Sufi Essays 17). In this case: one cannot be spiritual without the religion to support it. Stuck up academic, yeah, I admit that I am with regards to spirituality and religiosity. But religion is community, so how can we live without it?

selected bibliographical materials:
Cobb, John B., Jr. Transforming Christianity and the World: A Way beyond Absolutism and
Relativism. Edited and Introduced by Paul Knitter, Maryknoll: Orbis, 1999.
Cobb, John B., Jr. and David Ray Griffin. Process Theology. Philadelphia: Westminster
University Press, 1976.
Griffin, David Ray, ed. Deep Religious Pluralism. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Sufi Essays. Albany: SUNY Press, 1972.
Smith, Jonathon Z. Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2004.
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. The Meaning and End of Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.
First edition copyrighted 1962.
Townes, Charles H. “The Convergence of Science and Religion.” Think, April 1966. 3 April
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Talcott Parsons, trns. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958.

[originally posted 10/29/09

Beginnings of a new Blog

December 4, 2009

I have a lot to say about religion. Academic papers aside, I needed a new outlet through which I can vocalize my opinions, post articles, and make comments about religion in the news and in the community.

Credentials [when speaking about religion]: Raised Episcopalian, and the daughter of two priests, I grew up hearing about Christianity and theology at the dinner table and as a part of my daily life. {I’ll post about life as a double PK later.} I swore off religion when I got to college, as is the responsible solution for an angsty 17-year-old attending a very liberal liberal arts college [Bard]. But I drifted into the religion department there almost by accident. I attended Bard on a physics scholarship, and fully intended to stay solely in math/science, but my First Year Seminar professor 2nd semester, Kristin Scheible, convinced me to take a few more classes on religion. Before I could figure out how or why, I was a double major.

I have a BA from Bard College in physics and religion and an MA from Boston University in religion and society. Academically I now focus on Hinduism in South Asia–primarily Northwestern Bengal–and on varieties of feminist theory that influence the ways in which we understand/study religion. Previously I worked on religious pluralism in America, college spirituality, and the interaction of religion and science. Religion and physics and religion and politics are now hobbies and no longer strictly academic interests. Religion and education falls somewhere between academic and recreational thought.

Comments on posts are always welcome. I’m creating this blog partially to spark conversation on these topics, many of which are crucial to address in our society but often ignored becuase they are “too hard” or “too big” or are about things we don’t think about on a regular basis. It’s also a thought experiment for me: one in which I can force myself to continue to think critically about religion while between academic degree programs. I’ll take into consideration new topics suggested to blog about as well.

**disclaimer: much of what i post is opinion, though a substantial amount of facts about religions will be included as well. consider this first post my “methodological approaches” section.

[originally posted 10/28/09

My Scholarly Works

December 4, 2009

Engaging Religious Pluralism Bard Senior Project, Dec 2006. full text. also available in print at Stevenson Library, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY or by contacting the author via email .

You’ve Done WHAT With My Body?!: Three Indian Goddesses and a Critique of Western Feminism Boston University MA Thesis, May 2009.