Thursday, January 22, 2009

........ and non-believers.

In President Obama's inauguration speech on Tuesday, he said, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers."

Now, I don't know if he wrote that line, or if it was one of his speechwriters, but I would like to thank whoever wrote it for including "non-believers".

Because I am a non-believer.

I was raised a Presbyterian, and I was quite active in the church when I was a teenager. I was married in the church. But some time after high school, in my late teens, I just .... stopped attending every Sunday. I don't remember why; I certainly wasn't a "non-believer" at that point. And eventually, in my thirties, I started thinking a bit more about religion. And wondering what, exactly, I did believe.

I'm sometimes a little fuzzy on what I do believe, but I now know what I don't believe: I don't believe in God. I can't. I've tried. I wish I believed in God; I imagine it could be enormous comfort to me at times. But I don't believe in God, any more than I believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. I believe that God was made up, and the Bible was written, to keep people in line. No more and no less. To ensure that people would stay on the straight and narrow, because "God'll get ya for that" if you don't.

So thank you, President Obama, for including "non-believers" in your speech. Although actually, if you had decided to include everybody, it would have been a much longer speech. ".... Jews and Hindus, Rastafarians and Janeists, Wiccans and Methodists and Sun God Worshippers and ..... "

Thanks for keeping it short. And thanks for including me.


3carnations said...

Last I knew, Methodists are still Christians. ;)

rockygrace said...

Oooh, I KNEW somebody was going to bring that up! I was running out of off-beat religions to list, that's all ......

3carnations said...

Ha. I probably would not have mentioned it, but I'm Methodist. :)

Bridgett said...

How about UUs? We believe in a lot of different things but most of us will agree going to the shore instead of church in the summertime and that oatmeal is better when you put a glob of ice cream and some chocolate syrup on it and call it a Sunday sundae. It's not very deep as religions go, but it works for me.

kitkat said...


Oh wait.

Yeah, I heard that part of the speech, and at first, I thought, "Here we go again with including all religions but forgetting there are those who prefer not to subscribe to any one set of beliefs," but I was pleasantly surprised to hear the "non-believers" part also.

I have a friend from HS on Facebook who is obviously very religious, as are his friends, and someone commented on his page that this country was founded by Christians, so she wanted a leader for this country who would lead as a Christian. I debated asking her if she would be okay with a woman as president, since this country was certainly not founded by women, considering that we couldn't own property or vote. And if having a slave-owner as a president would be okay, since we were founded by men who were slave-owners. It's such a silly way of thinking. People can believe what they want, but as a president, Obama must answer to his country first, then to God. God didn't elect him; we did.

rockygrace said...

3carnations, let's hear it for the Methodists! :)

Bridgett, do you really put ice cream on oatmeal? How does that taste? Oh, and what's a UU church service like? Do they have hymns and sermons? I'm just curious.

And yeah, kitkat, I firmly believe in separation of church and state. Let's leave religion out of politics. Right now, the two are so intertwined it scares me.

listie said...

As a heathen, I was very pleased to be included.

Bridgett said...

UU services are very diverse because while we have a minister who is seminary trained, etc, the liturgy is locally planned mostly by the laypeople in the congregation. In Iowa City, the congregation was very musically inclined, so about once a month we'd have a local choir (or a bluegrass band or African drummers or a jazz quartet) do a intro song, then we'd have a reading with a musical response, then a short sermon with a musical interlude for reflection, and so forth. Here in Albany, the music services are more like concerts. Our ministers work three weekends out of four, so the fourth week is either lay-led or we have a visitor from another congregation or local church/temple. This means you have a one in four chance of hearing a lecture on the spiritual implications of the new research in genetics or a imam discussing the growth of Islam in America. Since we don't believe in Hell, we're not going to go to Hell for missing a service -- if it looks interesting, you go, and if not, you might go instead to the "Forum" that meets at the same time in another part of the building. Forum is a strictly non-mystical affair that is sort of like the UU's continuing engagement with the Chatauqua movement...very continuing ed for adults, on topics like estate planning, or business ethics, or the latest Amnesty International campaign.)

The standard issue UU service, if there is such a thing, is structured similarly to many other Protestant services -- an invocation reading, hymn, a couple of brief readings from a variety of sources (poems, essays, religious texts from different faith traditions), a sermon and public "Sharing Joys and Sorrows" pass the mike time, and then more singing and going home. There usually isn't an offeratory unless we're fund-raising for a local charity because as a UU member, you pledge a certain yearly amount and then you just write the check as part of your monthly bill paying. It's a much more practical way to budget, since the finance committee will know exactly how much they can expect and spend/save accordingly.

So, the short answer is that it's like church but more interesting. And yes, you can definitely put ice cream on oatmeal -- it melts and is rich, creamy, and sweet. I especially like dulce de leche or Moose Tracks in mine.

rockygrace said...

Thanks for the info, Bridgett!

FightAgainstRedTape said...

I just hate to show my ignorance, but what does UU stand for?

rockygrace said...

Hi, Fight! UU stands for Unitarian Universalist, a religion known for welcoming people who are questioning their faith or who are not sure what they believe.

Bridgett said...

In the 16th century, the Unitarians rejected the Christian teaching of the Trinity, but as a creed believed in God. (So, they go back to the Protestant Reformation and were the branch that reaches back to the teaching of Arius. Forgive me, I'm a historian by trade.) Universalists rejected the Christian doctrine of original sin and damnation, reasoning that a loving God would not destroy his beloved creations. Instead, Universalists believed that God implants a divine seed within all of us and that it's our job to figure out how to nurture that seed into bloom. (Or, your mission in life is to grow a soul and a church's purpose is to build community to help you do that.) The two groups merged in the 20th century.

It's a deliberately non-dogmatic church whose members affirm seven basic principles:

1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2) Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3) Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4) A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5) The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6) The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7) Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We draw on monotheist and earth-centered religions, humanism, wisdom, reason, and direct experience of the things that we feel are transcendent, holy, and life-affirming. Does that mean that you can get into some seriously flakesville discussions with individual congregants? Not to be too judge-y, but yeah. On the whole, though, you get earnest people happily striving to do and be good.

In other words, we're exactly the kind of outfit that Rocky was talking about in her list of offbeat religions.

Kerri said... layman's terms, you non-believers are Atheists.
Kitkat, I wonder if you are referring to my twin sister from FB. ;-) She is just THRILLED that Obama won (I'm being facetious here) and last week, I actually had to unfriend her from my list because she crossed the line and let her beliefs cloud what otherwise should be her neutral thinking and judged some of us instead. I thought only God could judge us and he doesn't, but she thinks she can. In other words, (she thinks) she's better than us lowly 'commoners'.