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Category: Spirituality

On Religion

Plinky asked, “Do you con­sid­er your­self reli­gious?”

Anti-Abor­tion and Pro-Life Teapot Athe­ist Protest Ful­ton Street Octo­ber 13, 20101

Not at all. I was always more spir­i­tu­al than reli­gious, but I was raised in a very reli­gious fam­i­ly in which I was forced to par­tic­i­pate in their South­ern Bap­tist church. I start­ed ques­tion­ing the con­tra­dic­tions in the Bible at an ear­ly age and did my best to rec­on­cile my intel­lec­tu­al objec­tions with the emo­tion­al com­fort reli­gion can offer. 

After inves­ti­gat­ing many oth­er denom­i­na­tions of Chris­tian­i­ty, I final­ly left it alto­geth­er in my ear­ly 20’s. I dab­bled in pagan­ism and researched many oth­er faiths before arriv­ing at my cur­rent stance, which is tech­ni­cal­ly agnos­ti­cism while prac­ti­cal­ly athe­ism.

I still find the Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist Asso­ci­a­tion to be a good spir­i­tu­al home, as it is as wel­com­ing to agnostics/​atheists as it is to any­one else. Dif­fer­ent con­gre­ga­tions vary, of course, as they do in any oth­er respect.

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Diane Duane Rocks

The Sword and the DragonBack when the Meisha Mer­lin ware­house was being cleaned out, Sam picked up a copy of The Sword and the Drag­on, first vol­ume of the Epic Tales of the Five by Diane Duane that MM put out. It con­tains The Door Into Fire and The Door Into Shad­ow.

The Door Into FireI’ve want­ed my own copies of the first three Tales of the Five books for decades, since read­ing an old friend’s copies. I’m still dis­ap­point­ed that MM nev­er put out the next vol­ume, which should have includ­ed The Door Into Sun­set and the nev­er-before-pub­lished The Door Into Starlight. But then, there are oth­er peo­ple who have far more rea­son to be dis­ap­point­ed about MM mat­ters than I do, so I can’t fuss too much. And I have this vol­ume, and will con­tin­ue to hold out hope that Duane will find a new pub­lish­er who will bring out the oth­ers some­time in my life­time.

The Door Into ShadowAny­way, I had to stop read­ing to show this bit to Sam. It sums up much of what I love about Duane’s phi­los­o­phy.

…death is inevitable. But we have one pow­er, as men and beasts and crea­tures of oth­er planes. We can slow down the Death, we can die hard, and help all the worlds die hard. To live with vig­or, to love pow­er­ful­ly and with­out car­ing whether we’re loved back, to let loose build­ing and teach­ing and heal­ing and all the arts that try to slow down the great Death. Espe­cial­ly joy, just joy itself. A joy flares bright and goes out like the stars that fall, but the lit­tle flare it makes slows down the great Death ever so slight­ly. That’s a tri­umph, that it can be slowed down at all, and by such a sim­ple thing.

The Door Into Sunset

Thanksgiving

Let us give thanks for chaos and logos
and impli­cate order;
for dark mat­ter, bright galax­ies,
and non­lo­cal con­nec­tions; for crys­tals and con­ti­nents;
for Lucy’s skull and Mary Leakey’s
foot­prints in vol­canic ash; for Thales’ water,
Her­a­cli­tus’ fire, and Pythagore­an forms; for the
Indi­an zero, alge­bra, and algo­rithms; for the
oscil­la­tions of the Yin and the Yang; for
acupunc­ture, Su Sung’s astro­nom­i­cal clock, and
Huang Tao P’i’s tex­tile tech­nol­o­gy; for Ara­bic
alchemists on the Old Silk Road and Ibn Sina’s
Canon of Med­i­cine; for Euclid and New­ton and “God
play­ing dice”; for Kepler’s snowflake and Kekule’s
dream; for Mendel’s monastery peas and the genet­ic
Tetra­gram­ma­ton on the spi­ral stair­case of life;
for frac­tals, ferns and fall foliage; for
cater­pil­lars and cocoons; for the infant’s first cry;
for Pachebel’s canon; for stained glass win­dows,
Leeuwenhoek’s micro­scope, and the Galileo
probe; for the World Wide Web to help us become
con­scious of cos­mic inter­con­nect­ed­ness; but most
of all, let us give thanks for the twin pas­sions
which make us ful­ly human – the yearn­ing to
tran­scend the bound­aries of time and space by
learn­ing and by lov­ing.

Invo­ca­tion, by Ingrid Shafer
For the open­ing of the Okla­homa Acad­e­my of Sci­ence on 7 Novem­ber 1997 

A friend emailed the piece to me sev­er­al years ago. I want­ed to link to it, but couldn’t find a copy of it on the web, so I made one (with Dr. Shafer’s per­mis­sion, of course). Today seems a good time to move it from the old ver­sion of my site into Word­Press.

R.I.P. Madeleine L’Engle

I started this post on September 7, the day after the grand lady moved on to find out what's next. I find myself certain that she wasn't afraid, that she looked forward to a reunion with her husband Hugh and others who had gone before. And yet I, who never even met her in person, was too upset to finish the post or even look at it again for two months.

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Is there a pentagram badge?

In an intro­duc­to­ry post to a news­group, I men­tioned at one point that my part­ner and I have been active in start­ing a CUUPs (Covenant of Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist Pagans) chap­ter in our area, and also that I had just start­ed train­ing to be a Girl Scout lead­er. The com­bi­na­tion of those two state­ments result­ed in quite a bit of dis­cus­sion from peo­ple say­ing “Isn’t Scout­ing a Chris­tian thing? How are you get­ting to do that?” I soon real­ized that there’s a lot of con­fu­sion going on, and fig­ured I’d try to dis­pel it.

I think some of this con­fu­sion is com­ing from the per­cep­tion that there’s one big Scout­ing orga­ni­za­tion some­where, and all the pub­lic­i­ty in recent­ly years over the Boy Scouts of America’s poli­cies regard­ing homo­sex­u­al mem­bers. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always been sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions. The BSA was found­ed in 1910. The Girl Scouts of the USA were found­ed in 1912. They are not the same, and the deci­sions of the BSA do not reflect the poli­cies of the GSUSA. 

Yes, I’m open­ly pagan. Yes, I have been a Girl Scout lead­er while being open­ly pagan. The pri­ma­ry troop lead­er each year knew that I’m not Chris­tian, and didn’t express any con­cern about it. There’s not a word in the screen­ing and recruit­ment process about any require­ment that lead­ers or scouts be Chris­tians. One year there were two pagan, one Bud­dhist, and five Chris­tian girls in our troop. There was anoth­er who didn’t express any kind of reli­gious views her­self, but whose moth­er described their fam­i­ly as “most­ly athe­ist.” There wasn’t any trou­ble due to that diver­si­ty between the girls or the par­ents in the troop as far as I know. 

From the offi­cial GSUSA web site:

The “moti­vat­ing force in Girl Scout­ing” is spir­i­tu­al. Girl Scouts respects the spir­i­tu­al val­ues and beliefs of its mem­bers, leav­ing the inter­pre­ta­tion of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty to each indi­vid­u­al and the fam­i­ly.

The Girl Scout Law embod­ies the core val­ues of Girl Scout­ing. Our “moti­vat­ing force,” described by the con­sti­tu­tion as “spir­i­tu­al,” is con­sis­tent with the val­ues of many reli­gions. Reli­gious lead­ers have often praised the “rules for liv­ing” con­tained in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which are so com­pat­i­ble with the val­ues they bring to young peo­ple through their own reli­gious edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

And lat­er:

Girl Scout poli­cies, sum­ma­rized below, ensure that all Girl Scouts are treat­ed equal­ly in regard to their reli­gious beliefs:

–Every Girl Scout group shall respect the vary­ing reli­gious opin­ions and prac­tices of its mem­ber­ship in plan­ning and con­duct­ing activ­i­ties.

–When a Girl Scout troop is spon­sored by one reli­gious group, mem­bers of dif­fer­ent faiths or reli­gious affil­i­a­tions with­in the troop shall not be required to take part in reli­gious obser­vance of the spon­sor­ing group. 

The Girl Scout Promise and Con­sti­tu­tion do men­tion “God.” The leader’s guide* says: 

In the Girl Scout Promise, the word “God” is used to rep­re­sent the spir­i­tu­al foun­da­tion of the Girl Scout move­ment. “On my hon­or, I will try to serve God” is how the Promise appears in print, the same as it has been since the begin­ning of the move­ment over eighty years ago. Most girls when say­ing the Promise will use the word “God.” For some girls, how­ev­er, words oth­er than “God” may be used to express their spir­i­tu­al beliefs. Because Girl Scout­ing encour­ages respect for the beliefs of oth­ers, girls may sub­sti­tute for the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise the word that most close­ly express­es their per­son­al spir­i­tu­al beliefs. 

It goes on to explain that the lead­er should work with a scout, her fam­i­ly and her reli­gious lead­ers to find the appro­pri­ate word or phrase for that scout if “God” isn’t right for her. 

I’ve found noth­ing in the Girl Scout mate­ri­als that’s offen­sive to me as a pagan or a Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist. I can­not, in fact, find any­thing that I could see as being offen­sive to any­one of any spir­i­tu­al path. There are reli­gious awards for scouts from var­i­ous reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions — you can find some of them list­ed at Pro­grams of Reli­gious Activ­i­ties with Youth. One that isn’t list­ed there but is of spe­cial inter­est to pagans is the Covenant of the God­dess’ Hart and Cres­cent Award (The Hart & Cres­cent mate­ri­als are also avail­able online, with the CoG’s per­mis­sion.)

I have seen men­tion of Chris­tian Girl Scout troops. I imag­ine those troops wouldn’t be as accept­ing of me or my daugh­ter, but then I wouldn’t seek them out. If I did have a per­son­al encoun­ter with a troop that wasn’t sup­port­ive of spir­i­tu­al diver­si­ty, I’d try to work things out with the troop’s lead­ers, then go to the local GS Coun­cil of nec­es­sary, as it would clear­ly vio­late the GSUSA’s poli­cies. There’s no place in Girl Scout­ing for any kind of pros­e­ly­tiz­ing by any­one of any faith. 

And yes, I do strong­ly encour­age oth­er pagans to be involved with Girl Scout­ing and open about their beliefs. The GSUSA has a real prob­lem in some areas with get­ting enough adults involved to serve the num­ber of girls who want to be scouts, and this is one of the ways we can serve our daugh­ters and com­mu­ni­ties and do a lit­tle activism to improve people’s aware­ness and atti­tudes regard­ing pagans. Need I men­tion that it’s fun, too? 

As for sex­u­al pref­er­ence, I can’t speak for the expe­ri­ence of any open­ly homo­sex­u­al or bisex­u­al peo­ple with the GSUSA, but I’ve found absolute­ly no overt or covert mes­sages in any GSUSA pub­li­ca­tions regard­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, bisex­u­al­i­ty or het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty — and I’ve looked. Appar­ent­ly the GSUSA just con­sid­er sex­u­al­i­ty to be a pri­vate mat­ter. There’s cer­tain­ly no place for any overt­ly sex­u­al activ­i­ty at any offi­cial scout­ing activ­i­ty, so that’s a per­fect­ly rea­son­able stance as far as I’m con­cerned.**

*The Guide for Junior Girl Scout Lead­ers, page 6, copy­right 1994 Girl Scouts of the USA
**In May 2001, after this arti­cle was writ­ten, I came across a mar­velous pin at the Badge and Sash — the offi­cial Girl Scout store. It’s a gay pride flag with the words Girl Scouts Cel­e­brate Diver­si­ty on it.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 23, 2001