Thursday, April 19, 2012

R is for...

RELIGION

Wait a second.  Don't run away.  Stay with me here. 

In my opinion, religion influences our views about death.  Our spiritual preferences influence if we're buried, embalmed or cremated. In hospice, there's always a spiritual component. On a personal level, the two men I knew on death row were sustained by their faith in God as they faced death. Faith feels somewhat foreign to me as I was not raised with religion.  Yes, on occasion my mom and I went to church on Easter or Christmas, but it wasn't something that was explained to me or that I'd studied.

So this got me thinking about the fear of death. Is this fear based around the the question of what happens after we die? (I have my own reasons for fearing death, but I want to hear yours.) Do we go to Heaven?  Or do we go to Wal Mart for all eternity? (Which is my own personal version of Hell.)  Or is it just the end? Lights out.

I have no answers for you about what happens when we die.  I do know one thing.  We typically fear what we don't know.  And since no one wants to cuddle up with the idea of death, we tend to fear it.  We'll think about it later.  Oh, hey look!  American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Mob Wives, Toddlers and Tiara's is on.  Much better.  I'll think about death tomorrow.

I'm done with my death book and now I'm looking towards my next project, which organically came about in my exploration of death.  It's called Finding my Religion, not to be confused with...



As a former bartender, there were two things I never discussed at the bar--politics and religion. I've kept up with this practice throughout my life.  Why?  Well, for one, I don't like confrontations and those two topics tend to bring out, dare I say it, religious fervor in people.  But, I'm going to go forth and explore religion and write about my experience.  Here's the dealio.  I'm going to explore one religion a month.  And I'm not just sticking with Christianity.  I want a global perspective.  This will not be a covert operation, nor will it be a journalistic expose.  I will be upfront and honest with everyone.  I am on a quest to fulfill the one piece of my life that is missing; spirituality. I hope to be pitched, convinced and sold on a "brand."  At the end of the year, like the bachelorette on that show I've never seen, I will choose.  

Yeah, it's kind of Schtick-lit, but I imagine I'm going to learn a lot and maybe make some new friends.  And that's cool.

Thanks for popping in.  Tell me about yourself.  Kinda like this..."Hi! My name is ______ and I'm an Episcopalian from Eureka Springs.  I'd like to be cremated and made into a necklace."  Or whatever.  I don't bite.


28 comments:

  1. First off, congrats on finishing the Death book! I think you are brave to tackle such subjects that make many squirm.

    I was loosely raised as a Jew - my father being Jewish and my mother Protestant (although she comes from a long line of Quakers, including a fairly famous one, if you need Quaker info). My parents always stressed being a good person and having good morals over any one belief. And that your decisions could make your life hell here on earth. No discussion of afterlife whatsoever, and in some ways, I envied those of my friends who were "taught" a belief. Still not quite sure where my opinion stands on it all, but having children makes you think about it (esp when they pose those questions to you)!

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    1. Well, they make me squirm too, but I like to face fear. (with the exception of spiders. I definitely don't want to face a spider)

      I feel guilty for not having answers to their questions, especially now that we live in the Bible belt.

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  2. Raised Catholic. I have no quibble with Christianity on a personal basis, but I also can't stand many things about humankind's interpretation and practice of Christianity (i.e. religion). My disagreements and objections to various points of Roman Catholic doctrine, governance, etc. has resulted in my not attending mass for many years. I've tried many other churches and belief systems. In the meantime, I consider myself a recovering Catholic, but remain a liberal Christian with a universal humanist outlook. I believe that all belief systems represent different paths, and that it is up to the individual to decide what is best for him/her. Feel free to send any questions about Catholicism my way. Despite my cynicism, I can be fair :)

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    1. My husband was raised Catholic. His mom gave me his "Children's Bible" because I found the regular Bible super confusing. So, I am now reading it and boy am I filled with questions.
      Thanks for commenting,Claire. I'm so glad you got it to work.

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    2. My work pc likes blogger. Now I'm back home on my device, which only allows me to post if I don't make any mistakes or have to cut and paste any text.

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    3. Well, I hope your work doesn't mind you perusing my blog:) Tell them you're doing research.

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  3. As a matter of fact, I was raised Episcopalian, but I'm not on board for that necklace thing :-) As for death, my idea of hell is much the same as yours. Ugh, an eternity in WalMart. I'm not sure what I really believe about death, but I'm always fascinated by people who think it's lights out and nothing more. Really? That's the best they can come up with?

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    1. Well, the one thing that I'm not completely sold on is the whole living forever thing. I don't want to live forever. Even when I'm having a really good day, I want it to eventually end so I can go to sleep. Is something wrong with me?

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  4. Religion! Run...!

    I consider myself a Christian, I am a very spiritual person but, and this is a big but, I'm not one of these: here's a picture about God on Facebook, here's a bible quote on Twitter.

    God doesn't have either so what's the point? To convert people? Does being given freewill not encourage people to find religion on their own?

    The way I view things, probably makes me not a Christian, my view on LGBT is radically different to what the church believes, so for that reason I struggle to be branded as a Cristian.

    There's too many hypocrites in the faith who think hating on the minority is acceptable.

    We were given the gift of evolution, so with that in mind should the bible not evolve? So because a two-thousand year old book saying gays are bad (M'kay) we should follow it blindly? Should we not go out into the wide open world and decide for ourselves? Maybe judge people are individuals instead of predetermining who they are and what they are like?

    Wasn't there something about love thy neighbour in there aswell? Funny how the fanatics seeminly forget that part.

    There ya' go. This is why people never bring up religion lol ^_^

    /Wes

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    1. Well, I agree with you. I don't give a flying frisbee what someone does sexually, unless it's with children or animals. If it's consensual between adults, it doesn't concern me, nor should it concern anyone else.

      Thanks for posting Wes. I appreciate it.

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  5. Very interesting blog. I also talked about religion today.

    Me. I am an Atheist.
    I am sure that once we die that is it. No more chemical reactions keeping our brain going so no thought.

    Do I fear that? Not so much. I mean it sucks and all, but there was 12 billion years I didn't exist and I am not too worked up about that.

    I am trying to read all the A to Z blogs, but coming back to the ones I really like.
    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    Tim
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

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    1. Well, thank you Tim. I'm so glad you decided to stop in and write a comment. I was totally afraid that no one was going to comment and I'm pleasantly surprised that there are so many differing views expressed.

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  6. Interesting post!

    I consider myself agnostic, with the belief that existence or non-existence of a "God" is unknowable. I used to think I was an Atheist before I realised it meant you had a staunch belief that God doesn't exist. To me, that's as strong (and unprovable) a statement as saying God does exist!

    I do like the community aspect of religion, however, that brings people together and gives them a sense of belonging; a sense of purpose. For that, I am slightly envious, but I simply don't have the mental capacity to have blind faith in something (call me cynical, most people do!).

    My older sister is a Born Again Christian, my other-half is a Catholic and my dad is a protestant. I've asked a lot of questions about their beliefs, but their answers always evoke more questions, until they say to me "you just need to believe." That just doesn't cut the mustard for me.

    I'm one of those people who DO believe when you die, it's "lights out, that's you done", on a physical level. But your legacy lives on in the hearts of those you love :)

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    1. I'm probably where you are right now. Who knows, I may end my research and decide that I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Hey, that's a song!
      Thanks for commenting!

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  7. I'm looking forward to the death book very much. Your blog is new to me, but I'm about to start working back through it all.

    The religion book sounds if anything more controversial as faith tends to be a hugely personal thing. Be fascinated to see what you come up with. My own views are in flux at the moment, so your explorations will be very interesting to me.

    Oh - and I'm speaking as a theoretical Methodist raised as nothing in particular by a father who believed in fairies and a mother with no particular affiliation. Converted to Catholicism and married a Jew. My cousin is a converted Muslim. We cover a largish spectrum in our family.

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    1. Yes you do! Did your dad clap really hard at that part in Peter Pan when they ask you if you believe in fairies? I think that's awesome, personally.
      Well, have fun exploring the blog and thanks for commenting.

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  8. Wow! Posts of varying comments! It's a good post. You know where I stand on this one. I do have blind faith but I have also seen physical, mental & spiritual healing. I've seen the miracles that make me believe. I feel the love of God the father. I believe in living forever in Heaven....with naps! ;0). Everyone is entitled to their own views and that's what is going to make your book a best seller. I sincerely hope you find what you are looking for.

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    1. Living Forever in Heaven With Naps! That would be a good book title. Well, your church is the first stop on my trip, but first I've got to read this Bible. Then, I've got to read another book and another. It's going to be a lot of work. I may need more coffee. And definitely more naps.

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  9. I was raised heavily invested in the Roman Catholic Church - 12 years of Catholic education in a home in which the religion was core. It meant not only going to Mass daily at the school and, of course, on Sundays but also many traditions in the home - prayers and regular attendance at the Church for both religious and social reasons. I left home around 18 and remember taking all the doctrine of that failth and putting it in a white cube tied with a yellow ribbon and sticking it up in the closet that is my brain. SO much of it did not make sense: the dogma, the control, the maleness, the rigidity, the lack of compassion -- 14 or 15 years later when I was married and a child was born I decided that I should give it another try for the sake of my children. I actually went to Church for four or five years, in an attempt to buy in. but it all rang hollow.
    The core teachings of Jesus Christ are awesome - it's the layers of control and power that I can't abide. I also am NOT about imposing my belief system on others, nor do I want their beliefs imposed on me --
    I have read about other relisions and see value in them. I don't pray if you mean be supplicant before a god or ask forgivemess or worship said god. I am aware of my gifts and grateful for whatever force brought them to be. I am unclear on what happens after death but I think it is more than nothing. Life doesn't end with the moment of your death but I can't say what happens next. I life does end when you draw your final breath and there is no more, then there is no more. I can live with that b/c I won't know!
    I am sad that you are finished with death - I need to take the time to go back and read what I missed -- I liked it. You have inspired me to re-read Jessica Mitford's book (the updated version).
    I look forward to your new series!
    Thanks for posting == JT

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    1. I loved that book. She was a funny lady and I heard she had a truly over the top funeral, which I found kind of ironic since she was such a critic of the industry. She certainly made it tough for this female writer to get into a funeral home and ask questions.
      Other good books on the subject of death are "Stiff" by Mary Roach. She is so smart and funny and I love that book. Like a lot. The other is "The Undertaking" by Thomas Lynch. He's a funeral director/poet and it was a good read.
      I'm not totally done with death. I will continue to write about it on this here blog. Hopefully you'll read a post that it has sold and will be coming to a bookstore near you. It's just a tough sell. I'm not an expert on dying, nor am I dying (well, we're all dying but...)so who wants to read a memoir about some middle aged lady deciding to confront her fear of death? Hopefully millions:) I so want to jump on Oprah's couch, even if it's on a cable channel.
      Thanks for the kind words. You have no idea how much I appreciate them.

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    2. I read anything Mary Roach puts out. She rocks bigtime. Loved Stiff and also the more recent Bonk. I need to investigate Thomas Lynch - am not familiar. I am glad you are not finished with death. I would think there would be a burgeoning market for books on death now that the baby boomers (and that would include me) are facing the inevitable. You know how we are -- always on the cutting edge, always trying to understand/question. Can't wait to see your book in print.

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  10. Hi, I'm Jim from Jordan and I have no religion. I've spent quite a lot of time over the years studying the various religious schools of thought. I was raised Pentecostal Holiness, converted to Catholicism and eventually left them all behind. I want to be cremated. In reality, that probably won't happen because I now live in a Muslim society where that is forbidden. What will probably happen is that I'll be buried, without embalming, directly into the ground to return to the elements from which I came. I reckon that's about as 'natural' a way to be disposed as one could hope for. I don't fear death, but I don't look forward to it. I plan to be here for a long, long time and when the ol' reaper comes, he should be prepared for a huge battle. I won't go without a fight...

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    1. Hello Jim from Jordan! I entered a Pentacostal church a few months ago to deliver something for a friend. I'll just say I wasn't welcomed with open arms. But, that was just one experience so who knows? I like to cut my hair and wear tank tops, so I don't think it would work out for me there.

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    2. As an outspoken, thinking woman I bet you wouldn't be welcomed there. They like (in my experience) keep the women subjugated and silent. I showed them the back of my wig as soon as I was old enough to defy my family, and never looked back!

      Completely unrelated; I wonder why my gravatar picture never shows on my comments... hmmm, another mystery to solve.

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  11. Congratulations on finishing your book, I know what an amazing feeling that is!
    My name is Doreen and I am a Catholic {again, after a hiatis.} What a great idea to post about the different religions. I would like to say I am spiritually informed but honestly I could always learn more. I am looking forward to reading what you come up with.

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    1. Thanks! And yes it is a good feeling, although I'm never really sure if the book is done or not.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  12. I essentially grew up in a Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma and never could figure out why there were so many contradictions and things that just didn't make sense in our religion. So, I became an agnostic and then an atheist and now I've come round to believing basically as a pantheist or taoist. What helped me a lot was taking a couple of Comparative Religion classes, and then lots of thinking and pondering. I have a spirituality that makes sense to me and helps me through the night, but it has nothing to do with Jesus or Buddha. I suppose it is mostly a Tao sort of way of thinking or not thinking. There is no heaven and there is no hell, but there is something more and much greater than those two concepts. So much greater that I couldn't begin to describe it.

    I agree with idea of hell -- Walmart. God how I hate that place!

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    1. See, I don't even know what a pantheist is. Or a taoist. I've got to learn this stuff. I think all religions kind of flow into what happens next. Different pathways to the same destination.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!