Monday, March 14, 2011

in which AB does not finish what she attempted to start

A long time ago, not long after I started blogging, I wrote a post about the idea of sin. I had recently talked to a friend of mine, who is not at all religious in the conventional sense of the word, about how much she hated to attend regular church services because of the emphasis on sin, a concept she had no patience with.  So the post I wrote back in 2005 was basically a defense of the idea of sin, and the way I looked at it in my life.  At the time I wrote it, I thought it was the best post I'd written up to that point, and for a long time when I told someone about my blog, that was the post I would send them as an example of the kinds of things I was writing about.

But I went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church this last week, and I discovered to my surprise that my understanding of sin has changed.  I should maybe detour for a minute here and talk about why I still go to church.  I haven't written much about religion or spirituality recently because not much has changed.  The post I wrote last summer-- in which I talked about how I both believe and don't believe at the same time-- still pretty much covers how I think today. I've grown used to the feeling now, the oxymoronic believe/don't believe combination.  It makes complete sense to me on an intuitive level. But when I try to put it into words, it becomes stupidly complex.  It starts to sound like double-speak, like talking out both sides of my mouth.  So I've taken the easy way out and just not written much about it recently.

But it's still something I think about all the time.  Daily.  An online acquaintance of mine calls it being a Spiritual Atheist.  I hesitate to use the term myself, because the word "Atheist"--although it certainly applies to some of my opinions-- conjures up a response in other people that has nothing to do with what I mean.  "Agnostic" still comes the closest I think-- not in the popular sense of the word, which seems to be "don't care enough to have an opinion," but in the literal sense of the word ("a- gnostic," can't know or don't know):  I believe in certain experiences that I've had that could be described as spiritual, but I don't know how to define exactly what they "mean." 

Sheesh.  I really didn't mean to get off on this.  I guess that's what happens when you don't post about something for months and months-- you have a lot of catching up to do.   So if I'm an agnostic, or a Spiritual Atheist, or an oxyMoron ;-), why do I still go to church?  Well, honestly, the short answer is:  because if I don't go for three or four Sundays, I miss it.   We're not the most regular attenders.  We're certainly not there every week.  But if it gets to be more than three weeks, I start to yearn for it.  There's something about sitting in the sanctuary, a space dedicated to the acknowledgment of something vastly outside our piddly little selves, that is meaningful to me.  It would work for me to just go in to the sanctuary when it was empty and sit for awhile by myself, but I find it more effective and more meaningful when I'm there with the music and the readings, sharing the experience with others.  They may not be of the same opinions as me, but we're united at some level in spirit.  It's centering and restorative for me.  (That's the "short" answer-- the long answer is in the second half of this post). 

I haven't even come close to talking about the issue I originally sat down to type about.  But it's late and my brain is about to shut off, and as I've been typing, I've thought of several more directions this could go.  So maybe this will be another two- or three- parter.  More later.  Probably not till Wednesday at least, though.

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