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    I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to my parents for how I was raised.  Given no one really knows going into parenthood how to raise children, my parents certainly did an exceptional job.  As I go off into the world on my own and as each day passes, I appreciate them more and more.
     As any “typical American” I attended church growing up, but not in the same sense perhaps as the vast majority.  Instead, I grew up in a church that never told me what to believe, the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  Every Sunday when I was little, my dad would religiously take us to church and there of course I was opened up to the world of religion.  Through Religious Education class (RE), I learned about the world’s religions, creation stories, and most importantly, perhaps, tolerance.  As a child, the inherent nature to be questioning was encouraged in church.  My dad recalls an instance when I asked, “Where does God live?”  Though at the time, I was too young and had no real idea of what an omnipotent being was, my dad didn’t tell me up in the sky above the clouds in heaven.  Instead he told me that is something we each have to find out for ourselves.  

    Its human nature for children to look up to their parents for guidance, I grew up having absolutely no authority to look up to for answers other than myself in the spiritual world.  As a child, I felt frustrated and often confused.  My friends who surrounded me would ask me what my religion was, and my response would be Unitarian Universalist.  The next question immediately following was always, “Do you believe in God?”  I would answer yes, not out of true belief, but out of fear.  Fear of what they would think and how they would treat me if I didn’t tell them I believed.  Just in the way they posed the question made me really think about if it really was wrong to not believe in God.  
     When I learned of Heaven and Hell, I hated it.  I couldn’t possibly send people to a burning, torturous turmoil.  I would cry about it sometimes at night because I couldn’t believe that people would go to church every Sunday and send ME to Hell for not believing.  I couldn’t understand why people would want to believe in such a horrible place.  So, before I perhaps rejected God, I rejected Hell.
     Another time in RE class we were given the assignment to draw God.  All of us kids drew the same picture, basically an old man in a gown with a long beard in the sky.  Then, our teacher asked why we all drew the same picture. I mean, why didn’t we draw a woman?  In my mind, I had no explanation for why I thought of God looking like that and living in the clouds.   I realized no one had ever explicitly told me that was what God looked like.  Don’t get me wrong, the intention of RE class isn’t to breed atheists, but it was definitely teaching us to think and question.  
     Even as a child, I had always looked to science first for answers.  I read a huge amount of books as encouraged by my mother.  I remember going to the library all the time and my mom telling me to pick science books.  I didn’t read a lot of actual novels besides Nancy Drew, but definitely read all about weather, dinosaurs, animals, and the human body.  As I progressed further in school and read more, I began to reason that science has the answers and if not yet, soon.   As if you couldn’t tell where I was going with this, I learned about evolution.  I’m not sure when exactly, but I remember in 5th grade we had a lesson about it and my teacher said he didn’t believe in evolution.  I remember my response to this was shock because it seemed only natural to accept it since I had faith in science if you will.  As I’ve grown older, I have become very interested in the politics of evolution in schools.  The topic of separation of church and state in general has always been interesting to me, I think I get it from my dad.
     The rejection of a God was realized in middle school.  I think I was in 6th grade at the time and my older brother had become very ill.  He was in the hospital for more than a month I think and he just couldn’t keep food down.  I wasn’t all that close with my brother, and a lot of it had to do with him being autistic. He had always been rather distant from my little sister and I and so I wasn’t sure how to interact with him.  Nonetheless, I still loved him and had never been more scared in my life.  My parents always told me that it wasn’t my job to worry about him, which I knew, but I couldn’t help it.  I could tell my parents were scared too.  
     During the time he was sick we would have to drive back and forth to Indy where my brother was at Riley’s Children’s Hospital.  One of my parents was always at his side when he was in the hospital.  I just know we were there a lot because I still remember plugging my ears so I wouldn’t have to hear my brother scream in pain when they had to draw blood for tests.  My grandparents even drove up from Kansas to help watch my sister and I so my parents would be at least a little less stressed.
     Things with my brother changed when he became sick because he feared death.  We all feared that the worst was going to happen.  We couldn’t help it because he had been in the hospital for so long and no one knew what was going on.  Every time I would see my brother, he wanted to hug me and he would say he loved me.  Despite the seemingly grave situation, we would joke that all of the sudden he had become so nice.  I mean you know how teenage boys are, refusing to show affection in order to seem tough, in that sense he was normal.  My brother would laugh and say he would be nice from then on.  
     Of course all my friends at school knew my brother was sick because I had cried about it in school (If you can’t tell I’m a huge crybaby…sheesh).  My friends told their parents and sometimes they would give me rides home from school because I stayed after school for extracurricular activities.  Always on the car ride over, they would say they were praying for him.  I would say thank you.  They were showing their concern and trying to help after all, but I couldn’t help but wonder if praying really had anything to do with if he would get better or not.

To be continued...

Originally posted to What A Pithy on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 11:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well you succeeded in getting me interested, (9+ / 0-)

    because I'd like to see the continuation! By the way, you need to put commas between your tags or it comes out as one big tag. I'd fix it, but I'm not sure about a couple of them.

  •  Thanks for sharing some of your private (8+ / 0-)

    spiritual thoughts.

    just because man invented God, does not mean that God does not exist

    by MikeMcShea on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 11:24:06 PM PDT

  •  Beautiful and fascinating. (7+ / 0-)

    My comment about the relationship of deity to humanity that I came up with is this: "I am a jellyfish in the ocean of God."

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 12:59:08 AM PDT

  •  You're a skilled writer. (9+ / 0-)

    I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

    I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate, perhaps that's what no one wants to see. -6.38, -4.15

    by James Allen on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:02:34 AM PDT

  •  Where does God live? Funny you should ask (7+ / 0-)

    A friend is coming this evening who could tell you.

    Oh I know too but I forget the lyrics about how they made the decision. It was a big meeting up in heaven... big shots were there... Moses, Joan of Arc, MLK Jr...
    Wait... it isn't where God lives. It's the Kingdom of Heaven. But still.

    And the lyrics are on line. The songs writer, David Roth, no relation, is a very amusing, wordy writer and folk singer, worth seeing. Didn't know his stuff would be listed.

    But if you find the kingdom, think you'll find God hanging out too.
    So all these big shots gathered and a meek little guy speaks out, Murray Goldberg, still on probation. His statement ends with

    So how 'bout we scrap all the blueprints and plans and instead we install it by parts
    And we put a large portion of Heaven deep down in the corner of everyone's heart
    (Just to show what I meant by amusing and wordy the next verse is)
    Again there was silence, and then an explosion, unanimous beating of wings and of legs
    And the meeting had gone through the night to the dawn, so St. Benedict started some eggs
    Harriet Tubman went off for her train, St. Bernard went off walking his dog
    "I'm takin' a couple of tablets" says Moses, while Murray was simply agog

    But from that moment forward the issue was passed
    With a permanent home by decree
    Where two or more beings are gathered in love
    Here the Realm of all Heaven shall be

    (Just read some lyrics of songs of his I never heard and thought I should share page. A humorous progressive)

    I'll go to my 6th grade idea of God. I'd stopped going to Catholic school and church the year before.
    I'd always had trouble with the God they taught. I refused to accept that God would be so picky about who he would take in, rejecting loving people who were of some other faith or none at all
    or more specific things like when he sent two bears to maul and kill 40+ children for mocking a bald prophet passing through town or any of that old testament smiting
    Or that divorced remarried people or whatever they decided was mortal sin couldn't get into heaven
    or would like me any better than my friend who wasn't baptized and didn't go to church or want to
    I didn't think or know of sex much but the bible said Jesus had brothers and why would Mary be better if she died a virgin anyway and hey a concordance said the root word of virgin in verses they pointed to regarding her Jesus pregnancy just meant young and unmarried
    And no I did not believe the pope was always right, look at history
    And no I would not write 500 times that "a Good Catholic does not question her religion" because that would be a lie because of course God would want his children to ask questions
    and so on

    I left with no regrets. Was there God? I didn't know but if so God was not who they were teaching. That was the church, limiting and shrinking God and I definitely did not belong there.
    I went on my agnostic ways.
    I did return for a time when my son and already baptized step-daughters wanted us yo go. We had a very nice priest. It was a funny experience and my kids  made trouble in catechism class similar to trouble I had made at their age
    I don't belong in a church.

    Where does God live? In our hearts is a pretty good answer. In our subatomic bits and mega-cosmic waves
    Where we find God, whatever we call God and also where we don't

    If God were that old unreachable man in the sky we get taught...
    oh for easy answers
    though vague on tragedy

    Where does God live. Here, there, everywhere?
    Well if here it is God's turn to clean the house, it is a mess.

    The world too

  •  You clearly didn't get a very good explantion (8+ / 0-)

    about Heaven and Hell. I don't believe in either, and I'm an Episcopalian!

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

    by commonmass on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 01:37:19 AM PDT

    •  Just for another take on hell -- (4+ / 0-)

      I'm a Mahayana Buddhist.  We do believe in hell.  Actually we believe there are many hells:  Maha Avici, the Hot Hell, the Very Hot Hell, the Cold Hell, the Very Cold Hell, the "Great Hell of Black Lines," the Hell of Crying "Alas"! The Hell of Razors, just oodles of them.

      Buddhists also believe in a variety of "unfortunate rebirths," including "hungry ghost" -- a rebirth for someone whose greed rises to the level of significant harm (i.e., the Koch Brothers possibly?  Dick Cheney?)  Such people are reborn to spend an eon wandering the planet as a starving ghost; they're so hungry and thirsty that if they were alive they'd be near death.  They have giant eyes and stomachs, a keen sense of smell for food, and tiny mouths.  They try to scream and can't.  They come around feasts and just have to feel the pain.

      Buddhist hells are, like everything else in the delusion of duality, temporary.  They're just more lives that sentient beings reincarnate into.  

      In that respect we also think of animal rebirths (and many human births) as a form of "hell" for obvious reasons.  Hell is all relative.

      Thanks for another lovely diary!

      •  Funny thing... (5+ / 0-)

        My mom is a Buddhist too!  
        I'm not sure what type of Buddhist my mom is, but she sometimes refers to the different levels of hell.  (She's from Taiwan.)  She can't really tell me so well since she doesn't really know the words in Chinese to describe it.

        I really appreciate the interesting comment and the fact that you enjoy my diaries!  

        •  I hope (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Glen The Plumber, DJ Rix

          your mom teaches you Chinese!  What an amazing opportunity, really if you can speak both English and Chinese you're in a great position in this world.

          •  Well... (5+ / 0-)

                My mom had spoken Chinese with my older brother and my dad English.  He started speaking late and my parents thought they had confused him or something.  This was before they knew he was autistic.  So, when I came along they spoke only English and same with my sister.  
                 We did attend Chinese school when I was in 3rd grade, but that became a hassle because we had to drive an hour every weekend.  I do believe this helped me now and plus I heard my mom speak in on the phone and with her friends growing up.  I am more familiar with the sounds.  
                 Junior year of high school, I went to Taiwan to do volunteer teaching of English and was forced to pick up some Chinese.  I felt so helpless and was forced to grow up and suck it up!  There was no one to whine to or lean on because I flew there by myself.  I mean I did have relatives come pick me up from the airport, but even their English was limited.  Its funny because although I don't speak much, the people were confused because I sound like a native speaker.  Which is a good thing I suppose.  
                 Now that I'm in college, I have started taking Chinese classes and applied to an immersion program they have here over the summer.  They also have a flagship program which I am considering applying to because then I would get to study abroad.  Chinese is one of my best classes and not to mention my mom is so impressed with how much I've already learned!  

            •  I'm glad (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dragon5616, Glen The Plumber, DJ Rix

              You're learning this part of your heritage.  My dad's family immigrated to the US from Italy, and they spoke very broken English.  It was really important to my grandfather that we be Americans -- who speak English -- so he forbade anyone to speak anything but English in our presence.  I don't think he understood that there was no chance of us not being native/fluent English speakers growing up in Chicago!  Unfortunately this also meant we really don't know the people on that side of the family.

              We have some Persian-Americans at my school who are having a similar situation to yours.  Their parents are really excited that they're learning Farsi, now that they see the same sort of error my grandfather made.

              •  Thats another thing... (4+ / 0-)

                Since my family is so important to me, I absolutely hated not being able to really talk to my own grandparents.  When I had gone my Junior year, I hadn't seen them for 9 years.  I didn't really recognize many of my relatives besides my grandparents either.  That was probably one of the more frustrating things besides the language barrier.  However, my cousins don't have much of a problem communicating because their English is pretty good since they've been learning all their life in school.  I can now use Facebook to keep in touch with them and practice my Chinese, which is great!

                (I have so many ideas for other diaries I'll write, but one is about growing up in a multicultural family because my mom, as I said before, is Taiwanese and my dad is American.)

            •  Well keep on writing (4+ / 0-)

              I think you have a refreshing voice for DK.

  •  Does God "Live"? (8+ / 0-)

    Life by definition requires death.  To say that we are alive requires an understanding of mortality.  We are effectively in the state of avoiding death.

    Life is merely the "when" wedged between nonexistence and death.

    If there were an omnipotent and omnipresent god, such a definition would seem a non sequitur.

    God would neither being alive or dead.  Kind of like the opposite of Shrodinger's cat.  Not being alive means that one needn't concern themselves with where to be alive.

    •  From a Buddhist perspective (4+ / 0-)

      I have to agree and disagree with this:

      Life by definition requires death.  To say that we are alive requires an understanding of mortality.  We are effectively in the state of avoiding death.
      Death, by definition, requires birth -- not life.
      Life is merely the "when" wedged between nonexistence and death.
      As I see it (and of course YMMV) this presupposes that there is "nonexistence" after life.  Natural law would suggest that as a non-sequitur; conservation of energy and matter, etc.  Nothing simply ceases to exist, it only changes form.  Why would consciousness be different?  What is consciousness, anyway?  Are you sure it isn't "life"?  How do you know that?  What is "life"?
      If there were an omnipotent and omnipresent god, such a definition would seem a non sequitur.
      Buddhists don't believe in a creator God.  We only believe in "unity consciousness," or the combined "all that is."  We spend our whole lives breaking through the idea that anything is separate from anything else.  Which kind of brings us to your last statement; when we break our addiction to the illusion of separateness, we no longer have to bother with the cycle of life and death.  That's the whole goal!
      Not being alive means that one needn't concern themselves with where to be alive.
    •  See the answers in "God's Debris" by Scott Adams (5+ / 0-)

      It's a very short book, about 100 pages, but really gets into these kinds of questions, i.e. if you were omnipotent, omniscient and eternal, what would be the challenge? It delves nicely into probability and quantum theory as well, Highly recommended!

      Of course it hurts! You're being screwed by an Elephant!

      by CAPitBull on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 03:43:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're not far (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth, Xavier Onassis EMTP

      from Paul Tillich, a great 20th Century existentialist theologian, who was remarkable & influential for his ability to explain  his essential ideas to people like me.

      "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

      by DJ Rix on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 11:41:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  God is an old man who lives in the sky (7+ / 0-)

    because he is derived from the Indo-European Sky Father, who spread with the Indo-European languages. Before he arrived on the scene, God was a woman -- the Earth Mother -- who gave birth to all life and to whom we all return when we die. Much of early European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian mythology is about the conflicts between these two religious systems and their intermingling.

  •  Very good! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, DJ Rix

    You got some good discussion here.

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

    by Dragon5616 on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 06:21:56 PM PDT

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