Spin Cycle: Religion and Me (Or, Is There Anybody Out There?)

I have a very strange relationship to religion and here’s a little snapshot of the possible genesis (get it?  Genesis?  I’m killing myself here!) of that relationship.  My mom’s family is Jewish but she was raised Episcopalian.  My dad’s family are Christian Scientists.  Add three kids and voila!  Atheists!

Here’s a picture of me the first time I went to church when my parents were about 25 years old and still trying to do the 1960s church thing (Episcopalian Church, in case anyone is taking notes):

My Christening, 1963

This event happened at my Grandmother’s Episcopalian Church.  I’m pretty sure we never went back there. I’m also pretty sure that once all three of us kids had our baptismal insurance policies sealed up, my dad never went back to any church of any kind, ever.

You see, my dad worships at the altar of science.  He is an aerospace engineer who believes that religion was invented to keep the rabble in line, to make foolish people do the right thing out of fear.  He was noisy and scornful about his dislike of religion and his lack of belief in anything larger than what he could see with his own eyes. He thought his parents were crazy, weak and deluded.   They were, by the way, incredibly awesome grandparents.  Here’s a picture:

That's my grandparents in the back with my great grandmother seated between me and my sister ... we are, of course, wearing matching coats.

But I digress.  We were talking about religion.

As far as my mom is concerned, I think she simply gave up on organized religion.  Hauling three kids to church while my dad mowed the lawn, watched football and drank Coors must’ve sucked.   For my part, I went to church here and there over the years, dipping my toe into the Christian, Methodist and Episcopalian ponds but nothing stuck.  In the end, my dad’s voice was always louder than God’s.

Fast forward to today … thanks to a degree in English Lit (there’s a lot of bible in there, my friends), a little 12 stepping and the books of spiritual teachers like Pema Chodron, I actually do believe that there is something larger than me at play.  In moments of calm, I might even call that thing God.  Church still eludes me, though.  Unfortunately, the judgmental misanthrope inside of me rears up and rebels every single time.

A few years ago, Liam had a babysitter who underwent a spiritual awakening if you will and her incessant yammering about Jesus and whatnot made him start asking about going to church.  We tried out a couple (Science of Mind and Unitarians) but, frankly, we all decided that we like going to the beach or for a nice long hike on Sundays… and really, that is a church of sorts if you look at it from the right angle.


Palos Verdes

Mineral King

And p.s.: Now that my parents are in their 70s, my mom finally strapped on her “screw you” attitude and joined the Episcopalian church in their Texas town.  She is in hog heaven, cross stitching name tags for new members, running bake sales and delivering meals to the homebound and whatnot.  For his part, my dad has morphed but little:  he is watching football, fishing and drinking Heineken.

And you know what?  In the end, here’s what I can say I really learned from my dad about religion: To thine own self be true (and yes, I know that’s Shakespeare, but you get the idea…).

Thanks, Sprite’s Keeper, for bringing up this topic.  It was going to be a long, long time before I got to this on my blog!  Now go on over and see what the other girls are bringing to the bake sale!


  • From Coors to Heineken? Still a conversion, no? 🙂
    I completely agree that going out into nature on a Sunday is like a church, you’re together as a family cementing your bond and creating happy memories surrounded by the awesomeness of nature. (And bug spray, but I digress.)
    John is Catholic, but only goes to church when in town with his parents. I’m Jewish, but the last time I stepped foot into synagogue was when my twin cousins got Mitzpha’d about 2 years ago.
    Yet, we firmly believe in God and while Sprite is being raised Jewish, she still believes in Santa. 🙂
    You’re linked!

  • Kelly Kelly Kelly says:

    So, I have been raised Catholic much of my life but have found that the Methodist church seems to keep my interest that is when i feel like going to church, which is every couple of months. I too, believe in god and believe that without god some of the lost people in this world would have no direction in life if they didn’t turn to god for help. It’s all good! I pray almost every night and believe that by doing that it helps me to let out some of the feelings I hold inside and don’t share with anyone else but god. Sooooooo that’s what works for me.

  • Gretchen says:

    You know, you just reminded me of what I forgot to put in my Spin on religion – that my Daddy never went to church of his own accord in his life, yet he was the most “Christian” man I ever knew. To thine own self be true indeed!

  • SuziCate says:

    Great spin…most of us get a bit of background and then do our own thing.

  • Peg says:

    Love your dad’s idea of conversion…Coors to Heinies. Sounds like a cool guy! Great spin.

  • My hubby is like your dad – very scientific and finds it hard to believe in something he can’t see. We’ve also left the confines of ‘organized religion’ behind – I agree, ‘To thine own self be true’. 😉

    Great Spin! 🙂

  • I enjoyed your well-written post and have looked for you over the summer. Glad you’re back! My Hubs teaches and a while back we lived in a smaller town with a church on every corner. A student or two had been known to ask Hubs what Church he attends. He told them he goes to the Church of the Quiet Sunday Morning.

  • I certainly know where you Dad is coming from with his opinion on religion. If you look back on the history of religion, it seems to me like it was a primary tool used by priests and governments to control the populace. Sometimes this was for good such as the rule against consuming pork. Considering it was difficult to preserve in ancient times, many people would have been made sick and died from eating spoiled meat. Then there was the other use like sending people to war for a cause they were led to believe was good when all it was was a cause to quench the greed of their rulers.

    It is hard to draw the line on what to believe so I have always believed in myself and my own understanding of what it right and wrong.

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