Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Learned About Religion From The Prince Of Darkness (Spirituality, Religion, and Philosophy, Entry 10)

I recently read Prince of Darkness by columnist Robert Novak.  In part of the book, Novak talks about converting to Catholicism.  In passing, he mentions how people “hostile” to Catholicism sometimes say “I was raised Catholic” when asked if they are Catholic. 
It never occurred to me saying this would be viewed as hostile.  Saying “I’m a recovering Catholic” strikes me as a little hostile given that alcoholics use that terminology.  But saying I was raised Catholic to me only says my parents were Catholic and I was raised in that tradition, but now am not Catholic.  I’ve said this often because it seems accurate to me.  Often when people ask “Are you Catholic?” it’s because they are leading into a story or point that might need some lead in for someone who is not Catholic.  For instance, something about going to confession as a child, or a comment about the Cardinal, or a viewpoint on the Church’s stand on birth control.  So when I answer that way, I am letting the person know that I understand the background about the Church, even though I’m not now Catholic.
Now that I read Novak’s comment, though, I can see where it could seem hostile because it goes out of the way to emphasize that though raised in the Catholic tradition, I am no longer Catholic or, in stronger words, I rejected Catholicism.  Also, I don’t say “I used to be Catholic” but that my parents raised me that way, suggesting I never really wanted to be or never really was Catholic in the first place.  Which probably does reflect some of my feeling about how I was taught religion and particularly about the confirmation process (which I’ll write about some other time).
I don’t see anything wrong with expressing negative feelings about a religion, but I generally try to refrain from commenting on others’ beliefs unless they’ve invited the discussion.  Also, saying I’m not Catholic is not only more neutral but more accurate.  At this point, I’ve been not Catholic for a longer time than I was Catholic.  So I’ve decided that from now on, if asked if I’m Catholic, I’ll simply say that I’m not Catholic.

Lisa M. Lilly
Author of The Awakening

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Yoga, Life and Stretching (Spirituality, Religion, and Philosophy, Entry 9)

I find routines comforting.  If I’m behind on my bookkeeping, or a client is unhappy with me, or I’m working 11 hours a day – or if all the above are happening at once – it helps me to eat the same kind of oatmeal each morning with a glass of the same kind of orange juice while I read the same newspaper (Wall Street Journal) for 10 minutes.  Then I walk the same way to work and make the same type of tea (Earl Grey) when I get there before I sit down to start the stress/work wheel all over again.
When things are going well, routine feels good too.  I savor my orange juice, add a little extra cinnamon to my oatmeal, inhale the steamy, lemony scent of my tea before I drink it, and take an extra few minutes out of my day to enjoy the morning. 
Like a lot of people, I sit in front of a computer much of my day, and no matter how often I remind myself to sit straight and shift my position now and then, at the end of the day my neck and shoulders ache from reaching forward and sometimes hunching (really, I try not to), and my knees and back feel a little stiff and sore from sitting.  So part of my morning routine is yoga.  The poses that feel wonderful are those where I pull my shoulders back, where I arch my back, or where I straighten my legs completely.  Basically, where I move my body just the opposite way that I usually do.
This morning as I moved through poses that opened my chest and shoulders, and straightened my knees, I thought about how I might like to do more things that are different from what I usually do.  Try to stretch my mental and emotional life the way I do my body.  I didn’t decide to go to the extreme – try skydiving, for instance, when I find driving risky enough.  But I signed up for a seminar in the U of C continuing education series on religion and the brain, even though none of my friends were interested in taking it with me.  And I said Yes to an evite to an event hosted by someone I’ve only know for a few months, even though I don’t know any of the other women who RSVP’d.  Maybe I will learn about a topic I’ve never thought about before, get an idea for a short story or a poem, make a new friend.  And even if none of those things happen, maybe it will feel good, the same way stretching my arms and legs does.  But I’m sure I’ll still have my orange juice and oatmeal – and Earl Grey tea – the next morning.
Lisa M. Lilly

Author of The Awakening

Will Tara Spencer give birth to the first female messiah?  Or trigger the Apocalypse?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Queen of Heaven (Spirituality, Religion and Philosophy, Entry No. 8)

When I was in second or third grade, my parents attended church every Tuesday night for a novena.  The service focused on prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I remember this going on indefinitely, but a search of the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia tells me novenas usually involve prayers for nine days in a row.  We didn’t go every day, so maybe it was every week for nine weeks and only seemed endless because when you’re seven or eight years old that's how time passes. 
At the service, I loved inhaling the scent of incense and listening to the almost mystical chants.  The priest intoned many titles for Mary.  The congregation repeated “pray for us” after each.  One title was Queen of Heaven.  I heard Mary called that often as I grew up, and the cemetery where my relatives on my mother’s side – and also my niece and my parents – are buried is Queen of Heaven.
I was surprised as an adult when I bought a book of goddess illustrations and saw one for Queen of Heaven.  I was even more surprised when I read in a book on women and religion (I wish I could remember which one) that the Queen of Heaven is mentioned in the Old Testament.  Not as a precursor to or foreshadowing of Mary, but as a goddess who should not be worshipped.  Jeremia 7:18 says the children are gathering wood, their fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading dough “to make cakes for the queen of heaven while libations are poured out to strange gods in order to hurt me.”  The version I have of the Bible contains a note that the Queen of Heaven is the Assyro-Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, and that cakes like stars were offered in her honor. 
It fascinates me that the Catholic religion comes closer to worshipping a goddess than the other Christian religions I know of, despite the transformation of the goddess to Mary, and the strict doctrines that saints, including Mary, are not divine and are not to be worshipped.  Mary is supposed to have been conceived without sin (see more on this in the previous post) and also to have been assumed bodily into heaven without dying.  Seems very close to a deity.  My limited understanding is the Church was trying to bring in people who worshipped goddesses.  But despite all this, at the same time, the Catholic Church offers less of a role for women than many other Christian churches, including not allowing women to serve as priests, or, obviously, in any of the roles priests can aspire to, such as bishop, cardinal or pope.  That was my first major disagreement with the Church -- I couldn't see donating to any organization that would never allow me a role in governing it solely because I am a woman.
The people who inspired me most in the Church, and who seemed to have the closest connection with the community, were nuns.  I wonder how many amazing people’s skills, talents, and connections the Catholic Church loses day after day by insisting its leaders must be men.

Lisa M. Lilly is an attorney and author of Kindle occult bestseller THE AWAKENING, short story collection THE TOWER FORMERLY SEARS AND TWO OTHER TALES OF URBAN HORROR, and numerous poems, short stories, and articles.  

Follow her on Twitter:  @lisamlilly

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