Notes on Religion

On the Always Learning list, December 2001, someone asked:

"I'm curious about your spiritual journey..raised Southern Baptist..but now?? What changed for you?"

Gradually in a way and swiftly in a way, I examined everything I could get near enough to look at, asked everyone who would talk what they believed and why, and so gradually in that there was a smooth curve, but swiftly in that there were few breaks on my part, my beliefs evolved.

And I really do see it as an evolution.
I've seen others go through the more or less the same series of thoughts and 'tests' and settlings, in more or less the same order, and come to the same basic conclusions.

My parents were variably Baptist and Nazarene. My dad's parents were more stable (Baptist) and my mom's family was moving around a lot but she identified with Pentacostals and Baptists in the generic sort of independent-church West-Texas-in-the-30's and 40's way.

When my parents were first together they weren't going to church. My dad's parents did; my mom's had quit when their kids were grown, I think.

They/we tried church again when they thought I was old enough to need it, but they didn't agree on which church, and how to act, and why it was important, so I went with neighbors because I really liked to go.

We moved, I wasn't in church for a while, and when I was nine started going again, on my own (making parents drive me, and often--for years I went five times a week, as Baptists are wont to do when they're in the choir, and girl's auxiliary and training union and prayer meeting). I was going to be a missionary. I studied hard. I studied too hard. I read everything they had to read, spent my own allowance on stuff from the home office in Tennessee, and about the time I had topped out on available reading material, started doing guitar mass at Santa Cruz Church (northern New Mexico's Santa Cruz). I was involved in folk mass, in a group of four musicians, of whom I became the lead when they all looked at me and shrugged because I had more experience and knew more songs. So I would go to 9:30 at the Catholic church, and down the road for 11:00 Baptist service.

At school we had an English teacher (Jacqueline Littlejohn) who was interested in eastern religion. She had us read philosophical stuff—Ayn Rand (gagged me philosophically, but I liked Atlas Shrugged as a novel, and I liked Anthem), and Siddhartha. The class was called "The Literature of Philosophy," I think. She taught us meditation, and stuff about Hinduism and Buddhism. I had already bought a series on comparative religion with my own money (crummy series—I wish we had had some of the kids' books that are out now!!), and I was THERE.

Did some church-hopping with two Catholic friends who were just curious. We'd make a list, and go to services in town on Sundays. Jerry Lopez and Rudy Roybal. Someone asked me about their whereabouts last month; I had not a clue. They were a year older than I was. We never even used to go to lunch afterward. Couldn't afford it, I guess, but we'd take turns driving each other to some other church, like a team of archeologists. [later note: anthropologists, I meant. We never TOUCHED those graves!!]

I did some more of that in college. Just curious to the bone about what the differences and similarities were.

It was the early 70's and there were constant meetings of new (to us) groups—Moonies, Baha'i, 3H0 (American Sikhs)—I went to lots of those kinds of intro sessions and series of lectures and got their literature. I listened to on-campus evangelists.

Still I identified myself as Baptist, and felt saved and all. Gradually, as I read more and prodded people to see what their point of false-smile was and where they really were intolerant, I came to be embarrassed to be Baptist. Too much willful ignorance.

Knowing the stats on members and attendance were important at my hometown church, I tried to get them to undo my membership. They had no way to do that. They could transfer it to another church, but they had never had anyone just ask them to remove them from the rolls.

Went to college. Went to Catholic mass at the Neumann center fairly often because it was walking distance. Went to Lutheran and really liked Presbyterian.

"Went with" (3.5 year relationship) a Hindu, Devender Singh, from India (by way of New Jersey, where he went to high school) through college. He, too, was interested in all religious matters, and was into church-hopping sometimes. He could answer all kinds of questions about Hinduism, and told me about Jains, and Sikhs, and used to go with me to intro meetings of various groups.

Still and always I was curious about other people's lives, and in the idea of "religious experiences" themselves. Studied psychology (minored in school) and folklore (second minor in anthropology), always with an eye to learning and religion—how fairy tales were used to tap into the subconscious and what characters people identified with, and what was scary or soothing or instructional in mythology.

While I was teaching and in my first marriage, I didn't go to church at all. Spent most weekends reading students' writings (teaching composition.) Got involved in the SCA which took lots of weekend time.

Got involved in Adult Children of Alcoholics, which was the most religious/spiritual thing I had done for a long time. (And it's not, but compared to what I had been doing it was.)

La Leche League was the most physical of any "study" I had done to that point, as it involved not ideas and feelings so much as attending to another person's physical needs. And the definition of physical needs formed/overlapped a range of things that tied in with learning and spirituality.

So where I had always been, there I still was—surrounded with questions and ideas about which parts of us are "for learning" or "for spirituality" or "natural" or "common to all humans." And where I was, here I am.

Ask me more if you want. I don't mind.


In 1980, I ditched work for an hour and a half, listening to Sister Cindy, the Disco Queen at the University of New Mexico. Between my lunch at the Student Union building that day and Scholes Hall where I was working, there she was in all her freaky glory, going on about how God has restored her virginity. I was mesmerised by the audaciousness of her sermon and her marching back and forth, and swaying, and walking on benches, and the delivery cadences.

They liked me at work, so when I showed up late and told them I had only been a few hundred yards away but was stopped in my tracks by the phenomenal Sister Cindy, they oddly understood. Because they knew me. 🙂

Twelve years later, 2013 note:
I came to review this page because I was going to link something to Just Add Light and Stir that could lead a person easily here, and wanted to see if it needed any updating.

Just Add Light and Stir is my daily work, and the most spiritually focussed activity these days. As life has unfolded, at this point helping parents be more present and loving has become the service I do for others.

There are other aspects, of peace and clarity, of learning and of compassion.

Here are some things connecting spirituality to unschooling and peaceful parenting:

Peace for Unschoolers
BENEFITS beyond just "be a better parent" Providing things usually obtained formally in other ways. (something about the Always Learning discussion, and spirituality)
More on what I believe, in response to others' questions.

What is UP with Heaven?

and why we should not get down with Hell.

More personal history