Lessons from the UU

I’ve been going to a Unitarian church for a few months now. When I decided I was going to homeschool Buddy I wanted him in a place where he would be around other children that was tolerant (of his special needs, of having an atheist mother, and of my children being multi-racial) and non-dogmatic. My husband had been taking them to mass, but his church really treats families horribly and there’s no sort of Sunday school. Also, even though I’ve never been Catholic, dealing with the Catholic church through my husband has been traumatizing enough that I fully understand why people call themselves Recovering Catholics and I don’t want to put my kids through that.

While there is a Freethought group in my area, they only meet once a month and it’s quite a drive to get there. I have given lectures there to promote my business (people have a hard time finding secular counselors who won’t shove religion down their throats) and I actually get on with the people there better and feel a bit more camaraderie, but between the infrequency of the meetings, the drive, and the fact that they don’t have a good as a program for young children (especially one with special needs like Buddy), I’ve stuck with the UU.

Buddy and Sissy have been doing well there. They seem to like going and the teachers say they are sweet and get along well with each other. I’ve yet to have one of them make a friend, but Sissy is still a young 2, and as for Buddy, I think it will happen. As for me there are several different things going on for adults in the morning. I’ve been going to an adult forum where current events are discussed, and for the most part I enjoy it because I get to discuss things with other people who are liberal, and most seem to be not that religious. I just wish there were some more people my age there, most are in their 70s!

There’s a worship service afterwords. I went once with Buddy to see what it was like and fortunately he wanted to leave to go to the bathroom after 5 minutes. While everything was a generic worshipping of our common human bond and not anything I objected to, it just felt beyond hokey to me. Until then I’d always felt guilty for skipping on the service and just going to the groups, but as we left I found that about half of the people in the church were not in service. Most of the members of the adult forum were still in their room talking. Others were socializing on other parts of the building. So I was assured I wasn’t committing some faux pas by skipping out of the church service.

Occasionally the adult forum gets blended with a different group called Adventures in Religion where they study different religious beliefs. I’m never a big fan of these days. The people are a bit more spiritual in this group and I feel more guarded. Also, while I used to read about different religions, that part of my curiosity seems dead. In high school through college I would say I felt it was important to read on different religious traditions to know how different people think. I read on major religions, such as Buddhism, and minor ones, such as Zoroastrianism. I was never interested in the spiritual aspects of seeking something, and engaging in meditative exercises or prayers always seemed hokey to me. It was an anthropological effort for me.

I’m not sure what changed. I think there’s a combination of that I got sick of religion being shoved down my throat and feeling like no one was exactly returning the favor with trying to understand where atheists are coming from and instead are in a rush to condemn atheists as immoral.

And today was just a bad morning. I tripped in the UU garden and sprained my ankle rather badly. I dropped my kids off and hobbled to the room hoping to put my feet up and have a discussion to distract me from the pain. Instead the room was crowded because we were combining groups, and instead of a comfortable upholstered chair close to the coffee table all that was left was a metal chair wedged between two people (and I’m a big bubble person in terms of personal space) with no coffee table. Further, instead of a discussion, three people were talking about an obscure religion and taking us through the prayers and meditative exercises.

There was something about being aware of where my breath was coming from, and my thought was, “My lungs! And my ankle HURTS!”

After 10 minutes I decided I’d had enough and I hobbled to the foyer to prop my leg up while I waited to pick up my kids. I felt a bit bad, I try not to leave because I don’t like disturbing people, but I was in too much pain and breathing exercises just weren’t distracting enough.

Now if it had been more anthropological with a history, sociological stats, stuff like that, it might have interested me a bit more. But taking me through the religious practices? Not so much. One religions prayers sound similar to another, one meditative technique bares many similarities to another.

I did realize something though about myself as I played games on my phone in the foyer and wondered why this stuff does not interest me in the least. I’m not interested in feeling connected to something larger that likely doesn’t even exist, and all of the exercises to do so just feel pointless to me. I just want to feel connected with other people. And being a liberal atheist in a conservative Christian state, I don’t. And it’s real hard to make friends when people will stop being your friend the moment they find out you are an atheist (either that or start trying to convert you and make every interaction with them annoying). It’s so difficult and painful that I don’t even bother to try anymore unless I’m at a place I know is tolerant. Hence why I like spending an hour of every week talking current events with other liberal minded people. Does more for me than meditating and mindfulness stuff.

So next week I’m hoping things are back to the usual current events. I’ve had enough meditating for a few months.


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