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Offerings Without an Altar

By       Message Elayne Clift       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 9/28/09

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When my children were quite young, we took them to Europe. With each cathedral we visited in England, Italy, and France my daughter's eyes grew wider. She marveled at the beauty of stained glass windows and flowered altars. She lit more and more candles. Finally she asked, "Mom, if I decided to be Christian would you be mad?" Being both a good liberal and a decent Jew, I said she could choose whatever religion she wanted when she was older, but first she should study many faiths so that she could make a good choice.

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I felt a bit guilty about that advice because I hadn't chosen my religion carefully: I was born Jewish and stayed that way. But it seemed appropriate for my kids to consider various options since they are the product of an interfaith marriage.

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Now that I am teaching a course in Comparative Religion, I've been doing a lot of reading about the world's religious beliefs and practices. So I decided to do an assignment I gave my students: Choose a religion other than your own and explain why it appeals to you.

A problem immediately arose: I couldn't choose just one. Since I essentially reject organized religion of any kind, believing much as Marx did that it is an "opiate for the masses" (and holding it accountable for much of the world's suffering), no single doctrine invites me. But I did find something from almost every belief system I read about that I could buy into.

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Take, for example, indigenous religions that reveal an extraordinary sensitivity to the natural elements. Holistic cultures like those of Native Americans or Australian aborigines usually see human beings as part of a wider, natural universe in which everything is alive (a concept often called animism) and the life force is everywhere. There is a sense of holiness in everyday living. Creation myths abound and often they teach amazing life lessons. Ancestors are honored and the life cycle is celebrated.

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Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)

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