Adam Snider

New Blog: Daily Disciplines

In Spiritual Practices on January 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

I’m not sure how many people still read this blog, if any, but I did say that if I didn’t start posting more either here or on a new blog within the first week of January, that you should all kick my ass.

No one has kicked my ass, despite the fact that, if you read this blog, it will appear that I haven’t done so.

However, I have started a new blog surrounding some of the things I discussed in my previous post. It’s called Daily Disciplines and it is where I am doing most of my “spiritual” blogging now.

I’ll likely keep this site up and running for some of my more personal and/or introspective stuff, but Daily Disciplines is the main focus for the time being. Please check it out: http://www.dailydisciplines.net.

A New Spirituality for a New Year

In Spiritual Practices on December 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

As the New Year approaches, I have begun reflecting on the year gone by and looking toward the year to come.

In that regard, I’ve been thinking a lot about my spirituality. This mostly falls into the “looking toward the year to come” category, but there is some reflection to be had, too.

First, the reflection.

My spiritual practices have been all but non-existent in the past year. One thing that I set out to do at the beginning of 2010 was to read the A Year With Rumi: Daily Readings from beginning to end, one poem a day, as intended. This didn’t happen. I lasted for a few weeks, at best, and then lost the practice.

More recently, I’ve tried to take up the practice of meditation. Again, I did really good for a week or two and then I let it fall by the wayside.

Essentially, I left the discipline out of spiritual discipline.

In the new year, I hope to recover that missing element. I’ve got a few spiritual “goals” in mind, which will require some discipline:

  • Reading from A Year With Rumi on a daily basis;
  • Reading the entire Bible, following the “Reading the Bible in One Year” guide in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Bible;
  • Meditating on a daily basis; and
  • Attending church regularly.

The last one shouldn’t be too difficult. I already do this. This weekly discipline is easy for me to fulfill. I already know that I get value out of it. Plus, it’s also a social outing, since I have friends at church who I enjoy seeing on a regular basis (some of them, due to differing schedules, are people whom I only see on Sundays).

The other items on the list require some amount of effort and discipline on my part.

I haven’t been so good at maintaining discipline—spiritual or otherwise—in my life, recently. About the only discipline I maintain is making sure that I get my ass to work everyday. And, honestly, a large part of the reason that I can maintain that discipline is because I have someone else holding me to it (i.e., my boss). If I worked for myself, at this stage in my life, I’m not sure I’d do well.

I would like to be self-employed someday, though, so training myself to be disciplined will be good for me in ways that are practical, as well as in ways that are spiritual.

I’ll be chronicling my efforts with maintaining these disciplines throughout the year—this will, itself, be another discipline to maintain. Despite the research indicating that sharing your goals can make it harder to actually achieve them, I’m hoping that writing these things down and making an effort to share my efforts on a regular basis, I will actually hold to these and other disciplines that I want to begin/maintain throughout 2011.

I’m currently debating whether or not I should create a new blog for this. I have this grand idea in my head of starting one of those “personal development/self-improvement” blogs based on my daily spiritual practices. Making a lot of money off of such a blog would be great, but I have no illusions about that.

I know that it’s an over-saturated niche; I’d be doing it mostly for myself, but also because I truly want to share my experiences and ideas with others.

Somehow, using this blog for that purpose doesn’t seem like the right way of going about it.

This blog, I feel, is more of a personal thing. And it doesn’t just talk about my spiritual disciplines and the things that I learn from them. It talks about going to church. It talks about what I think god might be. It talks about whatever I damn well feel like, to be frank.

It’s less focused than I’d want this new blog I’ve imagined to be.

I’ll let those thoughts stew for a while. In the meantime, I’ll be practicing my disciplines and writing about them—whether here or elsewhere. If you don’t see me writing about these things (or announcing a new blog) within the first week of the New Year, please kick my ass…hard.

Where Does Tolerance End?

In Religion on November 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Author’s Note: This is only a half-formed thought, at present. I am writing this largely as a way to help myself explore these thoughts; I actually hope to come to a bit more of a solid understanding of my personal thoughts on this and then present something similar as a sermon at my church in the future.

Where does religious tolerance end? At what point does someone cross the line where I can no longer respect their beliefs?

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot in recent months.

As a Unitarian, I am supposed to respect the religious beliefs and values of others. The 3rd and 4th principles of my faith talk about this, stating that Unitarian Universalists are to affirm and promote:

  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth […]; and
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Now, that first one, technically, ends with “[…] in our congregations,” but I think it is fair to extend it beyond just UU congregations. We should at least try to accept all people and to encourage all people to grow spiritually (in whatever way they find meaningful).

But, at what point can I say, “No. I will not respect your beliefs.” At what point can I draw that line?

I believe that the line must be drawn in the sand at some point. I cannot simply say that, as a liberal religious person, I accept any and all beliefs. I do not. I cannot.

If you believe in a personal god who will answer prayers, fine. I don’t, but I won’t disparage your beliefs. This is not the sort of thing that I’m referring to when I talk about drawing a line.

I’m talking about beliefs and values which are hateful. When someone uses religion as an excuse for committing acts of terror, I will draw the line. When someone uses religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people, I will draw the line. When someone uses religion as an excuse to eliminate democracy, to commit murder, or to otherwise commit acts of evil, I will draw the line.

These lines are easy to draw. And, I don’t feel that they are outside of the realm of that 4th prinicple that I mentioned above, affirmation and promotion of  “A free and responsible (emphasis added) search for truth and meaning.” Using faith and religion as a justification for evil acts means that you are no longer being responsible in your search, and so I am comfortable drawing these lines.

But what about more subtle lines?

What about the church whose members say that homosexuality is a sin but that they hate the sin, not the sinner? Do I have to respect and accept the beliefs of these people? If they are not actively harming anyone with their beliefs, do I have to accept them? Am I violating the principles of my faith if I do not accept them?

Technically, these people are not hurting anyone—not directly or intentionally, at least. But they are being discriminatory. They are claiming that something as inherent to a person’s identity as their sexuality is somehow wrong unless it matches a specific definition of heterosexuality (and, most likely, not any sort of queer heterosexuality).

It would be one thing if they were simply being exclusionary. By just about any definition, all groups are exclusionary to some extent or another. Even Unitarians are exclusionary. We would not accept into our fold, for example, the people I described earlier—the people who use religion as an excuse to promote hatred and evil.

And, in practice, we are likely just as exclusionary as most other religions, though we may not be willing to admit it (or even consciously aware of it).

So, I would be OK with beliefs which are exclusionary. That is the nature of most religions. I am not OK with beliefs that are discriminatory. And so I find it hard not to drawn a line in front of even that more “tame” form of religious homophobia—the hate the sin not the sinner variety.

But this, I guess, is where things fall apart for me. I’m drawing this line, but is doing so the “right” thing to do? Does doing so violate the principles by which I try to live my life?

I’m not sure.

And, because I often find myself on the side of religion in debates about ethics and morality, on the side of the religious person, saying that religion is not inherently evil or immoral but that human nature causes many of us to interpret it in a way that justifies our actions, I don’t necessarily know where to draw the line.

What if I draw the lines to rigidly and too close. Do I end up vilifying religion? Do I end up boxing myself into a situation where I end up saying that my faith is the only true faith?

More thoughts on this to come…please leave any comments that you may have…