Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Spirituality Is

Hi, remember me? My name is Marc and today I'd like to talk to you about spirituality and how we all have it.


Don't fret. I'm still an atheist. However, I do want to show you how easy it is to have a spiritual 'feeling' or 'enlightenment' and not have one ounce of religious beliefs in your life. How? Well, it's easy as having a hobby!

You see to be spiritual means that you find yourself in what you do in the world. If you are an artist you will be spiritual through the art you create. If you play sports really well you will feel a sense of bonding with the sport you particularly like. Oh and how about praying to a god every Sunday? If you do any one of these things chances are you're going to feel very good and whole inside.

Now some who read this might argue that the feeling of hobbies is different from that of religious conviction. Well, I can certainly see how that argument might be made but let me be clear about something: I used to be a Christian and I remember quite well the feeling you'd get from having a 'moment with God/Jesus'. And you know what? It was simply amazing and invigorating. The problem is though when you throw belief into the a situation it becomes very discriminating against anything else that happens to share good feelings. When someone has a belief in a deity or 'force' they start to make believe that the feelings they're getting are from this religious conviction. It feels good doesn't it? This is why, I believe, religious people get very excited about their god and/or force because it makes them feel good. Their hobby, more or less, is belief in that god or force.

Disagree with me? Well take my example then of late. I've been attending a Unitarian Universalist Church (see my article below about my visit). During my visit I had an amazing spiritual awakening. I felt good, really good...self aware you might say. I could see all the problems in my life melt away and love was flowing through my body. I had a goofy smile on my face and damn if I didn't feel as if I was on top of the world! Reminds you of something huh? Well, I assure you this was not from the presence of a god. I was feeling the love of the community I was surrounded by and by my own feelings of self worth. Talk about enlightenment.

That feeling conjured up feelings from my past from, you guessed it, my time as a Christian. Shocking I know. Yes part of it was me going to the UU church, however, it was also my willingness to get up and go to the church as I'm not usually a morning riser. I expected this would help me spiritually and it did and thus I fulfilled my own goal and as we know accomplishing goals makes us feel good!

Another time I'd like to mention is when I went on a 2 hour hike into a canyon. The trip was long and arduous to be sure however it was the feeling I had when I came down that made all the difference. Can you guess how I felt? That's right, the exact same way I did at the UU church. Here I attribute it to a few things: exercise, fresh air, a great friend whom joined me, and nature. I remember afterwards exclaiming to my friend how I felt more clear than I have in years. Ideas and optimism seemed to be flowing. I felt like a spirit had embued me. Well, it was my spirit; the spirit of marc eriksen. Spirituality is thus this: You actualizing your goals and asperations and in turn getting motivated to continue on with them and the like.

Unfortunately, we can't all have spiritual moments in our life because life can sometimes be too busy. I don't mean to say that life is montenous and boring but rather when you do the things you enjoy you will find meaning in the tasks you do in your life. It's that simple. If you find yourself in a slump or just completely 'stuck' in a world you feel out of place in then make yourself appear in it by doing something like I did and I promise you will feel the spirituality of youself blossom into the world and take form. You are spiritual, when you want to be and it has nothing to do with a god-like being or religion.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Atheist in a Church

In our society, atheism and church tend to be strange bed fellows. Well, to most anyway. If you happen to have attended, or heard of, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation than you'll understand that atheists and churches are not as of a funny thing as most would imagine.

Today I, an atheist, attended one of these congregations in Chandler, AZ. I'd been meaning to for quite some time but alas things stopped me from going every time I attempted to get up for their service.

It was honestly intimidating at first. The church property is a lot bigger than I imagined it and a lot more people showed up than I thought would be interested in their group. However, I walked up to the door knowing this place would be accepting of a mindset such as mine as UU accepts all creeds, faiths, religions, etc. Their core belief is love and the ability for all humans of all beliefs to come together as one and work together with this love.

Love, as it turns out, was the central focus for the day (it having been Valentines Day and all yesterday). The church interior was like most churches. It had two sections of pews divided by a walk way to the pulpit and had hymnals sitting underneath the pew in front of where ever you chose to sit. The people looked no different from those you'd find in a Christian church or any other church for that matter. Some were dressed up and some were wearing more casual clothing. This isn't to say that the church had it's share of differences from that of a traditional religion's church.

Along the western wall a very humbling thing could be seen. Symbols from many religions together including Christianity, Toaism, Islam, Judiasm, Wicca, and even the Humanist logo for us atheists. turning to the south I saw beautiful abstract paintings hung up behind the pulpit that seemed to really give the building a warm glow. Clearly this place felt a lot more welcoming then even I imagined.

The service began with a few hymns sang to the tune of a piano. These hymns were not about a god though. They were about peace, loving, and sharing. I gladly sang each one knowing that I wasn't ascribing to a deity. The songs shortly transitioned into a welcoming to all the new comers and new children that were brought in. As it turns out today there was a special event where the children were being blessed by the preistess.

Each child came up to the pulpit with their parents and said their name; then was given a yellow rose and blessed with a thumb of water on the face with a short secular verse. The verse basically said "this child will be a peaceful force for our earth". After all the children and parents came up it was now time to do the bridge. This was something unique. Between the two rows of pews people would each across to the other side and grasp the other's hands to form an arch/bridge. This continued from one end of the pews to the others. For those not standing at the end they were encouraged to place their hands on the shoulders of those beside them as to all join in on the bridge. Upon construction the children and parents ducked through the bridge and out the other side. When the last child went to the end we sang a few more hymns followed by a few charities asking for donations for their organizations. Next, the sermon was given by the preistess.

As I stated earlier the sermon was about love. I couldn't even prepare myself for how blunt, funny, and enriching it was. First off the preistess joked about love as being caused by seratonin in our brain and how it was hard to imagine anything coming from that taken seriously. Some other highlights including joking about homosexuality and even a story wherein she married two women 20 years ago. It truly was a sermon about love and how it knows no bounds. I believe my favorite part of this came when she asked us all to meditate for five minutes while speaking to us about love and clearing/grounding ourselves. This was very special to me as I'm not real huge on prayer but love meditation.

The service eventually came to an end with an ancedote given by the preistess. It sent us all in a chuckle as some made their way to the door and others stayed around to mingle and partake in the snacks. I myself stayed to mingle and found some very fascinating people. One was an agnostic lawyer whom I talked to a bit about my beliefs and my future in studying law. Before he left he gave me his card and said I should call him if I want to talk to him about law.

Another couple talked to me for a bit about the service and religion in general. The man described to me a book by karen armstrong and recommeded I read it as it was a real great critique of religion. Out of all the people I met though there were three that I talked the most with: Caroline, Caralina, and Bryan.

I got into a discussion with these three about my standing on atheism and religion as well as politics. Each were very open and every enthuisastic to my point of view. Rather than attempt to debate my beleifs they listened with an open ear and asked more questions to find out more about how I came to their church. One of them exclaimed that the preistess is a Christian but that not all here are. I nodded and told her I saw that based on the sermon she gave but believe that it wasn't the central focus of what everyone believed, just her belief.

We ended up talking until the head of the building was locking up. We said our good-byes and they welcomed me back. "I think I will be back." I said optimistically. Well, upon taking it all in I think I'd better change that now. I will be back.

visit for more information on UU and the congregation.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dogfish Head Extravaganza!

A while back I gave two short reviews on beers that I enjoy very much. I said I'd follow up on it and like most things I left it in a corner to gather dust. However, I'm happy to say I'm finally blowing off the dust and putting it on display again with a couple more additions:

Black & Blue

Dogfish Head Breweries.

If you know me then you know my love of Dogfish Head's brewings. In the last review I talked a bit about 60 Minute IPA and it's complex nature. Well, not to put it to shame but Black and Blue blows it out of the water.

To be fair, Black and Blue is a fruit beer so it can't exactly be compared with 60 Minute IPA. The
thing is it's an occasional rarity so finding it makes me extremely excited enough to want to put it ahead of most beers I drink fallaciously. Basically Black and Blue is a mix of fermented Blackberries and Blue berries. While the berries used are very dark and blue in color the beer isn't as blue as the glass that young gent is holding in his hand above. The taste however....WOW....i'd definitely say it's the best fruit beer I've had. Period. The alcohol is hidden quite nicely considering its 10% ABV and the fruit really comes through and doesn't mesh with the beer at all. One thing about it though is that it's hard to distinguish between the black and blue berries when sipping it but that didn't stop me from killing an entire bottle in one evening. Hell, I even liked it more than Dogfish Head's Fort, which most fans of Dogfish Head seem to like more.

World Wide Stout

Amazing. That's the best way to describe this one of a kind stout. No, wait. Strong. Okay, there are actually two ways to describe it. On second thought....It's also dark as fucking midnight in medieval london! The point is I could go on dishing out positive attributes of this beer. Why? I'm a stout lover; that's why.

Dogfish Head has truly worked their magic with this beer to make it smooth and flavorful as a stout should be. In my Guinness review I stated how I loved it because there wasn't a taste of alcohol. The only taste you had was the malts and fermentation and MITHRA is it delicious. Well, World Wide Stout puts Guinness to shame (GASP!). Two reasons: complex taste and alcohol content. Let me try to explain.

First off, it's important to note that when it comes down to price and availability I won't be drinking many of these. World Wide Stout is an occasional rarity much like Black and Blue. The stuff also sells for a wicked $10 for EACH 12 ounce bottle. So far I've only had two and that's probably all I'll end up having during this batch's roll out. Let me stress to you (if I haven't already enough) this IS a fucking kick you in the ass good stout! It's flavor has so many notes and hints that listing it would go on for a quite awhile. A few to note though are chocolate, coffee, black cherry, chicory, concurrent, etc. It blows my mind! As a double whammy these tastes not only over power your senses but they help to prevent the alcohol from over powering your taste. At 18% + that's pretty damn hard to do.

This beer is a sipper and I think you can understand why. It will be your stout if you love stouts. If you don't like stouts you'll believe you have just wasted $10. If that's the case send that shit to me even if the bottles been open. I love it that much!

A man
A machine
A heart
A mind
A love
A body
A a....