We’ve heard through the grapevine that readers have been able to purchase Beyond Belief on their e-readers! This means the conversation has officially started. And we’d love for you to join in (by commenting on posts with opinions, questions, or stories of your own).
When we first met in author Laura Kalpakian’s memoir class and started talking about our respective experiences inside our faith communities, we were both amazed to discover what we had in common. I (Cami) didn’t face any of the specific food or clothing restrictions that Susan was obliged to follow, and she wasn’t required to strictly and wholeheartedly “believe” a particular set of doctrine in order to achieve salvation as I was, but we did both very much value the communities we had been a part of (in spite of leaving them). Upon further discussion, we also discovered that for both of us, leaving meant reformulating our identities (just as joining had meant).
So much of being a part of a faith community (or a faith perspective—with or without the people who come along with it) is about identity. Tough questions are answered inside of religion. The more extreme/fundamentalist/orthodox the religion, the more questions are answered. Who am I? What do I believe? What is my purpose on the planet? What should my relationship with outsiders be? What is the “proper” way to participate in education/marriage/child-rearing/worship? All of these questions answer, at least in part, the question of who a person is.
When someone walks away from her sect or her doctrine, she has to decide if she still holds to the answers given to her about the questions listed above (among others). If she doesn’t, she needs to either answer the questions differently or learn to live in new relationship with the questions themselves.
When we conceived of Beyond Belief, one thing we were interested in was making a place where women could talk about how this need to reinvent themselves impacted their lives once they departed from what was once a firm conviction. For me, reinventing meant finding new rituals that would center me and make me feel secure. I used to get up every morning and spend an hour in prayer and Bible reading. Now I get up and run. It’s a new kind of prayer and reading that I do with my body.
How about you? How has/did your faith or religious affiliation inform your identity? How has that changed over time? What’s new about how you answer the questions: Who am I? What do I believe? What is my purpose on the planet? What should my relationships be like?
Can’t wait to hear from you!