Confessions, part 8

I had made a commitment to Unitarian Universalism. When people asked me what religion I was, instead of saying "nothing" or "a little bit of everything" (depending upon how much I felt like explaining myself), I would say I'm a Unitarian. It was tentative at first. I said it a little abashedly and waited to see what the reaction would be - from others and from myself. Like trying on a new coat to check the fit.

In some ways the new coat felt surprisingly good. Despite having spent so much time priding myself on my independent thinking, there was a part of me that took comfort in being able to point to something bigger than just me. For example, when the March for Women's Lives came to DC in April 2004, for the first time in my life I marched as part of a religious group. Within the million or so protesters that marched that day, and the hundreds of pro-life counter protesters that lined the streets, many of us were representing religious groups. For the first time, instead of relying on the individualistic arguments of civil rights, I could respond from a moral authority that was more than just my opinion - religious values which I shared with others and which had been part of a long tradition of religious liberalism.

In other ways, the new coat still felt quite "itchy." For example, it took some time to get used to saying that I go to "church." I always felt the urge to qualify that statement - "but it's a UU church so it's ok" (and sometimes I did qualify it and sometimes I didn't). In the circles in which I ran - within science and amongst liberals - people who went to church were viewed as somehow "less" - less intelligent, less educated, less rational, less able to think critically and independently. And here I was now, "one of them." What would my friends and colleagues think of me? At first I vowed simply not to tell others. But the things that were happening in my church were so exciting that I couldn't help it. I had to share it. And then I was embarrassed when I did. The label of being a "religious" person took some getting used to.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative