Opening Up About My Religious Practices

Over the course of the last several months, my practice, the way that I actually do my religion, has been a work in progress. In the beginning of the Religion Project, things were changing fairly substantially and also fairly rapidly. By my very nature, I'm a hacker, and I mean that in all the various definitions of that term. I tinker. I improve things incrementally. I play. While my practice definitely still evolves and adapts to changing conditions and new discoveries, I feel like I've finally settled into a routine that feels right and comfortable.

I've written very little publicly about my practice to this point because I feel that, in many ways, our different religious practices are what separate or differentiate us. I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, a denomination of Christianity based on the notion that individual Christians may interpret the Bible as they see fit. In addition, for Baptists, each church is autonomous, and they make decisions—even big decisions about theological focus or liturgy—as a congregation by popular vote. Historically, each church and each Baptist have a lot of individual variation. I have seen tiny villages with two equally tiny Baptist churches that mainly differentiated themselves by which hymnal they preferred. Theologically, these churches were exactly the same. (In fact, they were splinters of the same mother church.) However, their differences in practice made them distinct and kept them separate. Likewise, within both congregations, there was a diversity of belief about matters like whether drinking alcohol was okay, what role women should have in the church, and even what the afterlife was like. I learned at a very early age that what binds religious communities together is very often not orthodoxy (similarity of belief) but rather orthopraxis (similarity of practice).

As long as I'm not writing about my practice, it's easier for readers to find commonality in my words. Humans are more alike than different. A feeling of reverence for Nature, an uncertainty about the existence or nature of the divine, a desire for initiation rites...These are feelings that I think we all feel to some degree. They are part and parcel of being human. They are nearly universal. And yes, the Religion Project is ultimately a documentary or a confessional, rendering my pilgrimage, my jihad, in a narrative form. However, like many human endeavors, it's also an attempt to reach out and connect with others, a series of social media posts that reaches out in the wilds of the Internet and says, "It's not just you. We all feel uncertain about the really big questions. We are all seekers in one way or another. My struggle to find meaning is not unlike yours. We're in this together." I worry that writing about my practice will break the spell and we'll all just go back to being pumpkins, mice, and domestic laborers at the stroke of midnight.

As I mentioned, however, I'm also a hacker, and a major part of computer geek culture (at least the parts of it that I call home) is the idea of open source. Open source software and free (as in "freedom") software are all about collaboration and sharing your solutions. When a developer comes up with a clever solution to a problem they're experiencing, they share that solution with everyone and they give other people the ability to make changes to that solution. Over time, a simple solution discovered by one person to solve a very narrow problem improves to help hundreds or even thousands of people that person has never met. As a BSD and Linux hacker for over fifteen years, this culture of sharing is an important part of who I am. If I find a clever software solution, my first inclination is to share it with the community, and over the last few weeks, I've come to the same conclusion about my personal religion and the devotional practices associated with it.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to make a concerted effort to open up a little more and share specifics of my practice here on this collection. I do so in the hopes that maybe someone else will find these details useful for their own religious/spiritual/devotional practice. I encourage you to steal and adapt anything you think might be useful and just move right on past the stuff that doesn't feel applicable to your beliefs, traditions, or devotional practices. Even if none of it turns out to be personally useful to you, I think there's still value in learning about the different ways each of us performs our religions. Some folks gather to sing hymns and listen to sermons. Some folks lay down a prayer rug and pray in the direction of Mecca. Some folks chant "Hare Krishna" together. Regardless of our differences, we are all interconnected parts of the same beautiful tapestry.