Friday, April 17, 2009

Why an Atheist had to Re-shape God(dess)

As you all know, I attend the Unitarian Universalist Church. Two of the women in our local congregation are leading a class called "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven", based on this curriculum. While very few readers new me as a child, those who did know that I was fascinated with ancient Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian (to name a few) mythologies. So even though I wasn't interested in finding another deity to worship, I was drawn to the group because I wanted to learn more about goddesses in particular.

The first couple of sessions I attended were a little more theist-centered than I was comfortable with. I almost decided not to keep going. But the women leading the discussions stressed to us that they wanted to make our group into its own little community where we could rely on each other. So I stuck out the first five sessions. I'm glad I did. I'm now eagerly attending the next six sessions.

The websites I linked to should give you an idea of what ground the sessions cover. What I want to go into here is how empowering it has been for me to re-create the god I don't believe in as female. When you're raised LDS (my god, that's two posts in a row in which I've dealt with Mormonism), you're taught that Adam and Eve were the first people on the planet and that they worshiped Jesus Christ and his Father. So the concept that other mythologies legitimately predated Christianity was a foreign one for most of us.

Mormon teachings also had the potential for there to be goddesses, but it was never fleshed out, and we were discouraged from searching out this (these) woman (women). We were told that our Heavenly Mother was too sacred, that God was protecting her from blasphemy by not revealing her to us. As I learned more about feminist theory, this idea began to rankle me. Who was God to tell his wife that she couldn't reveal herself to her children and interact with us in ways similar to him?

Mormonism was full of stories about men. It was a boys game. It revolved around a male savior sent by a male god to save men. Women were exalted for bearing more men. Or we were put on a pedestal and told that we were too special and busy with the kids to bother ourselves with any administrative duties (the Relief Society used to be under the sole control of the women called to lead it. Then the men decided they needed to oversee even that. *coughcontrolfreakscough*).

Learning about the history of goddess worship allowed me to rebuild my spiritual history. There were stories about female deities who loved their children, who interacted with them, who guided them. I now have stories I can draw from where women were the heroines. Where we existed for our own sake and not the ends of the patriarchy.

Perhaps the single most important thing this class did was help me let go of some of my remaining reticence about my personal space and ambition. I've always been pretty laid back. But I had taken that to an unhealthy level when I was a member of the church. I didn't know how to say, "no", or "I have the right to goals and ambition as much as you do," or "I'm glad you appreciate my physical appearance, but I'm much more than that." While I had realized these things in theory after leaving the church, having this history of strong women/deities to build off of finally enabled me to put these things into practice. I'm more assertive now and more ambitious.

So I'm still just as much a heathen atheist as I was before attending these discussions, but I'm a stronger woman for it.