This is a little story about a whistle stop on the way to atheism. My husband Mike wrote this one.

This is a little story about a whistle stop on the way to atheism. My husband Mike wrote this one. So I thought I would share.

Our Lady Of Spiritual Ambiguity by Mike Pence

LeiLani Burt stood upon the stage, arms outstretched, swaying to the lilting music, perfectly quaffed and immaculate in her Sunday best. For a 60-something year old woman she was kind of hot, enormous hair bun and all. With her eyes firmly closed, and head tilted slightly back, she spoke, "We welcome you now to this sacred, breathe...let the chair hold you...because it will!"

And it did, for a while at least. After leaving the Witnesses and moving to Phoenix, that literally and figuratively hellish place, we missed the socialization of being around a group of like-minded people. When it had been good, being a Witness, it had been great, but those moments were fleeting and illusory. The gossip, the back-biting and clannishness eventually soured most relationships, and when the chips were down and times were hard, for anyone, the depth of the JW's commitment to each other was shown to be as thin as the leather on those damned bibles.

Plus, you know, the whole fucking thing had been a lie.

So our search for a kinder, gentler place to find community and a sense of spirituality -- having not progressed yet into atheism -- lead us to Unity of Phoenix. Unity was certainly the anti-Kingdom Hall. It was huge, and embraced the ideas central to the New Age Book Store mentality, flavored with the language of recovery with a little Judeo-Christian lingo on top. As their web site proclaims, "As expressions of God, we create a consciousness of love and celebrate the Divinity within all people." It was nice to hear about how we are all ok, for once. Even if the expressions were more than a little vague and the music more than a little too cheesy.

Raven and I came to refer to Unity, in our conversations with each other, as Our Lady of Spiritual Ambiguity. There was a non-specific feel good nature to the whole thing, but ultimately it felt hollow. I bought many books from the church book store, and immersed myself in Neil Donald Walsh and in books inspired by A Course in Miracles. Jesus had channeled some (poorly written) text to a dentist through a psychologist he was having a fling with, or something. It all abused the English language horribly and went through conceptual gymnastics that left me re-reading paragraphs searching for a germ of substance, maybe even just a coherent thought. (See For all of its strangeness, it inspired people to look at themselves in a healthier way than the Witnesses had.

And those people were nice enough. I went to someone's house on a regular basis to talk about Walsh's books, which I liked the best out of all of them. He had Native American feathery dream catcher things on his walls, and shiny colored stones all around. Once he reminisced fondly about his fraternity getting together with a bunch of sorority girls and having something of an orgy -- an oral train, they had called it -- in his frat house. Good times, apparently.

"I went to Sedona, and got my chakra photographed for $60," said a nice lady who attended (the Walsh meetings, not the oral train). "They said there is a dark spot in my aura, right above my forehead. What do you think that means?"

"I think that means you are out sixty bucks," I replied. As I left, the host was kind enough to explain to me how he thought that perhaps our paths were leading in different directions. True enough.

So, it didn't last long. A whistle stop, really, on our journey to finding meaning. It was nice to see the kinder side of religion, to see a church that embraced homosexuals, hippies and freaks like us. But the Jesus stuff still made me nauseous -- I wanted nothing to do with anything that even resembled Christianity. It seemed out of place in such a tolerant church. Magical thinking still pervaded though, and believing that every person is a perfect expression of God lead us to expose ourselves to people who were not harmless. It was still naive. We let the chairs hold us, and much to LeiLani's astonishment, they did, but finally we stood up and left.

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