“What is your religion?” Wow, if I had a nickel every time….
Sometimes an appropriate answer is “Jewish.” At other times “Catholic.” Usually I answer “nonreligious.” Sometimes “heathen.” And rarely “atheist.” My mother is Jewish. My father is Catholic. I am neither. As a Jewish, atheist, Catholic graduate student at Yale Divinity School, I was very familiar with the tilted-head, squinted-eyes, confused responses to my declaration of non-faith. Raised in an abundance of faiths, I claim—and am claimed—by several and none. My mother raised me with her secular brand of Judaism that did not involve attending temple or participating in anything spiritual on a regular basis. My father’s influence, though Catholic at its base, incorporated teachings from many faith traditions. My holiday gatherings included evangelical atheists, ex-priests, devout Catholics, high-holiday Jews, evangelical Christians, dabbling Buddhists, and many gradients in-between. I am often found at churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples of which I am not a member. I actually enjoy Mass—even the boring bits. In short, I am enthralled by religion. In my religious studies, in and out of the classroom, I find things that thrill, that horrify, that inspire, and that amuse.
With respect, curiosity, and humor, I am actively engaged in nurturing not just interfaith, but inter-belief dialogues and initiatives. I am a founding member of the Open Party—an atheist, agnostic, interfaith, and multi-faith group at Yale Divinity School that fosters inter-belief dialogue on and off campus as well as community service projects that include religious and nonreligious alike. I have a Masters of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School and presented my paper, “Do Christian-Muslims or Muslim-Christians Exist?” at the Understanding Religious Pluralism conference at Georgetown University in May 2012. As a poetry/English major at Colorado College located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I enjoyed the tension between the so-called “atheist school” and the many evangelical Christian organizations headquartered in that city. I have traveled extensively and often find myself at holy cities and sites. I have already explored Jerusalem, Lhasa, and Varanasi, but I have not yet found myself in Rome. For a year I taught English in Tianjin, China where I did my best to immerse myself in a culture decidedly different from my own. Through all these adventures my camera has been my constant and most faithful companion. If I can’t find a temple to explore, I enjoy quirky, offbeat museums—my favorite of which is the chamberpot and taxidermy museum in New Zealand, otherwise known as the Wagoner Museum, unfortunately, now defunct.