So, here's what I've lined up so far for tomorrow's whirlwind spirituality tour of the Seattle area:
- Agnosticism. Before leaving the house, re-reading this wonderful essay by Carolyn Porco on the spiritual potential of science.
- Scientology. Visiting their bookstore, and perhaps seeing an introductory film, at their downtown church. Unfortunately their actual service (to which newcomers are apparently welcome) is at 11am, which conflicts with the following Eckankar service.
- Eckankar. Attending the 11am service in West Seattle.
- Hinduism. Lunch at Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont. In fairness this restaurant is run by followers of Sri Chinmoy, whose teachings apparently differ in significant ways from mainstream Hinduism, but I didn't feel right about attempting to sit in on anything at the Bothell Hindu Temple and Cultural Center - to judge by the photographs posted on their web site their services are small and I would have stood out like a sore thumb. [Note: in general, in trying to put this day together I drew the line at participating in something if I thought my presence would be distracting - the needs of attendees who want to pray obviously should trump something much closer to simply satisfying personal curiosity.]
- Islam. Ideally, an afternoon tour of the Northgate Idriss Mosque. Unfortunately, I sent in the Mosque's form requesting a Sunday tour a week ago and haven't yet heard back. If this tour falls through, my fallback plan is to attend Georgetown University professor John Esposito's Monday evening talk on the future of Islam at Seattle's Town Hall, and fill its Sunday time slot with a visit to Seattle's newest museum.
- Secular Humanism. Dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant Queen Sheba on Capitol Hill. I realize that over 96% of Ethiopians are either Christian or Muslim - my thought was rather that Ethiopia contains one of the oldest (if not the oldest) human settlement sites that archaeologists have ever found, so in a way their country is also a symbol of human origin. I suppose if I were being honest with myself I'd admit I shoehorned this in because Ethiopian cuisine is inexpensive and delicious, but I'm perfectly willing to be dishonest with myself if going here is the result.
- Buddhism. A forty-minute Zen meditation sitting, followed by tea.
- Christianity. The 9:30pm Compline Service at St. Mark's Cathedral (Anglican).
Here are some of the religions I ideally should have included in tomorrow's tour, either because their number of adherents makes them significant or because they're culturally interesting for some other reason, but either did not or could not:
- Baha'i Faith. The only church activities offered near Seattle on Sunday conflicted with other things I'd already scheduled. As the newest of the world's major monotheistic religions I was particularly interested in including Baha'i, and not being able to do so was my second-greatest source of frustration in planning tomorrow's activities [honestly my greatest source of frustration in planning tomorrow's activities was the Idriss Mosque never getting back to me :(]
- Judaism. Given the day I couldn't find any practical options, but to be fair it has been less than two years since I spent almost a half-day with Congregation Lubavitch in New York City's Crown Heights neighborhood, as part of their comprehensive tour which even included seeing Torah scrolls being made and restored, so it's not as if I've been slacking :)
- Mormonism. I couldn't find anything on the web site for their Bellevue temple which indicated events at which newcomers were welcome, and their temple's accompanying bookstore (which is apparently open to the public) is closed on Sunday. However, some years ago I had the opportunity to tour their public facilities in Salt Lake City UT, so I'm at least not completely ignorant of their religion.
- Sikhism. Although this religion has large numbers of adherents, most live in the Punjab state of India. They're striving to form their first permanent facility in the Seattle area, but as far as I can tell don't currently offer English-language introductions to their faith.
- Raelian Movement. Their movement is centered on contact with extra-terrestrials and cloning, which is obviously interesting to anyone who enjoys science fiction, but they do not appear to offer regular activities in the Seattle area at all.
- Adidam. The person who founded this faith claims he is God, personally. So, he's a quintessential example of an old-school guru, and he even looks the part. I admit I'm curious what his followers intend to do once their guru passes on. However, they're not offering anything tomorrow, and out of curiosity I'd attended one of their meetings long ago.
- Osho. When growing up, the activities of this group's teacher (then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) and his followers, in founding Rajneeshpuram, were a huge issue in Oregon State. However, I'd already satisfied my curiosity by attending one of their events last year, and given that their teacher is obviously deceased and they don't recruit, there would presumably not be any difference this year.
- New Age. As far as I can tell, this kind of thing isn't characterized by any particular belief system, but rather by the habit of attending workshops (which themselves pull bits and pieces from some of the faiths mentioned above) and purchasing objects which are advertised as having spiritual significance. I suppose I could say that I included a "New Age" experience in my Sunday religion tour by walking into a store and buying an inexpensive crystal, but even I have my limits :)
- Neo-Paganism. My guess is that 90% of the 9000 people who attended the Rainbow Family Gathering that I visited just seven months ago (as part of my grand tour of New Mexico) subscribe to at least some beliefs which fall under this general heading. As far as I'm concerned, that's good enough :)