January 14, 2013

On December 9, 2012, my wife Diana and I escorted an elderly friend to an annual Polish Wigilia—an event featuring the traditional meal that a Polish family would have on Christmas Eve, followed by the singing of Polish Christmas carols. It was a delight to immerse ourselves in this old tradition.

Diana and I have different philosophies regarding religion: She is a Baha’i (belonging to a world faith that promotes the unity of all faiths and the evolution of all things, including religion); and, as James Randi quipped on learning Diana is a Baha’i, I am “a Below.” To learn more about each other’s views—and those of various faith and even non-faith traditions—we developed something we call a Religabout.

A combined form of religion and walkabout (an Australian Aboriginal term for a type of nomadic quest), Religabout is our name for an excursion taken in order to observe or experience some religion-related event. We do not go to mock or challenge but rather to learn about other people and cultures.

Examples I have blogged about (without labeling them Religabouts) include “Visiting the Buddhist Monks” (who were making a ritual sand painting), blog of September 8, 2010; “Experiencing the Psychomanteum” (a mirrored chamber for invoking spirits at a Spiritualist village), blog of December 23, 2010; and even attending a movie like The Rite (which I then critiqued as one of my “Nickell-odeon” reviews), blog of February 2, 2011.

Other Religabouts have included such varied venues as tent revivals, an Appalachian river baptism, Catholic bingo, a Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible study and training session, Spiritualist readings, a midnight Christmas mass, interfaith meetings, a Presbyterian lecture series and a Presbyterian service, dinner and fundraising for Syrian refugees at a mosque, other mosque events, a traveling Vatican art exhibit, an African-American religious service and picnic, a faith-healing service—well, you get the idea. The opportunities are limitless. Sometimes, coming upon one unexpectedly, we make fast changes to our plans.

While one can go on a Religabout alone, going with another person—perhaps especially one with a different perspective—may be more stimulating and productive. In some cases, going as a group is a possibility (Paul Kurtz once led several of us from CFI to a Mormon pageant, for example), although in some situations a group could draw unwanted attention. Remember, one is there to learn, not to disrupt.

We hope this idea resonates with you. A Religabout can be interesting, fun, stimulating, charming, informative, provocative, entertaining, and more; it may often be surprising or even disappointing. Some of what it will be will depend on what you bring to it.