After every visit (or 600 mile pilgrimage) to the rural home of my parents, both in their 9th decade, I come away with renewed awareness of my spirituality and what that could possibly be. And I am grateful for it, because otherwise I get far away from thinking about where I came from and where I'm going, in the afterlife/ otherlife. And I think its good to keep tabs on that.
My Parent Pilgrimage frequently entails a a visit to a local church event, since church events are a cultural mainstay in the farming community where I grew up. These events can range from well-organized to casual, from traditional to contemporary, from a few dozen people to maybe a hundred. Of course this importance of religion is carried into daily life. Sundays finds the majority of the population going to church. A lot of stores, except the megastores like WalMart, are closed on Sunday. And always, during any meal (which Mom fixes from scratch), Mom will look at me as my fingers twitch to grab my fork and start eating and say, "Do you want to say prayers?" Dad gets out of this request, for several reasons, 2 of which are that (1) hes pretty much deaf and can pretend not to hear, and (2) Mom and he have the understanding that he has never minded her religious dedication but he does not share the same outward enthusiasm for it she does. I, being one of the more wayward of their brood (I make no pretense at being a churchgoer these days), provide the best target for home spiritual improvment when I'm within reach. And Mom, God or god bless her, has plenty of energy left to improve those who don't fit her world view. Its a small crusade. But a vigorous one.
I always say "No, I don't," unless I've been staying with them for more than 3 days and have also been told which spoon to use to stir the stir-fry, which trash can I can put which garbage into, and that I need to lose weight. Then I am likely to answer "No" in a way that precludes any more requests for the remainder of my visit. I love my Mom, and I appreciate that someone cares about my soul, but as I have tried to console her: we all have our little religious ways, and as we all know the Catholics might show up at the Baptist dinners but probably won't, and the Baptists would not for the forestalling of certain foreclosure of their place of worship offer a Bingo and Beer nite. This does not mean that the Catholics or Baptists either one find more favor on Judgment Day, although that argument still rages in some quarters but since Mom's sister has been Catholic for decades, she has eased up on that particular theological view.
So to comfort her and to get her off my back, I recently explained my compost-pile theology. I cannot throw out any organic waste into the urban garbage system. It seriously goes against my religion, my mental bent, by emotional leanings. It upsets me to mix uncooked vegetable matter with kleenexes or cooked leftovers or used cat litter (note: can I use cat litter in my garden? I do use rabbit poo.). I have a composter in my suburban backyard garden and religiously contribute to it. I keep a sealed, 5 gallon, former cat litter container secured under my kitchen sink to catch everything from carrot shavings to tea bags (minus unholy staples if they are present). I simply cannot in good conscience kill vegetable matter. Rather than bag autumn leaves and leave them to the mercies of the efficient city collection services (and I think they really take them to a compost place, somewhere), I mow over them and let them take their chances to blow around or rot on the grass (note; I have enthusiastically tried to get the leaves to lay on my grass all winter and kill it, but the grass is equally enthusiastic about growing and refuses to lay down and die, despite dire warnings I have heard from multiple sources that if leaves languish on it all winter it WILL die. I encourage at least slow growth, by withholding fertilizer. To avoid the whole mow/ don't mow issue, I am substituting an herb garden, slowly but surely, for the entire yard, but it takes time.)
My feelings for the Life of Vegetable and Fruit Remnants has some Pantheist backing for legitimacy: Everything is in God and God is in Everything. I do not say this lightly, although I am applying it mostly to this one segment of my life (since Mom has recently forced me to see this aspect of my self, perhaps it applies to other areas as well, such as my unacountable love and care of my cats' litter boxes). And I can remind Mom that the Earth Mother religion of PreHistoric Novelist Jean Auel's noted Children of the Earth novels is undergoing a resurgence, that the Gaea Theory of Mother Earth is rising to compete with global warming/industrial crime against the environment, and probably a few other true facts. I could say all this to Mom to comfort her, support my stand, and work it all out for myself, but she would glaze over after the litter-box-under-the-sink spiel. But it might get me out of refusing dinner prayers for a while.
I am not ditzing my mom about this. I am happy she is happy being Protestant and saying prayers over the food she lovingly and ritually serves her loved ones. Including the tons of Christmas candy and cookies we don't need. She does it as an act of love, just like she prays for all five of her kids, just like she wants us all to get along even though it'll be a cold day in hell. I respect her religions, all of them, even the ones she doesn't lay claim to having: the religions of Good Wife and Mother, Traditional Cook, Loyal Daughter ( I try to practice that one), Gardener, Bird Feeder Guardian, Cat and Dog Trainer, and on and on.
I am sincere in telling her that its ok, I do respect the Universe, my life, all life, I just do it in my own way. I respect the Catholics and the Baptists and I believe all religion is part of God and god is all Religions. And to her credit, Mom is sincerely interested in what kind of composter I have.