Search Results for: religion

Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston

Longreads Pick

“I can’t tell whether my inclination toward ecstasy is a sign that I still believe in God, or if it was only because of that ecstatic tendency that I ever believed at all.”

Source: The New Yorker
Published: May 20, 2019
Length: 24 minutes (6,049 words)

The Religion No One Talks About: My Search for Answers in an Old Caribbean Faith

Longreads Pick

A personal essay in which, after her grandmother’s passing, writer Sarah Betancourt explores Espiritismo — the secret religion her family kept hidden in their basement laundry room.

Source: Longreads
Published: Mar 30, 2018
Length: 22 minutes (5,704 words)

The Religion No One Talks About: My Search For Answers in an Old Caribbean Faith

Illustration by Missy Chimovitz

Sarah Betancourt | Longreads | March 2018 | 23 minutes (5,704 words)


There are things in life a Puerto Rican doesn’t talk about. One is the mesa blanca, or white table, in the laundry room, with statues of St. Michael, St. Lazarus, and others whose names you might not know. For years, I assumed leaving coffee in front of those other statues, trading out stale bread with new, and listening to nine days of prayers (la novena) after a death was just normal American life. Catholicism was for Sundays; Espiritismo was the rest of the time. By the time I was 9, I realized there was a reason my parents locked the laundry room door when white people came to our house.


The last thing I packed when I left Manhattan for Florida on September 12, 2015, was an old plastic rosary, worn and smelling of incense embedded in the yellowing nylon between each of the 60 beads. Seven hours later, I changed into a pink t-shirt in a dingy airport stall. My abuela loved pink. Twenty minutes after that, I was standing in front of a hospice, hating how bright the sunlight was, wishing away the flowers.

I didn’t recognize her on the bed until I saw the familiar grey blue of her eyes. I was hoping that in her mind, she was on a beach somewhere, maybe dipping her feet into the sands by her hometown in Puerto Rico, not here, in this bed, in this 50-pound body. My godfather puffed up his chest and said, “She’s been traveling this week. Seeing people.”

She should have been dead days earlier. Everyone said, “She waited for you. She needs to speak with you.” Her last words (“estoy cansada,” “I’m tired”) were spoken a week before. Alone in the room, I pulled over a chair, and touched her arms. She lay completely still, her drifting right eye trying to focus. I dipped a Q-tip in water to wet her hard tongue, brushed her hair as it fell like snowflakes on my hands, pulled out my Chapstick to give her lips relief. No reaction.

Catholicism was for Sundays; Espiritismo was the rest of the time.

I had forgotten that her solace couldn’t be found in the physical. Santa Betancourt had been a spiritual woman for every single one of her 94 years. As a trained healer in the faith of Espiritismo, she had people asking her to fix them, to solve their problems. Every time I saw her, I would greet her with un beso (a kiss) and “la bendicion,” not knowing for many years that it was more than a phrase of recognition, but a request for her blessing. I had never seen her ask anyone but God to heal her own pains. She hated going to the doctor.

I pulled out the tiny blue book she had given me, hoping that the complex religious words would make some sense. I placed the rosary in her hand and asked her if she wanted me to pray. I mentioned it wouldn’t be great — I had been agnostic for 10 years, and didn’t know what to believe. Her eye stopped swimming, and her finger moved. I pulled up the rosary on my phone, lay my head next to hers, and began.

Read more…

Celebrating Pride: Where Religion and Queerness Meet

Longreads Pick

During Pride Month, Emily Perper will be sharing stories from the LGBTQ community. This reading list is about the experiences of queer people of faith.

Source: Longreads
Published: Jun 19, 2016

Celebrating Pride: Where Religion and Queerness Meet

My city was one of many to hold a vigil in memory of the innocent lost to hatred and violence in Orlando a week ago. Christian, Jewish and Muslim community leaders spoke, one after the other, rallying the crowd into a frenzy of love. We lit candles and sang and prayed and cried. It did not resurrect 49 people.

I will be frank: I do not know how to live in the wake of this nightmare. I do not think I will ever feel normal again. As the poet Anne Carson puts it, “I felt as though the sky was torn off my life. I had no home in goodness anymore.” I stood on the steps of our police-protected vigil with my candle, afraid a hate-filled bullet would pierce the back of my skull. And if I, a white person, feel this afraid, then I cannot even begin to imagine what queer people of color, including queer Muslims, are feeling. I have included several of their stories in the list below. They need to be heard, loud and clear and often.

I’ve also included an interview with queer Hebrew priestess Rebekah Erev and an interview with bisexual Christian activist Eliel Cruz. Because of my work with youth in interfaith dialogue, I wanted to include representation from other Abrahamic religions. Queer people of all faith traditions deserve to know that they are not alone and that they are loved. Read more…

Miracles and Mummeries: Antonin Scalia and American Religion

Longreads Pick

Catholicism and conservatism on the Supreme Court: “The Constitution that I interpret and apply,” Scalia wrote in 2002, “is not living but dead — or, as I prefer to put it, enduring.”

Source: n+1
Published: Apr 15, 2016
Length: 21 minutes (5,285 words)

‘For You is Your Religion, and For Me is My Religion’: Shorts, Sandals and Islam

Photo: micadew

I want to say something, something that indicates I’m not staring because I’m not familiar with how she chooses to cover herself. Something that indicates that my mother dresses like her. That I grew up in an Arab state touching the Persian Gulf where the majority dresses like her. That I also face East and recite Quran when I pray.

“Should I greet her with A’salamu alaikum?” I ask myself. Then I look at what I picked out to wear on this day. A pair of distressed denim short shorts, a button-down Oxford shirt, and sandals. My hair is a big, curly entity on top of my head; still air-drying after my morning shower. Then I remember my two nose rings, one hugging my right nostril, the other snugly hanging around my septum. 

I am a practicing Muslim. I pray (sometimes), fast, recite the travel supplication before I start my car’s engine, pay my zakkah (an annual charitable practice that is obligatory for all that can afford it) and, most importantly, I feel very Muslim. There are many like me. We don’t believe in a monolithic practice of Islam. We love Islam, and because we love it so much we refuse to reduce it to an inflexible and fossilized way of life. Yet we still don’t fit anywhere. We’re more comfortable passing for non-Muslims, if it saves us from one or more of the following: unsolicited warnings about the kind punishment that awaits us in hell, unwelcomed advice from a stranger that starts with “I am like your [insert relative],” or an impromptu lecture, straight out of a Wahhabi textbook I thought was nonsense at age 13.

— I admire author Thanaa El-Naggar for staking a place for herself in her faith, despite opposition from conservative adherents and ignorant detractors. Read more of “Practicing Islam in Short Shorts” at Gawker True Stories.

Read the story

I Kissed Christianity Goodbye: Four Stories About Leaving Religion

Longreads Pick

I want to honor the stories of women who left religion (the Christian faith, in particular), and these are four thoughtful, poetic meditations.

Source: Longreads
Published: Dec 21, 2014