Coffee Shop Communion

I got the idea for this project in a coffee shop. I brought a book my sister had given me to my favorite place to read and write (Peet’s) and during the couple hours I was there, two different people decided to sit down at my table: first a middle aged man, then an older woman thirty minutes later. They both sat down because of the title of the book. The book title had the word “God” in it, and thus two discussions about God broke forth upon my table.

Both of these people seemed like they had a need to talk about God, but coming from two opposite points of view. The man really wanted to assure me that God was a figurehead designed by men so they could control people for the sake of power and money. The woman was delighted that I was reading such a book, with the word “God” in the title. Their perspectives of God were obviously very different, but their passion about the subject seemed equally great.

This wasn’t the first time I had taken part in religious discussions with random strangers in a coffee shop–people hanging out in coffee shops generally have time to kill, especially if they’re not there doing work. I worked as a barista over the previous spring and summer and ended up engaging in several conversations about spirituality and science, especially when I would open up about my newfound agnosticism. I had grown up in the church and had been a very devoted believer, but felt I could no longer identify as a Christian. I was left with so many questions after a time of personal crisis, followed by a time of great personal growth. I felt that claiming agnosticism was a more honest way to communicate my mindset.

Still, having grown up in a Christian household, the coffee shop by the beach looked kind of like a church to me. A lot of the regulars expressed a gratitude for being known, they lit up when baristas would remember their names and drink orders. People would ritualistically come in and order the same drink every day, and spend time in reverence of the quiet space, or the sunshine, or the soft sea breezes.

I would watch these things and wonder why we desire to be known, to have social support, to have rituals, to praise and worship, regardless of if we are religious or not. Is it because a god (or God) designed us with these desires? Or did we make churches, synagogues, and mosques, and gods because we developed these needs… for comfort (coping mechanisms), for answers, for fellowship (formation of strong social bonds), for love (physiological reactions to signals necessary for our survival of our species? … ha, how romantic).

So, I created this project to explore these questions in my mind, and I write about these things in order to fashion a sort of table at which we can discuss the questions of our meaning and existence.

I sip my coffee and ponder once more. Do I have the need to explore these things because of the social constructs that shaped me, or a creator who made me?

This is a part of a series of Experience Excerpts that are revolved around ideas involving self-reflection and observation of our surroundings. These articles are a part of a project called “The Enthusiastic Agnostic”; the objective of this project is to explore important issues in spirituality and science and create awareness about them, you know, for fun. I also create Youtube videos for this project, which you can find here.

Image courtesy of Lauren Larsen 16thandmarket