A Thing From the Founder Guy
Hey! I'm Joe. I grew up the son of a Presbyterian minister, but at some point stopped calling myself a Christian. After performing standup comedy in Los Angeles for years, I started this project to unload my religious baggage and figure out what I thought about spirituality, interviewing other comedians about their experiences with religion.
Feeling heard made me able to listen. I started asking artists, musicians, pastors, humanitarians, bloggers, vloggers, and everyone else for their stories too.
Eventually, this led to me producing live storytelling shows where anyone can tell their true, unfiltered experiences with religion and spirituality.
Eventually this led to where I am now, attending Harvard Divinity School to become a minister to people of all faiths and no faith (Unitarian Universalism is kinda like church without God, but if you like God, you can keep God too).
As I continue discerning my own spirituality in divinity school, I want to keep listening to how other people came to understand the world through their own experiences and on their own terms. I want to keep learning what our ancestral mystics were trying to describe and how their message got corrupted. I want to keep exploring how to live in a faith community that is not based on belief, to have intellectual honesty while dancing with mystery. I want to explore spirituality in a way where I don’t have to lie about who or what I am, who or what I love, or what I do or don’t believe.
And I definitely don’t want to take it too seriously.
My main goal with Choose Your Own Religion is to foster communities where we honor our differences so that we can recognize our similarities, places made of believers of all stripes as well as atheists, skeptics, and people who say, “I don’t know what you’d call me.” Because if I've only learned a single thing in all my Sundays, it's that we all need a community. Even when we make our own path, paths are made so that more people can walk together.
So: let us pray. If you're into that kinda shit.
-Joe Welker, founder of Choose Your Own Religion
I love stories. I’m not into “glossy” spirituality, I’m into witnessing your truest self in your own truest language. I love stories because they’re the oldest human form of entertainment and communication—telling each other what the fuck really happened, whether a deep suffering, a poignant joy, the sacred found in the mundane, or something just straight up hilarious.
I believe hearts, minds, and souls primarily grow through hearing each other’s stories. I believe “interfaith dialogue” should include not only the believers and spiritual seekers, but atheists, humanists, skeptics, agnostics, and all those who journey between these. I believe our increasingly polarized world and increasingly isolated bubbles block us off not just from understanding each other, but from understanding ourselves. The goal is not to make us all believe the same thing, but to facilitate a religiously pluralistic world that honors our differences and cross-pollinates our ideas.
I seek not to blend, but to harmonize.
If you feel so moved, shoot me an email to email@example.com.