Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Losing My Religion

As I said in my Weekend Update I went to church this weekend. Now, those of you who frequent ISBL know that i am not a church-goer, and hardly a fan of organized religion, which, to me, appears divisive and condemning when it should be about love and acceptance and tolerance and compassion.

These are my views on organized religion, and I've held them for a long time. When we first came to Smallville, with a Baptist Church, gas station, and funeral home on nearly ever corner, I discovered that one of the first questions people asked upon meeting me was, Where do you worship?

And, well, me being me, I said, I don't belong to any organized religion.

:::::crickets:::::

But then how do you talk to God?

I explained that my belief in god [little g] was quite different. I was more into spirituality than organized religion, and I didn't believe in the god of Baptist, Catholic, Methodist ... insert religion here. I believed that god is love, and if I needed to talk to her--and I usually say her because people get freaked out that god, might be, could be, should be, a woman--that I could simply speak and she would listen. If I needed evidence of god, I could just look around, and there is evidence all over. In one of mt favorite books, I Know This Much Is True, author Wally Lamb says that "evidence of god exists in the roundness of things" and that line serves me well; it is Karma, and doing the right thing, so the right things will come to you.

Carlos and I have had great discussions of faith. He was born and raised Catholic, though he no longer practices. Practices? Anyway, he is quite against any type of organized religion, and churches and church services, and anything church. And while I agree with him on that, I do believe that everyone has the right to practice, or, perhaps a better word, pursue the religion of their choice. Just as I have the right to pursue my own beliefs. And I am open to discussing my beliefs, and your beliefs, as long as it doesn't become a sermon, and there is no trying to convert me, or hoping to convert me. Tell me I'm wrong, and that you're right, even though, as I have discovered, some people change their spots completely regarding religion, using it when it suits them, and discarding the beliefs when they don't.

I had some very good friends for a very long time. Sisters. They also were born and raised Catholic; Mass every Sunday. Catholic schools, They were inundated with the teachings of Catholicism, and we often had great discussions about their views and my views. But, their views changed radically when they each got married. Suddenly, with the birth of their children, the teachings of the Catholic Church were of the utmost importance and the only way to live your life. 

Now, mind you, these girls broke many of then tenets of Catholicism: premarital sex, use of birth control, living in sin, and dating, and having sex with a married man. And they paid no never mind to their breaking of these rules, although now they appear to act and live a holier than thou type of existence. After moving to the East Coast, our conversations turned to email since they live in California, and as I love politics and societal issues, and have very strong opinions, the email chats often turned to these topics.

One of the 'friends,' upon a long back and forth about gay marriage and the rights and privileges denied gay men and women, suggested that if Carlos and I wanted some rights and benefits, perhaps one of us should adopt the other.

Oh, yes she did.

See, in her mind, being a Catholic, and living a life of breaking nearly every rule of Catholicism, and then doing a complete one-eighty, she had decided that I, as a gay man, shouldn't marry the man I love, he should become my child. Needless to say, that was the last time we spoke. i don't need that type of ignorance in my inbox.

But then her sister sent me an email about Obama--in addition to being raging Catholic, they are also extreme Republicans--and how he didn't place his hand over his heart during the  Pledge of Allegiance. Well, after a ten second internet search, I discovered it wasn't the Pledge, but the National Anthem, and wrote back to tell her to get her facts straight before sending out these ridiculous chain emails.

This got us talking politics, and, of course, gay marriage, and this was just about the time, that marriage equality was happening in California for a few, brief months. She, of course, is completely against it, because the Church says so, though she had no qualms about dating and screwing a not-yet-divorced man. When I said something along the lines of We're here! We're queer! We're getting married in California! she took it to mean that Carlos and I were coming west to get married, and she replied with, Good luck with your fake marriage.

I was stunned. This was, supposed to be, a friend. I wrote back and reminded her that I'd been an invited guest at her wedding and was shocked she couldn't feel the same sense of joy for me.

Her reply? Whatever.

And I cut off that ignorant email.

Their actions, pre-marriage, and their actions post-marriage, only confirmed by belief that religion is something many people only use when it suits their ideals; they don't follow the teachings if, say, lots of sex is at stake, and you're a horny Connecticut college girl, but the rules become all-powerful when you want to raise your children--who will no doubt discard them for sex as they get older, too.

But anyway, now, back to my story. As I said, I went to church, and I have problems with organized religion, but I went. And while waiting in a hallway, I looked at several fliers they had on tables and stapled to the walls. This one caught my eye because it was the largest and given a place of prominence in the hallway.

I read through it, and it seemed innocuous enough until I got to that last paragraph. It said, and it says this exactly, in case the picture is hard to read:

How many of us have run into Mormons, or Jehovah Witnesses, or other cults or faiths wanting to talk about their beliefs? Probably, most of us. What is God's view of those involved in false belief systems and how would God want us to respond to them? Are there some common things to be aware of when listening to someone from a questionable belief system? What are some practical tips to help us communicate truth in a way that they will listen? join us as we discuss these and other important issues surrounding false beliefs.

Wow. Black-and-white. If you don't believe as we do, your beliefs are false, or questionable. And this wasn't some radical church, it was a financially well endowed Presbyterian Church, that offered classes and discussion groups on how to "handle" people with false beliefs.

How is this accepting, and loving, and all-inclusive? How can anyone read this sign and not wonder, if we think everyone else has a false belief system, they must think ours is questionable, too.

And it is, and they are, and it makes me glad i avoid such narrow-mined places like the plague. they aren't god, or god-like, or Christ-like. They teach intolerance, not love.
God is love, organized religion is something entirely different.

14 comments:

froggy said...

Even the Unitarians get strange when you throw the word 'organized' into the mix. Three things that contributed to us leaving -

- they were considering going door to door, like the Mormons and Witnesses, to try and 'convert' people to Unitarianism.

- Some folks had a fit because our minister wanted to wear a minister type robe on Sundays. They fitted us into a $10k professional intervention from the Boston headquarters.

- Halloween. The real witch addressing the congregation refused to come into the Social Hall because the Sunday School teachers (moi among them) let the kids dress up (Halloween on a Sunday that year) and some of them were dressed up as 'Hallmark Witches'.

Stephen said...

You are preaching to the choir, baby!

I have decided to embrace all the world's major religions & I consider myself a Christian-Muslim-Hindu-Buddhist-Taoist-Jew, & I jiust pick & choose the scriptures that fit my agenda at the moment.

Joy said...

Agnostic here who worships at the Church of NPR Sunday mornings. Thanks for getting out there and finding out things for us, Bob.

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Bob. You've probably gleaned that I've done some pondering on this topic for many years, especially of late.

I'll go one step further...imagine how liberating it is to realize that our strength, goodness, kindness (as well as weaknesses), all the things that make us who we are and a citizen of this planet...all of those things come not from some entity but from US. WE make the choices to be kind or not. WE decide if our actions harm others or not. Imagine how empowering it is to realize that you are being good merely for its own sake, merely because you want to be a friend to all humanity...not because of some threat of punishment from a vengeful god.

I can tell you that it feels pretty damn good.

Love and Hugs,
Beth

Cubby said...

I've known for a long time that religion is not the force of good it holds itself out to be. And as of late, I'm starting to believe religion is in fact an overt force of evil in the world.

S'A said...

I grew up in a very religious family, even have several preachers in the mix. But I consider myself Agnostic, and you just said everything I believe about religion. It really bothers my Mom that I (and my children) don't go to Church, but I just can't believe the way they all do--and believe me, I've tried. It's caused a bit of a rift between me and some of my Aunts and Uncles. I'm a minority in my little town--population of 2300 and I can think of 12 Churches without even putting any effort into it. I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting a few!

robertga99 said...

Welcome to my world. That's why it took me so long to accept my sexuality. I grew up in churches like that. One of the last ones I went to had a membership course you had to go through. One of the questions was...
Do you struggle with sin in your life, such as porn, lying, homosexuality...blah...blah...blah
However, there are good ones out there. Don't give up!

Medievalpacman said...

I agree with Stephen and your article, religion only applies when people decide it apply.

Other than that, it is just an identity that people use to back up their claims and to distinguish themselves from the outsiders.

Anonymous said...

When Einstein was asked about religion he said: "All I care about are God's thoughts, the rest are details..."
Very pragmatic and polite,
my take:
Two of mankind's inventions oppose to each other: The wheel moves humanity ahead, Vs religion which pulls it backwards. One is based in logic the other in believes. Sadly historically, WAR brings the two together: Most wars have been fed by religious believes and science makes us more efficient killers.
Carlos

R.J. said...

I love God but I'm not a fan of most of his followers. That flyer is a prime example why I stay home and watch NFL or NASCAR on Sunday mornings.

urbandon (Don Pezzano) said...

Gotta love religion- everyone is wrong except for them.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It is amazing how they twist things to their narrow focus.

Anonymous said...

A month after my 12th birthday, my sister,who was 18, was killed when the vehicle she was in was hit by a train at a level crossing. My parents quit attending church almost immediately.
B the time I was 16, I was teaching younger kids at Sunday school, even though I no longer believed. I cried every time we sang "Jesus loves me". I quit everything before I was 17.
There is no God. There never has been and never will be. It is fine to believe in the teachings of Jesus or Buddha or Muhammed--but do not ascribe supernaturalness or divinity to them.
As an intelligent life-form, we should recognise how childish we are to still believe in a creator God, and stand up and accept the fact that we are children no longer. We know too much about this planet and its place in the universe to cling to belief in a father-figure that watches over us all.
People who continue to believe in a god or gods, despite all the evidence to the contrary, are of weak mind, who prefer to allow others to think for them.
Davey

Anonymous said...

i do believe that God has His own purpose on every situation.
most of us maybe thinking that we should live a life on our won. do whatever pleases us. do whatever fit how we think and how we live our lives. but we forget that there's something more. deep in our hearts we know that there's even greater with what we have. yah, we live according to what we want but after you this life, what's next?
people might say that i'm naive or even weak. but that's we all humans are. we're immortal. our knowledge is limited. we have to be humble. being proud with what we have is a sign of immaturity. not all that we want is good. not all that we think is right. not all that we think is good is really good for us. sometimes, the right thing to do is hard. it doesn't suits us. we might say that God is love so He accepts us for who we are no matter what. yes, He loves us but God hates the sin inside of us. religion nowadays is not a good representation of the belief of God. having the religion doesn't make sense. relationship with God is important. to know your Creator is the most important thing.
we experienced difficulties to understand and accept what's happening in our lives.