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.
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.