Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A 'Host' of Problems

I lost tolerance for religion a long time ago. If your religion works for you and is that one thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, I'm fairly okay with that – for you.

My disdain for the Church did not happen over night. Believe it or not, I used to actually attend on a regular basis. To borrow a line from one of the greatest social commentators of the last 50 years “Catholic, which I was until I reached the age of reason...” The man: George Carlin, the point: nail on the head. I first started doubting religion when I was about six years old. I learned around that time that there were many more denominations than just the narrow one that I had been exposed to (note: not exposed to in what has become the common form of exposed to with the Catholic Church these days). I remember being in the dining room on the first floor of one of the houses that I grew up in listening to Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson, when the thought occurred to me: “If there are so many religions in the world, each of them claiming to be the 'right' one and the only way to salvation, then there are going to be a whole lot of disappointed people when this dance is over.” The thought has stayed with me to this day.

I began asking priests, monsignors, nuns, and other cloistered individuals about this idea. I am not certain whether they were trying to dumb down their answer for the precocious six-year-old or not, but I do know that their answers didn't match up (a sure sign of lying).

Years went by, and I still attended. I didn't have much of a choice really. When the adults in the house are going, you sort of have to go, so I went. I listened to sermon after sermon, Sunday after Sunday. I watched the ceremony of countless masses, and knew that it was well choreographed theater (I had already been doing theater for a few years at this point).

I noticed glaring hypocrisy in the message.

“Everyone can enter the Kingdom of Heaven and deserves God's love” (EXCEPT homosexuals, non-believers, followers of another faith, people who have been divorced, anyone that dares to eat meat on Friday, and so on).

When I moved South, the family and I bounced around from church to church for a while before abandoning the Catholics and joining up with the freewheeling dealing, beatnik hippie, pot smoking alcoholics of the Episcopal Church. They were a far less rigid group of people to say the least.

They actually seemed to look out for one another fairly well, and the rules were far more relaxed (granted, saying something is more relaxed than the Catholic Church is like saying someone is smarter than Sarah Palin). So I hung out with the Whiskeypalians for a few years. I made some friends that I still stay in contact with on occasion, and genuinely enjoyed the company of. The problem was the questions in my head persisted, and my ability to use logic sharpened, which is usually the kiss of death with believers.

Even the open-minded Episcopals eventually had problems with me asking about conflicting Biblical stories, the gap between what should be done versus what is done, and the somewhat notorious question of “what is the difference between religion and mythology?” did not go over well either, but paled to the observation I made about communion being ritualistic cannibalism.

The answer to a lot of my issues increasingly became “you just have to have 'faith'.”


Faith is blind trust in the imperceptible that everything will work out for the best.

I don't know if you have noticed this yet or not, but I have a lot of seriously MAJOR trust issues (it doesn't make it right, it just makes it the way it is). Another complication is I tend to be ever so slightly cynical. So positing that I should accept, without cause, that someone or something has my back and the world will be a better place, is the wrong line to use on me.

I split from the Episcopals after a few years, abandoning organized religion all together. I continued to study it here and there though. I have made a point of learning about Islam, Judaism, Jain, Shinto, Buddhism, Voodoo, Wicca, and so on. The more one looks at these varying theologies/philosophies, the more one can notice the common thread that exists in almost every religion. At their core essence is a single message. The Christians know it as “The Golden Rule.” It basically says “hey, be nice to each other.” I can endorse that idea. The window dressing that comes after it I have a serious problem with.

Because I tend to dissect people's beliefs, I am often considered to be an atheist. I am not. Truth be told, I have just as much a problem with some of the basic principles of atheism as I do with theism (although I do admit to siding with the atheists on a lot of issues); However, atheist arguments tend to use science as a justification for their position. Here is my problem with that: it is not the province of science to examine philosophy. I will stipulate that historical evidence regarding the beginning of the planet is easily measurable; however, it is not possible to prove that something does not exist. You can only prove that it has not been found yet. For that reason, I consider myself to be agnostic. While I seriously doubt the existence of any supernatural being, there is absolutely no way to be certain that one does, or does not, exist.

I think everyone needs to have that one thing that motivates them to get out of bed in the morning. For some people their one thing is religion; for me, it's the thought of knowing that coffee is going to be in my near future.  

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