With apologies to John Lennon...The Long and Winding Road

(Via Sean Boyd)

As a youngster, moving frequently and seemingly without purpose, I probably felt more tied to what my parents believed than a lot of kids, even when those things didn't necessarily make sense to me. It was an element of stability for me, I suppose. So I had a smattering of Sunday School here and there, and my mother in particular was always looking for the One Big Thing that would change all our lives for the better (Eckankar, anyone?) So, sophomore year of high school, my parents discovered the Seventh Day Adventist church. I was only 13, and still didn't really question them about a lot of things, and they seemed to think it was a great thing, and I jumped in head first along with them. And it was great...for about a week or two. Turns out, I saw many inconsistencies that no one else was willing to address. Aside from the whole disregarding science when it was convenient to do so attitude, these self-proclaimed "chosen people of God" (and they do believe that) were easily seen as flawed and weak as anyone else. They tended to judge others on their dress, their financial status...in other words, they were human. I'm not saying they were bad, as a rule, just that they weren't better. But this, to me, seemed to be an important criterion: shouldn't people with a "superior" faith system somehow end up as better people than those without said system? I rapidly grew impatient with the hypocrisy, the intolerance, and started finding excuses to not go to church. More importantly, in my eyes, I stopped tithing: no more free ride for this church. At the time, I rationalized it by saying to myself that God would undoubtedly not let people starve because I stopped giving money to the church.

By the time I went to college (a few years after HS) I had officially left that church behind, and wasn't quite sure what I believed. I don't recall there ever being a single moment at which my beliefs changed, but I know that I started grad school with a half-hearted belief in something (whatever something was) and finished grad school a fairly rabid atheist. At one point in grad school, after a stint in the hospital (turns out that working 16 hours a day for months in a row without much of a break isn't good for one's mental health) a "friend" in my department told me that, in his beliefs, that such mental illnesses were often (if not always) caused by demon possession and he'd be praying for me. It was not April 1st, and he was not joking. He also proclaimed (at another time) that he was so blessed that everything he'd learned in college did nothing but reinforce his faith in his personal savior. This is the crux of the problem with religion in general: the twisting and ignoring of evidence to support irrational beliefs. I couldn't believe that someone earning a graduate degree in mathematics could honestly believe the Earth was only 6,000 years old. Whenever I truly stopped believing, this was the first time I realized it.

So, I finally, after a long stretch, came out of the atheists closet. I heard the usual "you'll burn in the lake of fire" from mom, but I suppose I expected that, given how rabid her feelings for JC truly are. I find myself annoyed at baseball games, having to sit through "God Bless America" which is jingoistic BS, and has nothing to do with baseball, when last I checked. Now, for instance, when Jehovah's Witnesses stop by to see me and give me nice things to read, I try to return the favor by having things for them to read...excerpts from various materials from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for instance. And I realize, more and more every day, that I and the roughly one in six people in this country whose beliefs have more to do with rational thought than faith in an old book, are seen as morally deficient in some respect. Because we don't believe in the Big Sky Daddy, we can't openly state our beliefs and expect a whole lot of acceptance. We might have religious friends who, while they like us, might quite well hold the belief that we are destined to burn in hell, no matter how good we are here on earth. Love the sinner, hate the sin, and all that rot. What about love the sinner, regardless? With more apologies to John Lennon, wouldn't "all you need is love" be a better manifesto for life?

Sometimes, it's bitter, lonely, frustrating to feel so out of touch with those around me. But I don't think I could have it any other way.


signon77 said...

Guess what? I discovered ECKANKAR and the wonderful world of Soul Travel. Changed my life forever, that's for certain.

Andy said...

Uh... Paul McCartney wrote "The Long and Winding Road."

John Lennon did, however, write "All You Need is Love."