I don’t know… but I know that I don’t know. – Lloyd Dobler
That line of dialogue, as stated by the protagonist of the seminal 80’s teen flick Say Anything, pretty much sums up my thoughts on religion. By nature, I have a tendency to be decisive on my points of view, but I have always vacillated with regards to religious conviction. The spiritual side of me has seen the power of faith literally save lives right before my eyes. The pragmatist in me is as cynical as Han Solo with regards to accepting a theology that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. This skepticism is brought to the forefront in December; a month meant to celebrate the birth of the most famous only child in history via our gratitude and appreciation of one another in the fellowship of humanity… assuming we can squeeze in such sentiments between excursions to indulge our worship at the altar of consumerism. (Please note: As you probably just surmised, I’m going Tom Skerritt in Top Gun on this subject: Tough but fair. You’ve been warned.)
It is this type of hypocrisy that sends the scales in my religious perspective tipping downward. My mind shifts into overdrive, recalling that while love should be the overriding emotion brought about by worship, NOTHING has caused more death in any lifetime than religion. Think I’m wrong? I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I’ve read the good book enough to know that any literal adaptation of its contents would be rated R for graphic violence. Need something cemented in human history? Try The Crusades, The 30 Years War, or the founding of a country based on the desperate need of its inhabitants to live in a place that separated church from state. (That would be America for those of you who became confused during the attempted Bush-Palin 21st century rewrite.) Need something more recent? How about an attempted genocide in Auschwitz designed to eradicate an entire people from the planet? Still need something closer to home? Try a tragic September morning in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania. Face it gang, death in the name of thy creator dwarfs the casualty totals racked up by plagues and pandemics combined.
Speaking of creators, why are there so many? God, Allah, Bhagwaan, Elohim, Jehovah, L. Ron Hubbard. Is there an Omnipotent Hall Of Justice where they all convene to preside over their followers? Oh, I forgot, the majority of followers are steadfast in the belief that their creator is the only creator and anybody who doesn’t think that will pay a price in the name of said creator, thus returning us to the death by religion theory that started us down this slippery slope. Let’s move on.
And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. – Billy Joel
The sentiments of the Piano Man bring up another point of contention: Why do the most outspoken of followers feel the overwhelming need to dictate how I worship the Lord?(And why do they always seem to do it in front of a camera while collecting money on his behalf?) What happened to the notion of showing your respect and love for your Lord in your own way? People I have encountered in my life who are amongst the kindest, sincerest, and most comfortable in their own skin are those whose devotion is their own; you would see examples of it in their workspace or home, but never would it be extravagant nor would they attempt to press their personal beliefs upon you. Why does it seem that so few followers find this acceptable? Should I ever succeed enough in life to have my own James Lipton Inside The Actors Studio moment that culminates with the over enunciation of the question “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?” I’m very secure in what the answer will be: "Just because nobody else understood how you worshipped me doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate it."
Sadly, this does not prevent those claiming to be of supremely devout faith from stating in no uncertain terms that anything done to God’s dissatisfaction (i.e. THEIR dissatisfaction) will result in eternal damnation. Last I checked we were made in God’s image; have you met a one of us that’s perfect? Me neither. What’s more, if you subscribe to the notion that you must be of a right mind 24/7/365 or risk permanent exile from the Promised Land, then the case can rationally be made that selfless atheists must be the most decent people on the planet. Their actions are dictated by an earnest desire to do what’s right rather than borne from dread of repercussions they might receive on the other side. That’s not to say the non-religious aren’t capable of such rigidity themselves. It’s always been ironic to me that John Lennon wrote the lyric “And no religion too”, but broke up the greatest band in history by exhibiting the same “I won’t like you if you don’t do exactly what I want exactly when I want it” sentiments associated with the religious types he condemned in those very words (Come on fellow Beatle freaks, make like Darth to Luke in Empire and search your feelings, you know it be true.)
In the end, for all the ambivalence I feel and all the rational thoughts that would state otherwise, I want to believe. Maybe it’s just a grown up fairy tale told to console ourselves amid the surplus of pain and hardship we must endure walking our prospective paths. Maybe I just need something to explain why a song I haven’t thought of in years magically comes on my radio or when my belief in self crosses the line into over confidence I always seem to trip over my own feet and knock myself back down to Earth. Maybe I just need to feel there’s something after death besides being a lifetime buffet for earthworms. Or maybe…just maybe…when I’m deep inside my head, asking for protection of the people who mean the most to me and hoping that the goals I’ve set for myself aren’t as unattainable as everyone tells me they are, there’s a voice that will answer:
Life Is A Mystery. Everyone Must Stand Alone. I hear you call my name...and it feels like home.
Like what you read? Come sign up and follow the blog?
Hit me up on Twitter: @mrc_truedat