Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Religion for Dummies

(Imagine my surprise at finding an actual book by this title)


I am not a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, and my parents tried very hard to rise above the problems that plagued the small Baptist church we attended for the sake of their faith. But eventually, dispirited and sick at heart over the petty bickering, corruption and favoritism, they simply stopped going. As Baptists living in the land of Catholicism, their alternatives were limited and so, our days of churchgoing quietly ended.

As children, and indeed, as all children are, my sisters and I were particularly vulnerable to the prejudices that proliferated there. We watched as year after year as the same girl, whose parents could afford to bestow lavish gifts upon the congregation such as a new stove for the church kitchen, garnered the much coveted role of Virgin Mary while we, invariably, were stable animals. We watched as Sunday after Sunday, Mr. Jones, who could no more carry a tune than grow feathers and take flight, but who owned a chain of bookstores and generously gave brand new leather bound hymnals, sang the Sunday solo in a ridiculously discordant falsetto.

We were not at all disconcerted by our abrupt departure from that little church, and strangely, though we received no explanation from our parents, neither were we surprised or puzzled. All three of us understood and in unspoken solidarity, approved. That was the beginning of my disillusionment with and suspicion of religion as a whole, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that little church was not the only enclave of hypocritical and disingenuous Christianity. When I moved to the Bible belt as a young adult I experienced the realization that deeply held religious beliefs are nothing more than another means for those who hold themselves in higher esteem than others to justify their intolerance and sense of entitlement.

So now you understand my stance on religion. Though I do not espouse or embrace Christian beliefs, or any religious ideology for that matter, theology is a source of endless fascination for me, both from a historical and sociological standpoint.

That said, I was recently reading about a recent study that said church attendance is at an all time low; only 45% of Americans attended church on a regular basis in 2005, as opposed to 86% in 1905 and a whopping 95% in 1805, though of course, we have to take into account the subjectivity of statistics gathered before the advent of a reliable postal and census system (The Census Bureau did not begin using statistic sampling techniques until the 1940’s). In a recent discussion it was suggested to me that this decline is due to sociological factors which make religious ideals incompatible with modern thinking and increasingly egocentric lifestyles. I think that the reality is much simpler.

People are just smarter these days.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that people of faith are intellectually inferior. But in the religious heyday, people were largely uneducated. As such, they simply accepted the way things were, because it was the way things had always been. They had no knowledge of anything that might seriously challenge their faith, nor any desire to acquire such knowledge.

By the same token, Pastors, Ministers and Priests were community leaders; people of great authority and prestige. People looked up to them and trusted them without question. They believed with the conviction of an unblemished soul, that their religious leader would not lead them astray. People looked to them for guidance and wisdom on all manner of issues, but in regard to religious matters, it was thought by many that only a man of God had the wisdom and insight needed to understand, interpret, and dissemble the word of God.

So what has changed? The way I see it, two key issues.

We have the great privilege (or grave misfortune, depending upon your outlook) of living in the information age. People are better educated and from the time we are able to speak, we are encouraged to think for ourselves. We are taught to question, we are taught to seek answers. There is evidence to the contrary of many previously undisputed beliefs and now even the most poorly educated and/or heretical individual has access to this evidence, which they can use to form their own opinions. Ongoing research has debunked many of the Bible's greatest myths. Indeed, there is evidence that Christianity is as much the result of folklore and fantasy as anything else. We have the freedom to decide for ourselves, and the confidence to do so.

I am not a theologian by any means, but I've been doing a lot of reading about this subject lately. The information is there for anyone who seeks it out. Some of the books I've read are Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Magdalene Legacy, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and The Goddess in the Gospels. These are but a few of the many tomes dedicated this subject. Go to the religious history section of your local bookstore and you will find the shelves bursting with them. The abundance of such material is a testament to the burning dissatisfaction and disillusionment that we as a people feel towards a rote doctrine that we once simply accepted.

The other issue is the deconstruction of the religious leader as the picture of perfect humility, morality and servility. Jim Jones poisoned his flock. Jim Baker hustled his. David Koresh, in a shocking display of sacrilege, declared himself the Messiah, and had sex with numerous women and young girls in the name of himself. Then of course, we have the many Catholic priests who abused, molested and raped their young and trusting parishioners.

We got fed up, and we gave up when we began to realize that the mantle of religious respectability was nothing more than carte blanche to pander to one’s most base human instincts. No longer were we willing to relinquish our children or ourselves mind, body and spirit to those professing to have only the salvation of our immortal souls at heart. And really…what relationship can withstand such suspicion and duplicity?

We have become a society that is less inclined toward blind acceptance and more inclined toward suspicion and disbelief. We are now a people that questions. I don't see that as necessarily a bad thing.

But I will tell you this: Some days, I envy those who have the solace of a convicted heart. Those who take comfort where it is to be found, and who believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that sometimes a thing that cannot be seen, or proven, just is.

A Leap of Faith, they call it. And I am reminded of the quote by John Burroughs…

"Leap, and the net will appear."


So…where does the courage lie? In leaping, or in doubting? If you figure it out, let me know. Because despite my skepticism, I still get goosebumps when I happen to hear a long forgotten hymn from my childhood. And it makes me think that deep down....we all want to believe in something.


(Dedicated to all the exceedingly patient Christians I have known, who suffered my heresy and blasphemy with grace and kindness. I suppose, this time, it is I who should repent. But...one step at a time, okay? )

2 Comments:

  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger Hoovah said…

    as unperfect people living in an unperfect world, we can't expect churches or church leaders (priests, bishops, pastors, etc.) to be perfect examples of christian doctrine.

    the only difference between a christian and a non-christian is that christians have allowed god into their lives. the followers of christ are often the ones that are the most screwed-up (ex: the disciples picked in the Gospels), not the pick of the litter. many are indeed hyprocrites and suck at being 'good' ~ including me.

    i think the reduction in church attendance isn't so much that people are getting smarter, but because the church is not. there are churches where i live that offer the same services they offered 10, 20, even 40 years ago. i'm lucky enough to attend a church that has adapted. churches these days don't always delve deep enough to produce, i suppose, the answers that people need.

    ah.. that's my spill

     
  • At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great blog. Our family left religion for all the same reasons listed here. When we told our church we would not be coming back they told us that they wanted to keep our names on their "list" anyway. It was obviously to be able to keep the count of church members higher for the census. Most if not all churches must do this same thing and therefore, actual church attendance is far lower than they claim. I agree that people are smarter. It's pretty empowering to be able to think for yourself. I also think that the Catholic church has sent people running in droves to escape the lies, control, and abuse (both physically and emotionally).

     

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