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, October 22, 2006

The One Where I Ramble About Christianity and Bad Apples

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I've written quite a bit about my lack of faith, my discontent with conventional religious practices, and my frustration with the double standards bred and perpetuated by Christianity. But what I have't written much about is the fact that I was raised in a Christian home.

For many years, God just was.

I didn't question his existence. I didn't look for proof and I didn't look for evidence to the contrary. I believed because I was taught to believe. And I had parents who tried very hard to model what they taught. I don't believe now that Christianity and morality are mutually exclusive terms, but what I knew then was that the reason my parents were so good, was because they wanted to please God. And for that reason, I wanted to please God too.

It was simple. It was easy. It was what was.

But even kids, at a certain age, begin to realize that those who talk the longest and the loudest about what being Godly means, don't necessarily hold themselves to the same standards that they hold others. They use their Christianity as a talisman against the consequences their bad behavior. They use it to excuse and justify. And if they harbor private doubts, they have their salvation to assure them they are going to heaven. They have Jesus in their heart, after all. And Jesus doesn't let his sheep burn in hell, even if they deserve it. Right? Right.

Love they neighbor? Yes, of course, but only if they are Christians. Whites. Heterosexuals. Republicans. Affluent. Forget that Jesus preached love and tolerance and treat non-Christians as if they are the scourge of society and will taint you with their impiety. God will forgive you.

A child can recognize hypocrisy even if they can't name it, and the seeds of discontent were sown before I knew what discontent was. Still, it wasn't until I was a young adult that I became really disillusioned, skeptical and bitter.

So I called it quits with God. But not really. Because in the back of my mind, I wasn't really ready to say that there is nothing and nobody out there guiding us; a higher power holding us accountable, answering our prayers and giving us hope.

I understand why people turn to alternative religious beliefs. Because none of us, even the most avowed atheists, really wants to believe that we are on our own. That there is nothing after death but death. That life is just a series of random events.
That's a big, scary heart squeezing thought, and even that atheist is looking for something that makes sense. We all want to know there is a reason for being here.

So, though I wasn't entirely ready to abandon my belief in a higher power, I was more than ready to say that Christianity was not the spiritual compass by which I wanted navigate life. Who needs church and Christians mucking things up? I could be spiritual anywhere.

Except that I wasn't. And for a very long time, it was okay. I was worshipping at the church of young single womanhood and I hadn't a care.

But then I started getting older, and all of us, as we get older, tend to examine things a little more closely. We begin to take stock. We begin to wonder what it's all for. And when children enter our lives, we begin to see things in a new light. Innocence means something again. The cynisism leaves us as we watch our children discover the world through fresh, unspoiled eyes.

And there's that feeling...the feeling that something as wonderful as innocence can't be an accident. And then we begin to see miracles again. And we wonder, if maybe, we haven't been a little hasty. Maybe, just maybe...God really is as good as we once thought him to be. Maybe...the goodness of children is God's way of balancing out the stinking plague of evil in the world.

And then we begin to worry about protecting that at all costs. Can something so divine be protected without divinity? Can our precious, unsullied children survive the ugliness of life without the benefit of spiritual guidance, comfort and reason? Have we denied them something VITAL?

It's enough to give even the most stalwart non-believers pause, and yes, it has given me pause. I wonder if I am denying my children the solace and certainty that comes with belief in a spiritual axiom.

So what has me thinking about this? Well, it's part of a slow awakening that comes with getting older I guess. For a long time I've been thinking about all the reasons I abandoned faith and thinking that maybe, I let the wrong things influence me. I can see shades of gray now, where before, my eyes would only perceive black and white.

So, I've been inching slowly, inexorably closer to a new journey towards spirituality of some kind. It's the way I do things. I examine. I ponder. I gather snippets of information like squirrels gather nuts for winter, storing them up until I need them. And then, I do it all over again until I'm comfortable making a decision. It's laborious, but it has served me well.

So this is where I have been for several years and I'm making some progress. Am I lost? No, I don't think so. I'm really okay. For the first time, however, I'm willing to consider that I could be better.

But it's amazing how one person can derail another on their life journey.

Now...I know that nasty, bitter, hypocritical and judgemental people come in all shapes, sizes and religious affiliations. And I know Christians have not cornered the market on bigotry or narrowmindedness. And I know that nobody can be a perfect, unblemished example of their chosen beliefs all the time. People make mistakes and have bad days. They get angry, depressed, downhearted and disillusioned. In other words, we are all human. I get that. And so did Jesus.

But when one is struggling, questioning, searching....the representatives they encounter from any group have a huge impact on them. And when a person, who repeatedly and stridently stresses their affiliation with a certain group...let's just say Christianity... but continually acts in a manner that contradicts the teachings and tenets of that group...well, it just serves to underscore all the reasons one left that group to begin with. And it makes one question all over again the wisdom of returning to a group that sanctions such behavior.

I have recently encountered such a person. I have been dealing with her for two very long months. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am somewhat incredulous. And I find that my motivation to suspend my skepticism and open my heart to new possibilities has been drastically undermined, if not completely destroyed.

I know this is wrong of me. Logically, I realize that she does not exemplify Christianity and that every group has it's wingnuts. And I know it's wrong to let one person influence my feelings about anything. But I still can't help wanting to run as far and as fast as my legs can carry me from church, spirituality, Christians...the whole shebang.

Our time together is, thankfully, drawing to a close. But the experience has left me wondering. I wonder if any of us is really aware of how our behavior affects other people and their opinion of the myriad of things we represent. I wonder if I have influenced people positively with respect to the various things I have represented. Yankee. Agnostic. Wife. Stay at Home Mom. Breastfeeder. Doula. PTA Member. Team Mom.

Was it...

"Gee, she's pretty cool for a ___________. I need to get together with her more."

or...

"That's exactly why I don't _____________. I'll steer clear of her and ________ from now on."

I hope it was mostly the former. I'm sure there are times that it was the latter.

I think we could all be more aware of how we influence people with our words and actions. People evaluate and judge. A deed or a comment that may seem insignifacnt to us, might carry a wealth of meaning for someone on the outside looking in.

As for myself...well, I have a pretty bad taste in my mouth right now. But I realize ultimately, my path is deterimined only by me.

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it after a journey no one can take for us or spare us."
~Marcel Proust~

21 Comments:

  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    People who fall short of their ideals are one thing; I can understand that (as, indeed, can anyone who has attempted to live up to high ideals). It's the people whose ideals have demonstrably made them worse that raise the red flags.

    The whole "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" thing works only insofar as there is evidence that the individual is, at least marginally, the better for his/her faith - not better than someone else, but better than he/she would be otherwise. But there is that group of people for whom Christianity seems to draw out the worst in their character - it's a licence to judge others, to feel smug and superior, to be downright mean. They might, in many cases, have been drawn to the faith precisely because it appeared to offer a basis for their delusions of superiority. And while their behaviour certain contradicts the teaching of Jesus (as you have pointed out), there is, unfortunately, much in the current Christian sub-culture to encourage their arrogance and triumphalism (as you, very courteously, refrained from pointing out).

    I hope you can get a good de-tox soon from the particular toxic Christian you've met.

     
  • At 12:42 PM, Blogger sunshine scribe said…

    I agree with Bub & Pie ... I hope that you do get a good de-tox soon from the particular toxic Christian you met.

    I always actually look forward to your posts about religion. I read with great interest. I do think I am a spiritual person but my faith is not based in any organized religion. Is it because my parents didn't teach me when I was young? Because it wouldn't have made a difference in my case? I don't know but I feel a journey of my own might be around the corner someday.

     
  • At 12:43 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    As someone who was raised in a relatively non-religious household, I think that it is something that can eb very beneficial to a child. My mother was raised Jewish and my father Baptist. When I was born they were into transcendental meditation. I was taught that people believe different things and was essentially left to choose my own path. I celebrate Channuka and Christmas, Passover and Easter. Eventually, I labeled myself an agnostic. My sister, although not incredibly religious, seems to identify more with Judaism and occasionally attends services. I have friends whose parents went back to church just because they had children. Those people are no longer religious. I guess my point is that your intelligent children will be able to make intelligent decisions. If they decide they want to attend services of some kind, I don't think you are the type to prevent it. If they decide they want to be spiritual in their own way I am sure you will support that as well.

     
  • At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Momish said…

    I agree with budandpie, and do hope you can remove yourself from this toxic person! I have run into these types of people in my life as well. Yet, they seem to be obnoxious, judgemental, arrogant in everything they do and not just in terms of their religious beliefs. They are that way about their jobs, children, cars, etc. I tend to chalk it up to just one shitty person and not their religios affiliation (although I do see hypocracy amungst extreme right wing Christians, I admit). And, just like you, I am still struggling with my faith (just posted it about it yesterday). Yet, I find most of the Christians in my life are pretty cool and truly Christian in their behavior and interactions with me. So, in terms of my faith issue, they tend to lend credence to being spiritual and religious. They seem happier and more at peace, and thus less judgemental overall. I hope you run into a few of those people along your way. They tend to be a breath of fresh air in this negative world!

     
  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger jen said…

    i know people toss this around a lot, but truly, we've had extremely similar experiences and you've wrote about it in a really terrific and honest way - a way I haven't yet been able to extricate from my skull and put down on paper.

     
  • At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Lia said…

    I've enjoyed all your posts about religion and relate to your search for spiritual growth. I find all religions fascinating, but struggle with the human interpretation (and control) of ideas that do not evolve enough to meet the needs of society in the 21st century. I grew up Greek Orthodox, always loved its incense and mystism and but have been so disillussioned with the corruption, scandal and misuse of power that has been unveiled in the last year.

    I wish you well in your search.

     
  • At 6:11 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    That kind of behavior still blindsides me as well, in that I WANT to be in this magical world where people don't have the desire or need to exert power and control over others. I see this constantly in the big stuff, Iraq, Gaza, Darfur, but when it's as close as a neighbor or a coworker suddenly revealing their need to dominate others, I feel as if my trust has been violated. Which I guess is why I am so very selective about where I talk about religion.

    I guess that what I'm saying, in the end, is that the behavior of this person perhaps has less to do with her religion and more to do with her personality. Of course, you might also say certain strains of religion draw a certain type of personality. Chicken or the egg?

    I feel another post on religion coming on in in the near future...may I link to you?

     
  • At 6:56 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Please feel free. I look forward to reading your perspective on the issue.

     
  • At 7:06 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I love the honesty and boldness of this post - and feel much the same myself.

     
  • At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    I agree w/ B&P. Christianity made me a horrible human being--judgemental, narrow-minded and cruel. Wicca encourages me to be open-minded and accepting and it's been an invaluable education on what it's like to be on hte margins of society, sometimes. That's how I know it's the right one for me.

    Good luck on your journey, and on your recovery from the toxic one.

     
  • At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You lost me when you proclaimed to know how all atheists think and what they fear. "Even the most avowed atheist......". Please. I don't share your fears or doubts or feelings, although our beliefs (or lack thereof) have some things in common. Your blog is good, and I enjoy it very much, but please don't get so full of yourself that you decide to speak for everyone. Speak for yourself, that's interesting and it makes us come back for more.

     
  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    You know....I really don't understand the need for anonymity. I have always welcomed frank and open discussion of the issues I raise here.

    That said, my blog is an expression of opinion. My opinion is that everyone wants/needs something, not necessarily sprituality, but something, to feel less alone. I think it's human nature. Atheists are human are they not?

    As an opinion, it's pretty subjective. It's certainly possible that I am wrong. Clearly, *you* disagree, and that really is okay with me. I thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I'd really like it if you used your name next time. I promise I won't tp your blog.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    I've struggled with my faith (or lack thereof) for my entire adult life, having been raised a devout Catholic and having become disenchanted with the Chruch in my late teens. I struggle because I remain attached to faith, if not the object of faith that I was raised with. I'm still wrestling with this.

    I also agree with Bub, but I would add this - I'm leery of criticizing any group based on any number of bad apples. I've met a lot of total asshole atheists - assholey with their atheism - and total asshole Christians and total asshole Muslims and so on and so forth. But I've also met members of each of these 'groups' whose faith (or lack of faith, as the case may be) fully informs their goodness as human beings. So I'm reluctant to tar any group with one brush. That said, I am aboslutely influenced in my attitude toward Xty, or Islam or atheism or agnosticism, on any given day, by my near or distant experiences with quote-unquote representatives of those belief systems. It can be confusing.

     
  • At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    When Christians convey anything other than love and care to those around them, they have failed the core principles of their faith. It is unfortunate that these voices are usually the loudest. It makes me cringe at the emotional carnage left in their wake.

    When gathering information about which to consider faith, you can't really look to externals. The truth is that men will fail you. The church will fail you. Everything in life will fail you - if for no other reason than the fact that death will snatch it all away.

    Proust is right - Wisdom is found on your own personal journey and I believe that is where the issue of faith resides as well. It's not as easy as the "say a little prayer" people have you believe, at least it was not for me.

     
  • At 1:12 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    I love this post so much, BA. I relate to a great deal of it, and in fact I think Nate could have written most of it (with more spelling errors) up until the spiritual awakening part.

    I too am trying to figure out what this all means to me, especially as I now have a kid to bring into it. I've always liked the idea of faith and spirituality, but it's the institutions that get me.

    I just read that post this week from Heather's (miles, etc) friend where a landscaping company refuses to do business with homosexuals, all in the name of Christianity.

    http://durrellisms.blogspot.com/2006/10/middle-of-day-post.html

    That's the stuff that really gets my goat.

     
  • At 1:12 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    And Bub, your initial comment is excellent.

     
  • At 1:27 PM, Blogger Jess Riley said…

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post--I could relate to so much of it. The comments here have also been thought-provoking and honest.

    As a lapsed Catholic with devoutly religious family members, I've given this issue much consideration. What made me stray and my cousins, aunts, and uncles stay? In my case, I've always been skeptical and suspicious of authority. So it began with simple questions that yielded what I felt to be unsatisfactory answers.

    At this point, I don't foresee myself returning to the church of my youth. But I understand how important it still remains for my family.

    Like antique mommy, I feel that exploring faith and philosophical issues about what it means to be human and what happens after we die are personal journeys. It's nice to know we're not alone as we grapple with these issues.

     
  • At 3:07 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    I want to thank *everyone* who has commented here for sharing their perspectives, their personal experiences, and their own struggles. It really does help me a great deal to hear that others have the same doubts, the same conflicting emotions, the same fears. And it helps me to hear the perspective of Christians who are so open and welcoming and constructive with their feedback. I've definitely run accross some good apples here in the blogosphere.

     
  • At 1:18 PM, Blogger ceridwen-sky said…

    interesting post. i come from a mormon background. religion is like a shaggy dog rudely sniffing my butt everywhere i go. i wrote a silly poem about my feeling on this at my blog. people think the 'lamb' in it is about my kids or my sometimes depression but it's really about religion i.e. mary had a little lamb. e.g. i finally get over the trauma of letting my religion go and they build a bloody mormon church two houses away! I did chuckle about that. then the missionaries keep knocking at my door and my hands start to shake every time. and i always seem to make friends who are christian and because its a majority religion they just don't get it. they don't get their discriminatory talk or actions and they don't get you. i have a muslim friend who actually gets me because she's from a minority religion and is more sensitive to respecting other's beliefs. narrow minded ninnies are friggen everywhere i tell ya!! i can't even find a non-religious school in my area for my kid - and that's supposed to be against our constitution (South Africa). And when you tell them you don't want your kid in a school that only teaches christianity they JUST DON'T GET IT. you're the freak with ISSUES not them. I empathise.

     
  • At 6:31 PM, Blogger Mamma said…

    I can't get over how similar your experience is to mine. The combination of the death of a loved one and the birth of my first were the two events that led me to reconsider my complete lack of faith. And, that's my issue. I have a hard time believing that Jesus was any more than a historical figure (albeit one who served as a wonderful role model).

    I know there has to be something more. I would love to believe, but it's so hard for me.

    There is immense attraction to being part of a community of caring people. I just don't want to commit to something that I'm constantly rolling my eyes about in my head.

    Have you explored other faiths beyond Christianity? My husband, having been raised a Baptist, would have a hard time with that. Though I don't seem him getting up early on Sunday morning to take the kids to church.

    Oh, I'm so sorry for going on like this. I'm just blown away and relieved to hear others echo these sentiments. I like to think I'm a good/moral person, but have always felt like a bit of an outsider because I could not embrace faith. I think certain things happen in life and you become cynical.

    Please keep sharing your journey on this topic. It's fascinating to me.

     
  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger R.G. said…

    I love your post... a beautifully expressed candid snapshot of your journey. I'm a devoted Christ-follower and for all the reasons you mentioned in your post, I prefer that term to the catch-all label "Christian."

    I didn't grow up in a religious home and in fact didn't become a Christ-follower until I was 38. I think this really helps... my faith is MINE, I wasn't spoon-fed by anyone. I made my own decisions.

    The other thing is that I look at my faith experience as a journey in which the learning never ends. This keeps it exciting for me.

    I hope you have read The Poisonwood Bible. It is a brilliant book expressing the incredible damage that screwed-up people do in the name of Christianity. I just finished listening to it on audio and I absolutely loved it!

    Thanks for the great post.

     

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