Religious Rapture, Part VII

agraOk. We are at the end of a week of religion-based entries, and this is the final installment. No, this doesn’t mean I will never write about religion ever again–only that I have other things about which I want to blog, and a week solid of any one topic is more than enough (except, of course, chocolate and Alan Rickman).

So, how am I planning on tying up the loose ends from my previous six entries and summing them up in one neat, coherent, thought?  I’m not.  I’m just going to ramble on some more, as is my wont, and then come to a screeching halt.  I will say one thing in advance of the verbal torrent, though, I want to discuss the impact of religion on my personal life and the impact of religion on my political life.  For the purposes of this blog entry, I am going to assume the two do not overlap.

First up, religion in my personal life.  My friend, Natasha, says she doesn’t take offense at the religious people in her life because they are trying to save her from eternal damnation.  In their minds, her soul is at peril, and they are trying to save it.  I actually agree with this.  I don’t particularly care if people (like my mom) want to pray for my soul.  In fact, it’s sweet when my niece tells me, her eyes wide with concern, “You’ll go to hell” (because I don’t believe Jesus is my savior).  

However, that brings up a sticking point–when do I get to mention my beliefs to my nieces and nephews?  I tried a couple of times when my niece was younger, but I was told by many people that it’s not fair or right of me to tell my niece my beliefs.  It’s like I wouldn’t tell her there is no Santa Claus, right?  Well, no, I wouldn’t, but then is Jesus the religious equivalent of Santa Claus?

In addition, when my niece or nephew wants me to pray, what am I supposed to do?  Make up a prayer?  I simply say, “I don’t pray, but I’ll be happy to listen to you pray.”  That’s the best I can do.  My best friend supports me in my effort to gently let my niece and nephews know that not everyone (meaning, me) is not a Christian, but she is the only one.  

My niece is ten, almost eleven, and I admit I might have told her a little too much when she was too young to understand.  Such as, when she told me her god was the best because he had been around the longest, I said, actually, he hasn’t been around the longest.  I don’t know what I should have said in that situation, though.  Even my therapist doesn’t quite understand why I find it important not to lie about god and my beliefs about the topic.  If I can lie with impunity about Santa Claus (or rather, by omission, since I have never said I believed in Santa Claus), then why can’t I do the same with Christianity and God?  

I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that it’s because I actually do think there is something harmful with indoctrinating your child about religion–especially when you don’t tell your kids everything about said religion.  For example, my sister-in-law said at Christmas that we celebrate Christmas because it’s Jesus’s birthday.  Well, no, actually, it’s not.  December 25th was chosen as Jesus’s birth date because there was a pagan feast scheduled on that day (celebrating the Sun God).  Christians decided it would be more acceptable for the locals to celebrate Jesus’s birth if it was already a pre-existing holiday.  According to this article, Jesus was born in September/October.   Another very different website comes to the same conclusion.  I have heard June and July as well as probably months of Jesus’s birth.  

Some Christians argue that when Jesus was born isn’t important.   I would concede this point if these same Christians weren’t so damn stubborn in defending nearly everything the Bible says.  There are many contradictions in the Bible itself, yet, many Christians dismiss them or find a way to rationalize them.  One thing I admire about my mother is that she went through a period of disenchantment with Christianity and started studying other religions.   She ultimately went back to Christianity, but it was with a more open mind.  She will readily admit that she doesn’t know for certain whether people of other religions will go to heaven or not.  

I guess in my personal life, I am concerned when I see religion being used as propaganda.  I want people who believe to question what they believe and see if it means something to them personally, or if they are just regurgitating what has been spoon-fed to them.  If a person is going to believe in a religion, I want that person to thoroughly examine said religion.  I also want Christians to act more Christianly, which means being more caring and merciful and less judgmental and harsh.

As for religion in my political life, I am much more strident here.   I think the conversation around abortion and gay marriage (the two hot button issues for the religious right) have been shaped by the rightwingers, and I want to retake the issues and reshape the dialogue–if you can call it that.  In this, I will agree with President Obama.  The goal should be to cut the need for abortions AND for providing for the women who make the choice to carry to term.  Any time a pro-lifer says they are against abortion, he should be asked if he’s for social programs that help poor kids or at-risk youth.  If pro-choice folks want to get down and dirty, we could air ads with children who are grown and poor and have the tag-line, “Why doesn’t my life count?”  Or something to that effect.

As for gay marriage, every time someone trots out, “It’ll harm traditional marriage which is between one man and one woman”, well, there are several ways to attack this.  First, “Divorce!  Have you seen the divorce rates in this country?”  Second, “King David had eight wives.  He slept with the wife of one of his best soldiers, and then had that soldier killed.  King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Abraham was married to his half-sister and then impregnated her slave at her behest.  Once Sarah got pregnant, Hagar and her son were thrown out.  All of this, apparently, happened with God’s blessings.”  Third, “Newt Gingrich.  Rudy Giuliani.  Ronald Reagan.”

For too long, the religious right has declared itself the keeper of the morality in this country.  The fact that many of them have had mistresses or same-sex affairs or, in general, broken their own moral laws, makes it even more egregious in my mind–not to mention hypocritical.  Let me make myself clear–I don’t give a fuck whom they fuck (at least not from a political stance), but I do give a fuck when they, in turn, try to dictate whom I can and cannot fuck (and how I can fuck said willing partner). 

In addition, I am fucking sick and tired of Christians in the media whining about how they are the oppressed ones.  “Saying Happy Holidays oppresses Christianity”.  Putting aside the mind-boggling belief that shopping for Christmas presents has anything to do with the true meaning of Christmas, how is being open to other people’s religion/nonreligion oppressive of the dominant religion?

This, however, is the mentality that many people who are in the majority have.  It’s what happened when affirmative action first came into play (and still happens today).  The majority with the privileges see some of those privileges being rescinded, and the majority goes ape-shit because they view their privileges as rights.  It’s what allows white people to talk about all those foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs.  It’s why some straights feel threatened about gay marriage.  It’s why the Christian right in some southern states want to be allowed to put up the ten commandments at their capitol buildings, but who would be the first to pitch a fit if text from the Qur’an was allowed to be installed as well.

Ok.  I don’t have a solution or a conclusion, really.  What it comes down to is that I will struggle to find a way to be respectful with Christians in my personal life, but I won’t afford the same luxury to the religious right.  I view them as harmful to American politics and to our society in general.  It’s rather similar to how they view me–only I don’t have a book to back me up.  That’s fine with me.  I will use my conscience to guide me through the mindfield that is life, instead.  

That’s it.  The end.  So speaketh Minna.  Tomorrow, I will be returning to my regular random blogging.

4 Responses to Religious Rapture, Part VII

  1. I personally liked the series.
    About 4 years ago I pushed my comfort zones with that issue in a class I was taking and went to church for a quarter. It was during the second election of that miserable failure. THAT was an experience. I talked very openly and honestly with people and am glad I did it.

  2. Thanks, whabs. It was difficult to revisit that part of my life, but I’m glad I did–I guess. I have met cool religious people, too. However, I am not a group person at all, so church is not the best place for me to be spiritual.

  3. I bet Santa Claus has never been used as a blunt instrument against you (and others), the way the Christian god has. That’s why you can have fun with the Santa myth.

    I applaud your refusal to lie to your niece. She will grow to understand that you refuse to betray your beliefs, and that you are a person of principal and morals, even if those morals don’t dovetail nicely into a religious orthodoxy. I think most of the people who frown on your candor fear you will influence her to leave her parents’ religion. You are showing her that you think for yourself, and so can she. And if she ultimately chooses Christianity, she may very well become the kind of Christian that would make you proud.

    Thanks for spending a whole week on this huge topic! BTW – this line, “I’m just going to ramble on some more, as is my wont, and then come to a screeching halt,”made me laugh really hard. Again, with the candor!

  4. Very true, Julie. Santa Claus is not crammed down anyone’s throat except under the general rubric of Christmas is better than other holidays.

    I try not to lie to my niece and nephews in general. Sometimes, it takes some verbal tap-dancing, but I can usually tell the truth in a general way.

    I could add another entry today as there was a big kerfuffle on the political blog I visit about tolerance from atheists/agnostics towards religious people. However, I am burnt out on the topic so I will address it later.

    I’m glad you liked that line. I have always had trouble with conclusions and summing things up.