Sunday, August 8, 2010

No More Religion

I can't seem to write today. It's irritating. I have an idea I'm working on, and I worked on it yesterday and the day before and felt generally happy with it. It felt a little clunky, but I was going to work through that and finish it up. Sometimes I feel like ideas, creativity, inspiration are really outside of me and if I'm not fortunate enough to be sitting in the right space when they fly by, I'll be totally incapacitated. I think it's a good idea. Starts out more like fantasy, but ends up being kind of hard SciFi. I'll try to tackle it again tomorrow. Hopefully today's just an off day.

My friend over at Abraxas started his blog off with an explanation of his spiritual/religious evolution. I've wanted to do the same for awhile. It's been a big part of my life, and probably something I'll talk about on more than one occasion.

To start with, my family started going to a Christian church when I was ten. Before that, however, I had an assumed notion that there was a god of some kind. Contrast that with Ricky Gervais who says that he was an atheist by the time he was five years old. Do keep in mind, however, that Gervais has a lot of undeserved popularity and is generally a one hit one wonder kind of guy. The point is that what a person thinks in their earliest stages doesn't always mean much of anything, or really what anyone thinks at any point.

My relationship with church was always tenuous and inconsistent. God almighty is it boring. If God wants to learn me something, he couldn't do it in a more stimulating way? I always found reasons to miss church, whether it was helping to watch little kids, or finding some reason to just wander around. I would often find some (crappy) book in the church's (crappy) library and read that as some kind of distraction. As I got older I got more into church, at least the heady intellectual bits. I would always try to be interested during the sermons, but I always felt like I would get more out of it and enjoy it more if I were reading it. And sitting somewhere comfortable.

Church was always this double edged sword that swayed wildly from side to side. On one end there are friends and acceptance. And when that side was up, I tended to really enjoy church. At least the part that had to do with friends. So really, I just enjoyed friends, and in these instances they happened to be at church. For awhile I played bass for church, and I really enjoyed that (though the music did suck) because the piano player was amazing and a covert smartass. She showed me a lot about music (which I'm sure I've forgotten in more recent years). Overall though, it gave me something to do that felt like it actually mattered, even though I always hated worship. People always told that heaven was sitting around worshipping God for eternity and I'd think, “Fuck! My choices are eternal pain or eternal boredom?”

When that blade was down, which was more frequent as I got older, chuch meant frustration, self hate, boredom, and inadequacy. I was always being reminded about how much of a fuck up I was. The two that seemed to come up most were “impure thoughts,” and worship (fucking worship!). The first one seems ridiculous in retrospect, but is it ever a big deal in the church. Here I am, a guy in my teens, and I've made it my life's mission to see boobs. As dumb as it is, that's the nature of teens. All of them. Not just guys, but girls are just as fascinated by sex although various sources will try to convince you otherwise. But goddamn could I not think of anything else. Sometimes it would get irritating that I felt incapacitated by it, but more irritating is the church's reaction. You're vilified for something that is hormonally natural. It's disgusting, immoral, unnatural, and perverse that you, a 14/15/16/17/18 year old man would want to have sex. What's wrong with you? That was an awful self-loathing spiral. One that has only been remedied by an absence of church.

But I can understand why they try to vilify it so much: it's so hard to handle, and sex really is more dangerous than we're inclined to think. It's in the interest of protection. I truly believe that. The problem is when the best advice you can muster is to simply ignore it. Applying a standard to address a problem without ever fixing it.

The second thing was worship. A lot of religion is so keyed into emotional reaction. If you're not having an emotional reaction, you're doing it wrong. I hated worship, and I would always argue against it for a variety of reasons: the music is too simple (I've always loved complexity); the lyrics are insipid, insubstantial, and infantile; it doesn't provoke a reaction within me; there are other ways to worship (something I still believe); I feel like I'm honoring God more with the use of my intellect or skill; I can have a worship reaction to secular music, so doesn't that invalidate this church crap? They would always get shot down. My two favorites: “Well, the music has to be simple to appeal to the greatest number of people,” and, “Worship is about supplying those feelings even when you don't have them to show your earnestness to God.” God likes simpletons and liars best. If honesty and complexity are your bag, sorry. No dice.

But at least I did worship so that I felt like I was actually doing something as opposed to simply sitting in a congregation trying to have a God orgasm through music. Even then, they started to harp on me for trying to do too much. Which I probably was. Afterall, it is simple music.

Around this time, I started reading things written by people of the church, but that started to move me in some very unchurch ways. One book called Why Men Hate Church kept hitting me right in that sweet spot that I couldn't believe it. This guy was so on. But inevitably, when you showed it to women, their reactions were almost always something like, “I could never trust a guy that was this mercurial,” or, “These guys just need to grow up.” Essentially, the book said that women derived the most comfort from the church setup while guys felt stifled or brow beaten by it. Women didn't like me trying to take their house apart.

For so long I was afraid I'd have to marry a boring inane church girl.

I had been going to church something like four or more times a week. Not every time was for something churchy exactly. It was between two different churches, and sometimes it'd be a game night where we'd play card/board/video games and watch movies. Again: friends. Around this time, however, the friends thing began to falter. I had one really good friend who was Christian, but decidedly outside of church (the coward has since moved back into that ridiculous fold), the rest who I'd known for a decade or more in some instances began floating away from me. Secret girlfriends, secret rendezvous, secret housemates, secret everything. The final straw is when they did the camping thing without me, despite the fact that I'd been in on all the planning. I woke up one morning to get to church early for bass practice, and thought, “Fuck it. Everything I've done for church, and all I get to feel is exhausted and lonely.” And with that I quit going to church. And I felt great. And I've never felt quite as awful as when I was going to church all those times. A week.

This Post: 40 Total: 90/60,000 Minutes

1 comment:

Abraxsas said...

It boggles my mind that no one in the churches really discusses the sexual stuff. I agree with you that it should be a topic of safety more than a topic of morality. I think that many of the laws in religion, Christianity especially, exist to protect people from physical as well as emotional stress. And yet, they say Jesus came to Earth as a man to prove that only he could lead a blameless life.

Christian ideology tells us that Jesus' temptations were intense for the purpose of showing how weak we are. But the only physical temptation Jesus endured was over a loaf of bread. Bread! The church makes you feel that thoughts of sexual nature are this terrible thing, to be avoided and ignored, like you said, despite your biology. This terrible thing, the biggest struggle for any Christian teen, also happens to be the one thing Jesus never faced. Good thing he can say no to a loaf of marble rye, though. I wonder what would have happened had that rye been nestled between an amazing rack?