From the time I was born all the way up until I graduated high school, I was a fiercely devout Catholic.
Well, not really. I mean, I was as Catholic as everybody else in my school (which was Catholic), and I did go to Church every Friday (we were forced to) and I did sing in the choir (it was either that or try art, and I’m horribly untalented). I also read every time we had Mass at school, either the First Reading or the Second Reading (but not the Responsorial Psalm – fuck the Responsorial Psalm). So if you basically looked at my life from afar (like most people did back in the day), you would probably say that I was a devout Catholic, which I’m sure all the nuns who ran the place would’ve been ecstatic if that was the case.
When I graduated High School, thus ending my lifelong trek through Catholic schooling, I pretty much stopped all my Catholic-ness altogether. Ever since then I don’t associate myself with the Catholic Church, or with any other religious program/doctrine. As hard as it is to believe, Imaginary Reader, I do have my own system of beliefs, which I think are spiritual in their own right, without adhering to any written set of religious rules or beliefs, especially a set of religious rules that are thousands of years old, written by friends of witnesses, filtered through many centuries of different translations, interpretations, and that asshole King George basically rewriting the whole thing just the way he damn well pleased.
I have always wearily admired people who are hardcore devotees to their religion. I have some very close friends and a bunch of family members who are like this, and I am always intrigued and fascinated and would love to hold an open and honest conversation with them about it. However, every time I attempt to do this, they go into their role as missionaries, and try to sell me on it or convince me that there really is an Invisible Man in the Sky who loves every single person on Earth, who knows everything that already happened and everything that is going to happen, and who will send you to the fiery depths of hell immediately if you dare eat a Quarter Pounder with cheese during Lent.
Religion is great at some things, but really awful at others. For example, I think religion is awesome because it gives people hope. It gives people hope that there is something after we die. It’s fucking terrifying to think that once we die, that’s it, we are reduced to organic manner and everything will go on exactly as it did when we were alive, and that nothing you did really mattered. Religion is great because it’s comforting to believe that when you die, you will go to a place where you will continue to live, even though your body will be buried in the ground or it would be burned in an oven and your ashes stuck in the corner of a building somewhere. Religion also gives you order, and gives you something to do, and it is a great outlet for you. Prayer is a wonderful thing, and confession is awesome because it gives you the chance to unburden the awful things you do or have done and start over after you recite some poetry that some guy in a booth arbitrarily handed out to you after pretending to listen to your sins.
The bad, awful, terrible, heartbreaking things about religion are what people do in the name of religion, or the way people hide behind religion and do some of the worst things imaginable. People like those crazy assholes from ISIL (I say ISIL because I’m cool like Obama) do all their evil shit in the name of Allah, their own Invisible Man in the Sky. And oh by the way, don’t you even dare draw a picture of Muhammad (their version of Moses, I guess) or they’ll straight up murder you.
Jeez, radicalized members of Islam, calm the fuck down.
So believing in something is great, and is very valuable, and is very comforting, because dying is scary. In fact, it’s the most scary thing that exists. I am petrified of dying. If I even start thinking about my own death, I’ll start to freak out and there is a part of me that simply can’t come to grips with that fact, that simply will not accept it. I guess that it’s due to me not believing that when you die, your soul will go to a magical place in the sky among the clouds, where you will be reunited with everybody you’ve ever lost, including your pets (even that asshole cat you had when you were 9), your relatives, your friends, your favorite celebrities, and everybody else. I also don’t buy the concept of hell, by the way. I don’t think that there is a God so good and so kind that he was willing to let his son die for the human race that is also so evil that he would ship us off for all eternity to a lake of fire and brimstone if we get a Bart Simpson tattoo although come to think of it, maybe people with Bart Simpson tattoos do deserve to go to hell.
There’s a part of me that wants to believe in these magical places like heaven and hell and that there is some Invisible Man who will get to decide where you will go and that as long as you follow his rules and do what he says, you’ll be fine and you’ll get to live in the sky on some cloud forever and ever. But those are some bullshit rules, man. I mean, some of them are so ridiculous that it just makes it even harder for me. Like the not eating meat on Fridays during Lent thing. Like the going to church on Sundays thing. Like the spilling your guts and confessing your sins to a dude thing in order for you to be able to eat a piece of wafer thing. Like the believing that confessing your sins will allow you to get to heaven no matter what thing. Which, by the way, means that you can be as evil and horrible as you want but if you confess right before you die, God will be okay with that. So when you get to heaven, you might be sharing your cloud with some people who did some seriously awful shit, a lot worse than anything you could have ever done, but hey, they confessed and said a few Hail Marys and a few Our Fathers, so it’s all good.
Plus, the people who run these organizations are among the most awful people on the planet. The people who are supposed to be the most righteous, the most holy, the people chosen by God himself to represent him on earth are guilty of some of the most horrifying things ever. If you’ve seen the movie Spotlight or a bunch of other documentaries or if you’re even slightly aware of the world, you know what these things are. The fact that many times the victims of these terrible deeds are vulnerable, defenseless children shatters everything that I was taught when I was growing up. The fact that people in even higher positions have and continue to cover up these atrocities demolishes all the good and warm feelings I might’ve once had toward the Church and the people who run it. And that’s just the Catholic Church, mind you.
The most heartbreaking thing about this is that violence perpetuated for religious reasons, or in the name of some religious deity, has become so commonplace that I’m actually surprised when there isn’t a story on the news about somebody doing something awful to somebody else in the name of an all-knowing, omnipotent, benevolent god.
How can anybody in good conscience ever join or be a part of an organized group that condones or looks the other way when these horrific things happen? I know I sure as hell can’t.
I do believe there’s a higher power. I do believe that being a good person and doing good and being kind and treating people kindly does serve a greater purpose, although I don’t have the intelligence or the vocabulary to describe what that is or what that means. I just know that there’s no point in being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole, and that there’s no point in hating anybody because of who they love or what color they are or who they pray to, and that destroying somebody’s life or killing somebody under the protection of some fucked up dogma/doctrine/holy book will never be okay.
Just. Be nice. I mean, really. Be kind, be generous. Hand out your spare change to those in need, or if you think they’re gonna spend it on drugs, buy them a cup o’ soup or something to warm their bellies for at least a little while. Give as much as you can to help those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable than you.
You don’t have to wait until you die to go to a magical place. You can make magic right here, right now, while you’re still alive.