Saturday, November 11, 2017

6: Dee - Tired of Same Old Doodoo

At present I consider myself a Deist as our founding fathers were, such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.  That is, I believe in God, but do NOT believe he intervenes in our daily lives.  This takes a great deal of pressure off me--no more agonizing about why God thought I was not worthy of having my prayers answered!!

The process of arriving at the beliefs I have now (or maybe you could say lack thereof) has been long and complicated.  I'll try to give you the short version. 

Stage 1:  I was brought up in the Episcopal church.  My family attended pretty regularly and I don't have any bad memories about it, in fact I kind of enjoyed church, but it all seemed like empty ritual.  (The Episcopal church, in case you're not familiar, is sort of "Catholicism lite"--we have a similar Mass with the prayer book and things you're supposed to recite, etc. but don't believe all the woo-woo about saints).  However, one morning when I was about 16 or so, we were getting ready to go to church and my parents were bitching & swearing at each other.  I said I thought it was pretty hypocritical to act like that when you're on your way to worship God, etc. and they said "ok, it's your choice now whether you want to go to church or not..."  So I didn't go.  For the most part, I didn't give church or religion much thought for quite a while after that.

Stage 2:  At age 24, I had recently graduated from college and moved from a very rural part of upstate NY to a very urban area of New Jersey.  Culture shock!!!  I didn't know anyone there or anything about the area I had moved to. Most people I met, especially at my new job, were harsh, mean and prejudiced against me as a "dumb hick".  I had never felt so alone in my life.  But there was one guy at the job who was nice to me.  He was a born-again Christian who attended a non-denominational fundamentalist/evangelical church.  He invited me to have dinner with him and his wife, and we got into a deep discussion about Christianity.  The Pastor of his church "happened" to stop by.  (My friend confessed later that he sneaked off and called the pastor & told him to come over because I was asking questions he couldn't answer!)  Anyway, long story short, I said the "prayer of salvation" asking Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart. 

I started going to this church and soon it became the center of my existence.  I tried VERY hard to make myself conform to what they believed: for example, I tried to make myself believe in the conservative republican agenda, which went against the grain of everything I had been brought up with and believed my whole life.  We had a guest speaker who said from the pulpit, "the Republicans and the sinners..."  I even voted republican in that election, which I rarely ever do, but I had huge cognitive dissonance about it.  I used to pray all the time, "God, it seems like all your 'people' are conservative republicans, saying those beliefs are in accordance with your plans.  I want to believe what YOU believe!  So if that's what you really think, MAKE ME THINK IT TOO!!!"  Well, guess what... that never happened!!!

More and more red flags went up.  They started talking about stuff my ultra conservative fundamentalist aunt & uncle talked about which my parents thought were just plain kooky, like the Rapture, One World Government, 6 literal days of creation, most rock music, movies and other pop culture stuff being "from the devil" etc., and what I consider worst of all: "America was founded as a Christian nation" and if we as a country and society don't "get right with God" we are headed for destruction!!!  I squirmed inside every time they talked about stuff like that, thinking "what the hell have I let myself get sucked into???"  But I stayed with them for 5 years because (a) I felt loved and accepted there, at least in the beginning and (b) they seemed very deep and enlightened, and whenever I would talk one on one with them, it was like a soft white light glowed around them. 

But after 5 years, that light went out!  I began to see an ugly and nasty side to the organization itself, the leadership and many of the members.  I won't get into all that right now but I'm sure you get the idea.  So, since I had lost my job anyway and had no other means of support, I moved back to rural upstate NY with my parents.  Partly due to finances but partly due to a growing feeling of "is it me or is it them?" with the church and figuring the only way to find out was to find another church somewhere else.

So, I tried to find a church of a similar type to what I had left behind, that is another fundamentalist/evangelical church rather than returning to the Episcopal church of my parents.  I found one, and also found a different set of problems.  Most of the people at that church were wealthy white-collar types, and as a low-wage blue collar worker, I definitely felt looked down on.  It was never said to me outright, but you could read between the lines that they thought the fact that I had a bachelor's degree but could still only find minimum wage jobs, was because I wasn't right with god.  The final nail in the coffin was when I went to a bible study at a member's house and they broke out a video spouting all this garbage about "America was founded as a Christian nation" etc. and pretty heavily implying that this country is blessed by God as a land of opportunity, and if you're not prospering, there must be something wrong with YOU!  I got so disgusted I quit going there, and pretty much didn't do much churching for the next 15 years or so.

Present stage:  A few years ago my mother passed away after a grueling illness.  I had moved her up here with me and taken care of her.  I had also gotten out of a horrible situation with two roommates from hell who were psychotic drunks, liars, thieves, etc.  So again I was very mentally vulnerable.    I found out about a church-run program here in town called "Celebrate Recovery" which tries to combine the principles of 12-step programs with biblical principles and apply them to many different issues--addiction, abuse, grief, etc.  I really enjoyed this group for a while, but then ran into some objectionable stuff there too.  First of all, I went to one of their Sunday morning services, and  the pastor started in about the 6 literal days of creation.  UGH!!  I have a friend who says "You don't have to agree with everything a church teaches to be part of them..."  Well, sorry, but that's a deal breaker!  Plus some of the talk that went on in my recovery group began to get on my nerves.  So I quit going there, and have not set foot in a church since, except for when [my BFF] was here visiting and I took her to a service at the local Presbyterian church. 

I understand that Presbyterians aren't into all this literal interpretation crap, 6 days and all that, so would find a Presbyterian church much less objectionable than the rightwing fundies, but I still have issues, some of which are based on some reading and documentary viewing I've been doing lately about the historical accuracy of the whole faith.  First of all, I have discovered that there were MANY messiahs prior to Jesus with pretty much identical life stories:  the virgin birth, born on Dec. 25th, the 3 wise men, the star, etc.  For example, Horus son of Osiris & Isis of the Egyptians, Attis of Phrygia and Dionysus of Greece, Mithra of Persia, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, etc... and the connection of all these Messiah stories to astrology and sun worship.  I feel like I've been sold a bill of goods!

Also, speaking of the virgin birth, I also read that the word "virgin" was a mistranslation, that it actually meant "young marriageable woman".  Also, that many historical details of the Gospel stories were fudged in, for example, there never was a census declared by Caesar Augustus that required people to return to their place of birth. 

And then there are all the practical issues like the aforementioned unanswered prayers.  I'm sick of feeling like there's something wrong with ME that God finds me unworthy.  NO ONE has ever given me a truly satisfactory answer about that, until I discovered the Deist perspective that God isn't in the prayer answering business.  This is also the only satisfactory answer I've ever heard to the question of why God allows such vast amounts of suffering—whole countries where the people are desperately poor and starving, etc.  I believe He created this universe, and then split.  I think even the Bible hints at this when he says we are "stewards" of this world and it's up to US to do something about all that stuff.  Or, like the George Burns character in the movie Oh God says, "I gave you YOU!"

Oh, and then there's Donald Trump... the crazy fundies who think this whacko was "ordained by God" to be our president!  Enough said about that.  I don't want to vomit up my dinner.

So that's where I'm at.  Thanks for reading.

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