My attempt to recreate what I lost before. It will not have the fire or passion of my original attempt since that was spurred on by a specific catalyst cannot be duplicated. But I've had a couple of requests that I voice my thoughts anyway, so I'll try. It won't be nearly as empassioned, though.
I grew up, a good little Anglican. For those of you who don't know, that's the the Church of England which was "cannonized" as the official sect of the UK by that grand womanizer, King Henry VIII.
I went regularly until about high school. That's when I traded in Sundays at the alter (I was even an Alter Girl) for the semblance of a social life. You can't stay out late and have fun and get up to no good and be expected to get up early for church. I somewhat maintain that if our parish had evening services, I might not be the "lost sheep" I am now. Though, at the same time, so much has happened, I really can't make that assertion. I'm sure that having a bunch of heathen friends didn't help.
After I stopped going to church regularly, I bashed it a lot. It was boring, it didn't make sense. I "descended" into full-blown atheism for a while. I didn't engage in the debate very much. I avoided talking to my parents about it, and it was an easy lifestyle because it fit perfectly with what everyone else was doing. I guess I became a different kind of sheep.
It wasn't until I met Mo that I really started having crises about what I believed. That's when I really started thinking about what religion was and why I backed out.
Mo's a Catholic. She sometimes refers to herself as "Catholic light". She follows most of the tenets to the letter, but we've also had some interesting conversations about what doesn't work in the Roman Catholic church. The one I always bring up (and get really angry about) is this "the Pope is infallable" dogma. I have plenty of other problems with the hierarchy of the RC church, but it can originally be traced back to my realization of what Pius IX did. In 1870, he declared the Pope infallible. Immediately makes it hard to argue with, eh? Here's my problem with that: Man is fallible. God is (acclaimed) infallible. The Pope, while God's representative on earth, is a man. I see holes in the logic. Need more proof? The Pope isn't chosen by God. The Pope is elected by Cardinals (hey, that just happened!). If the Pope was truly the one true representative of God, wouldn't it be unanimous? But maybe I'm oversimplifying. Maybe that's not the point.
At any rate, in my view, I don't see how the Pope can't be wrong about things like birth control, when so many unplanned babies are born into horrible situations, and millions are infected with AIDS in Africa. I'm not saying that everyone should rush out and have premarital sex, but really, why can't we protect ourselves if we do. Especially since marital sex doesn't guarantee that nothing bad will happen. And you're also asking recognized fallible creatures to fight against millions of years of biology. But I digress.
Then there's the Catholic stance on gays. Now, before anyone jumps all over me, I know this is a view held by many religious institutions. But in my world, RCs appear to lead the charge. Maybe because of their numbers, maybe because of where I get my information. But it was from an RC that I first became aware that there was oppostion. To the people, and to their marriage. I could never really find the words for why I accept both. In researching a post to Robyn's blog, I found this website that put it into perspective for me; even backing up the arguments with Bible quotes. I also recently came across some interesting thoughts in this (Janet's) blog.
As I started becoming aware of all the different incarnations of Christianity, I really started to question how anyone could be right. Then when I realized that Christians (in various forms) have been trying to prove people wrong for years, I really got mad.
Now, I realize that this isn't a phenomenon particular to Christians -- that many faiths have been trying to peddle influence for thousands of years. But when I looked at Western history and Christians long, bloody history (crusades, colonialism, etc.), I got really confused. When did "Love thy neighbour" turn into, impose your beliefs or slaughter those who disagree?
Did they have it wrong? Were they out of line? Contemporary thought seems to agree, yes. So assertions that This Is The Way It Is or that Now We've Got It Right fall a little flat to me. My example: many (and I apologize for being non-specific) Christian sects preached slavery from the pulpit for decades. It was our "God-given right" to abuse and subjugate entire races because of skin colour and origin. Well, no one's very fond of that doctrine anymore. In fact, I've been hard pressed to find a religious organization that has make public statements to that effect (note: the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazism are not religions (although the former has been recorded as promoting Prostentantism: they are secular organizations).
My point is that all this contributed to a great big WTF?!?! from me as I failed repeatedly to be able to reconcile all this history with what I was understanding from 20 years of religious instruction.
Let me make one thing clear: I do not think anyone is stupid for their religious beliefs. I might not understand the wherefores and whys of someone's faith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.), but I don't think I need to understand in order to accept. Nor does any of what I've said mean that I think other people's beliefs are invald. Everyone thinks differently. I've just been cataloguing my experiences and my struggle with how or what to believe.
So, what do I believe? Well, usually, I simplify things and label myself an agnostic. People like labels. They allow us to categorize easily and make unsubstantiated snap judgements. I know, because I do it too. The thing is, agnosticism doesn't cover it for me. I'm not just unclear about the existence of God or a god. I'm confused over how anyone can think they have it right and that 5 billion or 3.4 billion or 5.75 billion people (depending on which cult you're in) are all completely wrong. And for the record, I don't think I have it right either; just that I have it right for me right now. I guess I believe that's all anyone has the right to expect for themselves or for anyone else.
There are many things I don't get. I don't understand how (as happened on Desperate Houswives recently) a mother can say to her son, "I don't believe you'll go to heaven." I don't understand how minor variations in personality or biology can be the basis to reject someone on an institutional level. While education systems are bending over backwards to include everyone in the learning process (which doesn't necessarily work either), it seems like religious institutions are holding on rigidly to whip people into shape and get them to fall in line.
So, maybe I'm a Moral Relativist, or a Pluralist, or an Agnostic, or an Existentialist. When it comes down to it, I don't know what to call myself. And maybe I'll be proven wrong some day in whatever it is I believe. But I don't disparage anyone who believes in a particular religious doctrine, nor do I disparage those who believe there isn't anything to believe. I do take issue with people who manipulate doctrines to acheive a larger political or social agenda, or to justify the subjugation or abuse of others. Maybe that's right, and maybe I somehow contradict myself by making that assertion, but I'm currently comfortable with myself. I'm glad I took time and energy to think about it all. And I'm glad I made another attempt at this blog (even though I know I went way off course from my original intent that is lost in cyberspace).
I welcome thoughts, opinions, and healthy debate. Random personal attacks, name-calling, and otherwise unintelligent commentary will be deleted -- and I reserve the right to rebut the author of such with derision and mockery. :)
[Endnote: I apologize if my blog seems to skew unfairly toward Roman Catholics. It's true that I could have done more research into other denominations of Christianity, but since I was talking about what I believe and how I came to it, I had to go with what I knew. I guess it's funny that I didn't poke at Anglicanism more: what a (lapsed) Catholic ex once referred to as the religion of fickle, skeptical whores. Maybe I should have stuck with my own. ;)]