As much as I enjoy discussing faith and religion with my friends, I generally try to either keep the conversation either away from my personal beliefs or speak about them in such vague terms that no conclusions can be drawn about my beliefs. I wonder why that is? I honestly don’t give a shit what other people think of my relationship with faith or whether or not I believe in God. But if that’s true, why is it that I don’t necessarily feel comfortable about it all? Perhaps it’s one of those things where it’s not that I won’t speak about my faith, but rather have to be prompted to do so.
I grew up attending a Methodist church and Sunday School every week with parents who had both grown up in relatively religious households — one Catholic, the other Methodist. My brother even went to a Jesuit High School, but I can’t ever remember a time when I was particularly on-board with the whole religion thing. So does that make me an atheist? Agnostic? If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose, I would probably still call myself a Christian, but I’m not sure if that stems from actual faith or a reflex response.
I don’t believe it’s too much of a leap to say I was the bane of Sunday School, Youth Group, and Valley View Methodist Church as a whole at times growing up. I was fiery, argumentative, and didn’t simply accept Jesus Howard Christ as my Lord and Savior. I mean, who does this Middle Eastern hippie from, like, 2046 years ago think he is? I’m no sucker. I don’t fall for magic tricks and it takes more than a little leaflet and an old lady to convince me that miracles are real. I would often pick philosophical fights with men and women who were supposedly–as much as a Sunday School teacher can be–much more learned than I over passages I barely understood simply because they made no logical sense to me. My mom blames my dad. For example, once when I was 12 or so we were talking about Hell. Apparently if I sinned, jerked off, or supported gay rights, I was going to Hell. But here’s the thing I couldn’t understand: if God is this being of unparalleled love and forgiveness (New Testament, what up!) then how could he ever condemn someone, even those who didn’t believe or repent, to Hell? I feel like there is a logical fallacy in being a being of unconditional and endless love condemning their “children” to eternal suffering and pain. I explained this, perhaps with more zeal than necessary, and was swiftly rebuked by the middle-aged woman as being “naïve.” There’s a touch of irony there, don’t you think?
Even when I was a small child, I never liked the Bible. I always thought it was either boring, exaggerated, or just straight stupid. Now that I’ve taken an actual course of the Bible during my time at Boston University, I can say I’m still pretty much in the same spot, though I appreciate it more as a piece of literature now. I could find you passages, but we all know there is some pretty fucked up stuff in the Bible that fundamentalists generally choose to leave out… like slavery and women killing. Not to mention I was really into Jesus Christ Superstar which will just make you love Judas (Carl Anderson has the voice of an…. Angel?)
Regardless, I consider myself “spiritual” while not particularly “religious.” The ultimate cheesy cop-out, I know, but I am fascinated and am often comforted by many aspect of my faithful upbringing: putting stock in something larger than yourself to keep it all in perspective, the idea of always having a future, doing unto others as you would have done unto you, and using meditation and prayer to explore your mind and soul and better understand what it means to be human. Honesty. Righteousness. Love. How can traits so wonderful be part of so something potentially egregious as organized religion? Though to be fair, for all the harm and hatred spread by religion, it has done its fair share of good deeds too. Organized religion, like all things in this world, has the potential to perform both beneficial and destructive actions. So what I like to do is believe that perhaps there is an unfathomably large and benevolent force out there than flicked the first switch of our Rube-Goldberg universe, sat back, and cracked open a beer. And who knows, maybe at some point that force got horny and knocked up some virgin in Israel. What matters most to me isn’t what faith we do or don’t have, but what we do with our faith. All faith is about being more than just a human, doing more than just living. It is to bring yourself and others up to a higher level of mental, physical, and moral understanding. So meditate on how you can be that better person and use your answers to be the best humanity has to offer — then bring those around you up too.
Here’s a fun ditty called “RANT” by Bo Burnham about church too.