Posts Tagged ‘religion’


So, whenever I talk to religious folk, I am invariably told that I am either going to hell or that they will pray for me. Oooh, let’s not forget the look of pitying worry–the kind of look we reserve for the slightly mad as we humor them. Oh wait, that may be an unrelated issue.
I can’t help it, I’m a cynic. Did the whole religious upbringing in an extraordinarily Catholic family. Look up Irish Catholic and you could probably find a family portrait featuring yours truly and my few hundred relations. Seriously, we push maximum occupancy at Christmas what with roughly 90 or so people at our little holiday soiree.
So, religion. I’m afraid that I am an unrelenting skeptic without any reverence for God Almighty, at least in the myriad ways he exists to the various religions of the world. The closest thing I’ve come to accepting since my personal fall from grace is a type of paganism, but even that I must modify and simplify. I just can’t bow down and believe in the big man upstairs and all his omniscience and omnipotence. If I did, I’d probably still be vilifying his divine self for all the many evils of the world, and in particular what my brothers go through every day. I’m a forgiving sort, but if there is a god who is omnipotent, he can rot in hell because the bastard made my brothers and others like them suffer.
But I don’t believe that there is a personified omnipotent being up in the stratosphere who showers us all with his fatherly affections. Christianity just didn’t cut it for my mind. I have no problem with Christians, or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Rastafarians, mind you, people can believe whatever they want and I will not ask someone to change their way of thinking. Okay that’s a downright lie. Because there are people who I think should change their way of thinking and they fall under the fun little category of evangelists, proselytizers, missionaries, etc. It’s always been my motto to respect other people’s rights to their own belief, and these self-righteous think-they-know-it-alls just trample on that day by day. Look at Al Queda, look at the Spanish Inquisition, look at that sick fuck who was behind the proposed Q’uran burning in Florida.
So now you’ve got a grasp on my problem with organized religion, or at least one facet of my problem, I shall get to the point. I know, I know, a point Shannon? You haven’t had one of those in a while. Sure you’re up for it? Maybe you should take another few weeks off without blogging, you lazy fuck.
Shut up voices.
Now see, that look you are giving me via your computer screen right now? THAT’S the look.
But I digress. Last Sunday, I found myself covering an event on campus called GospelFest for the paper. Now, considering my aversion to organized religion and preaching, you’re probably surprised I volunteered to review such an event. Fact is, I like gospel music. It’s fun, a lot more fun than gregorian chants and endless Baroque pieces in simpering latin. (I sang a lot of Latin in high school, back in the ole plaid skirt days.) So off I went to GospelFest.
The music was great, the kids who did some urban praise dancing were awesome–I love dancing, having no talent for it myself I find myself constantly amazed by those who do–and the whole service was run by a charismatic and comically stereotypical MC. Yes, friends I am on dangerous grounds, but sometimes stereotypes are actually adhered to. The Pastor who led the ceremony was a loud, large African American man from Chicago, who had a booming voice and tone that you would expect to see on some revivalist televangelist show. That’s not to say he wasn’t a great speaker, he was, and the list of his achievements was impressive. But his constant calls to get on our feet and feel the spirit, the spittle flying from his mouth as he raised his palms and asked us to praise the Lord, these things didn’t move me.
When I witness a performance like his, I view it as just that: a performance. I cannot see someone summoning up that kind of zeal, zest, and genuine inspiration just because they are scheduled to. I think of religion as something that should be felt as truth, it should never be even a tiniest bit forced or false. And to see someone doing a choreographed encouragement that audience feel what they ask feels manipulative. Feeling and emotion are the easiest ways to manipulate a person and I feel that a lot of religious folk use this to their advantage. Guilt, fear, a need to belong, love, inclusion, exclusion, righteousness–these are all feelings that religious groups use for proselytizing. Call me naive, but if what you believe is true, than you shouldn’t have to use charisma and emotion to get your point across. Sincerity and plain speech should do the same. When I see religious types employing the fire-and-brimstone, hallelujah and praise the lord type of emotionally driven speaking tactics, I question whether they believe or whether they want to be believed. And so I am a cynic.
So yeah, I see a man who teaches Sunday school, directs choirs for urban kids to keep them off the streets, and is a pillar of his religious community and all I can see is possible deception and, as Salinger would say, a phony. I take a preacher and construe him as possible manipulator. I fear that which I cannot understand and doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Maybe this skepticism means that I cannot be deceived, maybe it means that I am an independent thinker who will not be manipulated. Or maybe I really am going to hell.