"God is like the ultimate Bad Date or Bad Boss: a needy, egotistical, rageaholic Deity who needs needs constant adoration and is too fragile to handle the least bit of criticism. So we always had to shut-up, suck up and give God lots of praise. You know, the old Praise Jesus Or He'll Torture You To Death in Hell."
Got a note from a buddy the other day... Hi Gayle!... who had been knocking about on the blog and read some of my thoughts on my upbringing and being raised Catholic and what kind of effect that had on me... And the upshot was that she felt bad about how those experiences shaped me. A bit of comapassionate pity, well intentioned and heartfelt, to be sure.
Of course the first reaction, having been inculcated into the Japanese culture these past few months was to think "Oh, but no. It wasn't so bad for me. Just a little thing." Damn Japanese humility. But really, that's true. It's not as if I was plied with the sacramental wine as the priest touched me in my special place or anything.
But the psychological conditioning that organized religion imparts on you can be just devastating. And I don't see how it can't be. I know that when I'm least aware, I find those same destructive habits of guilt and shame creeping in from the shadows. I've nothing but envy for those who have somehow only managed to extract the love and compassion aspects of Christianity from their respective indoctrinations. But I think those that have, while still espousing the party line doctrine of whatever their organization, are either disingenious, in denial or lacking introspection.
I don't think any genuine spirituality or connection to... god, the source, the Is, the implicate order, the tao, whatever you want to refer to it as... is going to somehow be reliant on the strictures and dogma of some church.
And organizations, by their very nature, despite whatever the best of intentions, after establishment... the first order of business in virtually all cases is the continued existence of that organization.
And to maintain the organization any and all actions are deemed appropriate.
Holy Wars? Sure. Covering up for pedophiles? Of course. Suicide bombings? Yep. Blowing up clinics and shooting doctors in the head? God wills it so. Filling impressionable young minds with visions of a fiery hell of eternal damnation and torture to get them to be life long members of the church... filled with fear and guilt and repressed sexuality and anger? Every. Goddamn. Day.
When I first... drifted... away from the church at about 16, it was an odd mixture of normal teenage rebellion, the illogical inconsistencies of a God - an omnipotent, omniscience entity who's first commandment was to worship him above all others...
[Side note: I love the fact that the 10 commandments don't say he's the ONLY god, only that he should be worshipped above all others. "Do not have any other gods before Me." Not, "There are no other gods." Now why would THE GOD talk about other gods? Kinda blows that monotheism idea all to hell, but I digress...]
Any God who's first priority is ensuring that all worship him is a needy, juvenile, attention-whore. So, there's that.
One of the big reasons though was a sense of dissillusionment. It was probably about 10th, or maybe 11th grade when I had my confirmation. And despite the misgivings I was starting to have about the church, a part of me had the naive impression that when I was confirmed SOMETHING would change. Ostensibly, confirmation is when the Holy Spirit is supposed to descend upon you and touch you. Sounds like a big deal right? And a part of me expected it to be.
But nothing. Nada. Zip. No sense of communion with the Holy Spirit. No grace. Just another empty ritual.
Religion... organized religion... only seems to fulfill two functions. One is the obvious. Control of people. It's no accident that religion forms the basis of much government, and has, over the millenia. Even today, from the obvious religious theocracies to, for example, America, were large groups only WANT to establish a religious theocracy.
The other role religion seems to fulfill is the understandable, and somewhat healthier need for community and connection amongst people. A good motivation, and a reasonably healthy one - the need that is - not the embrace of religion. Because virtually all religion, and certainly all mainstream religion, develop this sense of religious community through an exclusion of others and the idea of the elect. The Pope, when pressed, says that anyone not a Catholic is going to hell. For large swathes of the American populace, if you haven't "accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior" - same deal. Radical Islam - Jesus, you don't even need that one spelled out, do you?
Religion - Making People Feel Better by Damning Everyone Else™
Given the wealth and variety of religious dogma throughout history, the idea that any one collective has happened upon the "one, true religion", that has somehow survived unto the present day... it's just laughable. It flies in the face of everything we know about human nature, the willingness to alter data - holy books included - the sheer inability to any degree to transfer the subjectiveness of human experience into "objective" truth, the eminently subjective nature of religion and consciousness experience... the list goes on and on and on...
The human needs for certainty, comfort, special"ness" - being part of the "elect" - the desire for control and authority, the pitfalls and fallacies of any hierarchal organizational structure... wrapped up in a tidy package of a needy, vengeful God whose purpose in creating the world, if you look at the eveidence, seems to have been so he can damn the vast majority of its population to the tortures of fire and suffering.
Sorry. I deny that religion and I deny those ideas.
The closest I've come to religious ideas that I'm comfortable with are religions that at least don't vacillate on their nature. Which is to say that they own up to the fact that religious experience is completely personal. The sheer number of people I've known who have said "I'm Catholic but I don't follow *this specific* teaching of the Church" is just mind boggling. You know what, you're not really Catholic then. You may want to be Catholic [or Jewish, or Muslim, or what have you] but if you deny what the organization considers fundamental teachings, you don't make the grade.
But people are needy and dependent and crave a sense of community, no matter how false. So instead of just nutting up and saying "No, I'm not" this or that or what have you, they go to Church every Sunday and bask in the contentment that even if they don't believe the stories they're surrounded by, at least they're not alone.
You're not really a member of that Church, you're making up your own religous theology, predicated on nothing more than your own comfort levels and personal preferences. At least own up to it.
Religious experience is, at best, a process and not a dogma.
I try to be a decent person. Try to have compassion and not hurt others. Try to be aware and conscientious and kind. And I think most people do too.
And if that isn't good enough for some patriarchal law-giver hell-bent on appeasing his sense of need and ego and condemning billions upon billions of souls.... well, then...
And if that is the "one, true God" let him strike me dead as I type this.
Nope. Nothing. Not even a tingle.