Church of St. Nobody
Religion can bring a lot of positive into the world and usually aligns with many parts of our own personal values systems. I can absolutely get behind stories about spreading peace, being compassionate, and loving your neighbors. Well, one of my neighbors. The other neighbors are, I assume, trying to create a new Olympic sport that involves throwing bowling balls against a wall. They practice frequently. Maybe they’re trying to create a hole in the wall so they can say hello and get to know us better.
There are many religious stories that teach, heal, and comfort. Religion can provide an answer to the “Why?” in times where one is desperately needed. It can calm fears, provide clarity or peace of mind, and give us something to put our trust into when the world gives us valid reasons to be skeptical and fearful. How could a person, especially a child, ever get cancer? How could a human kill another human? Why can’t we predict or prevent natural disasters?
I was raised Catholic. I made my first communion and sang in the church choir every Saturday. We celebrated Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and we didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. If you lost something, you prayed to St. Anthony.
In 1985, Hurricane Gloria tore through Connecticut. My elementary school classmate’s dad was cutting down a tree in their yard during the eye of the storm so it wouldn’t fall on their house. She went outside and the tree fell on and killed her. When we talked about it in CCD, our teachers told us that she went to heaven. It was part of God’s plan. She was an angel now.
It all made sense.
Until it started to get confusing to me.
I remember sitting in the choir loft every Saturday. I’d count how many bald men were in the congregation, wonder what would happen if I dropped something off of the balcony, and listen to the priest’s homily. I especially remember the one where he mentioned divorce being a sin. My parents have been divorced since I took my first steps. Did that mean I was automatically going to hell?
The more I experienced the world and the more I learned, the more I realized that Catholicism wasn’t a religion I could put my faith into. By the time I was in 6th grade, I quit CCD. I never made my confirmation.
Since then, I’ve sinned. I have a confession... I'm a thief. I steal bits and pieces from religions that align with my thoughts and values. I don’t go to church or participate in any holidays or customs. Most of the things I've stolen have been from Buddhism, but I don't call myself a Buddhist. Depending on the day, I usually identify as agnostic atheist; I don’t know for sure if any gods exist or not, but I don’t happen to believe in any of them.
“Being agnostic and being an atheist are not mutually exclusive. Knowledge and belief are related but separate issues: not knowing if something is true or not doesn't exclude believing or disbelieving it.” - Austin Cline
I have a tattoo that says, "Question Everything," so I do! I have a wife who was raised Jewish, two friends who are ministers, and friends and family who believe in all sorts of things. I'm constantly asking questions (and looking for more things to steal). I also have a tattoo that says "Everything Happens for a Reason," so I know that I don't know what I don't know. Ya know? And I'm open to being incorrect. There could be a G-d, or many gods. You never know. Literally.
I have no idea what happens to us after we die. I haven’t died yet or, if I have, I don’t remember it. I sometimes hope reincarnation is true. The thought of coming back in my next life as a Lhasa Apso is something I could jump on board with easily. But, most of me usually believes that absolutely nothing happens when you die. You get one chance, you die, and that’s it.
That was challenged the day my mother-in-law went to see a medium who gave her a message to give to me. It was a message that nobody in the world could have ever guessed or Googled.
I'll share the message on Thursday!
<insert evil laugh>