Religion ... ugh
To: The Congregation
Subject: [Insert 30 seconds of thinking up a vapid subject line.]
OK, I’ve left some people sort of wondering what my view on religion, the afterlife and spirituality is altogether. I don’t like to get deep too much, for myriad reasons. One, I like to keep a light mood around here. Two, sometimes when I try to get deep, my writing sometimes ends up sounding like satire. But oh well. Here goes…
Religion has played a large part in my development as a, well, jackass. My mother, whom I rarely talk to, is extremely religions. My father, my best friend and role model, claims to believe in God, but he never pushed it on me. The irony? My dad is a Republican and my mom’s liberal. She has an open mind and is extremely smart, but she has unwavering faith in God.
Anyway, so she took me to church often when I was a child. We weren’t exactly there every Sunday, but at least twice a month. I loathed going to church, even as a child. I had to have unnerved my pastor with all the questions I asked. "So, what happens to people who’ve never heard of Jesus, Pastor Roy?" I’d say. "Well, Spencer, they go to hell." I knew that wasn’t right, but I hadn’t yet found the courage to confront my emotions — even if they were instilled in me by someone else.
As I aged, I went to the little Southern Baptist church less and less. I moved to the gaudy First Assembly of God in North Little Rock. Now, if anyone can make church cool, FAG in North Little Rock can. If you’ve never seen it, it’s beautiful. All glass and white, with a huge sanctuary, a gym, a workout room. And believe me, these people can’t get enough God. They speak in tongues (fuckin’ freaky), pray out loud and praise the Lord for everything.
Not me. I thought it was a crock of shit. Their sole purpose was to get more money. They did everything to attract kids, too — huge youth room, lounge room with pool and pinball tables, big screen TVs, an arcade, ya know, the works. And it worked. They averaged about 400-500 kids each week. My friends and I usually went there to meet girls. I’ve rocked my Jeep a couple times in that parking lot, and God knows how many times we went in there stoned out of our mind.
But for some reason, the pastors there loved me. As I look back now, I know why. They wanted to use me as a tool. I was the “popular guy,” yet I still hung out with the geeks I had all my classes with. People looked up to me, as hard as it is to see it. I was smart, but I always pushed the envelope. I’d tell the teacher when I thought she wrong — you know, the little things that count, but many people never had the balls to do it.
They tried every way possible to get me to come to their side. They invited me on trips, they looked past my horrible profanity problem and they even let me play in the church band (drums). When my parents were in the middle of a divorce, my youth pastor let me stay at his house for a week with his wife and kids, and I still thank them for that.
But one day, I just woke up. I can even remember that morning. I was in 11th grade (so I guess about 16 years old) and I’d just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I had to write my junior paper on the book and Huxley. I remember waking up one morning — in fact the morning after I had finished the book, and feeling ... different.
I began seeing things in a new light. I had so many questions. I began to write, and I didn’t stop. The book questions religion, among other things, and the way society believes almost anything it’s told to believe.
... Here’s what I think. Religion is great ... for some people. For some, going to that altar on Sunday and confronting a drug problem is really helpful. Just not for me. We are confronted with questions every day: How did we get here? What happens when we die? Blah blah blah. First of all, when you die, you do exactly that. You just fucking die. What’s so scary about that? I understand you want to believe that your loved one is in a greater place when he or she suffered so much through life (or at the end of his or her life), but they aren’t. That’s not bad; just look at it as though they’re not suffering anymore.
I just don’t understand why people allow a sweaty minister to badger them into believing what he believes and refuting any other explanation offered by other cultures or religions. It shows gross arrogance and invites repugnance from others.
I think religious radicals in America are just as bad as Jihadists. They live their lives attempting to make others conform to their outlandish beliefs. Fuck you and fuck your beliefs, I tell them. You are one of the biggest inhibitors of America’s intellectual growth. If we were all dumb and gave in to your brainwashing techniques, this country would go just the way you want it.
But no. That will never happen.
Ya know, at first, I merely made a decision not to partake in anything with the religious right. But now, I’m starting to despise anything to do with them. Why is it thought to be appropriate for ministers to hold an alter call at the funeral? Ugh. Look at all the major issues in America. Numerous problems are rooted in orthodox values. Abortion. Gay marriage. Sex education in schools. Separation of church and state. Intelligent Design. Fuck those values.
It is the 21st century, you know. Just do me a favor, if you choose to follow the religious lifestyle, do it because you chose to. Not because you have a drug problem, or are going through a divorce or anything. Don’t let turmoil dictate life choices. Go because you want to. And keep an open mind.
Am I asking too much?