Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wrath vs Religion

Some of you may know that my mother is a baptist minister. How fucking weird is that? I was raised to believe in God but was never forced to go to church and my mother's own religious epiphany is fairly recent. See, growing up my mother was very much like me. She got into street fights and usually won. She watched horror movies and kung fu movies religiously and devoured every horror novel she could get her hands on. She went out dancing in nightclubs every saturday night. She cussed and told dirty jokes and had lingerie parties where she sold sex toys. She watched pornography and listened to Richard Pryor albums and Eddie Murphy albums and believed in freedom of speech. Then she got fed up with men who could not live up to her idealized image and turned to her perfect man, the one the bible spoke of who was all-powerful and all-knowing and omni-benevolent, the only man she could ever submit herself to, and the woman I had known, the woman who raised me to be the man I am today, ceased to be. I know it sounds overly dramatic but that is exactly what happened.

Pastor White can no longer stomach horror movies. She has no need of male company, detests pornography or comedy with too much profanity or sexual language, and would never read anything that I write. So what happened to her? In my opinion the same thing that happens to everyone who joins any kind of cult. She went in total retreat from reality. She retreated from who she is. One too many dissapointments with men, one too many setbacks in life, so now she has a man who never disappoints. Hard to disappoint when you don't exist. She can make him in whatever image she chooses and he is always perfect because it says so right in the bible. Sorry if I sound cynical but I get pissed off every time I think about it. I want my Mom back. I miss her and I feel like I've been robbed and cheated.

I remember when I was twenty-two years old and my mother came to visit me in San Francisco. I was a bouncer at a night club that played Reggae music and my mother and sister came to the club and danced until the placed closed. I then took them both home and went out to an all-night rave. The next morning I picked them up again and brought them to the "Rave in the Park" where we listened to Techno and House music while a group of girls marveled out loud at how today was the first time they'd seen me with clothes on (another story) and then they shared a joint with my mom. Later that day my mom and I walked together down Haight Street and she questioned me about the metal loops in the ceiling (I had taken down the chains out of respect.) When I told her what they were for she laughed and informed me that she had the same metal loops in her ceiling. Then we both laughed while she relayed a story about her first experiment with bondage. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree she reminded me. At that moment I felt closer to her than I ever had. It is hard to accept that we will never share that kind of closeness again.

I often wonder if her religious fanaticism was some type of reaction to my atheism, which was pretty fanatical at that time. I felt like it was my duty to enlighten the world back then and single-handedly raise the misguided sheep out of the Dark Ages. My mother and I would often argue about religion late into the night. Maybe those discussions with me are what made her curious about religion? I don't know. At times I wonder if it is some type of punishment. All I know is that all the reasons, arguments, and evidence, that I use to present in defense of my skepticism now pale in comparison to this very emotional reason. Yes, I think it is silly to believe in something without evidence and against all contradictory evidence, simply because that is what your parents believed and thier parents before them, or because that's what your culture believes and you are too lazy or cowardly to step outside the herd and entertain other points of view. Yes, there are some very strong arguments against the Western idea of an all powerful perfect deity, not the least of which is the Evidential Argument from Evil. Yes, the history of religion does not paint a very favorable picture of it. All of these things are the reasons I first cast aside my belief in pursuit of true knowledge. I think it is better to admit ignorance than fill in the gaps in your knowledge with unsubstantiated belief. I think that the idea that belief holds the same weight as knowledge leads neccessarily to prejudice and intolerance. All of these reasons are why I am still an atheist today. But they are not why I hate religion. I hate religion for the simple reason that faith took my mom away and replaced her with this bible-thumping zombie that I can no longer relate to. I hate religion every time I remember that day in San Francisco when my mother and I walked down Haight Street and realized that we were not so different after all.


Brian Keene said...

Great essay, Wrath. Been going through much of the same myself, lately. Nice to know I'm not alone.

Religion really does change people--and not always in a good way.

Wrath said...

Thanks, man. Very personal stuff there, but isn't that the whole point of a blog? As I said, I'll be using this little baby strictly to rant and rave and vent about anything that strikes me. I'll try my best to keep anything from being outright insulting but things may happen. As you know, that's the risk you take with this sort of thing. I'm sure religion has done some wonderful things for people. There are some people who need religion just to get through life just like there are those with chronic illnesses or injuries who require drugs just to function. Like drugs, it is a crutch and I just feel like if you don't need it then don't pick it up.

Maurice Broaddus said...

this has seriously given me a lot to think about. personal and powerful.

obviously i don't view religion as a crutch, but i'm all about wrestling with what you believe, why you believe it, and what kind of person you want to become.

Wrath said...

Thanks for posting, Maurice. I have found that questioning ones beliefs is sacriligious to most. "Don't think. Believe!" is often the prevailing attitude and doubt and healthy skepticism is beaten down with fire and brimstone. It is a crutch in as much as it is often used to free the faithful of any burden to search for answers to any of life's mysteries on thier own or to form thier own opinions. It's already written down for them and what the bible doesn't address is simply a mystery God didn't want you to know about or is even considered unknowable, until some scientist discovers it that is. This stance is what has often lead to my characterization of the faithful as sheep, blindly following wherever lead without once questioning the path for fear of ostracism. "Why do I believe?" Is too often answered with "That's how I was raised." Implying that were they born in India they'd be Hindu, in Beijing they'd be Buddhists, and in Somalia they'd be Islamic. The seeming arbitrariness of that mentality I would think should offend believers and non-believers alike. Those who have studied thier faith, weighed and tested it, compared it and contrasted it with others and can defend it reasonably, logically, morally and ethically, I would hope would be offened by the masses who assume it from thier parents like a hand-me-down. In my opinion, belief without evidence is seldom a good thing. Many a racist, sexist, and homophobe find it easy to justify thier hatred and intolerance with faith, allowing them to maintain their hate without ever having to give a reasonable argument or credible piece of evidence in support of it other than "It says so in the bible."

Nate Southard said...

Wrath has a blog!

Great one, Wrath. You really summed a lot of my own feelings on religion. Opiate of the masses, indeed.

titus said...

religion has so many tedious details that many often get bogged down with that the forget the more general meaning of love