Wednesday, July 27, 2005

lma confronts the arrogance of belief, and then reflects on part of her own history of belief...

I've become extremely disillusioned with my exploration of belief systems as I run into more and more believers of all stripes who seem to think that they have the right to dictate to everyone else what to believe. One can't have an intelligent conversation about beliefs, it seems, without someone getting all defensive and asserting that he or she has all the answers and that if you don't believe the same thing, well, you're just wrong. I've had a run-in or two like that in the past day or two, and I'll tell you that it's left a bad taste in my mouth.

I'm really seriously considering just closing up shop on my formal (well, about as formal as I'm capable of being) study of belief systems and just let everybody go off into their little corners and play their little holier-than-thou games. The funny thing is, it isn't just the religious that do this. It comes up in the realms of politics and science in just about the same way. Somebody is always convinced that they have all the answers, when they in reality don't know a damn thing except what's going on inside their own heads. It's really mental masturbation at its worst.

I don't know. Maybe it's just that I'm tired right now, and it's hot, and my last little nerve ending is really frayed. I know there are very many believers in all religions who are completely sincere and wouldn't think of ever forcing their beliefs on anyone. But I had someone tell me, after I had left a comment on something they had written in their blog, that I had no good reason for leaving the religion that I had previously been a member of. He doesn't know me from Eve, for God's sake, but he insinuated that I had left not because of a lack of belief in the tenets of the faith but because I had sinned, and that there was really no good reason for anyone to leave that church. Now, I thought that was just the least little bit totalitarian. I always thought that religion was a matter of conscience. But apparently this guy's position (and that of the church, which shall remain nameless) is that once you join up with them you don't get to leave unless you petition them to do so. Well, I haven't done that, and I probably won't, since to do that would just be to continue to give them power over me. I'm not willing to grant that power to them. Hell, I wasn't willing to do that when I attended the church; why would I do so now?

It's been a long time since I've really been a part of that religion, and I was never a particularly faithful member. As I said, I never gave them the power over me that they expect all good members of the church to cede over to them, and I never bought into some of the doctrines. Other doctrines weren't really explained to me before I was baptized, and I wouldn't have become a member of that church if I had understood what they really stand for. Mine was what they call a "baseball baptism" or a social baptism. When I was in high school, I knew a lot of members of that church and they were oh, so good at pulling people into their orbit. It was one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" situations. I was pretty sure almost immediately after baptism that it wasn't where I belonged. However, I'm nothing if not fair-minded, and I gave it some time and tried to honor the baptismal promises that I had made. Gave it something like thirty years, off and on - although more off than on the past twenty-five or so of those years. But there was this pull exerted. I went back more than once after I said I was through with them. Last time I did that was summer before last. It lasted about three months, even though I had determined to give it a year. That seemed like a fair shake. But they had me teaching a Sunday class once a month, and one day I was standing up there teaching and all of a sudden I had a revelation. I didn't believe anything that was coming out of my mouth, and I never had. Not really. I had always known that at some level, but that day it was like a whole different kind of knowledge, almost on a cellular level.

Before, I had never understood why so many of the people who leave that church are so angry. There's a whole internet forum frequented by those who were once faithful and have left, or who were born into it and never felt like they belonged there. I haven't had to put up with even a hundreth of what some of the people on that board have. But I found my anger, too. Anger that I had wasted so much time giving lip service to something I knew to be untrue. Anger that I had not fought harder for myself when one of the married men in the congregation couldn't keep his hands off my hair even when I asked him to not touch me. When I complained about it, I was told that, oh, he's just like that. And, it was implied, because I am not the most attractive woman in the world, that I should accept male attention wherever it offered itself. Excuse me? Then there was the ever-present question: "So, when are you getting married?" "Never," I finally answered one man when asked me that. "I don't intend to sell myself into slavery."

Oh, and there's the anger about being constantly told that I wasn't good enough because I was unmarried with no kids. That I wasn't really entitled to opinions because I am a woman. That I wasn't a good enough church member because I wasn't a member of the correct political party. That I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was. I'm getting pissed off again as I sit here and write this just because I kept going back, hoping things had changed. See, that's what got me back that last time. I had attended a Sunday meeting just to see if the building would fall down when I walked in the door. I had done that occasionally, just sort of checking in to see what was going on and how things had changed. I had heard rumors, and I wanted to check them out. And so, one of the women got up to speak, and during her talk she quoted Professor Dumbledore, out of the "Harry Potter" books. Well, I thought, maybe things have changed. That't wouldn't have flown at the time I'd last been to church.

But nothing had changed, not really. Anyway, not for the better. Things were just getting more and more culty, more and more controlling. So, I'm an apostate now, at least to their way of thinking. I don't hold any of the people in the church any ill will, generally speaking. There are a few individuals who I would like to give a good talking to, but since that a) won't ever happen, and b) would be a waste of my breath anyway, I just try to let it go. Easier said than done, unfortunately, but I'm getting there. Actually being able to write this all down is a step in the right direction, actually. This is the first time I've been able to do this. I've tried before, and I just ended up getting pissed off and giving up. I'm learning to deal.

I didn't mean to go on for so long. I'm not even sure I intended to go in this direction when I sat down to write. And I suppose that this doesn't have much to do with my writing, not a good thing since this is supposed to be a writing journal above all else. Well, almost all of my writing energies have been going into my paid employment lately and what other writing I have been doing is more in the way of fiction than non-fiction. So I guess this will turn, for a little while anyway, into more of a general writing journal than one targeted to a specific writing project, which is where it began.

Don't worry. I don't have any intention of turning it into one of those "and then I did this, and after that I went there" blogs. Nothing wrong with those, you understand. But that's just not my style. I'm still grappling with understanding the world around me - see my last couple of posts for more on that particular circus. So, I'll be talking more about general things, dropping in an essay from time to time on stuff that's going on in the world, and trying to find the time to see where - if anywhere - the project that this blog was originally created for will go. Because it isn't that I've lost my interest in belief systems; it's just that I've lost patience for the moment with a certain segment of the believers who people them - the ones arrogant enough to think that they should be able to dictate to everyone else what their beliefs should be.


Jugular Bean said...

People are scared, they like to cling on to something comforting. And sometimes their belief systems help them! It helps them to shut out the logic and the rational by having a close minded, one sided, no perspective look at things!

It's scary to be open-minded, cause the truth is we don't know shit! There are too many questions and unless we don't care about the answers we need some pre-fabricated answer to help us live peacefully!

And I say, it's ok to be either this way or that.

edwardingals2192 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kurt Kawohl said...

Hi lma,

I am in complete agreement with your perspective on religion. Religious rationality today is an oxymoron but many people complain about it without offering solutions. Your input would be invaluable at "Collaboration Request Of Authors".


Kurt Kawohl said...

Hi lma,

I am in complete agreement with your perspective on religion which today is an oxymoron. Instituting religious rationality is a tremendous task that will require writers like you who want to make a difference in this world.

Your expertise is requested at "Collaboration Request Of Authors".


Treemo said...

This reminds me of a bunch high school kids in an AP class. "people are scared" oh boy.