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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not believing, a lonely business

I was talking with a woman today who casually asked me if I go to Church. I said it was a long story but I could give her the nutshell version. I grew up in a Buddhist temple and discovered first hand the disparity between what people say and what they do. I also had a father who is a charismatic Buddhist cult leader who could not accept me as myself. When I met my husband, I discovered that he had had much the same experience but in an Evangelical Christian home. We had both postured ourselves subsequently as rebels and then recovering religious adherents. After sharing this with her I was surprised that she then invited me to her Church--the Mormon Church--and explained to me a bit about how Mormons view the relationship between men and women (apparently an area that people often question). She said that only men are allowed to hold the priesthood but that women have the very special, and equal role of mother to play.

Two weeks earlier I had mentioned the word God in conversation with a friend, which prompted him to ask me when I had become a "believer." I explained that I wasn't one and a little bit about my experience with Evangelism, as well as my inability to wrap my head around a few of their beliefs (Jesus' literal resurrection, hell, the idea of one path for all and homosexuality as a sin). I was treated to a long explanation of how my friend's Church is different because they accept and embrace gay people, while acknowledging that it is only their choice that is a sin, not unlike adultery or sloth. He also explained how a crisis in his life had prompted him to go back to Church where he had seen the kind of faith he thought could save him from the morass of fear. He was drawn, he said, to their certainty in their faith.

Even my new mom-friend who believes in tarot, black magic and astrology and has had her fair of experience with the hypocrisy of organized religion, mentioned three days ago that she was disgusted by "those people" who don't shave their armpit hair. Since I grew up without shaving my armpits, I collected this bit of information about what not to share with her, along with her disdain for cloth diapering. That was something our poor mothers had had to do, poor things. Thank God we don't have to anymore. In the closet again. Every where I find it uncomfortable to be my whole self.

However, when I got home this evening I realized that I too was attracted to the certainty that this Mormon woman emanated.  I wished I was going to the Church function that evening with her. Some part of me wanted to be like her.  I don't mean I wanted to look like her or have her children. I wanted to feel the ease that she must get through believing in her religion. It must be so much less lonely. They already have a ready made group of people who think exactly like them. They agree on all of their major beliefs and practices (way of living). And they don't ever have to try to find the way alone, it's all laid out for them. There is no mystery. They might be challenged in the depth of their beliefs, but they never wonder what beliefs they should have.

Since I'm an Aquarius I get the unsavory life task of never buying into any belief system and so I find myself repeatedly rejected from every "group" that exists, usually by my own feelings of being crushed by what I perceive as yet another cult of sameness. The only group that I "fit" into and can't seem to shake is an anonymous one and even there I find myself challenged  by the personalities that claim to have THE ANSWER for everyone. Nevertheless I find it impossible to reject any one from any of these groups for any of their beliefs. On an objective level, I can see how each and every person reflects a piece of the human mosaic. No one is wrong. Everyone simply has their own experience. Even this belief alienates me from some people.

However, I must say that having to find your own beliefs, walk in the dark of not having all the answers, and trust that who you are is OKAY even though your experience, beliefs and way of living have no exact match in the world, is a lonely business. Sometimes I want to lie, I want to pretend I fully believe, I want to hide the fact that I don't shave my armpits (or my legs), while at the same plucking my eyebrows, believe very deeply in God while simultaneously believing in the ridiculousness of the concept of a hell for those that don't believe in Jesus and I'm an optimist who believes that everything is as it ought to be and that most likely God meant that hell is on earth, if you know what I mean, humans sure can make a mess of things. I use cloth diapers, don't drink alcohol or use drugs, am deeply conservative about intimate relationships yet staunchly support my gay, transgendered and bisexual friends and neighbors (I could categorize myself as the former based on my own experiences), absolutely love the Gilmore Girls and my all time favorite TV show Queer as Folk, prefer a cheesy romantic comedy over a foreign film any day, have a dog, but have discovered that I really don't like dogs, have such disparate friends that I know some of them would never get along (at least not on the philosophic level, but I think even on a superficial one) insist on breastfeeding until my daughter weans herself (attachment parenting) while at the same time following strict routines (non-attachment parenting). I also am quite alright with other people being religious (unless it is forced on me or keeps me from being myself) and that, too, alienates me from a whole group of academics and religious defectors. I strongly believe the journey of many people involves religion, just not mine. I may sound like I hate religion or religious people, but it's really just that I'm more than a touch jealous of their certainty.

So that is me. At least a bit of me. And I can tell you that I don't have a friend out there that doesn't have a conflict with a belief or practice on this list. And if there's anything that I know for sure on good days, it is that this is who God made me to be. But I'll tell you, being me and not an automaton shaped by the beliefs and practices of a religion, is a lonely business.


  1. Powerful, powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing it. Glad we get to virtually "trudge the road" together.

    So evidently I went over the 4096-character comment limit with my comment-turned-epistle. Before Blogger blew me away, I did manage to copy-n-paste to my own blog, which I will format and preface accordingly. Then I'll post the link back here.

  2. OK, well, it grew a bit. And then it grew a bit. And then it morphed into this. Check it out.