I hate church.
There. I said it.
Though I guess it's not so much the building itself that I hate, it's more all of the religious dogma the physical building stands for that I find so...awful.
Today, I watched my best friend's son be baptized. It is the first time, in my memory, that I have been inside a Catholic church. And while I hope that this event holds lots of lovely memories for her family, I find myself thinking about church and religion and why I find them fascinating and irritating at the same time.
I was baptized. In fact, many of my earliest memories occur inside the tiny United church in Seagrave, Ontario. The same church where my grandparents had raised their five children, where my mother was the Sunday school teacher and where my sister and I were sheep or angels or shepherds every year in the nativity play. I can still remember the distinctive, musty smell of the church basement where we did our lessons, the sound of the organ as Fern-nio played the hymns and the creaks and clicks of the 100 year old wooden floor beneath my shiny black church shoes. I also remember how excited my sister and I were to wear our new bonnet and gloves on Easter Sunday and have our picture taken by the sign on the front lawn, each year a little taller than the year before.
Those were the good old days when going to church meant seeing your friends, eating goodies and getting to colour or cut and paste while the minister talked with the grown-ups up stairs. There was no question as to whether or not there was a god. And as far fetched as it seemed, we believed that a man named Noah really did build an arc and save two of every animal, and that we all came from one very virtuous man, and one rebellious woman who got us all kicked out of the garden of Eden. Life was good.
But, the day came, as I'm sure it has for many others before me, when I started to question whether there was a god, and if there was, why on Earth would such an all loving, all knowing being create such hatred and sadness in the world?
The year that my Uncle died, I remember speaking with a minister who told me that god hated gay people and that I would never see my uncle again, because he would be in hell.
I was 12.
After that, I got very angry. If god hated people for something so insignificant as who they chose to love, then I was through with god. I remember getting really, really angry with my parents for baptizing me at all. How dare they commit my life to a god that I don't believe in. It's my life, don't I have the right to choose? What if I wanted to be a Buddhist or a Hindu or a worshiper of the Fonz? Wasn't it my right to choose?!
Since then, I have renounced my faith. I'm not an atheist. I call myself agnostic, but in reality, I just choose to be me. I am open to all religions that treat ALL people with kindness and understanding. If you want to praise a god (or many gods) to do that, you go ahead, but I'll pass, thank you very much. I don't believe in one all powerful being sitting on a cloud screwing around with the human race like ants in an ant farm, but I do believe in the spiritual world. And yes! There are amazing things in this world that I will never understand, and that's ok. I believe that when someone dies, they're gone and I'll never see them again, and that's ok, because their spirit lives on through me and those who loved them in the memories we share, and in that spirit, they never really leave us at all. I could go on and on, but I'm guessing you get the picture. I believe that being good to one another is the only religion I need.
And if I'm wrong when it's my time to go, and I have to spend eternity with devils poking me with pitchforks, so be it, but I certainly hope that if there is one all knowing, all powerful god out there, he or she isn't as mean or spiteful as many religions would have us believe. Life is all about compromise, and surely any god who created us would understand that.