Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wow, I have lived

'kay a few quick points and then I'm postin' my "finalized" paper on losing my religion RIGHT HERE ON MY BLOG!

1. Katie said that she is dating Ginger. "Yeah, okay. That's just wonderful."

2. I just watched James from Against Me! smash a bottle over George from Against Me!'s (and previously Hot Water Music if you remember from my previous posts) head. Woaaah.

3. Running still sucks.

4. My mom's car is fixable.

5. I downloaded (very illegally) the new albums of American Steel (FINALLY!), Cobra Skulls, and Teenage Bottlerocket. I intend to purchase all of them when I get the financial chance. And boy oh fucking boy, they are excellent albums. Highly recommend ALL of them.

6. We have yet to make progress on our new album.

7. Here's my story:

Religion has never been something I have claimed to fully understand, though I feel I am not alone on that one. I was raised going to church every Sunday and that really hasn’t changed since I was born, save a Sunday here and there. Religion has been a part of both my parents’ lives for as long as I can remember though it shows more through my mother. My father, I believe is not completely satisfied with many aspects of his life and I think religion and the church are two of those. My mom, on the other hand, seems to need religion and church to stay sane with the world.

I have been raised on what some would refer to as the “Bible Belt.” Most everyone I know has been, too. Here, small towns are often unincorporated and churches are some of the only ways for communities to come together. We aren’t exposed to the rest of the world first hand. Sure, someone is shot at a robbery or someone gets cheated on and seeks revenge and things of that sort happen, but if you look at the big picture, people in small towns are very sheltered. For example, I can think of maybe five black people living in the town of Fort Ashby, I have yet to see anyone who could really be classified as Asian here, and the list goes on and on. Case and point: I grew up in a simple area of the world.

My parents split when I was about three years old and since then I have been attending two churches regularly at any given time. My mom first started taking me to a church in Springfield about three minutes from my house. The church wasn’t exactly child-oriented and Brother Blueball could talk for what seemed to be years. The room smelled like stale old people. The music always seemed to be a dirge. I did not understand how religion was supposed to be a thing to rejoice about when the congregation seemed to be dead. I had always enjoyed going with my dad more at the Methodist Church, though I was not a fan of singing those songs with the little kids. They always, even to this day, sounded like a bunch of brainwashed robots singing rather than kids. One song’s chorus just repeats “Yes, God. Yes, God. Yes, God. Yes, God,” about a dozen times before it starts a second verse. That never made a lot of sense to me, either.

It wasn’t until my mom started dating my future stepdad and going to Christ Lutheran Church in LaVale, Maryland that I started to witness the more openly joyful kind of worshipping I had always thought it should have been. The pastor there, Pastor Chuck, would tell jokes that I would get, I met kids that I could laugh with and relate to, and the overall experience and atmosphere comforted me. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was “getting closer with God.”

While all of this was going on, I was still going to the same church with my dad and nothing there has really changed even to this day. My dad is still my Sunday school teacher because he’s pretty much been able to pick which grade he wants to teach because the church is dead and lacks Sunday school teachers. He does not even stay for the church service. He talks to the younger kids in the class according to his interpretation of God and to what the handouts say while I work on a different thousand-piece puzzle depending on the year. My brother never behaves because of all of his disorders and because he likes to take advantage of his dad being the Sunday school teacher. My dad has always complained about the people that go to that church and says that they dislike him just as much. I do not understand why he puts himself through what he does. I do not understand a lot about religion.

At the Lutheran church, I met a kid named David. David was a huge fan of blink-182 and NOFX at the time I met him. My sister, Kayleigh, thought he was something else and they eventually started dating. They shared bands they found with each other. I leeched off of what I could and started a steady diet of The Offspring, Green Day, and NOFX. That music was a revelation in my life in itself that brought on many others to come. I was no longer listening to the sugarcoated songs on the radio that have to have lyrics cut to fit everyone’s level of appropriateness. I was listening to songs telling me that the government is stealing from the poor, a guy named Jeff wears Birkenstocks, and that people go through their lives living on false beliefs that give them real happiness. I wasn’t sure how to feel about listening to things like that—I felt hypocritical in a way, but I tried convincing myself that exposing myself to other opinions was making me stronger in my own faith.

When I got the internet, I started connecting with people from the outside world. One person in particular, Melissa, did not believe in Christianity. She believed in Scientology at the time, but I later forgave her since she was only in the eighth grade. When she told me, I became deeply upset and could not quit imagining her burning in what I pictured hell to be. I was in fifth or sixth grade at the time and did not know what I could say or do to make her believe what I did and convince her that all she had to do was accept this guy I had always been told about named Jesus Christ into her life. It was that simple, so I was told. The way I was told, you could live your whole life a sin—raping people, murdering them, stealing from everyone you met, and if you simply asked for forgiveness on your last day on earth, you would be spared eternal damnation and instead live among the heavens. That also didn’t make sense to me, but I accepted it. “Some things aren’t meant to be understood…at least not yet,” I would tell myself.

I got older, my acceptance for different beliefs grew, and I started meeting people in school who did not believe in my lord and savior Jesus Christ. I would worry about them secretly, but I felt comfortable discussing my beliefs. One person in particular I would spend evenings disputing religion with was Isabelle. Isabelle had never been religious. Her mother was not religious, though she was my art teacher from Kindergarten to fourth grade. I was starting to realize that even in my little town, not everyone believed the same things and they were doing just fine in the world.

Isabelle and I started dating in the ninth grade. I remember her telling me that I was one of the only Christian boys she’d ever even consider dating. I thought that was cute. We continued dating and believing separate things, though most of our beliefs by that point overlapped. We both believed that morals had nothing to do with what religion or denomination you belonged to, we both believed that judging people based on what they believed was wrong, and that not everyone would ever believe the same things. That went on for a while and then we broke up about six months later. By this point, I had been listening to a large collection of secular songs and secular bands in addition to anti-religious songs by anti-religious bands. I even had bought that NOFX album that says “Never Trust a Hippy” on the front with Jesus giving the peace sign.

It was inevitable in retrospect, I suppose. I was never baptized. I had been asking questions in my First Communion class at church interested in hearing answers which couldn’t always be answered in a way that satisfied me. I had been asked if I wanted to be baptized in ninth grade and kept putting it off because I wasn’t quite sure what I believed. Pastor Chuck and my mom thought I was interested in God because I asked so many questions and participated more than anyone else in the class.

The day came that really shined the light on me—or that showed me that “the light” I had always been told about was false indeed. It was called the “Zeitgeist Movie.” Some punk band on MySpace I had added posted a bulletin about it with a subject line having to do with 9-11 truth. Unsure about religion, I was very sure I did not trust my government and was really into the 9-11 scam “inside job” thing. Naturally, I clicked on the link and started watching the movie. Almost immediately, it started on this religious rant. First thing it said was, “But He loves you.” Behind that, you could hear a crowd laughing. “He loves you and he needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.” Alright, I thought, I wasn’t expecting for this to start by making fun of my religion, though I cannot disagree with anything they just said. After the initial “comedy,” they start their first section of the movie called “Part I: The Greatest Story Ever Told” which starts talking about the sun and how ancient religions would worship the sun. They said that the sun is “God’s Sun: the light of the world, the savior of human kind.” Hey¸I thought, I’ve heard that in church! “Likewise,” the video continued, “the twelve constellations represented places of travel for God’s Sun and were identified by names, usually representing elements of nature that happened during that period of time.”

By this point, I was shocked at how much things were actually making sense even in a religious context. I had been able to connect my own dots before, but never had they been this close together and natural. The video continued, “This is Horus. He is the Sun God of Egypt of around 3000 BC…Horus, being the sun, or the light, had an enemy known as Set and Set was the personification of the darkness or night. And, metaphorically speaking, every morning Horus would win the battle against Set – while in the evening, Set would conquer Horus and send him into the underworld…Broadly speaking, the story of Horus is as follows: Horus was born on December 25th of the virgin Isis-Meri. His birth was accompanied by a star in the east, and upon his birth, he was adored by three kings. At the age of twelve, he was a prodigal child teacher, and at the age of thirty, he was baptized by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry. Horus had twelve disciples he traveled [around the earth] with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. Horus was known by many gestural names such as The Truth, The Light, God’s Anointed Son, The Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God, and many others. After being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for three days, and thus, resurrected.” That was a lot to take in for me at once. Part of me wanted to throw the computer out the window and scream, “Nonsense!” and the other part of me was intrigued. It was the best sermon I had ever heard in my life and I felt I was the choir being preached to. The movie didn’t stop there. It went on to give examples of other figures in religious history that followed the same basic life patterns, but each appeared hundreds or thousands of years apart.

I was asking myself, Why would they all follow the same patterns and attributes? The movie answered my question as soon as I asked it reverting everything back to the stars. The birth sequence, the movie described, all has to do with astronomy and the alignment of the stars around December 25th, which is the winter solstice. More specifically, the start in the East, Sirius, aligns with the three stars that make up Orion’s Belt which were, at the time, referred to as the “Three Kings” and during that time of the year pointed to the place of the sunrise, or, as you could make into a story, the Three Kings were guided by the star in the East to meet the sun/son during its birth on December 25th. Then, it explained how the days become shorter and shorter until the sun stops moving south for three days due to the earth’s rotation around it and on the third day, it starts “rising again.”
More and more the video explained all of these “phenomena” and how it related with astrology. After that initial explanation, it went on to explain just why religion was used still if all of this was, in fact, true. It told me about the use of Christianity as a way of controlling the masses first with Constantine in Rome in 325, and later into Europe leading to the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and everything to come afterward. “[Religion] supports blind submission to authority,” the movie told me. And with that, I decided that my time had ended with religion. I am not one for any sort of blind following, after all.

I did not care what happened to me after I died. I did not care what I was told to believe for the first fifteen years of my life. I did not care what my parents, my friends, my teachers, or anyone else thought. I cared that I had finally found something that made sense to me. I cared that I had found closure. I cared that I no longer had to convince myself that everything I was told but didn’t understand was true. I was so angry at the system, the hours, the days, the weeks of my life wasted in church that I did not care one bit of any consequences. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were no consequences. I could hear, see, and breathe clearly for the first time in my life. I was done living a lie.

Since my big revelation, things have not been perfect. Going to church is an absolute waste of my time, I feel. My mom still thinks I am a believer, I think. I respect my mom probably more than I do any other person on this earth and I really hate to upset or disappoint her, so I usually just leave religion alone and go to church with her. I don’t complain about having to go to church every Sunday as my little brother does more religiously than going to church itself. My mom often thanks me when the service is over for coming with her. That makes it worth it in a way, but I wonder if she’s fooling herself or understands that I could care less if I ever went to church again.

My dad doesn’t really ask and I don’t really tell and that seems to be our policy for everything in life. He still wakes me up every Sunday morning and says, “It’s time for Sunday school.” I’ll then drag myself out of bed, put some jeans and maybe a polo if I’m feeling extra spunky, and get in the car. Then my dad, my brother, and I go to church in the awkward silence that always surrounds my dad. Sometimes the radio will be playing to focus the silence on something else. At church, it’s the same thing as always. I still work on a puzzle. He still directs his lesson toward the younger kids and leaves me alone. I still sit upstairs in the church hearing the younger kids chant God-fearing songs through the floor.

As for everyone else, Pastor Chuck still makes me laugh because he’s still good at telling jokes; I just tune out everything involving “our lord and savior Jesus Christ.” He doesn’t say anything to me other than, “Hi, Kyle. How’s the band been?” David lost his religion before I did. He’s lost more than his religion, though, as he travels the East Coast from state to state, girlfriend to girlfriend looking for a place that he can enjoy for a month or two. My sister, Kayleigh, and my two stepsisters also gave up their faith in God, which serves as a sense of not being the only disappointment to the way my mom raised us. My friends still accept me just the same. I am just as moral as I was before, if not more. I have faith and will to go on but that faith is in myself and the will to go on comes from the wisdom that life goes on no matter how bad things get. I don’t tell anyone where they’re going when they die because I know just as much as anyone else knows, and that is nothing. One thing I know for sure through it all is that I am a much happier, more comfortable person now than I had ever been.



Kayleigh said...

thumbs up. Good blog.

Alex said...

As a religious man, I say bravo!
I was intrigued to read it and I think that was your goal.
You know, after how many years of friendship, I don't think we've ever had a religious conversation and I'd say that's pretty cool. We've done away with that religious fear and persecution that should go with our situation.