I grew up on kind of a religious seesaw. I know we went to church when I was very small -- but that’s more because people at church knew who I was when I visited as an older child and pinched my cheeks than because I have any memories of it.
As I got older, a clear pattern established itself. My immediate family -- me and my parents -- didn’t really go to church. Or talk about church. Or, from my child perspective, think about it much. I spent way more time thinking about robots than I spent thinking about some idea of a God. But when I visited my mother’s family, I went to church with them.
It seemed like a fun thing to do. And it wasn’t really optional. Which continued when I lived with them in high school.
And, hey, church wasn’t really a burden. It wasn’t unpleasant or a terrible hardship. It wasn’t like I was going to be doing anything else -- other than maybe reading (still mostly about robots, though I’d also moved on to dystopian sci-fi futures that included regressed civilizations instead of advanced ones).
I liked socializing, and church was very social. I liked hanging out with people from a variety of age groups -- and church was definitely the only place I knew of where I could do that.
Thing is, a love for old people and little kids is not really enough to base a commitment to a belief system on. At least it wasn’t for me.
Oh, I tried. I kept going to church when I went away to college and I kept up the whole behavioral standards thing. Didn’t have sex, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. It was more force of habit and indoctrination than any real deep belief. I was already the weird kid in some ways -- and in other ways, going to church was just a different kind of weird.
No one on the goth scene cared where I went on Sunday mornings as long as I was dancing on Saturday night. And if I felt a whole lot more impassioned on the dance floor then I did at a Sunday service, I very much didn’t let myself think about that.
Church had a bit more to say about where I was on Saturday night, even if I was there on Sunday morning because they weren’t really sure I should be trusting those folks with their drinking and their dancing and their fucking around. But they never flat-out told me not to go; that probably kept me at church a whole lot longer than any attempt to control my activities would have.
Eventually, though, I couldn’t avoid thinking about the way going to church was an effort I made for my family, not an effort I made for myself. And eventually, I stopped going to church.
There was no big crisis moment. Nothing terrible happened at church. Nothing terrible happened in my personal life either. In fact, when I did have something terrible happen in my personal life, which I still have trouble characterizing as rape, I was going to church the same as ever and it was comforting to have that routine.
No, there was only waking up when I was supposed to be leaving on Sunday morning and rolling back over -- or stumbling into my living room to read or knit or do whatever it was I felt like doing. There was only the outward manifestation of what I had been feeling the whole time; my beliefs were my own and I didn’t really need anyone else or an organized religion to prop them up.
I don’t have a particular beef against organized religion as a general rule. I think it provides amazing communities of support for people who are into that sort of thing. The way people in church communities take care of each other is a huge deal -- and something I actually kind of miss. (I also miss going places where you get that age differential but that’s because our culture is grossly age segregated in a lot of ways.) And I’m not going to knock anyone who does benefit from involvement in faith-based communities and some sort of religious belief system.
Well, not as a general rule. I always allow room for exceptions.
It’s more than me not being a joiner. It’s that I genuinely have no idea if there is a God -- or if there are gods or if there is any other permutation of something divine. I’m not particularly bothered by thinking there might not be. It doesn’t change how I live or the person I try to be because my sense of morality was installed more by those robots than by religion. This is why I joke that I am 3 Laws Safe.
While I understand that some people crave a faith, I’m pretty comfortable not knowing. That’s why I identify as agnostic as opposed to atheist. I remain open to the possibilities. But I’m not going to worry about them either. I have too much other stuff to do.
That probably sounds flip. But I think I can afford to be flip about my own lack of belief.
The funny thing, to me, is that I’m a natural skeptic in many ways -- but I’m also gullible as hell. Much like Mulder, I genuinely want to believe. There’s just something holding me back. The asshole answer here would be: logic and reason. And, you know, those actually ARE the things holding me back. But I don’t think faith really has much to do with logic -- it’s the belief in things hoped for but not seen, after all.
If there’s a vengeful god, I’m pretty screwed anyway. If there’s a forgiving one, maybe it’ll forgive me for not paying more attention. And if there isn’t one at all, I’ll still have lived a good life. That’s where I find my meaning.
Actually, maybe that’s where all my faith is going -- to the idea that people can do amazing things when we aren’t caught up in bullshit. We do some pretty terrible things to each other but, oh, I am earnestly and fundamentally moved by the things we can create.
I guess in some ways that means you -- all the people I talk to and interact with -- are my church. Check that out -- I'm a believer after all.