Things You Shouldn’t Talk About, Part 1

There are a few things that shouldn’t be included in polite conversation. Politics is a big one. Money is another. And, of course, you should never discuss religion.

Our son got baptized on Sunday, and in reflecting on the whole process, I realized that religion makes me cranky. So I’m writing a post about it, but it’s not my intention to offend anyone with my thoughts. So, if you are the kind of person who might be offended by a frank discussion of my ideas about religion, you should probably stop reading now. Don’t worry, I’ll post something else soon!

My father was a pastor for the majority of my childhood. We were Christians of the fundamentalist variety. (To give you some idea of what that means, as an adult somebody from that religion once told me they would pray for me because I was wearing a t-shirt…short sleeves are the devil’s playground. Of course, my arms have been known to drive women into fits of wanton lust.) I only bring this up because there’s no doubt it colors my views on religion. I was indoctrinated from a young age.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve considered questions of existentialism. I vividly recall having a dream when I was five or six where the Rapture occurred and the reanimated bodies of the dead came ripping out of the ground. When I turned 21, for about six months I didn’t sleep more than two or three hours a night. I was either preparing for life as the parent of a newborn or stressed because I thought becoming an “adult” would help me understand the meaning of life. It didn’t.

As I considered all the various religions and religious people around me, it occurred to me that nobody can prove their religion is true. That they believe, I have no doubt, and in some ways I envy them that belief. I can’t prove their isn’t a God, at least not to my own satisfaction, but I also can’t reconcile logic and religion in any satisfactory way. I guess this makes me an agnostic, and I’m ok with that designation. Here are a few quick reasons religion makes me cranky.

  • Nearly every religion insists it is the only true religion. They can’t all be right, which means you have a 1 in 90,000 (roughly) chance of picking the right one.
  • The idea that a supernatural God would think or behave in a way we as humans could understand is a tough one. Add in the idea that this being actively cares and participates in each person’s life, and your head starts spinning. I can’t even keep track of all my characters on The Sims.
  • The way religious people use God to excuse bad things or explain good things. When my wife and I lost a baby, the least helpful comments centered around it being God’s will. On the other hand, a lady we know thanked God publicly because her son called while she was heading to the shore and told her to take a different route. She said, “God was at work. We might have been stuck for hours.” (The backup was due to a major accident on the interstate.)
  • How religions label other religions, science, and metaphysical beliefs as crazy with no sense of hypocrisy. A Christian once told me of her mission trip to Haiti and how crazy the Voodoo religion was–multiple gods! Bloodthirsty myths! I often hear people saying “evolution is just a theory”–forgetting that so are things like, oh, gravity. And if you believe in aliens, forget about it.

Look, I know plenty of religious people who are great human beings and very sincere in their beliefs. I know atheists who live by a moral code as strict as any churchgoers’. I’m no authority on who’s right–people much smarter than I have argued for both sides.

That’s why I’m ok with my son going to church. I’m even ok if he turns out religious. In the meantime, at home I’ll teach him my two rules of life.

  1. Don’t be an a-hole.
  2. When you are an a-hole, own up to it and do whatever you can to make it right.

Hey, that sounds like dogma. Quick, pass the collection plate!

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8 comments

  1. Frank Arnold · · Reply

    You did forget one thing you don’t talk about.

    Fight club.

    1. Ha! Great book. I’m a fan of Palahniuk’s work. Another good book of his is Lullaby (although don’t read it after you have kids).

  2. I loathe talking about politics!! Know anyone you live with who likes to bring it up in conversation all of the time??? =)

    I never knew we both grew up Fundamentalist! Although I LOVED my childhood and actually loved the church, the sense of community, the constant activities and the people, all the rules and judgments were ridiculous. Eventually, my parents grew tired of the nonsense and pulled us out of the private school. Once this happened, most of the churchgoers treated us like social outcasts. It was really sad, so we left the church as well. I honestly don’t think my mom will step foot into another church because of how she was treated. Very sad!

    As for the differences in so many religions ā€“ I took a Philosophy of Religion class in college. It was probably the most interesting class I ever took! The entire class was dedicated to dissecting religion, only to realize that they are all basically the same! It was really mind-blowing!

    Good post! =)

    1. Thanks for the comment! Sorry to hear about what happened with your family, especially your mom. Oh, and I’ll tell the Mrs. you want to dissect the recent conventions.

      Sent from my iPhone

    2. Molar Mother · · Reply

      Hey, Mea, what do you think of the ethicality of Drone warfare? šŸ™‚

  3. dmunrohchs · · Reply

    Great post Matt. I had the same type of upbringing and the same current result with religion. I have a hubbie who has discovered the joys of church in the past 3 years or so and I don’t begrudge him that experience, but it does make my skin itch when I am dragged along. I have nearly the same reservations about religions… add this one– if the creator being God really is a good, caring being (and why not– things work wellish here on earth) then why would only some of us be given the TRUTH while others are misled by false messiahs with equally prophetic words? Seems to me that the best proof for a being beyond us is that all the groups on earth seem to have been sent a message that they could cultural handle with a bottom line ehtic of “Harm none.” All of them have been befouled by the interpretation beyond that golden rule.

    Anyway, there is nothing more annoying when you are going through the awful things that happen to us (death, cancer, hangnails) and someone religious says “it was God’s will” “God took him home” or “God only gives you what you can handle.” Quit blaming God, Christians! Really, it doesn’t make Him look good. Sigh. Good post Duv.

  4. […] few days ago, I posted about religion. This week, as I was trying to soothe Wolfe to sleep one night, I saw a post on Facebook about the […]

  5. David Franklin · · Reply

    Great post, Matt. My own journey of leaving faith began the year I read the Bible through in its entirety (about 4 or 5 years ago now). I also sometimes wish that I could go back to simple faith, but could only do it as easily as I could return to believing in Santa Claus.

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