Down below, our brother Jason sheds light on his recent loss of faith. I don’t want to make him (or anyone) feel like I’m putting his decisions under a microscope, but reading Jason’s prose often makes me introspective about my own life.
Some eight months ago, I moved to a new part of the country. One of the first things I tried to do was to find a suitable church. In my old area (at the opposite end of the continent) I was part of a tight-knit Catholic community. I have never been a Catholic, and am sure I wouldn’t be eligible for membership, but over the course of the past few years I did pretty much everything that the other people did in that congregation, including donate regular offerings, and volunteer for service work.
I think I didn’t fully understand exactly how much I was getting out of being a part of the whole thing until today, when it’s still tangible in my memory, and when I feel the pain of losing a community of people I came to rely upon to help me make sense of the world and my place in it. Weirdly enough, I feel a bit ashamed of the realization that I was using the rites in a crass whataya doin’ for me? fashion, but I think, like Jason, I was originally hungry for some authentic connection, and I was using communion for exactly the purpose which it was originally meant.
Since moving here, I’ve found a group of Catholics who have nothing of the solemn regard for tradition that was extant in the old place. They are a bunch of fat old slobs who sing weird folk songs and never make eye contact.
I started filling in as a high school teacher when I moved here, and one of my colleagues at the red brick schoolhouse recommended what he claimed was a fantastic place, full of the spirit of God and healthy communion with decent people. What it turned out to be was a protestant megachurch, and the service was more-or-less a bad rock concert, with a minimal amount of Jesus talk around the edges.
I suppose I was desperate, because after that I actually checked out a Zen center, and found it packed with a bunch of fossilized old boomers from the beat generation. At least one of these old coots smelled heavily of a mixture of marijuana and B.O..
I checked out a reform temple. Those guys, I thought, were monotheists, so while they aren’t my people, maybe I’ll have something in common with them. I entered to find the place crawling with loud, mannish dykes, and feminist “conscious-raising” seminars (for wimminz and their allies – lol) were advertised in the bulletin.
In every attempt, I have found zero opportunity to escape the mundane and commune with the divine. What people in all these communities (lol) are interested in is creating a gay, boring simulacrum of an actual religious ceremony, which allows them to go through some of the motions, without ever having to hear any criticism about their (possible or actual) bad conduct.
So, like Jason, I’m fairly disillusioned with the possibility of organized worship.
Like Jason, I’ve often considered myself an atheist, though it’d be more accurate to describe me as an agnostic. I’ve certainly never seen any evidence that there’s anything after this life. Like every man, I’ve done things, great and small, that can be counted as evils. It’s possible that I might be called to account for such things one day.
The greatest evil in my own tradition was always apostasy, or idolatry. This is seen as far worse than other grave sins, like fucking Black women, or drinking wine with dinner.
The Catholics were our eternal enemies, I was taught, because they worship statues, and they pray to their goddess Mary, and their god Jesus, neither of whom is our God. Mary and Jesus and all the saints were people, not God, and God counts prayers to statues of mortal men and women as grievous insults.
I used to be content with the conclusion that all the stories about God were fanciful fairy tales, and the ravings of lunatics. Now, I’m not nearly so certain. It’s possible that I might be judged and condemned for my bad deeds one day. One thing I became absolutely confident of, while I knelt below the crucifix, was that this God wasn’t the sort of petty, emotional tyrant that my teachers implied he was. The Mormon God created me with a nice Mormon brain, and with it I deduced that he wouldn’t actually mind if I honored him by venerating some old heroes in the text of the Bible. The time I spent in the enemy cathedral brought me closer to Him, rather than further away.
I don’t have anything else to say, other than to express my openness to the possibility of an authentic religious experience, because while I’m skeptical about all these supernatural stories, I’ve felt it myself.
And in closing, I’ll leave all you brothers with a song, that probably won’t mean shit to any of you. It’s a radical masculine song, written during the old days, when my people used to dream of living in a worker’s state. When I hear it, I feel the spirit and presence of my grandfathers, and I’m convinced that whatever hardships life might bring, I’ll be able to overcome.