This is a post to anyone who reads this and is a believer in a religion.
I am a Canadian, living in a multicultural society in a secular democratic country that routinely makes the United Nation’s best countries or best cities to live in lists.
My personal experience of religion is limited to a short period of 2 years, between the ages of 10 and 12. I went to two churches during that time for a service out of my own curiosity, and not because I was made to go. Because I was raised in a liberal arts/naturalist home and my parents are still married. Intact Family as it’s said in the shrink biz.
I went to a Southern Baptist Church because I wanted an idea of what Elvis Presley’s Church experience was – what he was drawing his performance style from.
It was beyond electric and I would have gone back; if not for the racism of the Adam and Eve comic book they gave me – showing a white Adam and Eve in the garden and a black Adam and Eve, post apple.
My Mom then went to a number of churches and settled on Knox Presbyterian in New Westminster, BC. It’s still there and the last time I was there for a reunion, 5 years ago, so was the table in which my Sunday School Class carved our names.
So, given that I was 25% of the children’s choir and got to be in plays, that I have nothing but love and fondness for all the people that I met so long ago and sometimes, wonder. Heck, in my 20’s, I even ended up back at that same church one day – I was depressed and happened to be in the neighborhood and was just drawn to the place, a touchstone of my earlier life – and talked to the new minister about my life’s then troubles and he helped me sort through some things. I ache to feel such simple problems again.
But I drifted away from church because it was boring and inconsistent with school, and since I was going because I was curious and not because I was being made to go –
I was 10 when I started and 12 when I stopped. I stayed for as long as I enjoyed it and stopped going when I found a TV show – Kids Are People Too – that aired during churchtime that was more interesting and validating than going to church.
So, religion has no emotional resonance for me – and that’s significant, because I am what’s known as a sensualist. I don’t think things, I feel things. I feel things to the core of my being, because I never stopped being a child – I have lived my life meeting life full on to experience whatever situation I was in completely and authentically.
Because the one time I went to a South Baptist Church – which was just to get an idea of what kind of church Elvis would have experienced was actually mind and body blowing sensory explosion that I had never imagined, but I was addicted to the total body experience and left that church forever changed, because I have craved that experience being repeated more than any junkie craves drugs. Total immersion in the moment.
That day in the huge bright room with the sunlight coming in through the stained glass, a mass of people on their feet, swaying to a compelling yet simple tune, singing with every ounce of their being, clapping hands and shouting to raise the roof.
Was one of the most amazing and riveting moments of my young life and I want to experience that feeling every moment of every day – but I haven’t understood myself or the world enough to know…enough to know what makes us feel and react that way.
If they hadn’t been racist in their Adam and Eve comic book – it showed them as white people in the garden and as black people post apple; I probably would have gone back for years, because the feelings evoked by the preacher who jumped and hollered were riveting.
My Mom was so happy that I was interested in religion – because my parents believed that there was no sense to impose religion on us, since it’s something that has to resonant with you to mean anything; that she found another church for us to go to.
This second church was very staid and reserved – British/Canadian – and for an active and imaginary driven child, it was too boring and out of sync with not only my life experience so far, but what I understood of and saw in the world.
Until December 31, 2011 – the day I decided that I had to make myself part of the world again and meet the world, full force, with a child’s ability to absorb every feeling but tempered with an adult’s understanding of the natural world and human history.
So, when I tell people that I am not religious, it’s not because I haven’t been exposed to religion. It’s not because my experience of religion was bad – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s not even because I just don’t get it. I get it plenty.
Because my personal experience of what’s bad about religion, is what’s really bad about religion and believers: what the effect it has in society.
I was born in 1968 and was raised to expect to have the same rights as any other law abiding Canadian.
But, in 1992, when I came out as a lesbian – I lost all my rights, just for being honest.
But this was Canada and in 1985, we replaced our original articles of state with a new constitution – which wasn’t perfect because the society at the time wasn’t equitable.
And who gets rights and who has to fight for rights is the process of society.
I was born in 1968 with full citizenship rights.
I lost them in 1992 when I said that I wasn’t heterosexual like most other people.
I got them back, one court case at the cost of real people’s lives, at a time.
Joshua Birch won the right for Canadian gays and lesbians to serve in our military in 1992. He killed himself on Christmas Day, his 35th birthday, because the strain of the military experience and the following court battle was too much.
How can we ask a person to service their country with their life, when we do not assure them the best possible quality of life in return?
The freedom to take liberties with what makes you happy and the personal sovereignty to make the best and happiest life decisions for themselves and accorded the same advantages and responsibilities as any other citizen.
Because, if the Government isn’t going to accord every citizen not only the same rights, but the enjoyment of those rights to the same degree of meaningfulness; then it makes sense that citizens armed against the government.
But not for said Armed Citizens to claim theirs is the best government – because the best government is one that service the citizens of the nation by assuring survival and by assuring equal opportunities to thrival of the citizens. You can’t be a government of, by or for the people when they feel the need to be armed against you. And you can’t not be armed against a government if you are not equal under the law, in letter and spirit – to the maximum extent possible.
And as long as the majority demands conformity of the minority, there can be no meaningful equality.
I am the Girl Who Was Not Harmed by Religion as a child, but I have been harmed by religious belief and believers as an adult in the loss of my civil rights assured to me by birth and the battle to regain those same rights back, one right, one court case, at a time.
So, here’s my question to believers:
How can you enjoy heaven, knowing that there’s perfectly nice people like me in hell, just because my life is different from yours?