I posted Penn Jillette’s comments here because they resonated with me.
As a child of a Roman Catholic mother and Southern Baptist father who grew up to become a Salvationist, my relationship with “the lord” was no casual summer fling. I really wanted to believe.
In cathechism class I was always the kid with my hand up – I always had questions. I really wanted to believe. I wanted to understand. I was not satisfied with the priest’s response that I simply had to have faith. When he tried to explain the nature of transubstatiation I wanted to know why, at that crucial moment of the mass, the bread and wine still looked like bread and wine and not flesh and blood. Was it a magic trick that went wrong?
I wanted to know what was the difference between the “heathen cannibals” of the jungle and us – holy Catholics who ate the flesh and drank the blood of christ. I wanted to know what “limbo” was as I thought it was a dance I saw some people doing last week on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Seems I always spent the last half of cathechism class on my knees in the hallway reciting the Act of Contrition. Looking back, I think that by the time I was eight, I was very close to excommunication.
As a child I really wanted to believe because I wanted to understand god and understand why the world was the way it was. When I was grown, I wanted to believe because it was easier to believe, or at least say you believe, than it was to voice my doubts. Kind of like it was easier to play straight than it was to come out.
Coming from a very religious family, blurting out at the dinner table that you don’t believe in god is like, well, farting in church. Ok, way worse than farting in church. I suppose the next worse thing you could do is announce that you are gay. That’s a go-straight-to-hell-do-not-pass-Go in one single roll of the dice.
I’m always struck by some people’s notion that you need religion to form one’s morals (moral fibre they call it – better than a dose of oatbran). In this day of the rise of the religious right (wrong), it is nearly dangerous to proclaim one’s disbelief for those who do so are villified.
This reminds me of some of the religious tracts my Pentecostal friends would peddle. In these tracts they described how in the end times Christians would be persecuted. You would have to choose between being branded with the “mark of the beast” (back then some speculated that the mark would be the newly invented UPS symbols), or public beheading.
Seems to me today that it is the so-called “christian” right who is wielding the headman’s axe. I call them “so-called christians” because I believe that even if they claim to have read the bible “inside and out”, they are in desperate need of remedial reading comprehension.