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Consider this the slip that brought me to my knees

We were discussing Lent the other day on Twitter. I was cheering on some friends who are participating in Lent, while explaining that, although I find it beyond admirable whenever anyone goes through Lent, I no longer participate in the practice, because I am a stubborn ass when it comes to Catholicism. This brought up some curiosity as to why this is.

No, not why I’m a stubborn ass. If you could answer that question, you’d win the prize. I can’t even answer that question. Genetics? Nature? Nurture? My most influential role model growing up was (and remains) the most stubborn man I’ve ever come across in the history of ever; I’m sure that plays a part. My brain just being wired that way? I don’t know. I’m stubborn, and I can, and often am, a complete ass about it. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to it. I can’t often explain my actions to myself. Sometimes I even say, “Amy! Stop being such a stubborn ass!” TO MYSELF. It doesn’t often help. I just keep assing along.

No, why I’m a stubborn ass in relation to Catholicism was the question. I’ve touched on it now and again here, a few run-ins I had with various clergy members or things that have happened to me over the years in the church. There was the time I was kicked out of churchschool for standing up to the bully asshole priest who screamed at the Planned Parenthood employee; there was the time I was so mad at the games we had to play in churchschool I refused to participate, and therefore I became an object lesson for the entire congregation.

Neither of these explain why I refuse to go to church anymore. I still attended church after these occurred. I attended church right up until a little after grad school, actually. Then I’d had enough, so I stopped.

Now, before I start this, please bear in mind: I am not attacking the Catholic church, or any church, or any religion (well, except for maybe cults. I’m scared of cults. Or religions that are yelly about things. Or religions that get in my face. Other than that: you go, religion, you go.) This is MY PERSONAL TAKE ON SHIT. If you want to be an asshat and all “YOU HATE GOD” or whatever, you know what, go do that over there, or something, I don’t have time or energy to deal with your shenanigans.

It all came down to this: I could no longer attend an institution that was making me pray, on a weekly basis, for social issues to be resolved in a manner that was opposite to what I believed in.

Sure, there were other things. There was the time there a senile priest chased me out of the confessional screaming “GET ON YOUR KNEES AND BEG FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS YOU HEATHEN” (wish I was kidding, you guys), there was the evil priest, for whom a special circle in Dante’s inferno is reserved, one where fingernails are pulled out OVER AND OVER AND OVER, who called my mom up at work and called her the Whore of Babylon (yeah, I know, right?) because she and my father refused to donate substantial amounts of money so he could get a new rectory; there was the time that same priest installed a rearview mirror in the confessional so he could see who was making confession even though it was supposed to be anonymous, I assume either for blackmail or gossip purposes. But those were individual incidents, and not indicative of the church as a whole. So I kept going.

Then there was the hypocrisy. I like rules. I approve of rules. I think, as a society, we could benefit from following the damn rules a little more often. But no one was following the effing rules of church, yet people were still GOING. People would be eating Egg McMuffins in their cars in the parking lot, then going in and receiving the Eucharist. THAT’S NOT THE RULE. You’re supposed to fast before you receive the sacrament. THOSE ARE THE RULES. People would only attend a mass here or there, usually the ones where you got goodies, like palms or ashes, and then be all, “Yep, I’m a good Catholic.” You attend ALL the masses and ALL the holy days. THOSE ARE THE RULES. People that I KNEW were horrendous human beings in real life would be at mass on Sundays. I’m pretty sure you were supposed to be at least ATTEMPTING to follow God’s teachings ALL WEEK LONG, not just piously showing up in church on Sunday. RULES. RULES. RULES.

But that was on them, not on me. So I kept going. Good Catholic girl, parents raised me to attend church, I kept going. Not saying I didn’t miss a mass here or there, especially in college when I was too hungover to get out of bed on Sunday mornings, but I made an effort. I tried to do my best. I still believed in what the church stood for, the greater good of it all. I kept going.

Years passed. It weighed on me, more and more. But I kept going.

Then this weird new practice started, and that was when I drew the line.

At the end of every mass, right before we could leave, we all had to stand there while either the priest or a deacon or one of the readers stood up and read off a list of things the church, as a whole, was praying for that week. And we all had to put our arms and hands up in a Sieg Heil salute throughout. No, I’m not kidding. Did I have the only church that thought this was a good idea? There have to be some Catholics reading this. Did your church make you pray for things while Heiling? Was this a thing? Is this still a thing?

So the first time I looked around, trying to catch someone’s eye to share the delicious insanity of “hey, we’re totally doing the Sieg Heil thing, this is cuckoo-bananas, right?” but everyone had dead, dead eyes. Like a cult. Like a dead cult. IT WAS ALARMING. It was grainy WWII news-reel footage of Hitler youth alarming. I did not like it one little bit.

So I just stood there and refused to put my arm up. I wasn’t Heiling ANYONE. I felt like I’d fallen into a bodysnatchers movie.

Then the person reading started reading what we were praying for. Poor people. Cool, I could get behind that. At the end of each statement we were supposed to respond something. At this point, many years later, I have no idea what that is. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, it was “Let us pray.” I don’t know what it was. I barely remember what I wore yesterday. (I’m lying. I wore my Dr. Horrible shirt and it was AWESOME.)

So, poor people. Cool, cool, cool. I mean, I wasn’t Heiling, but I could say “Let us pray” to that. Fine. Then something for more clergy members, or whatever. Some things that I was completely down with and found to be not-at-all-objectionable.

Then we got (and I’m working from memory and imagination, here, so bear with):

“Let us pray for the homosexuals; that they see the error of their ways, and find God. Let them come back to God and realize that the only true love and marriage is that which is found between a man and a woman.”

WHAT THE HELL.

I mean, I wasn’t an idiot. I knew the church was totally anti-homosexuality. But they didn’t usually SAY it. Not in MASS.

I wasn’t “let us pray”-ing for that shit, no no, not me. Not with over half of the people I loved more than anyone BEING those damn dirty godless homosexuals. So I just stood there, refusing to Heil, refusing to let-us-pray.And kind of getting a head of steam, honestly. And an Amy head of steam is never a good thing. They usually boil over. Someone gets scalded.

Then some other filler shit, then we got:

“Let us pray for the aborted babies, who have been killed, through no fault of their own, by their mothers. Let them enter heaven, whether baptized or not. Let the government see the error of its ways and outlaw this barbaric practice.”

AW HELL NO.

OK, first you attack my best FRIENDS, then you expect me to Sieg Heil away my right to frigging CHOOSE? Nope. Not going to happen. HEAD OF STEAAAAAM. Also, separation of CHURCH and STATE. You aren’t supposed to talk about the GOVERNMENT in here. Yes, yes, that’s not what that MEANS, FINE. Either way. STOP BRINGING YOUR POLITICS TO MY ALTAR.

And everyone else around me, dead, dead eyes, were just standing there, arms outstretched, mindlessly, thoughtlessly “let us pray”-ing. Probably not even listening to what was being said. Not even thinking about what they were throwing their words behind.

That was when I realized: there was a very, very good possibility I think too much to attend mass anymore. Because I overthink EVERYTHING. The rules. What’s being said. What the things being said MEAN. Why we’re doing certain things as opposed to others. Why there aren’t any female priests. Why priests can’t marry. Why there is so much pedophilia in the Catholic church. Why we’re Sieg Heiling to social issues that are the VERY REASONS I choose which political candidates to vote for, or against.

But I thought, maybe this is just a special-occasion thing. Maybe this isn’t going to happen every week. Maybe this is going to happen once in a while, and you can just stand here and 1967 conscientious-objector this shit out and all will be well.

Nope. Every week. Every week the same old “pray for the dead babies” and the “pray for the godless gays” and me standing there looking around the congregation for someone, ANYONE, who wasn’t just Heiling away their soul and not finding a single kindred spirit.

So I couldn’t go anymore. It was over for me. Just, over. Done. Other than once or twice (once because the priest mentioned in the link above was in town, and I wanted to see him because I loved him more than almost anyone, and a couple times for Christmas when my parents’ wheedling became just waaaaay too intense, before I finally put my foot down) I haven’t been back since.

Do I miss it? Yes. I miss the gorgeous ritual of it. I miss the routine. I miss the rules. I miss the pageantry and the iconography and the stories. But the magic of it was gone for me. I can’t stand behind an institution that hates women and believes that homosexuality is evil. I can’t. I wouldn’t put up with it from a politician in office, I wouldn’t put up with it from a friend, and I won’t put up with it from my church.

The worst part is, I don’t believe this is what Jesus would have wanted his church to come to, were he here today. Jesus was a progressive dude. He was all-inclusive. Back in the day, he was friends with tax collectors and whores, who were like the dregs of society, you know? He was the original hippie. And you’re telling me that a church, founded on this man’s teachings, wouldn’t change with the times and accept all people, regardless whether their plumbing’s an innie or an outie or who they choose to bed down with at the end of the night? Really? You think I’m stupid enough to go along with that?

I’ve tried other religions, because I miss the magic. I really do. I miss the belonging and I miss the belief in something. But my heart will always be with Catholicism. See, that’s why I say, don’t even attack me, because this isn’t an attack on Catholicism. I LOVE CATHOLICISM. I do. I just don’t like where it is, as opposed to where it could be. And I can’t, in good faith (heh, pun intended) back that horse.

Do I believe in God, I suppose, is your next question. And that’s a huge one, right? One that most people probably don’t even want to discuss. Well, listen, if there’s ever been a place to discuss it, it’s here, so I might as well get it out of the way. I believe in SOMETHING. I think there’s something out there. I’ve seen too many things happen that are too coincidental to be coincidences. I think there’s some sort of master plan, sure. It’s nebulous, but it’s in place. Somehow. What is it? What the hell do I know, I’m not in the inner circle. Is the higher power God? Jesus? Gaia? Buddha? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know if there’s even a name on it, honestly. I just think there’s something. SOMETHING. And I respect the right of everyone else to believe – or not to believe at all – in their somethings, or their nothings. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and as long as you don’t get too shouty about it.

So yes. I’m stubborn as hell. I won’t go to church with my family when I’m home, which upsets them to no end. But it’s not like they think – because I hate the church. It’s not that at all. It’s because if I enter a church for mass, I’d feel like I was a hypocrite, no better than that guy chowing the Egg McMuffin in the parking lot before mass. I can’t stand behind some of their most basic beliefs, so the church is not for me. If it changes? If they decide to change with the times, embrace the social issues that are dealbreakers for me? Stop railing against homosexuality, accept a woman’s right to choose, allow female priests, and allow male priests to marry? Then yes. I can see myself attending mass again. Because I do miss it.

I’m a stubborn ass. I know that. I know that’s true. But I also know I don’t belong in a room of thoughtless people with their hands raised, saluting and praying for things that they aren’t even listening to, one eye on their watches, thinking about getting home for football. I have better things to do with my Sundays. I usually spend them at a theater. That’s a kind of a church, for me. More all-inclusive. More welcoming. And, if done well? Totally a religious experience.

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

38 responses to “Consider this the slip that brought me to my knees

  • Kristen Armstrong (@krispix24)

    Great post. So glad you decided to write it. I have to say there has been no Heil-ing at any church I have been at . So weird and super creepy. I have heard the “pray for” thing, but no Heils. Ugh. A lot of the same things that drove you away drove me away as well. I keep hoping the Catholic Church will see the light, remember what Jesus actually taught, and return to what it is supposed to be.

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    • Bronwyn

      amen, sisters!! :D
      i’ve been comparatively lucky to avoid the Heil-ing as well (seriously, what??) but i can’t get on board with the hate agenda, either. i had a “yep, that’s it” moment as well, though less dramatic, i think. i just realized that the magic i’d felt as a child wasn’t to be found in the Church anymore… not for me, anyway.

      i feel like Jesus, being the cool, inclusive person he was, would stand with us.

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      • lucysfootball

        I know, right? I always thought, if Jesus were to come back today, he’d just be so sad at the state of his church. The thought saddens me. And, you know what? A lot of so-called “good Christians” probably wouldn’t even LISTEN to him! Because his teachings of love, all-inclusiveness, forgiveness, etc. wouldn’t fit their lifestyle!

        I’m glad other churches aren’t Heiling. (But am wondering, what the hell was going on in MY church? I don’t live in that state anymore, so it’s not like I can find out.)

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    • lucysfootball

      What was UP with the heiling? Why just my church? Weird.

      I wonder, if they got with the times, if they’d get more parishioners. My mom’s always saying how they’re in bad shape, less people every week, etc. Well, we’re seeing here a lot of good reasons why people don’t go, you know?

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  • Mister Doctor Professor Susurrus M. Chiaroscuro, Esquire

    If your blogs weren’t so long I wouldn’t have to enumerate my comments, you know. Just sayin.

    1) WHY DO YOU HATE GOD???

    2) I don’t recall the sieg heil thing. . . but I haven’t been going to catholic church long. . . 13 years. . . “ish” (couple times a year). Mostly it’s “Father hear our prayer” or whatever. Frankly the ‘ritual/rules’ are ridiculous. Why do I stand NOW. . . Kneel NOW. . . sit NOW. . . none of it makes any fucking sense.

    3) “Let us pray for the aborted babies, who have been killed, through no fault of their own, by their mothers. Let them enter heaven, whether baptized or not.” Why do you want aborted babies to go to hell, Amy? WHY??

    4) A lot of what you have issues with, I also have issues with. I go to church mostly for the kiddos, but my wife is a “cafeteria catholic” at best, and I’m not catholic at all. Agnostic is probably as close to describing me as anything.

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    • lucysfootball

      Maybe that’s WHY my blogs are so long. Because if they weren’t, I wouldn’t get awesome comments like these. And I would miss them!

      #1 & #3 made me snort-laugh. I am quite convinced that you, Ken & Andreas are all somehow related to me, because how is it even POSSIBLE you all totally get my sense of humor so completely and crack me up the most? Yep. Secretly related.

      13 years is a long time! I think the consensus is that no other church except mine did the weird heiling. Which worries me. What kind of weird cult did I fall INTO?

      The rules are the BEST! I love the rules. I know them ALL. Well, I used to. Who knows if I’d know them now. I also liked the singing. Because I can’t sing, but at church, no one was allowed to rudely shush me. What kind of a douchecanoe shushes someone who’s making a joyful noise for the LORD?

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      • Mister Doctor Professor Susurrus M. Chiaroscuro, Esquire

        Um. . . Pittsburghers. There was a HUGE stink in the local catholic churches here. The Rosary Ladies. Joan Sudwoj and Cynthia Balconi. Back in 1995 a judge. . . banned them from church for praying too loudly. Seriously. Google them. It’s right up your “research project” alley.

        In a nutshell, three former nuns would say their rosaries as the back of a church during church service. . . but they would say them SO LOUDLY that they would disrupt mass. They were getting KICKED OUT OF CHURCH FOR PRAYING!!!!!

        So here are these two women (one eventually agreed to be quieter and was excluded from the judge’s ruling) so devout that their own church kicked their asses out for being too loud.

        Every so often there’ll be a news story that the rosary ladies will sneak back into a church. It’s funny and ironic and sooooooooo indicative of the Catholic Church.

        PRAY ON MY TERMS OR GO TO HELL!!!

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        • lucysfootball

          This is hysterical. I’m so adding this to my list of things to research someday and write about, seriously. Someone kicked former nuns out of church? I mean, there are a lot of things wrong with this. First, why were they so damn loud? Shush, nuns. Second, who felt comfortable taking NUNS TO COURT? Oh, they’re SO going to hell for that.

          They sneak back into church? I kind of love the chutzpah of the Rosary Ladies.

          I want to come to Pittsburgh someday, Jim. There are kooky former nuns who are loud and a hockey team named after my favorite flightless bird. Will you give me a tour of some funny landmarks? Is there something like the world’s biggest ball of string there? I am a SUCKER for roadside attractions.

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          • Mister Doctor Professor Susurrus M. Chiaroscuro, Esquire

            Done and done! just let us know when and we’ll have you for dinner!*

            *yes, murder you, cook you and eat you**

            **For your father’s benefit. . . we would not actually harm you in any way. Lily might smack you, but she just does it to get your attention.

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            • lucysfootball

              I just checked. You are eight hours away. THAT IS SO FAR JIM.

              No, seriously, someday I totally want to visit Pennsylvania. I don’t go on enough trips. This year I have three planned, but maybe 2013? I’ve only driven through, and never stopped.

              And I would be HONORED to be smacked by Lily. I love her to pieces.

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      • lahikmajoe

        I think one makes a joyful noise *unto* the Lord. Just sayin’.

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        • lucysfootball

          It’s only a joyful noise unto until you hear MY version of a joyful noise. Then you think, “for, unto, whatever this is, IT IS A TRAVESTY” and you run away. I am tone deaf, very loud, and extremely enthusiastic. These don’t add up to Grammy awards.

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  • Kris Rudin

    Hey, Amy – may I recommend the Episcopal church for you? It has all (or almost all) of the pageantry of Catholicism, but none of the anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-women priest stuff. In fact, my sister is an Episcopal priest!! How cool is that?? We were raised Episcopalian, but I started attending a non-denominational church in college, because FOR ME, the Episcopal church wasn’t cutting it anymore, as far as my growth as a Christian. But I think you could be very happy there. :-)

    Oh, and my uterus tried to kill me for years. I finally had it removed. Best decision I ever made. Wish I’d done it 20 years sooner!!

    And, thanks. Thanks for your blog. Thanks for writing your life and your truth. Thanks for sharing. You make me laugh! And sometimes, you make me almost cry – the recent post about your long lost friend, case in point. Thanks for being YOU and sharing yourself with all us crazy internet folk!!

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    • lucysfootball

      I’ve heard good things about Episcopalians – might look more into it. Thank you!

      I think that’s the next step – getting rid of the murderous uterus. Sigh. I can’t help but think it might come in handy for something someday, though.

      And, you’re welcome! Thank YOU, for reading, and commenting! I wouldn’t be having HALF as much fun without all of you here!

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      • Kris Rudin (@krisrudin)

        All I can say re the murderous uterus (I love how that rhymes!) is that I wish I would have had mine out YEARS before I did. But then, I knew I didn’t want it for anything – kids were not in our plans. I still love walking down the ‘feminine hygiene’ aisle and grinning from ear to ear that I am free from “the curse”! :-)

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    • lahikmajoe

      You know, I was refraining from mentioning the Anglican Communion, or the Episcopal Church in America. But then Kris handily brought it up.

      Interestingly, the Pope made a not so subtle invitation relatively recently for those unhappy with changes in the Anglican Church to come back to the ‘real’ Church. Seriously doubt those were his words, but the jist was, ‘We’re still authentic’.

      I have many friends who have stories similar to yours when it comes to the church. You know what’s weird to me? Two things. That you still attempt to be magnanimous about your ambivalent feelings. It seems to me you hold the individual people mentioned responsible for their actions and not the Church as a whole. I get that. Even if you could rationally hold the Church in contempt.

      Which brings me to the other thing: the more skeptical and distant I get from all of it, the more respectful and polite I find myself becoming.

      I know all forms of religion potentially bring a great deal of peace and comfort to believers. I think with all of the discomfort in the world, we could use any and all outlets that work. And despite the bad press (rightly or wrongly deserved) the Church does work. It does bring people comfort.

      I’d like to go in and comment on specific things you said (and other comments) and I might find myself coming back here to do just that), but for the time being, my message is simply:

      Chill out about condemning others’ path. Really.

      Ok, enough soapbox from me. Thanks Kris for bringing up the English Church. They do seem to offer a shelter from the storm for a lot of folk.

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      • lucysfootball

        I don’t want to get started on this pope. Because that’s mean. But he’s scary. I liked the old pope. He looked like you could give him a hug. This one looks like he would shiv you. And then cackle. SORRY I WAS TRYING NOT TO BE MEAN.

        I really do respect the Church. I can’t say bad things about it. Because (for the most part, although I have other reasons) of the priest in the first link in my post. He was one of the most influential people in my formative years, and truly one of the most peaceful, kind, and just through-and-through GOOD people I have ever had the honor to have in my life. I would have put my life on the line for him. Right up until the day he died, actually, which was only a couple of years ago. He was just a truly blessed man. And because of him, and because he existed, I can’t be angry with the Catholic church. Because there must be more people like him. People who are actually trying to live as Jesus would have WANTED us to live, trying to change the Church for the better in little ways from the inside. He made everyone’s life he touched a better place. I miss him every day.

        And as I mentioned on your other comment – I couldn’t agree more. As I age, I realize more and more that no one has it all figured out. It’s pointless to think that others do, and to be jealous or angry or petty about it. We’re all struggling with one thing or another, and it costs us nothing to be kind and remember that. And if religion brings people comfort, I’m happy for them. I truly am. As long as they don’t shove it in my face, get loud about it, or hurt anyone with it (including marginalize or attack groups of people – which is the reason, ultimately, I made my break with the Catholic Church, as stated.)

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  • sj

    Gorgeous post. I believe, I just don’t know in what. Maybe it’s just that I want there to be something so badly, that there has to be a reason for everything and…like you said – I’ve seen too many things that just can’t be explained away. I’m a smart chicky, I think science is awesome, but I don’t understand why science and religion are supposed to be mutually exclusive. I left the church when I was 14. My step-father was an abusive asshole, but went to church on Sundays and was the belle of the ball (so to speak) because he was such a good yes-man. No. Sorry. Not for me.

    Do you read Tom Robbins? There’s this bit in Skinny Legs and All that pretty much sums up my feelings on religion. (I don’t have permission to post this, so you can leave or delete it as you see fit)

    Early religions were like muddy ponds with lots of foliage. Concealed there, the fish of the soul could splash and feed. Eventually, however, religions became aquariums. Then, hatcheries. From farm fingerling to frozen fish stick is a short swim.

    The Reverend Buddy Winkler was correct about Spike Cohen and Roland Abu Hadee: they did not glide in numb circles inside a glass box of religion. In fact, they, Spike and Abu, wouldn’t hesitate to directly attribute the success of their relationship to their lack of formal religion. Were either of them actively religious, it would have been impossible for them to be partners or pals. Dogma and tradition would have overruled any natural instinct for brotherhood.

    It was as if Spike and Abu had been granted a sneak preview behind the veil, a glimpse in which it was revealed that organized religion was a major obstacle to peace and understanding. If so, it was a gradual revelation, for it unfolded slowly and separately, a barely conscious outgrowth of each man’s devotion to humanity and rejection of doctrine.

    At best, perhaps, when the fourth veil does slip aside, Spike and Abu will be better prepared than most to withstand the shock of this tough truth: religion is a paramount contributor to human misery. It is not merely the opium of the masses, it is the cyanide.

    Of course, religion’s omnipresent defenders are swift to point out the comfort it provides for the sick, the weary, and the disappointed. Yes, true enough. But the Deity does not dawdle in the comfort zone! If one yearns to see the face of the divine, one must break out of the aquarium, escape the fish farm, to go swim up wild cataracts, dive in deep fjords. One must explore the labyrinth of the reef, the shadows of lily pads. How limiting, how insulting to think of God as a benevolent warden, an absentee hatchery manager who imprisons us in the “comfort” of artificial pools, where intermediaries sprinkle our restrictive waters with sanitized flakes of processed nutriment.

    A longing for the divine is intrinsic in Homo Sapiens. (For all we know, it is innate in squirrels, dandelions, and diamond rings as well.) We approach the Divine by enlarging our souls and lighting up our brains. To expedite those two things may be the mission of our existence.

    Well and good. But such activity runs counter to the aspirations of commerce and politics. Politics is the science of domination, and persons in the process of enlargement and illumination are notoriously difficult to control. Therefore, to protect its vested interests, politics usurped religion a very long tme ago. Kings bought off priests with land and adornments. Together, they drained the shady ponds and replaced them with fishtanks. The walls of the tanks were constructed of ignorance and superstition, held together with fear. They called the tanks “synagogues” or “churches” or “mosques.”

    After the tanks were in place, nobody talked much about soul anymore. Instead, they talked about spirit. Soul is hot and heavy. Spirit is cool, abstract, detached. Soul is connected to the earth and its waters. Spirit is connected to the sky and its gases. Out of the gases springs fire. Firepower. It has been observed that the logical extension of all politics is war. Once religion became political, the exercise of it, too, could be said to lead sooner or later to war. “War is hell.” Thus, religious belief propels us straight to hell. History unwaveringly supports this view. (Each modern religion has boasted that it and it alone is on speaking terms with the Deity, and its adherents have been quite willing to die—or kill—to support its presumptuous claims.)

    Not that every silty bayou could be drained, of course. The soulfish that bubbled and snapped in the few remaining ponds were tagged “mystics.” They were regarded as mavericks, exotic and inferior. If they splashed too high, they were thought to be threatening and in need of extermination. The fearful flounders in the tanks, now psychologically dependent upon addictive spirit flakes, had forgotten that once upon a time they, too, had been mystical.

    Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.

    Those who witness the dropping of the fourth veil might see clearly what Spike Cohen and Roland Abu Hadee dimly suspected: that not only is religion divisive and oppressive, it is also a denial of all that is divine in people; it is a suffocation of the soul.

    (emphasis mine)

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    • lucysfootball

      Ooh, I love this passage – and I think I did read this book, years ago. Haven’t read any Robbins in years, but loved what I did read.

      I tried on – and loved, and still love – Wicca, for a time. And I loved the magic in it. The connection to a greater whole. That was something that was missing in church.

      I especially love “We approach the Divine by enlarging our souls and lighting up our brains.” YES. There’s a little Divine in all of us, which peeks out now and again. When you see it – THERE’S some of the magic that I miss so desperately.

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      • sj

        He’s one of my favourite authors and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that passage for many years.

        I also tried Wicca. I thought it was very cool, and loved it very much, but…it didn’t seem to fit for me. I haven’t found anything that feels right yet. I want to find something that feels like home to me, if that makes any sense.

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        • lucysfootball

          I loved Wicca, too, and think I will get back to it, someday – I think I might not have been at the right place in my life for it yet. But someday, I can see myself being there.

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          • sj

            I wonder if I might have been too young for it at the time. I was in my late teens/early twenties and had been disillusioned with the Church (as I mentioned above) for a while. Like you, I might revisit it at some point.

            My dad (whose mother I talked about below) was a bit disappointed in us for not having our kids baptized, but my husband and I agreed early on that any children we had would be able to make their own decisions about that. A relationship with god is intensely personal, and not something that should be decided by your parents.

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            • lucysfootball

              I love that. I always thought, if I had children, I’d do the same thing. I like the idea of letting a child choose what’s best for them – let them see the options and decide what’s best. Religion shouldn’t be forced. It should be joyous and chosen.

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              • sj

                We will do our best to make sure that they have any information that would be necessary to make an informed decision. I think religion is too heavy to put on children, really. Kids need to be able to be kids without worrying that something they do is going to damn them to eternal hellfire. I don’t care if they’re Buddhist, Shinto, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist or anything else (although, the Judaism might present a problem later in life if they go that route since they’d have to be circumcised as adults – YIKES!) but as long as that’s what makes them happy and what they feel god is, then it’s fine by me.

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                • lucysfootball

                  The hellfire thing used to scare my brother to death when he was little. Whenever we used to say our prayers at night and hell was mentioned he used to be so petrified. For some reason, it didn’t scare me. I was more practical, I guess. Or took things less literally, maybe. Who knows. I always thought that was so mean to do to a child, though, even when I was little.

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    • lahikmajoe

      Ok, I’ve loved Tom Robbins since I was young, and especially Skinny Legs and All particularly this passage of it.

      Which seems to contradict what I said in an earlier comment, but doesn’t have to. I really respect your right to believe/have faith in whatever you like. And I actually think some need it.

      I have a friend who tells a story about his brother, who’s devout. My friend never quite understood what the religion thing was all about, but watched his brother for many years…not just going through the motions but really meaning the things he professed.

      At some point while having a very deep heart-to-heart discussion with his brother, my friend made the connection that his brother had powerful daemons, for lack of a better description of what drives he felt steered by. That being devout was the only way the brother had found to deal with these dark desires.

      Does that mean all devout people are ticking time bombs? Of course it DOESN’T. That’s not at all my point.

      But some people need the divine more than others. To each his or her own.

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      • sj

        I absolutely agree. Unless you’re sacrificing babies on the altar to your deity, I’m pretty much a live and let live kind of girl.

        My grandmother became heavily involved in the (Episcopalian) church while my grandfather was deployed in the 60s and 70s. She continued her work with the church for the rest of her life because it filled the void she’d felt when her husband was gone and the kids/grandkids were in school or moved out. She was the secretary, and I remember many summer days spent running around the church while she was filling out paperwork and doing other church business. The thing that’s saddest to me is that even though she devoted the majority of her life to being a “good Christian woman, wife and mother,” when she was dying, she was absolutely terrified that she’d be judged for being involved with the church for the wrong reasons. (her words)

        She held on much longer than any of us thought possible, because she was afraid of going to Hell. Even though she’d been an amazing woman and brought comfort to many, and worked hard her entire life to follow the teachings of Christ, she was still plagued with doubts that she wouldn’t be deemed worthy enough to enter Heaven. The church was the one thing she was able to throw herself into, and she was still worried it hadn’t been enough.

        She finally felt safe enough to let go when she saw my grandfather (he had passed away suddenly when I was 15). She said “Pat was holding out his hand to me. He said ‘Come on, Ginny, I’ve been waiting for you.’ He’s still waiting for me!”

        I realize I’ve probably left the point a long time ago, but that is one of my favourite stories and the main reason I believe that there is something for us all after we leave our bodies behind.

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      • lucysfootball

        I’ll comment on your original comment in a minute (I’m working backward) but yes. Agreed. To each his own, and whatever brings a person comfort is fine with me. As long as it’s not being shoved down my throat, screamed at me, or otherwise crammed at me in an off-putting way, I’m fine with most anything that harms none. It would do us all some good to realize that everyone’s often doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, and to treat everyone as they’d like to be treated. It goes a long way.

        Also, I love your use of all-caps here. I’m winning you over, a cap at a time.

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  • Andreas Heinakroon

    I only go to church for funerals nowadays. Feel like I outgrew it quite a while back (probably when I started questioning the illogical paradoxes in the Bible as a young pre-teen). People can obviously do what they like, as long as they keep their religion out of politics, science and education.

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    • lucysfootball

      I can totally see young-you questioning the Bible. The mental picture I have of that makes me insanely happy.

      Agreed on all three counts. SO agreed. Although sadly, at least here, it seems to be creeping in to at least one of those (politics) more and more, when it should be, you’d think, less and less.

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  • cornerstone-works.com |

    […] noet: The original inspiration for this can be found at LucysFootball HERE and further elucidated at Snobbery blog’s feast of “Low-Ku” […]

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  • Patrick

    I kind of wish there was more heiling. There was a lot of inferring what was forbidden. I think if they had to state at the end of the mass where they, the church as an organization stands on specific issues, like an apostolic creed, the numbers would be severely affected. I have a hard time going to church at all, for any reason. I have been able to avoid two weddings with other commitments. Last time I went was my father’s funeral. I dread having to go to my mother’s, not because it will be hard but because the Church isn’t even trying to be what they should be.

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    • lucysfootball

      I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. It had never been really spelled out until the church of heiling what they stood for, or against. I mean, I knew, but they’d never said it, so I was able to ignore it. So all in all, I suppose it was for the best.

      I feel the same way – I’ve luckily not had any funerals (knock on wood) recently, and only one wedding (but the fact that we were celebrating a same-sex wedding overruled my church issues neatly) so I haven’t *had* to attend church. Not sure when it’ll next come up that I do. Not looking overly forward to it, though.

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