When I was around eight, I slept over a friend's house and went to church for the first time. The night before I left , my dad put a pair of black pants in my bag , stressed that I brushed my hair before the service and didn't talk in the church. So yeah, that was my first exposure to religion: nice pants, tidy hair and no talking.
That plus a couple of other post sleepover masses were the extent of my religious experiences as a child. Oh there were a few other things, like being told by my elementary school friends that I would go to hell for saying god's-name-in-vain (I had to have them repeat that to me like five times because I was young enough that I didn't know what “in vain”meant and I think that they weren't too sure either because they pronounced the whole thing in one breath, clearly quoting someone else), spending Wednesday afternoons at school watching Bill Nye or relearning state capitals cause almost all the kids in my grade were in CCD and the time I called my dad at work terrified because there were a bunch of guys in suits knocking at the door one day when I was home sick (pretty sure those were Mormons). There was also the time my little sister came home crying that she was afraid that “the saints were going to get her”. Yeah, we were little heathens I guess.
It wasn't that my parents were against religion, we just never did it. Its weird because religion is one of the biggest cultural institution, I mean its kind of like growing up not knowing what it is like to go to school. Its this weird segment of culture that I had no idea about it. I did't have anything against it mind you, but I can't say that I really understand it either.
I try to keep an open mind about it. I really, really do. I hate to hear about someone that is discriminated against because they are a minority, or a woman or GLBT and I know that the same logic should be transposed onto religion...but it pretty hard for me to do.
It just seems like there are so many problems caused because of religion. Take the health care bill for example, all the liberal politicians are too scared to talk about birth control because they will have the anti-choice fanatics calling them baby killers ('cause like I said in a previous post, taking the pill is clearly identical in their minds to abortion). Another example is same-sex marriage, half the country is in an uproar because they are terrified that two gay people getting married is going to ruin families and ruin children brought up in those families. Another example is all the controversy over the mosque in New York. I mean, all those people want to do is build a place of worship. I'm not any more excited that a mosque is being built than I would be for a church or a synagogue but seriously, all this god stuff flying around is making people go insane.
And those are just the examples I think of when I am thinking about religion in regards to current events, that’s not even getting into the pervasive social problems like teaching kids that sex equals burning for eternity. Or this weird new way that the United States has somehow morphed Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ into some all powerful American deity (spoiler alert: Uncle Jesus Sam Christ is totes pro-war and republican).
I know it probably sounds like I hate everything about religion, but that isn't exactly true. I've read parts of the bible, there seems to be a lot of talk about peace and helping the poor and not being focused on amassing wealth (On a totally unrelated note, the Catholic church is the largest land owner in the world). Anyway, that nice stuff in the bible is great but for the US being a “Christian” nation, I can't really say I have seen those values coming into the common culture.
But maybe that is because I was raised so far outside the sphere of religion. What do you guys think? Is religion a good thing? Am I crazy for thinking it is more oppressive than helpful? Doesn't it seem to add to the repression of woman (i.e. Mormonism)? Isn't the show Lost eff-ing AMAZING? (OK, that isn't really about religion but thanks to netflix I am watching it for the first time and trust me, the question was rhetorical because I already know it is amazing.)
***side note: I don't meant to be offensive to any readers! I know for the most part religion is a very, very personal thing and I am not trying to say that what other people believe is wrong, unless, that is, you try and force it on to other people. Also, I know I kept using the generic term “religion” when the only religions I reference in my post are Christian but I grew up in a tinytinytiny town where the diversity of religions were Catholic and Presbyterian. The only reason I don't talk about my experiences with Judaism or Hinduism or Islamic faiths or any other ones is because I never really had any. ***