When you live in a country with the Metric System you do a lot of conversions. The drive to my cottage is two hundred and seventy-four kilometres, but in my post Leaving Eden, I Americanized it for y’all and said one hundred and seventy miles.
This post, however, is not about conversions of units, it is about religious conversions.
This weekend one of my friends subjected their child to a water-splashing ceremony in order that they may attend a Catholic school in the future. This got me thinking once again about religious indoctrination. In cases like this, the parents are such fakers. They’re just pretending so that their kids can get the “best” education. Then on the weekend they drink in excess and fornicate like the rest of us.
In the unfortunate case of many others, they really did drink Christ’s Kool-Aid and have formed strong neural connections in the brain that are difficult to undo.
But there is hope.
My first story is about my Jehovah’s Witness friend, Mack. While once a devout Catholic, his mind was turned to the Kingdom Hall by the influence of others. In his day job, he talks to the same people each and every day. Over time, they were able to convince him to switch teams from the LORD’s team to that of the mighty Jehovah. Of course, it almost cost him his marriage because his wife’s muscle memory was firmly entrenched in the lifestyle of wafers and wine. But at the very least there is hope for him. Maybe with enough conversations, I can convince him that he is missing too much Sunday football and blowing too many paycheques at the Kingdom Hall. Of course, if I’m not careful, I might be the one converted to a lifetime of knocking on the doors of strangers.
My second story is about my best friend. His Dad was a minister and his mom was a teacher. His Dad was a great man and well educated. It stood to reason that my friend would follow in his footsteps and become indoctrinated in the church. Fortunately, my friend is an intelligent man because he reads a lot of books. I talked to him last weekend and asked him what he would identify as. He said, “Athiest, I guess.” Thank God! I mean, “Thanks!”
For the next story, we have to take our time machine back to the mid-to-late nineties. I told you about my buddy Leather Travis in my post about buying booze while underage. Travis’ parents belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The indoctrination in this church was strong. Travis dutifully defended his family’s religious beliefs. NotOvine and I would enter into dialogue with him every day at lunch in the school cafeteria. Travis was a smart man and when presented with real evidence that contradicted the beliefs of his church, he switched sides. Although I have lost touch with him, I valued the years we spent playing guitar, shooting pool, drinking, and getting into trouble. I often wonder what would have become of him if we had not tried to save our friend. Would he have been forced to go on a two-year mission like another Mormon friend I knew?
And finally, there is me. Having water splashed on my head while the community watched. Playing little baby Jesus as a newborn in the Easter Sunday service. Accompanying my Mom to the church in a little grey suit and a silly bowtie every Sunday while my Dad stayed home and watched football. Trying to sleep in during my teenage years, hoping my Mom would just get in the car and go without me. One of the most respected men of the church driving me home from church and casually commenting how one of the underage girls in our church could be in Playboy magazine if she wanted to. My Mom not believing that story. Parental pressure to be confirmed into the church and me faithfully going along with it. Kneeling at the front of the sanctuary and performing the cult-like ceremony.
I always had questions that could not be answered. The more I asked, the more I was told that you shouldn’t ask, you just have to have faith. That wasn’t good enough for me and I eventually I weighed my familial indoctrination against the knowledge mankind has gained over the last few thousand years. I came to my senses. I have rarely been to a church since, save for a wedding or a funeral.
Recently I did something that many religious people don’t do. I started reading the Bible. I don’t mean the good passages they show you in Sunday School (like the Golden Rule), but the dark stuff. Could you imagine the Reverand at my church doing a sermon about when it is and isn’t okay to rape a woman? Imagine if the topic was how big of a pile of foreskins should be chopped off for a wedding dowry.
It’s not just the dark stuff that is of concern. It is the numerous inconsistencies and contradictions. The numbers don’t add up. The “rules” change from one chapter to the next. I’m told that is because I need someone to interpret the book for me. When a story doesn’t make sense, it’s because it’s not meant to be taken literally. When a story is about rape or slavery, that’s just how it was in those days.
Yes. Those days. In one specific region of the world. God came down to the Middle East and did some miracles for a select group of people, had them write down an incoherent story on leather scrolls. Really? And he only shows up in modern times to whisper in Mike Pence’s ear? Come on, now.
Why am I writing this? It is an invitation. An invitation to anyone who is willing to leave their organized religion and join me in the land of the unknown. That’s right, folks, the unknown. We don’t know the full history of our universe. No one has all the answers. But science and reason can provide a plethora more of them than the Bible ever will.
At the end of the day, you’ll still be confused about why we’re here, but you’ll get your Sundays back.