Thursday, March 27, 2008

Long time no post, warning I tend to go on a religious rant

I've been meaning to update this little hobby of mine most of the week, but just haven't gotten around to it because the boys have been in town and every waking moment has more or less been spent "bro-ing" out.

They got in late Saturday night and I half expected them to immediately want to go to bed since they'd been up for 16 hours in a car, running on almost no sleep. But in true "bro" fashion they wanted to assault the beer supply I'd proudly built up, and decimated it immediately. We ended up going to a favorite bar of ours, Ron Jons, to introduce them to our new favorite beer (there are no Boulevard or New Belgium beers here) Yuengling. They loved it, and what they loved more was that at this bar you can buy 22 ounces of the beer for $3 flat.

Sunday, Sal, Matt, and I woke up (I was already up, stupid job has trained me not to sleep past nine) and went to Easter Service at a non-denominational church called "Beach Church." The church looks like a warehouse that you could fight Batman villains in from the outside, but the inside is full of large high definition TVs, a full band set up, and props on stage. All in all I have to give it a thumbs down. They band started off playing a U2 song which is an immediate strike against you, but then they proceeded to play a glorified concert for about the first half hour of the service. Then the church leader started talking about bridge building, and how it relates to religion. Although he started several great ideas, he never finished one complete thought before he stuttered a bit and then moved onto another somewhat unrelated idea.

The service was weird to me, completely foreign to what I was used to. I hadn't been to an Easter service in a couple of years, but its because the Catholic service has literally made me vomit before. At Catholic service, you go through the stations of the cross normally on Easter. Each of the 14 or so stations you alternate between standing and kneeling and are bombarded with incense (it's supposed to symbolize the incense Jesus is covered with in the tomb) for the 2-3 hours service. There was one time where the incense were so intense that I started feeling light headed around the 8th station and had to run outside and vomit. Thus, I haven't wanted to go to an Easter mass since.

Even though the Catholic service is a pain, I didn't feel right being at this non-denominational service. It's a weird loyalty I guess you're instilled with as a child, and even thought I tend to immediately start questioning the motives of the church when I enter, (that has to be the cynical don't accept anything at face value, everyone is somewhat corrupted, attitude my uncle instilled in us) especially the Catholic church which has the longest Christian history of waging wars, selling sin, and keeping ridiculous rules and traditions around much longer than they should have, I felt I had betrayed my brothers. I'm not necessarily bitter about it because I'm sure Sallie would feel the same way if I told her we need to go to Catholic church. Although she would go because she's awesome like that, I know there would be a voice in her head screaming, we need to get a healthy Baptist dose of scripture. Since she enjoys the organized religion and community of the church much more than me, I feel better about making her happy with where we go. I know as soon as we entered a Catholic church, I would feel uncomfortable about something else. (Probably the way that most churches seem to block out a large portion of light and filter in darker light that cast shadows over the dark gloomy wood decor in most traditional Catholic churches.)

Why do I have Cynicism toward organized religion? It started when I was really young. I was going to PSR class (basically a bible study school for kids who couldn't afford to go to a private Catholic school) and the priest there came to talk to us and said "you can ask me any question, and if I can't answer it, I'll buy you a soda." I don't know if I asked a question because I was and always have been more of an observer in those situations, wanting to take in everything the other person is saying. I like finding out what people feel and believe. Someone asked "Do animals go to heaven?" The priest gave a dumbed down, "no because they were put here on Earth for human's enjoyment." Something exploded in my head. I couldn't wrap my thoughts around how out of all the animals on the planet, we are the only one with an immortal soul. We, humans, that start wars in the name of religion, only to later find our leader wanted more land. Us, the people that daily shout curse words from our car windows at strangers and find ways to cheat, connive, and steal from each other to get what we want, are the only things God created that could make it to heaven. I left that night with a bad taste in my mouth, and being one to never just take what people say at face value, I started doing research and found so many things I didn't like about the Catholic church: evil dictator like Popes, leaders twisting bible passages to fit their own agenda, the selling of indulgences in the middle ages, the handling of the Protestant split, the stagnant nature of the church wanting to hold onto traditions that had no bearing in a modern world, ect ect.

Then I started researching other denominations and religions and found similar problems with them all. I had a Luthern friend who openly hated the Catholic church, and so did his family because of events that happened hundreds of years before any of them were born. I went to an Evangelical youth group where the pastor focused his full attention on me, and trying to get me to join their group, yet he wouldn't give me any real definition of what he believed because he was trying to recruit. Then a friend of mine died in my freshman year of highschool and the pastor from his Baptist church did the Eulogy and talked about how much Ben came to church, and loved his church, and was going to heaven because he participated in every activity he could at the church and we should all follow in his footsteps and help the community with the church. For the three years I knew Ben, he rarely went to this church and he never once participated in anything else with the church. I started to feel that many organized Christian groups were more concerned with recruiting through fear of hell than actually helping a person's spiritual growth.

Then on the other side of the spectrum were the people that treated going to service as a chore, something to be mourned. They would go to church every Sunday, zone out for an hour, feel good about themselves, and then curse people out in the parking lot immediately afterwards. Or there were the people that went to the big two services, Easter and Christmas, and would only talk to god when they wanted something.

I know that not every religious person is like this. I've met a lot that aren't. But these are things I experienced when I was young, and they are hard things to shake in adulthood when they are so ingrained in my DNA. I don't know if I'll ever truly have a sense of belonging to any of these groups, only because god is infallible, but humans are not. I will listen to what people have to say, and what they believe, and look at the evidence, but I feel I have my own personal beliefs and attaching a name to them doesn't feel right. A relationship with God should be such a personal thing, and I don't want to force myself to go to a place that I don't feel right in to just zone out every week.

Sorry I went on this rant. It was going to just be an update of this week, but Rob, Pershing, and I got into this debate last night, and after a night of sleep, I was still thinking about it in the morning and it sort of came out. I will catch all of my listeners up on my spring break (WHEW!) activities tomorrow.

Peace, love, and empathy