Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's personal

I'm routinely angered by the Catholic Church. It's not like I can help it. My whole family is devout, with the possible exception of my older sister whom nobody really respects.

This isn't just a spiritual, feel-good kind of devout. If you can think of a ludicrous and terrible idea that would reside in the minds of stereotypical ultra-conservative catholics that you're pretty sure exist as a minuscule minority, they wholeheartedly believe it. The Pope's words are spoken on behalf of the untested and unquestionable Creator of the universe, no matter how ignorant or bigoted or downright idiotic his statements are (You can wear condoms as long as you punch a hole in it to let the semen get out. Dead serious.) The Vatican II council is considered too liberal and to be ignored, because who the fuck needs open dialogue? All atheists are fools, but I am somehow exempt from immediate retribution as long as I "try" to believe. Homosexuality is a disgusting and depraved act, yet somehow this isn't considered homophobia. A woman's best possible gift is a child, so she has no right to what happens to her body once she becomes pregnant. Secularists and homosexuals want to destroy America by becoming equals. Condoms help spread disease. Evolution is only true as long as it confirms intelligent design (Think about that one for a while). The Church and its doctrines are exempt from criticism, so even if a blasphemous act is committed in the privacy of one's own home, they should be smashed with insults that they hate catholics and are violating their rights (Which rights? The right to shove your religion down my throat?) The all-encompassing liberal media hates catholics, and so does everyone else. Masturbation is a terrible thing that nobody should ever do at any age, and if you do it then there's something terribly wrong with you. The Virgin Mary regularly makes herself known by scaring the shit out of little illiterate children, and this is considered sweet and moving. A man beaten and bloodied and nailed to a beam of wood is the most beautiful thing in the world; not symbolically, literally, the blood and torn flesh is meant to be strikingly beautiful. Miracles are indisputable and if you think they are the result of cheap parlor tricks, natural phenomena, or hyped-up mania, you are an idiot and evil for not wanting to believe in God. But God loves you, and everything he does is good, even if it's regularly stated that everything is God's will, and as such everything is rendered "good" in some way, including millions of people starving to death or being stricken with AIDS or being stranded in a region that will never know Jesus and thus dooming countless souls to Hell forever and ever for petty mortal crimes, many of which are victimless. God loves you.

And you must love God.

If you don't know what it means to be told that you absolutely must have complete trust and love in a person you've never met and never will, on the penalty of eternal damnation, then let me tell you what it sounded like in my head, for days on end, for years: "I love God I love God I love God I love God I love God I love God I love God I love God I love God..."

Yeah, that's not at all damaging to a child's mind.

I used to believe every single solitary thing you just read. I believed it all. It was my reality. I wanted America and the world to become a theocracy. I thought homosexuality was a disease. I thought it would all turn out right in the end once we were all dead because God said so. I believed the most important thing I would ever do in my life would be to receive Christ in the Eucharist (It really is supposed to be his flesh and blood, disguised as crackers and wine.) I thought every bit of the Bible was historically accurate, interpreted symbolically or otherwise. I was even a creationist for several months, after reading one book filled with scientific misinformation that was approved by the Church.

I didn't have any choice, because this was the only option I was presented with. Why would you turn to science when your family tells you the scientific community is full of evil liberals and atheists who could not be trusted? I was a religious fundamentalist, and I wasn't even 17 years old. And my family thought this was great. I was the pride of the family, the oldest boy and the most devout. My mindless devotion made me the most virtuous child out of anyone.

I suppose this made my fall from grace all the harder for them to accept. I'm not going into the details of my deconversion, other than to say it started as a moral crisis prompted my logical flaws in the theology I had been taught. I couldn't live with myself and believe anything I'd been told about God at the same time. At one point I promised myself that I wouldn't want to live in a world without God. The fact that I'm still here testifies to the inhumanity of that idea. It all came apart in a few month. Homosexuality wasn't a disease, atheists were decent people, science was as accurate as humans can hope to be without relying on faith, happiness determined what was good, and there was no God. Jesus didn't answer because he wasn't there. It felt odd.

I felt alive. I could think and the thoughts would be my own, nobody else's.

So of course this meant I had to endure more trials with my family who supposedly knew better than I did. I was subjected to shitty book after shitty book, I was told the usual about atheist liberal bias, I was expected to come up with answers for things no human being could know, a couple of my books were stolen, and my mother broke down on a number of occasions. Discussion was and still is impossible. It all ends in fits of tears. During one such argument my father shouted me down, calling me cold and unfeeling, and dared me to show him my reason. So I cried. I cried like the whole world was coming down around me, like I was going insane, like a cornered animal crawling up in a little ball and cowering for its life.

Things are neutral now. My father still listens to and reads the same bigoted ignorance that is right wing media. My mother still pokes at me about my stand on religion. I tell her something to the effect that I feel the same way as before, but I'm thinking about it. This appeases her enough to make her leave me alone. I often have to go to Mass, and my family uses me as an example of a respectful atheist, just to throw it in the face of my older sister who openly dislikes going to these needless services. "Yes, that's right, it's evil to go to Mass," she'd say in biting sarcasm, "It's evil."

She doesn't know it, but she's right. If there is such a thing as evil, this would be it. It's not the worst in the world, but then having acid slowly dripped on your skin probably isn't the absolute worst thing in the world either, is it? Isn't it enough to say that it's really bad? That Catholicism is logically, empirically, morally bankrupt? That it's a corrupt system whose only heart lies in those willing to set aside their religious fervor and acknowledge their humanity? Isn't it enough to say that it's child abuse to subject young minds to this kind of ignorance and bigotry at an early age? Isn't that enough to cut back on "parents' rights"? Why do we respect this horseshit? This should be a fringe nutjob cult, not one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Why do we let them hide pedophiles from justice? Why do we let them spread lies about condoms in HIV-stricken areas? Why don't we criticize them like they claim we do? Why is it so normal to pledge allegiance to a being nobody can ever nor ever will see who speaks through a group of bigoted senile old men in wizards' robes? Why do so few people care? Why??

What more do you want to justify my frustration?

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