I got a postcard from Prague this morning. Group Leader (remember her?) is there for the summer and sent me the most lovely one. On it, she wrote about her experience there and mentioned that she is still praying for me and my family. She ended it by writing 2 Cor. 4:8 at the bottom before signing her name. I am rusty at my Bible references. I asked Fellow Seeker if he remembered which verse that was but he didn't. I looked it up and - I know, the suspense is killing you - this is what it said:
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair [...]"
Now I remember! St. Paul, our not-so-favorite writer. He did write some beautiful pieces, though. Even Fellow Seeker agreed that this is a nice verse.
Later in the day, F.S. was telling me that he would be doing a lot better if he was still a 'Christian.' I said that I felt the same way, had even mentioned it here a while ago. He said, "At least they have a road map. We don't," and I added, "Yeah, we're just... floating." I suppose that's the best way to describe it. I wonder how people live comfortably without religion in their lives. Were they raised differently than F.S. and me? Not necessarily. Are they stronger than we are? Or just different? I mean, it's not just an interest for us. It goes beyond that. Tonight F.S. was asking why religious people believe certain things, and I said, "Because they have to." Like I'm any different. We may not be believing the same things all the time but I have to believe just as much as any of the people that I have been so hard on.
Anyway, F.S. just spent a couple of days at my place, and the other night, he was telling Mother about the picture that is up in his old church. It depicts the Rapture: Jesus standing with His arms open while His people are sucked up into the sky and chaos ensues on Earth. Cars and planes are crashing, there is fire, blood. In fact, it is mentioned in Killing the Buddha - a woman enters a church with a gun and shoots at that sadistic picture. Mother, in turn, told F.S. about a gigantic poster that we used to have in my house when I was a child. She got it at some Christian festival because she thought it looked cool. It was a cartoon depiction of heaven, hell, Christ, angels, the whole thing. I remember that it showed specific people in hell, sort of like a modern-day Dante's inferno. Darwin was there. I believe Freud was too. Just faces, tortured faces, in the fire. Mother admits now that it was kind of a sick poster. Can you imagine looking at a poster like that every day as a young girl? No wonder I'm so screwed up.
I have been thinking a lot about children and faith lately, particularly because my siblings are young. Thank God that my parents are no longer as religious as they used to be. When I was three, I was given an award at church for having memorized 1 John 1. There are home movies of me reciting scripture and doctrine at four and five. I knew all of those child-appropriate stories from the Bible, like the one where God floods the Earth and drowns everyone except Noah's family, and the one where God kills all the Egyptian firstborn. Church was such a huge part of my childhood. Not just church on Sundays... Father drove the church van, Mother sang, both of them taught Sunday school, held prayer meetings in our house. For many years, almost all of their friends were from church, most of our social outings were church-related, church, church, church. Then when I was ten or eleven, we just stopped going. Stopped cold. The people at the church turned out to be jerks and we never went back as a family. I mean, occasionally, on holidays and right after 9/11, but not consistently. I went back by myself as a teenager and continued for a few years. I am still the family member who goes the most, and I never go.
I don't blame my parents for giving me such an extremely religious background, and I don't blame them for unraveling much of it either. That's what people do. They feel passionate about something, they want to share it with their kids. They get burned, they retreat. I've done it too, I just haven't had kids to drag along for the ride.
So, while I look at other people and see that religion and spirituality don't have such a strong hold on them, I can sort of forgive myself for allowing them to have such a strong hold on me.