Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Religion: Part One

I was more or less raised in the Southern Baptist tradition that I don’t believe in any more, if I was ever truly vested in it. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family–long gone but someone whom I idolize to this day–was a second mother to me. She took us in after my parents split and was my emotional go-to at a time when my mother, scrambling to recover, had no energy for me.

My grandmother talked in Bible-speak, constantly spouting verses and was relentlessly judgmental. She was a constant source of amusement to me and my cousins. When there was a thunderstorm, she would make us kids sit down quietly while she sang this scary-ass hymn (made hilarious by her warbly voice) about God troubling the waters. When asked why, she said the thunder symbolized God’s anger or some such ludicrous thing. We would wait out the storm talking in loud whispers as she spent the time singing and telling us to be quiet.

In the mean time, I went to Catholic school for the superior education (ie, better classroom discipline than public schools) from 4th grade all the way through high school. Religiously, I was an outsider, an infiltrator, an observer. I had thought about converting but there are way too many degrees of separation between a Catholic and God so I ultimately passed on that.

Back at the Baptist church, in my late teens, I joined the cool, hip young adult choir because I love music, and yes, because it was cool. As water seeks its own level, I eventually fell in with a couple of irreverent pot smokers. As is sometimes the way, we had a falling out when a man one of my girlfriends was going after decided he wanted to be with me (I swear it was an accident I did not actively cause). I wondered for weeks why the entire choir was giving me the stink eye before it was revealed that a nasty rumor was ruining my reputation. That’s when I decided that maybe organized religion was not for me.

Quite frankly, the new philosophy was working out well for me until I fell in love with a Muslim. The deistic ideology of Islam–one God, no trinity–was in line with what I was thinking anyway. I got married and the more I studied the religion the more I realized it answered many of life’s questions for me. With all questions answered and possibilities limited, there was barely any reason for me to write.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2010.

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Comments on: "Religion: Part One" (17)

  1. Oh Sweepy, I have the feeling you and I could sit down and talk a lot about this over a cup of coffee. For now I’ll suffice it to say, that my Father was a southern baptist deacon (he came to faith after I did I was not raised with any faith) and I’ll also say that I was thrown out of my church. So when I say to people I’ve been thrown out of better places than this, well, I’m not lying! LOL

    Anyway, I look forward to your insight into this and support you in your writing of it and do so without one ounce of warble voiced judgement.

    LOVE YOU!

    • Well, there are plenty of places where we are accepted now, Lisa, with the most important place, of course, being within ourselves. I saw the “friend” who bad-mouthed me years later. She said she had always wondered what had happened to me and she apologized for the incident and for being so petty. I was surprised at the depth of her emotion, that she would even remember it.

      We are very much kindred spirits. Thank you for your support. I love you, too!

  2. My mother was a catholic who, we’re told, was excommunicated for eating meat on Friday and experienced a degree of triumph when that bit of papal bull was later repealed. My dad was a Methodist (lite) where shouting back at the preacher was the norm. I was christened catholic but went to a Methodist Sunday school while my sister chose the C of E as she’d been told they had parrots in the walls. (No, me neither!). I left organised religion aged 16 after sitting through a sermon about the immorality of teenagers, the only representative of that group. As I left the church, the preacher asked me if I had learned anything today and beamed as I told him I had. He did not beam when I said that I had learned never to come back.

    Since then, I’ve become what has been described as a ‘tooth fairy agnostic’ – someone who accepts that they will never be able to prove there is no tooth fairy but thinks it so unlikely as to be irrelevant. However, I am also drawn to Richard Dawkins’s suggestion that, while most people reject everyone else’s god but their own, atheists just go one god further.

    I am kind to kittens and give generously to charities. Just saying…

    • I’m sure there are some good individual churches out there, but in so many cases I wonder where is the understanding of humanity. And forget about catering to young people. I bet many become disillusioned around teen/young adulthood.

      I’m not quite at your point yet. When I wake up, I fully expect to see some money under my pillow! However, I do think that humans have the ability on their own to discern right from wrong, to know what’s fair. That’s something I’ll tackle in a future post.

      • I suspect I’ve always been an essentially rational thinker, no more prone to theological beliefs than any other, and so disillusionment didn’t really apply. I was not disenchanted or concerned because in a sense, I had presented an hypothesis (unspoken) and tested its validity. At 16, it wasn’t a very well-constructed one but it gave me an initial position that led to my taking full responsibility for my own morality and judgment. It also meant that, quite early on, I had an unformed sense that THIS was IT – no second chances, no redemption – so I’d better do as much of the right thing as possible while having the best time possible for as long as possible. So far, it seems to be working out ok!

  3. Nice installment. I’m also curious about what lies ahead. I was raised in a hardcore Pentecostal fanatical environment of the faith healing, prophecying, snake handler variety. i’ve investigated every religion I’ve ever heard of quite thoroughly as the nature of belief and the unexplainable are an endless source of fascination to me. I’ve been an agnostic for many years, being of the opinion that the existence of god is not a question our minds that can’t fully understand our bodies or the universe can really answer. I’m a big proponent of living without “hope” or acting as best you can because you can, rather than under the enticement of an eternal reward (or fear of eternal punishment, whatever the case may be)I’m grateful though, that as a result I know the bible very well, as it remains probably the most intersting and diverse text ever written.

    • Thank you, Brent. That sounds like grass roots Americana there. Please forgive the reference but “Elmer Gantry” comes to mind. 😉 I’ve had many opportunities to attend Pentecostal services and there’s always a certain fascination and mystery surrounding it. There’s a lot to be gained by studying different religions. It seems to me that the ultimate act of “good” involves not expecting reward.

      • “Elmer Gantry” indeed! Unfortunately, none of the authority figures involved had an ounce of Burt Lancaster’s charisma. But there was a lot to be learned watching my parents reaction to the fall from grace of each of their idealized role models (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, etc)

  4. I just wanted to leave a blanket statement for all of you who have commented here and will do in the future, I so appreciate that you share your personal experiences with me in kind. I’m honored.

  5. I loved this. You just so cut to the chase. I have been wanting to write about the Eucharist profanely that is to say, my association with “Take, eat, this is my body,” with kneeling at the rail confronted with a handsome priest smelling of that nautical shaving creme, in a white robe I simply felt like parting to do what was asked. Shame on me, but that’s where my mind goes. I associate Eden with pleasure, not guilt. Trying to comprehend the Trinity has made me nuts and no need to add to that. You may have read my Christians and liars piece… interesting that you tackled this: Write on– you do it so very very well!! x j

    • Jenne’, you are seriously randy; I’m glad I’m not the only one! I think sexual behavior is the main thing that organized religion is designed to control. Lots of things can’t be accounted for! I’ve been meaning to tackle religion for some time now, but I was inspired to get back to it from reading your blog. It ain’t easy. Thank you!!

  6. Wade in the water… Wade in the water children… Way ay ade in the water.. God’s gonna trouble the water!

    looking forward to the continuation of this!

  7. This just makes me love your grandmother. There is something that draws me to religious, old, singing women,though they either promise to pray for me or end up tsking til I leave.

    I really want to read the next installment!

    • She was a wonderful woman, Vicky (Is it ok to call you that?). A real woman. All 12 of my first cousins could make the same claim that she was a second mother to them, not to mention her own brothers and sisters and some stray people the family doesn’t like to talk about! Anything I know about strength I learned from her example.

  8. You know I just randonly came across this post of yours. This was written way back, that’s why I missed it. Everyone one of us must have had doubts and questions about religion some time or the other. I for myself kept wondering whether my religion did teach terrorism and its likes. I was surprised at what the religion is made out to be and what we interpret as in the public eye. A very thought provoking post.

  9. Hajra, thanks for taking a look around. I think what you said is the reason why I don’t affiliate with any organized religion right now, because the group effect and individual people always try turn religion around to their advantage. xox

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