Common Talking Points pt 4: Religion is Holding You Back

The “deadly 3” things one is never supposed to talk about in conversation was applied…differently in my group of friends at college. They, in my group, consisted of the Star Wars prequels, certain Pokemon and D&D, though I can’t say we adhered to those either. We talked about sex, religion and politics (the actual 3) all the time – it was hard to pass a meal without doing so with several history, world religions and women’s study majors (not to mention bio-chem majors and aspiring veterinarians).

In my last post I talked about how adhering to the Bible in its entirety is actually impossible, as it was written by many, many people and edited almost as much as wikipedia before it became the version we have now. There are too many discrepancies within the text to allow a seamless, perfect interpretation and how that has, sensibly, caused the fracturing of the religion into its branches. See also the video of the man who tried that anyway. In this post, I try to justify why religion isn’t just a phase where you stay until you know better. Why it can be useful throughout all parts of your life and how it can keep coming back in relevancy, and not just something you drop when you find something ‘better’.

4.) I used to be religious, but then I got over it. (As if being religious is some mental block or illness I can and should overcome.)

First of all, that’s extremely condescending. Yes, one can be indoctrinated into a religion, but ultimately dogma can only reach so far. I was brought to Sunday School and church every Sunday as a child since I was…well, able. In that I had no choice, because I went where my parents went, we couldn’t afford a sitter, my mom taught a Sunday school class of which I would later be a part of, my dad conducted the choir, and my parents drove the car so I had no transportation. Also as a four or five year old child, I lacked the mental faculty to make large-scale decisions like what moral values I wanted to believe in. Now that I’m out of college, I have those faculties. I have the opportunity to deny religion. To stop believing in it. I can do that, but unlike a lot of my friends who had similar upbringings but chose to leave it behind, I won’t. I choose not to. Even if I were still forced to go to church every Sunday (I am guilted some of the time), I could just do what my brother does; sit there, not believe in it, and go through the motions instead just tolerating the experience. I mean, if you don’t want to believe it, no amount of church can make you believe. You can go with it or you don’t, and I choose to go with it (but I like sleeping in, so church doesn’t necessarily work). Even with brainwashing, the choice is there in the beginning. You can choose to go along with what is shown before you, or you can resist. If something later shows up that doesn’t sound right, you still feel trepidation. You still feel unsure. When your brainwashers approach you and explain those feelings away, or explain the trouble away to get you further into the doctrine, if you still feel hesitation you can still choose to reject them.

But my brother and I weren’t brainwashed. We were indoctrinated, sort of, but despite a nearly exact track through church life we ended up in different positions. My brother tolerates church twice a year since he was somehow able to escape after being confirmed while I still serve time there on the occasion and am writing a pro-religion / anti-religious ignorance blog. You would think brainwashing would be a bit more, I don’t know, uniform? That or it just wasn’t strong enough.

Second of all, religion itself doesn’t make you some sort of mental patient or an addict. The person’s choice does. If someone goes to school and learns about both creationism and evolution (it makes me shudder to think evolution either isn’t taught or treated with gloves) and they choose to go with creationism, that’s their choice. If religion were some sort of self-favoring, self-preserving parasite they wouldn’t have much control. Religion isn’t nicotine. It’s more like marijuana; people return to it for the feeling, not the physical drive.

There’s this great webcomic that I was introduced to called “Dumbing of Age” where one of the main characters is homeschooled by a Fundamentalist Christian family and is sent to college to find a husband. Her name is Joyce, she’s the one with the sweater vest addiction. However, her goal gets obscured by the people she meets and how her mind is slowly opened to things it was previously closed to, such as premarital sex, let alone sex for pleasure, date rape, feminism, atheism and homosexuality. She does struggle quite a lot since she came from such a rigid upbringing, but she’s slowly learning about what the world is actually like, and I think it’s a great coming-of-age story not just for her but for all the characters. But the biggest point of all is that Joyce chooses to keep her religion, but she expands what she believes to be right to include things that weren’t necessarily in the texts.

I think we can all learn from Joyce: If something works, keep it, but if it doesn’t work, change it.

 

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