April 2012


I’m Thankfully Unburdened

The older I get, the more I realize that I have somehow, luckily, escaped having a huge albatross strung around my neck.

The albatross otherwise known as religion.

On some level, I’ve had a miniscule wish for it – I remember after reading the Little House in the Big Woods (and the rest of the series) realizing that my nighttime routine seemed incomplete: I didn’t pray to god before going to bed. After reading the books, I remember that for a short duration (probably less than a week), I pretended to pray to god before going to sleep – but, obviously, that phase was pretty short.

Another book that brought religion into my life was Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. I remember reading in wonder as Margaret went from church to church, and even a synagogue, in search of religion. I don’t think the book had any profound affect on me – mainly because I didn’t really understand what religion was about.

That is to say, I do not have a spiritual gap in my psyche.

As an adult I’ve never really grasped the need for religion, or what it does for others. Generally speaking, I cannot tell the difference between any of the Christian sects, other than to tell you that some seem to read the bible without leadership, some take orders from Salt Lake City, and others take orders from Rome. Muslims are divided into two sects and, overall, should get along, but do not always get along. Jews, persecuted for centuries, now have their own nation, but judging from how it is run (and Iran, for that matter), makes me think that theocracies are not places that I want to live (or visit).

When I say that I think that religion has, historically speaking, caused more harm than good, I am referring to, of course, all religions. Modern American Christians will, no doubt, object, and remind me of September 11th – for which I will respond that it was rather un-Christian of the Christians to have their crusades a few centuries back.

Further, for all the good and so-called “unconditional love” that comes out of Christian’s lips, I might note that there’s an awful lot of hate directed at gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and members of the transgendered community. Christians also seem really good at hiding things they’d rather not have made public, like, for example, priests/ministers/youth-ministers molesting children.

So while some might say that religion has been a force for good (“murder is bad”), I’m not exactly sure how to balance out all the lives saved because an otherwise amoral person doesn’t commit murder against all the lives ruined because Christians didn’t stop children from being raped.

I started thinking about this today because I was reading The Evolution of Ethan Poe by Robin Reardon, which is a novel squarely aimed at gay teenagers who are struggling with being gay.

Except for the fact that Ethan Poe is an extremely well adjusted teen – as far as I am concerned – who is doing fine. The people who are causing him to have issues are people who are religious: his brother, his best friend, and the rest of the town’s zealous religious types who are trying to intervene by having intelligent design taught in the schools. Ethan survives and, ultimately, thrives – but not before the religious fruitcakes threaten physical harm, and carry out the threats, against the town’s more reasonable citizens.

This is fiction, of course, but it rings true: I cannot recall the last time I’ve heard of a gang of scientists ganging up on a group of people attending church in order to stone them. In real life most of the violence carried out between those advocating real science and intelligent design seems to be carried out by the intelligent designers, not by the scientists.

Reading this book brought me back out to think about The God Box, by Alex Sanchez, which is another book that tackles the issue of religion and gay teens – with a similar set-up, although in the end Christians are somewhat redeemed in that these Christians think it is OK to be gay. However it is the anti-gay-Christian-bigots who are violent toward the gay characters, the gay characters only defend themselves.

Again, it’s fiction – but it rings true: pro-equality forces, pro-gay individuals, rarely, if ever, are violent.

Ultimately I’m glad that I’ve read these two books, even as I am annoyed by the religion that comes through – the books are not actually meant for me, they are meant for teens who are burdened with religion and need some way to reconcile the chasm between who they are and the assholes that surround them.

As I close, I want to point out an It Gets Better video put together by GLBT students at, of all places, BYU. It’s a video designed to speak to GLBT Mormon teens – and, I suppose, on that mark, it achieves something. However, it’s actually pretty depressing – and I really want to tell all of the kids (and that’s what I think they are) to get the hell out of BYU and get the hell out of the Mormon Church.

6 comments to I’m Thankfully Unburdened

  • Religion just preys (ha!) on humans’ insecurities and stupidities. Those slightly less stupid have used it to their advantage over the years, to the point where I would say if there is a god – the one almighty as many would have me believe – then he would have gotten off his high stool to do something about all the bad shit being carried out in his name. Notice I will not capitalize god or his. I’m all for letting people believe whatever they want to, but am extremely suspicious of those who believe their beliefs must be believed by others too, no matter the cost nor the prophet.

  • Goddamnit, how do I delete the first comment?!

  • Damn, now I’m curious what TIB wrote there…

  • I love the line in the post about how you never hear of scientist gangs stoning church goers. My book (The Evolution of Ethan Poe, mentioned above) was inspired by what happened in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2004-2005, when the (then) school board tried to bring “intelligent design” (ID) into science classes as a theory comparable to evolution. Some parents sued to keep religion out of science classes, and this issue split the town along predictable lines, with all the vehemence (bricks through windows, hate mail, threatening phone calls) coming from the “Christian” camp. The end result was that the plaintiffs won, the school board was replaced, and there is no ID in the science class. Interestingly, the presiding judge was a George W. Bush appointment.

  • TIB – people capitalize god? I hear some people also believe horoscopes.

    ian – TIB managed to double post, essentially, his comment. One of the few reasons I’ll delete a comment — that and if somebody get harassed from some sleazy blog directory… 🙂

    Robin – I saw that that was what you based your book off of — and, again, you did a great job. I suspect you captured the experiences of kids (and community members) pretty damned well. And Ethan Poe comes off as a pretty well adjusted kid, all things considered.