PART II of I was a Teenage Church Lady

Although this is called Part II, it is not necessary to have read yesterday’s post in order to enjoy today’s post, but, hey — why wouldn’t you want to, right?

Once my mum began her subtle campaign to convince my daughter to get baptized or face death and an eternity in the fiery bowels of Hades, XUP Jr. and I started deprogramming having discussions about religion.

I explained that just because her granny believed something didn’t make it true. People believe in stuff because it makes them happy, I said. Like some people believe in Santa and some people don’t. (“And then they don’t get any presents, which is just like not believing in Jesus and going to hell, right?” said XUP Jr. making the necessary connections right away.)

Then we talked about all the many, many different religious and spiritual beliefs people have all over the world and I took her to a few different churches for a while until she got bored of that.

And just because I stopped going to church didn’t mean I’d given up on the whole idea of God completely. I volunteered sometimes to go to different churches with friends. I went to temple with Lily; mass with Debbie; Christian Reformed with Margo; Anglican with Sandra and even a mildly rebellious different Lutheran church with Gloria.

I signed up for the world religions course in high school – which was right after lunch and therefore populated by students in various levels of impairment. An interesting course though.

I read a lot about religion over the years. XUP Jr.’s first school was a Shambhala Buddhist school in Halifax . I picked it because it was a gentle, friendly introduction into the world of school. She loved it there. She learned a little bit about Buddhism and we found some Buddhist friends.

I took myself off to an Islamic Learning Center early in 2002 to see what was really going on in that religion.

I’ve spent a good amount of time with the Christian Scientists (eek); the Jehovah Witnesses; the Mormons, the Unitarians (they were actually pretty cool) and some Hindus. I’ve dabbled with the pagans, atheists, agnostics, Rastafarians and New Agers.

It’s interesting how passionate each person is about his or her particular belief system. And, how, like the belief in Santa Claus, most religious/spiritual beliefs are driven solely by the passions of the believers based on some long-ago legend.  And more interesting is how many similarities there are between seemingly disparate faiths. The long-ago stories connect, interconnect, overlap, converge…

In the end, what I took from it all was that people in general, no matter what their culture, want or need to believe that their existence means something more than the existence of any other living thing. That there is a purpose or plan to their life. That there is a higher power in control of things.

I don’t believe any of that. I see no reason why humans should be any more special than any other life form on earth or anywhere else. Yes, we may be a higher life form, but that doesn’t mean we are being guided by some omnipotent being or that we keep on living in some heavenly realm after our bodies die.

I think every living thing has a life force – an energy that is beyond what we know of our corporeal being. But that’s as mystical as it gets and it’s a whole other blog post. (Don’t worry, there’s no Part III).

As for XUP Jr., she’s well over her fear of going to hell. Mostly she’s too wrapped up in her own immediate, moment-by-moment dramas to worry about the afterlife.  Another couple of years and she’ll remember there are things outside of herself to think about.

And I’m confident that she understands that other people’s beliefs are important to them and we need to respect that;  just like we respect how other people live their lives — as long as no one is hurting anyone — and we do what we can to make other people’s lives, and the earth as a whole, better.

I’ve yet to find a religion that’s totally on board with that simple  credo.


29 responses to “PART II of I was a Teenage Church Lady

  1. I like the way you think. I have my own beliefs that are just for me. Christians call me a “Deist” and say it like it’s a really horrible thing. I don’t call it anything because it’s just for me and doesn’t need a name because I know what it is.

  2. Sounds an awful lot like Zen Buddhism, I think. Or at least, you sound like an awful lot of the Buddhists I know.

    Jane Hirshfield, an American Poet and Zen Buddhist said it best. She has a poem called Buddhism in 7 words.

    Everything is connected;
    everything changes;
    pay attention.

  3. On the downside, I am sorry to find out that you and your spawn are going to roast in hell forever.
    On the upside, virtually every interesting person I know will be there with you,
    On the even upper side, There won’t be any asshole christian fire and damnation types to have to deal with.

  4. Santa Claus makes a good analogy to having faith in religion.

    When you believed in Santa, it made Christmas that much more special. There was a magic to it…

    And then, one day, you grew up, and stopped believing.

    And things were never the same. Christmas was still pretty damned good, but you had lost that child-like innnocence and sense of wonder.

    I remember feeling a sense of loss. I remember WANTING things to go back, to how it was like before, when I believed in Santa.

    But now matter how much I tried…. I just COULDN’T make myself believe. Because deep down in my heart, I knew it wasn’t right.

    And once you cross that threshold, it’s hard to go back.

    I kinda feel the same way about God and religion.

    Especially, when you get the same presents, whether you believe or not.

  5. The biggest problem with religion is the pervasive fundamentalist/extremely conservative mentality that pollutes the whole group.

    There’s nothing wrong with believing, but aggresively shoving those beliefs down other peoples throats and using it to justify hatred and violence pushes away any possible converts your religion might receive.

    I’ll never understand why these people can’t just let live and let live.

  6. Amen Sister. You die, you’re dead. All the more reason to seize the day and have fun while you’re around…

    As I once said to a “Christian” who was berating me for my atheism and said I had no morals because I didn’t believe in god: It’s your hell, you go burn in it.

  7. The ethic of reciprocity, the ‘do unto others’, your ‘simple credo’ is the heart of all cultures and religions. Three little words (maybe more when translated to French she says grinning and ducking) that all but infants should understand. The rest may be smoke and mirrors. . .

  8. Xup’s going to hell! You’re going to hell. You’re going to burn and writhe in agony for eternity.

    Oh, wait, you don’t beleive in hell. Nevermind.


    P.S. Santa Claus isn’t real?

  9. We don’t belong to any church. My daughters are not baptized. I was raised Catholic but dabbled in Pentacostalism (is that a word?). My mom would love, love to get the holy water on my kids. She once told my husband and I that because my kids aren baptized they would go to Limbo. My Hubby replied, “Great! I love to limbo”.

    Everyone has their beliefs. Sometimes more out of fear than anything. My mom doesn’t attend church but she sure holds onto her Catholic upbrining.

  10. @Grace

    “Do unto others” isn’t as simple as it sounds.

    Say you want to condemn someone to death. Because they violated some arbitrary religious rule.

    And you think this is perfectly acceptable. Because you’d expect others would do the same to you, if you were the one who sinned.

    Doesn’t mean it’s right. But that’s how some people can (and do) interpret these kind of things.

  11. True words these, and ones I have lived by for most of my life:

    “I see no reason why humans should be any more special than any other life form on earth or anywhere else. Yes, we may be a higher life form, but that doesn’t mean we are being guided by some omnipotent being or that we keep on living in some heavenly realm after our bodies die.”

    First law of thermodynamics: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms: This applies to all living and conscious beings.

    Live happily, be nice to others, and enjoy this thing we call life.

    Nice couple of posts, XUP.

  12. Geewits – I just call you Geewits. You’re a Geewitist. Church of the Holy Geewitticisms. The one with the sacramental beer communion.

    Christine – Merci

    Matt – Ya, maybe. Good poem.

    Bandobras – Except that I don’t believe in hell, so I may just go to Barbados. Who knows?

    Friar – I actually never believed in Santa either. My parents went to great lengths to try to convince me that there was such a thing. I just didn’t get it, I guess. (I’ll have to check that site out when I get home)

    Hannah – Those extremists are a minority, I think, but a very loud and vocal minority which as you say really gives Christians a bad name.

    Jazz – I think people are all living in their own private heavens or hells right now.

    Grace – Perhaps in theory, but certainly not in practice. Look at all the religious institutions who are dead set against same sex marriage and are going out of their way to lobby against it. What’s that all about?

    Eyeteaguy – Santa’s real if you want him to be real. You can believe in him if you want, or not. Whatever floats your boat. Same for the other guy.

    Stefania – Limbo…that’s the place with the steel drum bands and the big stick to dance under, right? And I think you’ve got something there with the fear thing. What does that sprinkling of magic water do for your kids? If there is a god, do you think he actually cares about shit like that?

    Friar – Like all scripture, organized religion has always been able to find ways to twist the words to suit their purposes.

    Trashee – Thanks. And ya, Rastafarians have an awesome diet built into their religion i-tal — vegetarian, organic, homegrown (also “Homegrown”, of course). Cool tunes. Great attitude. I’m just not diggin’ the hair.

  13. just like we respect how other people live their lives — as long as no one is hurting anyone — and we do what we can to make other people’s lives, and the earth as a whole, better

    except nerds, who require very precise negative stereotyping.

  14. What about my religion? Did you slight me on purpose? 🙂 Everyone knows that Mermaids are zoroastrians! Don’t they?

  15. @Matt Rose: That is a great poem!

    Everything is connected;
    everything changes;
    pay attention.

    For years, I have been saying that “pay attention” are the two words that answer everything.

    My parents are lax atheists – they don’t believe gods exist but they leave it at that. I went looking at religions like you did XUP, and studied them more than most people. I even took a survey course at university about religions. I liked some of them better than others but fundamentally, they all came down to believing in gods and I decided there weren’t any. Nowadays, I think religions are all originally about social control (“how do we keep the people in line?”) and so while some of them have evolved into actually helping people with their moral conundrums, most of them are pretty useless.

    I like the Jews because they get together and question everything and they encourage discussion AND they don’t try to get anyone else to join. Of course, they have some rules that are pretty silly and misogynistic too.

  16. What Julia said!

    My grandaughter has an interesting take on it. At age six, she doesn’t believe in God (and why am I putting a cap on the word?) but she does believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny because they bring her things, but not the Tooth Fairy because that is mummy.
    Makes sense to me.

  17. Stefania – Ha ha. He is kind of a control freak… hmmm

    Gokalie – Ouch and touché.

    CM – Hey, we were just talking about zoroastrians today! If you’re really one, then I now know 2 ..okay, I don’t actually KNOW you, but you know…

    Julia – I think religion was always about social control. It’s a way of getting people to behave the way you think they should. Jews are interesting, but they have a hell of a lot of rules/laws. The closest to a pleasant religion is probably Buddhism. It’s pretty relaxed and individual, rather than group-oriented.

    Mary – My daughter believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, mermaids, dinosaurs and princesses.

    Nat – Let me know if you ever remember.

  18. You echoed my thoughts exactly. I could have written this post – except that I am not XUP and I would have to have Maven Jr, Maven Jr Jr, and Maven Jr Jr Jr, which would just get annoying. I think you are several shades of awesome, and I am glad I did not lick your utensils today. Or so you assume.

  19. Maven – George Foreman named all his kids George – no reaons why you can’t name all yours Maven. You could still write this post and put your own Mavenish spin on it. And that would be several shades of awesome, as well.

    OTC – Perhaps “hatched from the same ova”?? Cool! My long lost twin

  20. I am totally new to your blog…a friend linked me here to a post you made about online dating based on a discussion we were having. I never post on blogs, but these 2 church lady posts have brought me out of lurkdom.

    Right off the bat, I was reminded of my ex MIL and how my best friend kept thinking she was Lutheran when she was actually Methodist…as it turned out, she was RAISED Lutheran (the kind you spoke of exactly!) and had “converted” to her husband’s Methodist church. As they sometimes say about “recovering Catholics,” you can take the woman out of the Lutheran church but you can’t take the Lutheran church out of the woman (in my ex MIL’s case, that is…I shouldn’t generalize). When my ex and I called her to tell her that we had had our first baby early, and he had a genetic disorder that was not compatible with life (oddest phrase ever, I think), the first question she asked was whether or not he had been baptized. I shudder to think how twisted and warped my grieving process would have been, having to deal with my ex MIL’s baggage, if the hospital staff hadn’t baptized my son without my ex-DH’s and my permission!

    I left the UCC church under similar circumstances as you during the whole catechism process, too, for different reasons, though.

    My 8yo daughter recently had a conversation with me that was essentially about believing in things that aren’t true or real. Her take? “I don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny or even the Tooth Fairy, mom, but the Loch Ness Monster? Now THAT’S something I can believe in!” LMAO!!! Priceless…

    At any rate, thanks for putting this out here. I very much enjoyed it. 🙂

  21. Terrybama – Indeed!

    Jeorge – Welcome to the blog! And thanks for the very thoughtful comment. I sure hope I’ve been able to take the Lutheran out of me!