I’m not religious. My parents aren’t religious. I grew up believing in evolution and that babies came from vaginas. My parents were really into honesty and frank conversations with us. They told us about religions and that it was a thing that would affect our lives if we chose to participate or not. I had a very vague idea of who this god fella was supposed to be.
I went to church a lot as a kid, I had friends who’s families were religious and I was really into sleepovers on Saturday nights. I was totally into going to church with them. I found it to be really amusing and kind of like gym class, lots of standing up and sitting down and sometimes singing and then hugging strangers who were really concerned that I looked like a boy. It was an experience like no other to me. My family didn’t do that, ever, at all. We spent our Sunday morning eating sausage gravy and climbing trees.
As I got older, and by older I mean into middle school age, I realized that my friends took this church thing seriously. They thought they were talking to this god dude. They thought hugging strangers and blessing them was normal. I found it really absurd that they weren’t just going because it was funny. I stopped going to church then. And I didn’t get invited over for many more Saturday night sleepovers after I told them how silly I thought it was.
That was more or less the beginning and end of my relationship with religion, personally. I’ve never felt the need to talk to god, I’ve never felt that I was without the support or community or family or guidance that I needed in life. I certainly never felt that on a Sunday morning I needed to get up early and put on uncomfortable clothes and hang out in buildings that smelled funny with people I felt were judging me and eat stale pastries. No sir.
In the same vein, I still find church, and religion, to be an interesting experience. I know people and love people who are religious. If you invite me to your church I will make a dedicated effort to come. I will switch my schedule, dry my collared shirt with a damp towel to get the wrinkles out, drink water the night before so I look less hungover. Really, sincerely, I can’t wait to come to your church.
I thought I found god once. I went to a church of a coworkers and the service was really cute. I went as far as to change my availability at work so that I could only close on Sundays. After some deep thought, I realized I really just liked the song they sang, it was sort of country and I’m into that. I still mostly close on Sundays, but it’s really just for my hangovers.
I love a dinner prayer and will often ask someone to give one. I don’t think god has provided the bounty of our meal, I think Virginia’s love she has put into our garden did. I think the hours I worked to pay for the meal we’re having did. I think the time and care I spent researching recipes and cooking the meal did. I think that it’s important for people to take a moment and appreciate the work we’ve put in. So, when the dinner prayer is given, I replace god with the Fracksons in my head and really appreciate that the meal we’re going to have has gotten the respect it has earned.
Your god doesn’t give a fuck that I have a girlfriend. Your god doesn’t give a fuck who I have sex with. YOU DO. Stand up and tell me you hate me, god isn’t a free pass to hate.
I am kind. I am generous. I am honest. I honor my parents and my partner. I volunteer in my community. I help others. I believe that no one should need a religion or a god to tell them to be a morally good person, to treat others well, to put others before themselves. I believe that is human nature and that the hate, selfishness, and injustice that occurs is learned behavior, sometimes at the hands of religion that tells you to be kind and loving. I don’t think anyone comes out of the womb a terrible person, or a hateful person, or any kind of person at all.
Love each other. Take care of your family. Work hard. Stop blaming your hate on god. Stop thanking god for something someone else has done for you. Thank the people in your life. Pat yourself on the back. Hate because you want to. Let your security blanket go. Own your decisions, your failures, your successes.
So, to turn this from a rant about false religious understanding, my thought when I began writing was that I can’t protect my kids from religion either. It didn’t mean so much to me as a kid, but looking back now I’m really grateful that my parents explained that it wasn’t something that we did in our family but it would always be a force in our lives, whether we liked it or not. I never doubt that we will be able to raise morally aware, empathetic and loving humans. I think that Virginia and I both effort very much to examine consequences and perceptions prior to taking actions or speaking. We have talked about it being a driving force in raising our kids, both on how we respect and treat them and how we teach them to own their decisions, for better or worse.
I fear everyone else out there. I fear that my kid becomes besties with born again christians. I fear that some people actually do need more guidance than their gut instincts.