I was thinking about my blog post last night, and I realised I might have been a little rude. You see, I made a throw away comment about God (“Dear ridiculous-father-figure-deity-in-the-sky”). And I was thinking about it and I realised that Science Girl, who tagged me for that meme in the first place, is religious. Has faith. Whatever, however you want to put it. I don’t know what she believes or how, but I know that God is someone important to her and her life. I wouldn’t worry too much excpet that we’ve only just stumbled accross each other in blogland, and without any context it looks pretty rude and disrespectful.
So instead of a babbling apology or running back the other way, which would mean nothing and also not be true to my own beliefs and whatever, I thought I’d do ‘6 things you don’t know about me: the religion edition’. Here goes:
1. I was brought up Catholic. Both sides of my family are good Irish Catholics going way back. My parents were sort of hippies, in that churchy way. They were involved in the rock mass congregation when that started. I don’t know if they knew Sister Janet Meador not. Must find that out. (Great, now I have the Lord’s Prayer in song stuck in my head.) My year 8 Music teacher was one of the people who wrote the rock mass. He left halfway through that year to go to a more progressive school. He was awesome.
2. My high school was a Mercy school (not the one linked to in Adelaide in that article). I had pretty much lost most of my faith before I hit high school, but I still have a lot of respect for the Mercy sisters. They had chutzpah. And did truly good works. There weren’t many nuns left at the school by the time I got there (there are none now, the convent is used as classrooms. Although there are a couple who come in and help with special needs kids) but the ones we had contact with were great. They were kind and nice but still real human beings, you know?
3. I hate the new pope. I miss John Paul II. He was the pope all my life, and even though I didn’t believe in his religion by the time he died, he was my pope. He got a lot of stuff wrong, in my opinion, but he got the essential humanity right, something I think that Pope Benedict could learn from.
4. I had my first communion late because about the time I was supposed to start it, I watched a documentary about the human body. My family were pretty science-and-knowledge focused, and documentaries were something we would all gather around and watch. When I was in China, I bought all the David Attenborough DVDs I could find, because they were a comfort thing. Anyway. I watched the bit about how babies are made, and I remember the picture in my head, it was one of those teeny cameras and it was of a woman’s fallopian tubes, and then there were similar shots of an embryo. And I remember thinking ‘wait a second. That’s not what they said!’
See, parish politics was complicated in the Adelaide hills. The small town we were in had a reasonably progressive congregation – or at least very lassaiz faire. And the parish priest when I was growing up was reallytouchy feely. But the because of low numbers, it was a big parish, and the main base of it was in a pretty conservative town, and they got to teach the kids, see. So what they were saying was pretty dumbed down and also really old fashioned. While I, at home, was always encouraged to think for myself and make connections and was often told the complicated version, at church they would say ‘God made each and every one of us’ which seemed a little inefficient, at the time (I also thought that heaven was underground. mean, it made sense. You get buried, not shot up in the air, so it just seemed logical).
So, I was conflicted about it, the two stories, biological and spiritual, didn’t seem to gel. My parents, to their very great credit, answered every question I had and said that I didn’t have to take any sacraments until I was sure I wanted to. I ended up taking it two years later, and I can’t say it was a great experience – I had to go to lessons at another church, because there were only about two of us at ours, and the teacher was not very child-friendly.
5. Sometimes I think that being a lapsed Catholic is just as much of a religion as being a Catholic. I still have a relationship with God – it’s just that ‘God’ is a voice in my head, not in the great beyond, and it’s a pretty quiet voice these days. I used to envy people who had faith. It seems easier, somehow, and how comforting would it be to know someone has things down, no matter how bad it might look for you personally or the world in general. Someone is in charge. And I still believe, have to believe, that there is some kind of natural order, there are rules and patterns mysterious and grand enough to be considered ‘divine’ (whatever that would mean to our mortal brains). But I don’t, I can’t, believe that that comes from some beardy guy lying on a cloud. I know that’s oversimpifying thousands of years of complicated philosophy but still…
Also, once you study European history, you realise how much of what us Westeners believe to be the Word of God is just tradition, or work arounds, or political manouvers. That’s not to undermine the essential message(s) of the bible – but isn’t that the point? That the messages don’t need the particulars to be true?
Anyway, back to being a lapsed Catholic. I still have an ambivalent relationship with the whole religion thing, and I still have a really ambivalent relationship with Guilt. I can wrap myself up in a really good guilt trip pretty easily. As a result, I’ve learnt to ignore it. It’s a pretty useless emotion. I mean, either don’t do it, or don’t feel guilty about it. But I have to wonder what that does to the way I relate to the rest of the world – I know it makes me seem harder, and maybe it makes me actually harder, too.
Even when I couldn’t face the idea of going to church anymore, I still knew it was useful. I mean, an hour a week where you reflect on life and morality and how to be good? I think everyone could use that. And I try to squeeze something like that out of every week, but it’s hard when it’s not ritualised. It’s much harder to be a good person by yourself than with God at your back. Although maybe not, looking at some people who think they have God at their back.
6. I still think Jesus would be a Dude. I would totally love to hang out with him.