Friday, August 5, 2011

My scars remind me that the past is real

I was never religious, never had any faith whatsoever. Possibly due to my mother’s desire not to lie to me. She never told me in the affirmative that Santa existed. She did not deny it but she never affirmed it. She did not want to lie and wanted me to make up my own mind on how to weigh incoming data.

When I was nine, my sister died of Myasthenia gravis. I was, as expected, devastated. People universally told me that “she was in a better place”, “it was all for the best” or that it was “God’s will.” This provided me no modicum of comfort. I thought there was something wrong with me. I became sad that I could not feel the love of a God, the comfort that people felt in time of grief.

I began a religious journey. I read, talked and attended services of every religion that I could find. I began with Christianity, the most accessible. I looked into Catholicism, Baptism, Methodism, Pentecostal, and whatever I could find. I grew up in a neighborhood where there were lots of Baptist churches and my great aunt, great uncle were Methodist ministers and Catholic churches are everywhere. The others were not as easy but I got them. I am Jewish by birth but had never really practiced so they were next on my list. None were fulfilling.

I moved on to the eastern beliefs. I looked into Hinduism, Taoism, Sikhism, and Confucianism but spent the most time on Buddhism. They all had the same fatal flaw, faith. They could not give me the product they offered without me giving up my sense of reality. I had to accept ridiculous claims, Karma, metaphysical law, rebirth or Heaven. None of these has any support. I felt like they were holding their miracle cure until I made an offering of reason. Give up a part of what makes me what I am to get this sense of peace which they offered.

I came to realize that many of the people seeking comfort from these religious systems were like me. They got comfort from the other people but had to pretend that the system itself offered them comfort. They confessed to me that they had to feign faith to avoid losing their community. When, it is the community which helped them. The more I heard this the angrier I became. Angry that this blackmail was going on and angry that I could not bow to the pressure. Why did I have to question and examine empty statements? Why could I not just bow my head and do my taxes in my head while the leader prayed. I found more and more people were doing just that.

My inability to play the game had screwed me out of the caring community which might have helped me in my time of need.

The thought of prayer has never occurred to me. Time of trouble or grief has never pushed me into supernaturalism. I remember when my mother died the Hospice people (great folks by the way) offered a minister who my mother had spoken to could come to the house. My mother had just died and was laying there. I recalled that she had a vague faith of some nondenominational sort and if she had talked to this fellow maybe she would have like some kind of last rite or something. I said they could bring the guy. I do not care if I agree with your beliefs; I will do my damndest to support them when you cannot. When the guy got there he tried talking to me. I was so confused by this. I kept telling him that my mother was back there in the bedroom. He kept trying to be spiritual and such. Eventually I realized that he thought he was there for me. Talk about egg on your face. I felt bad for making him come all the way down there for nothing so I got the old mother-in-law and put them together. He could counsel her and she liked all that stuff.

The thing I remember was that it never occurred to me that he would come for me. I assumed it was part of my mother’s wishes and wanted to honor that. It took me a few minutes to realize that people would think that superstition would comfort me. It was such a bazaar and foreign idea. I felt so bad for the guy, wasting his time.

That is my journey. I looked for faith. I found empty promises and blackmail. I found communities which asked me to turn off my mind. Deliberately make myself blind in one area. I tried to do it. I tried so hard. I failed. I am a failure at the game of religion.



  1. Although it was very different for me, and not nearly as tragic, a lot of this resonated with me because it's *exactly* how I experienced the puzzle of faith (a word which gets a pretty raw deal in the religious context)... desperate but unable to turn off the lamp illuminating the leering organ grinder in the corner - unable to pretend, I lost my community.

    I can't pretend to have suffered as you have, but brother, I know all about failing to pitch yourself the most comforting of stories. And to find traces of your own experience in the life of someone else is about the only cure I can think of. Thank you.

  2. I am just a little bitter toward religion. They sold a bill of goods and could not produce. It is like snake oil or faith healing.