A Matter of Faith

(Before reading this entry, please note that those of you who are staunch believers in a faith might be offended.  As my entry is not intended to offend, but inform and enlighten, I do understand entirely if you choose to ignore this post or even cut me off.  Anything I state below really is simply my thoughts on what I believe in now, and why I feel that the path I’ve chosen is the one right for me.)

“A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.” – Robert Heinlein, Friday

While I was planning on writing something fun, with the latest events rocking the Catholic Church, from the revelations of the rapist priests of Los Angeles, to the sudden resignation of the top UK priest for sexual abuse, and now the resignation of the Pope due to a possible sex scandal and not the reasons so stated as poor health, I just couldn’t get my mind off of this.

I was born Catholic.  Raised to love the Church of God and revere the faith as something unknowable, unquestionable and the way to find hope in the afterlife.  Through my life as a Quebecois kid, I went from St-Ignatius to Loyola High without skipping a beat, serving the church in one way or another.  I genuinely loved being an altar boy, a choir singer, a defender of the Bible and would admittedly even read the Old Testament for fun in between my copies of the Amazing Spider-Man and Batman.  Heck, my favorite secret graphic novel as a child wasn’t compilations of the Avengers, or Star Wars, but the life and times of Jesus Christ.

But then I was introduced to Robert Heinlein, The Amazing Randi, Secular Humanism,  and the episode “Dead Run” from the 1980s Twilight Zone.  The seeds of doubt were planted.

With each passing year, I found myself questioning the lessons given to me, those that I was supposed to follow without question.  I found that gay people were not the spawn of evil (maybe of fashion and dance trends though), that women are very much the equal measure of men, and that there are far too many people that oppress their neighbours in the name of whatever deity was theirs to believe.

But more importantly, when I admitted I am pro-choice, I was confronted with a single question by a devout person, “What kind of Catholic are you?”  And at that moment, the last of any such illusions faded from my sight.  I wasn’t one. Not anymore.  Too many rapes of children by the clergy.  The Magdalene sisters.  The extreme right using the Bible to justify their beliefs, and picking which quotes best suited their purpose.  The coming of a Pope, a former Nazi, and someone who condoned and hidden the corruption of the church.  The truth behind Mother Teresa.  Father Ritter of Covenent House being a child abuser. Those and so many many more events, and I found that I was genuinely embarassed, even disgusted to have ever called myself a Catholic.

Since then, with the absence of belief in Catholicism, I found that the rest of the tenets of Christianity was not much further behind.  The same arguments given by religious men on the existence of a God, also pretty much applies to a Polytheism approach to religion.  There’s no more proof in the reasons for there being a God, than there is believing in a pantheon of Gods.  Why is a belief in God any more real than one of Hinduism (dating back to 5500 BC to today), or in Zeus/Jupiter (1000BC to 300AD) or Xenu (Scientology) for that matter?  Every argument given to me has been given and demanded and hounded and repeated to me from the other’s faith-based point of view.   But having have had that same point of view once, I’ve realized that such thoughts hold no more meaning to me now than the story of Little Red Riding Hood, a fairy tale meant for children.  And there I stood… a believer in the supernatural no longer.

Three years ago, when I finally had the bravery to state to my family that I had become an  Atheist, I wrote this in my former blog as my statement of belief.  As I read it now, I find that I believe this so much more in the present, than I ever could have as my prior self.  In these words, I have no regret, and only joy in the time to come:

“This is it… I believe in the joy of a sniffer of cognac when looking out into a lightning filled sky with Miles sweetly playing in the background. I believe in the laughter of my nephews when they play in the sun. I believe in the joyous taste of a superbly made foie gras across a piece of freshly made baguette. I believe in the rapture of having seen Crosby score that gold medal winning goal, or the determined satisfaction of a job well done when my friend Randy lifted the Grey Cup over his head. I believe that Tim Horton’s is superior to Dunkin’ Donuts any day, and McDonald’s will probably outlast all corporations by generations. “

“I believe in the silent contented grin of my sweetheart on a quiet night on the sofa, and the pure gaze of love between my brother David and his wife Jennifer as they sat across from me. I believe in the thrill of my paddle blade slicing through the water as the Red Eyes approach the finish line. I believe that I am a good man, and my moral choices are right for me, and no one has the right to impose their own morality on me, just as I don’t have the right to impose on them. I believe that when it matters most, I will be there for those who need me to be their knight.

And I believe that my friends and my family are my single greatest source of strength no matter the circumstances.

In the end, that’s all I really do need to believe in. What about you?”

7 thoughts on “A Matter of Faith

  1. Well, St. Paul was a torturer and a murderer, and St. Augustine was a moral reprobate. As I recall, Jesus was roundly criticized for keeping company with the dregs of society. If there is a lesson in this, it is that the Church has always been for sinners—as it is certainly full of them, including many who have committed serious crimes. The point is that some of them, eventually, become saints. I hope that, in time, I might become one, too, without having to commit heinous acts! And I know I won’t be able to accomplish this on my own. This also influenced me: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/science_origin.html

  2. If it was a matter of bad people doing bad things and redemption, I might have still been part of the faith. My issue is that these were not only our leaders, I find that the dogma they teach reprehensible. The beliefs of the church do not even begin to match my beliefs in the here and now, and I’ve found my own form of belief in rejecting religion altogether. Short of a direct act from some deity, and then introducing him/her/itself to me to take credit with credible proof, I doubt I’ll ever go back into any fold whatsoever.

  3. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to do what you did, at the time you did. Religion is a cushion, a safety blanket, to those who cannot or will not accept the cruelty of existence. Atheism requires far more devotion than merely reading a book or waving one’s hand on cue, because it offers no firm answers, no gratuitous comfort. It is a quest of solitary martyrdom.

    I rejected faith as a child, science had already shaped my mind by the time I started school, and there was no room nor want for religion in my life. It wasn’t until my 30th birthday approached that I began questioning my stance. My greatest challenge is to embrace chaos, because without religion, there is no promise of an afterlife, no ritual to numb the unraveling mind, no “Living for dummies” handbook to guide us through uncertain times and tell us what we want to hear. These are trials I willingly endure, in exchange for an unshackled mind.

    • Thanks Billco. It’s been an interesting ride but my parents were the hardest to explain this all to. I hadn’t realized how suspicious they were of atheism when as a friendly gift, I passed on the BluRay BBC documentary on the Story of Christianity. They automatically assumed I was trying to undermine their faith before having to explain that it was a simple award winning documentary on the history of Christianity, no more no less.

      • It is a very delicate situation indeed. I ran into a tense situation a few months ago, when my father passed away. We were going over the funeral arrangements, which of course involved meeting the pastor, choosing prayers, etc. My dad wasn’t very religious, he didn’t attend church outside of weddings and funerals, so I didn’t want anything overtly religious. For the most part, it went quite well and the pastor was a likeable, progressive-minded man.

        I got into a bit of a tiff over the poem that was to go with the photo keepsakes. The first verse was a perfect fit, words my dad would have spoken himself, but the second half was some masturbatory Jesus praise. I said “I like it, but let’s cut out this Jesus bullshit”, which inflamed and insulted my uncle who said I should respect other people’s beliefs… How about respecting my dad’s (quiet) beliefs and honoring his legacy ?

        That brief moment showed me a side of my uncle that I had never known, I never expected him to be so religious. To put things into perspective, this is a man I admired for his intellect and lifestyle, since I was a little kid. He is, without question, the reason I am a computer geek, and yet, with that one argument, it threw everything out of balance. Once again, religion created a rift where there previously was none.

        Much like yourself, I’m not out to “convert” people to atheism. They can believe whatever the hell they want. It’s the confrontational aspect that needs to go. If one person’s frank words are a threat to another’s faith, then it’s a pretty weak faith to begin with.

  4. I enjoyed reading your statement of faith; it conveyed to me a faith of love and self sacrifice.

  5. Thanks Carlo. I’ve enjoyed our occasional chats on faith statements and what not on FB over the last few years. A shame I missed you at the 25th reunion.

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