Rants on Faith: Why Are We Celebrating The Wrong Person at the End??

For any Christian family members who may read this, you may want to look away because I know I’m going to upset you.  You’ve been warned.

A week ago, I attended the funeral of a friend and co-worker of my wife. I didn’t know her very well, but she was a kind person, one who believed in her friends and family.  She was one who was overjoyed about her new baby, her civil law husband, and the community that she contributed to as a whole.  And most importantly to her, and many of her friends and family, she was a devoted catholic, almost to the point of zealous.  As I understand it, she was someone who had been looking for something that would fulfill her need in something greater than herself.

All of that is fine and well.  As those who’ve read my rants about faith in the past, I have found that faith in a higher being is something that brings happiness and comfort to a lot of people.  It’s something that I myself was once apart of, before I started to see past what I perceive and believe are simply illusions and parlour tricks.  But no matter my own feelings on the matter, if people want to still believe and follow mythology, it’s their choice.  I just refuse to support the illusion anymore, and will simply remain silence when encountered in situations where I’m surrounded by the needless ritual.

It was in this exact situation, that I found myself accompanying my wife at the funeral.  That in itself is not unusual, as this was supposed to be a celebration of her life despite disease and adversity.  Instead, I literally found myself getting angrier and angrier as each moment passed.

First, there were a number of speeches about her.  The first was a fairly straightforward retelling of the points on her life bit by bit.  A bit dull, but at least you get an idea of her history.  But then came the next speech, and a video and so on… and so my anger rose.

Each speech, the music theme for the video, the little mentions of her history and the highlights of her life, were not so much celebrated as almost ignored and even belittled.  And worse, virtually everyone in that room saw that that was absolutely natural.  You see, the event ceased to be a celebration of her life, but a great thank you to the God almighty for afflicting her with a fatal disease and to just casually take her life just after having given birth.   There wasn’t really any mention on how she was a loving mom, or a good friend, just praise be to Him for giving and taking life away for what seems to be totally arbitrary reasons ranging from “only He knows” to “what the hell, why not.”

I was reminded by my wife that this was her friend’s belief, and that of her community, and as it wasn’t my place to say anything, I just sat and remained quiet the entire time.  And as I was watching it continue, moment by moment, I just couldn’t help but look at this as a travesty and a disservice to the memory of her friend.

It’s been days since then, and as I looked back on my own life, I started to think about all of the funerals I’ve been to over the years and realized I was looking at a mirror.  Both my grandmothers’ funerals.  The odd teacher and so on… and I wonder, was I that oblivious?  And I really have only one answer… probably.  I was quite devout as a kid, and still had some modicum of belief even 3-4 years back.  But now I’m also ever more determined to reject religion altogether as well.

After a few years of being lazy, I’ve begun to rewrite my will, as well as a living will for once.  I’m also going to have to explain this to my family later this year, as they’re very much the devout Catholics.  If anything I’ve done since my rejection of religious faith is going to upset them, it’s probably going to be this…. that should there ever be a service of some sort because something’s happened to me, I don’t want a priest of any sort to get 1,000 miles of me unless he’s a personal friend.  I reject the Catholic Church, the Christian faith as a whole in life, and I see absolutely no distinction in that in death.  If there’s any service of any sort, it’s going to be a celebration of my friends and family, and bits of their interaction with me, but anyone who even thinks of praising God or Jesus instead of themselves, for the people they are for making me someone who believes in civic duty and familial love, they had better keep it to themselves.  I would honestly find that someone thanking God for me being in their lives, or for the way I believe in my family and friends as God or Jesus’ way, as a complete and total insult to myself, and to everyone I love.

Why the hell are we passing the credit to some mythical being that may or may not have ever existed?  We create the world we live in, and we are the ones who interact and love and live with one another.  Why do we want to strengthen the image of that greater being and a Church or faith of some sort, instead of giving credit where credit is really due, that is with one another.  There’s a classic saying, it takes a village to raise a child,  I find that so much in line with my own beliefs and my causes.  And at the end, it’s those people who made me the person I am who I would want celebrated, not God, Zeus, Odin or The Easter Bunny.

After all, in the end, wouldn’t you want to be remembered for the person you are, and not that you were some mindless automaton that just followed a faith blindly and that every action you’ve taken of note was of your own undertaking?  That every one of your triumphs was because you had the drive, the spirit and the guts to achieve it?  Stop giving credit to some unknown spirit of the sky,  Give the credit to whom in belongs to… yourselves.

A Rant Over Faith

STOP RIGHT HERE.  If you are a devout believer in religion, this is probably going to infuriate you.  I’m ranting now over an event this evening, and I am COMPLETELY unapologetic.  Skip over this unless you’re willing to debate in a logical fashion. 

I WAS going to write about a time with me strapped on a roof in a typhoon to impress a certain girl … and I will get back to that story, but I just experienced a phone call from someone I respect in most things of life.  He had basically accused me of poor taste based on his personal interpretation that I just attacked Christianity.  I just had to answer.

I pretty much made my own statements on what I believe in my blog post, A Matter of Faith. I’ve turned away not only from Catholicism, but from ALL organized religion altogether.  While I do believe that people are entitled to believe as they will and quite a few of my friends like to promote that belief, I also believe I am equally entitled to state my own personal belief, or lack of belief that is.

Today, I had posted a joke on my Facebook about religion.  I found it quite funny, and did a routine share.  Here it is (mind telling me where the hell it says Christianity?):

Image

Haven’t you ever been pestered about statements of overt faith?  Whether it be the person at the door with the pamphlets, the politician stating that a school shooting was because there wasn’t daily prayer in the classrooms, or the person who accuses you of being a traitor or an infidel because your belief contrasts his or hers, we’ve all been bombarded with religious statements of one way or another.  Every single person who tries to push their religious beliefs into our secular institutions just drives me insane.

Nevertheless, out of respect to him, I’ve removed it from Facebook, but I will NOT be silent.  I am simply furious with him for imposing his knee jerk interpretation on me.  I am simply furious with MYSELF for giving in this once.

Ever since I’ve declared myself Atheist, I’ve been attacked or judged by others (well over a dozen or so) as being very much as being a member of Satan’s crew.  Funny thing is that, I have a ton of Jewish and Muslim friends as well, and not a SINGLE one has ever been overtly judgmental.  If anything, I’ve actually had some interesting debates about their religion and atheism, but always with mutual respect.  (By the by, a lack of belief in god also means a total lack of belief in Satan as well.. so hell and all that.. why do you believe that hell scares me?  If anything, I’d probably rather go there since most of the atheists also include the very best mankind has ever had to offer.)

atheisthell

But Christians… Christians…. Why has it always been the Christian ones who attack, without even considering other points of views out of a self-important belief that their view is, and will always be the right one.  And to anyone of those who has attacked in the past, don’t you dare even begin to give me the bullshit excuse that that’s not true.  Remember, at one time, I was one of you, and even more devout and fanatic than most.

So I simply put this to you…. why?  If you’re content with your religion, why do you feel so threatened by my own beliefs on things based on actual proven observable fact? You don’t have to read anything I write.  You know I’m not likely to blow up a building or punch you out.  Just ignore me, as I try to ignore you if there’s something you choose to post that I don’t like.  If you know me, I would respect your point of view in general unless it’s something deliberately promoting hatred and harm.

For the Christians for example, I personally find it totally insane to base your belief on:
– a book like the King James Bible that is an English interpretation of ancient hebraic scrolls;
– translated to an “acceptable” level for approval by the King of England;
– based on a cherry picked pile of scrolls (for example, why only those 4 books of the apostles? Why no mention of the book of Mary Magdelene?);
– that were themselves copies of scrolls written down hundred of years from the original scrolls in 400AD;
– which were written and passed on solely through oral history for the first 400 years.
That’s lunacy. Ever played the game “Broken Telephone” as a kid? Ever hear how the story changed from start to end? Now imagine that with over 100,000 people in the middle of the line!

Hell, those same people who are so certain that there are no morals unless there is one based in religion, I counter that if the only thing keeping Christians, Jews and Muslims from turning into serial killers and arsonists is a belief of a being created by pre-Bronze age people trying to explain why it rains, non-believers has far more to be afraid of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Yes I attack religion as a whole, and very often the Catholic Church, but never once out of context.  If Rabbis or Imams were going around raping children world-wide, I would have GLADLY done the same with the same strength of conviction.  I refuse to have anything to do with any organization whose leadership voted in a Nazi to lead them, and openly condoned and protected thousands of child and women rapists world-wide over decades. I refuse to be a part of a religion that subjugate and strikes down women, because a bunch of guys decided to, despite that their own savior had never put such a restriction (such as in the case of Mary Magdalene).  Don’t even get me started on the Vatican attack on nuns on the front line, who are actually doing “God’s” work by feeding and helping the homeless, instead of say picketing over birth control.  I am truly ashamed of ever being a Catholic, and had long formally demanded to be removed from all rolls in the Vatican, Calgary and Montreal. And in fact, I state this here and now, I do NOT now, or EVER want to be buried or interred in Catholic or Christian grounds.

But I also reject the barbaric actions of the Muslim faith interpreted by conservative extremists.  Is lopping off the hands of thieves because supposedly their own god told them to be the right thing?  Jihad is supposed to be a revolution of the mind and spirit to a belief of love, and instead has been re-interpreted by men to mean violent struggle and massacres.

I’ve attacked religion as I believe in logic and simple compassion for your fellow man far more. For example, why isn’t giving your time or money or whatever because it’s simply the right thing to do is actually not the right thing, but it is right if it’s based on religious reasons out of fear for hell?  It strikes me as dead wrong.  That belittles all of us as little more than blackmailed children, and I’m not alone in that line of thought.

Those who declare themselves to be religious dropped to 60% in North America.  Those who declare themselves to be atheist, agnostic or humanist has risen to 16% of the population.  The numbers in many countries in Europe have plummeted to single digits for those declared religious.  I find this to be hopeful, as I personally see this as a maturing of society.  We are socially still so much to be a people not unlike children, who needed the spectre of a deity saying no-no or else you go to hell.  Now we’re slowly changing to be a people who realize that they should say no-no simply because it is the right thing.

So really in the end, it comes down to this.  I removed the so-called offensive post on Facebook, but only due to the nature of my relationship with this person.  But I learned long ago the saying, all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to remain silent, is correct.  This applies to protest.  It applies to life.  And it very much applies to culture… because where would we be if we stopped everything we found offensive based on our religious beliefs.  Everyone finds one thing or another thing offensive, but if you want to dispute something I’ve said or done, do it because there’s a valid reason or argument.  If you want me to respect your belief, give me a reason that makes sense.

That’s enough of a rant for today.  Back to something normal tomorrow.

The Days Before Tomorrow … Pt 3

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” – William Congreve

“Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.” – Gandhi

“I was born when you kissed me, I died when you left me, I lived a few weeks while you loved me.” – Humphrey Bogart

In all of my wildest dreams, I never saw that coming. We were close in so many ways, even though we weren’t a typical couple over the years. But, it was because we weren’t a normal couple that I had made my mistake in thinking that this was something that could be solved in a sudden dramatic fashion. To put it mildly, I was stunned, and remained so for the 2 or so hours where they both told me how they fell in love, how they both felt guilty about me, how they wanted me in their lives no matter the distance and more. To them, I was now family, like the happy go-lucky brother. In all honesty, I felt a bit like I had created a bizarre version of Frankenstein’s Monster, one that was now coming for my blood for the sin of brutal creation.

So I played the game a little further and served as their Best Man, and I think I played my part well. Should I mention about the bachelor party I hosted? The actual event at the altar where I smiled and cooed, all the while wanting to leap out of a window? How about the wedding banquet, quite modest thankfully, but still filled with those little games that everyone loves to watch. No one said if I looked upset or angry, though her parents did take me aside and told me that it was my fault that this happened and I should have been there on that altar instead. But realistically, my only thoughts were on how much I wanted this to end, and to wash my hands of everything and disappear from sight.  Little did I know that even long after the night ended and I returned to Montreal, she had other plans in motion to keep me close.

A few short months later before Xmas, I was told there was a surprise coming.  While admittedly not particularly thrilled, I had to admit I was a bit curious to see what she had in mind.  I was pretty much expecting maybe copies of the wedding photos?  A thank you gift?  Maybe a visit?  Who knew what it could be really?  I was still feeling the sting of the wedding, and I knew in my heart of hearts that this mess was entirely my fault.  I mean, I knew she would be upset with losing me, but I never in a million years thought she would rebound in such a strange and unexpected way.  Little did I know, that was just the beginning.

On Xmas Eve, they came around to my door bearing gifts.  I wasn’t surprised, as I expected something along these lines. The meeting was brief, as they had other doors to knock and people to see, but they did tell me to keep my New Years’ Eve free. I should have lied and said I had plans or something, but that would have been futile. All of those years of written notes and secret whispers had made her a human Terry lie detector for the most part (with of course the exception of when I shoved her). So I went about my daily holiday business of too much turkey, tons of family and friends and so on, but my mind remained a bit at unease knowing THE day approaching.

New Year’s Eve actually started to be fun. Being the geek I am, they surprised me with a private room and a few matches of Laser Quest of all things. It seemed to be a genuinely pleasant approach to that night that I never expected. There was of course a blind eye to the case of sparkling wine brought into the room, several pizzas and laughter between the 3 of us and their friends all around. We talked and reminisced, went over the elementary to college years, the disastrous first date ever, odd arguments about horror movies and so on, and I was honestly starting to relax and enjoy the company. Famous last thoughts I suppose.

Throughout the night, I noticed that while we were all enjoying the bubbly, she had stuck to apple juice and so on. She was never much of a drinker, but then, it was New Year’s Eve. And as the final few minutes of the year arrived, she stood up and poured a very small amount of wine into her glass and made a toast. First was a toast to her new husband, then her friends and family and then as she put it (and I so have those words burned into my brain in 24 point Helvetica type), “To Terry, the dearest friend, sweetheart and soon to be UNCLE and GODFATHER TO MY SON.” I so dearly wished right there and then for those laser pistols to be fully functional and lethal so I could shoot myself.

There was a lot of cheering and toasting that night. I felt sick and left the building, trying not to faint or throw up on the ground. It was a particularly cold night then, but I honestly didn’t even notice as both shock and a bit of fury had gripped me. I thought I was done and over with her, but now I saw that she meant every word about keeping me close. And as with stupid me and my code of chivalry, I felt obliged to say yes when I wanted to just scream. I looked back at the door to Laser Quest, composed myself, went back inside and apologized for my sudden reaction and accepted the honor. Months later, I got to meet my first godchild ever, and could you believe the coincidence? He was named Terry too.

By the way, did I happen to mention how unusual it would have been for me to be the Godfather? I was born and raised catholic, and lived across the country to boot. She was protestant, though He was catholic as well. Moreso, my belief in the Christian faith had already begun to wane back then (I’ve since become Atheist) which didn’t exactly make me a very good candidate. She didn’t care, and if He did, He didn’t tell me then. So annually, I would send gifts and notes to my godson to read when he was older, and every so often I would see them in Montreal or I would go there. A few short years later, Terry was followed by a second child, a sweet little girl named Georgia. I should have guessed, as my middle name is George. But if things were getting weird, she didn’t let me know.  (I’m a bit thankful there weren’t more kids. My full name is Terrence George Bing Nung Lo, which incorporates my chinese name as well.  Somehow I imagine in a parallel universe a kid named Bing being teased mercilessly in a playground.)

This game went on and on, and I would make my regular phone calls to the family and talk to my godkids. He had become a successful restaurant manager while the wedding and children derailed her studies in law, but still managed to get a degree in accounting somehow. I stayed in Montreal, finding new loves time and again, but somehow always watching them go up in flames in one way or another (Those tales are for another soap opera tale in the future). Still, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, as we all found our lives going their own separate paths as they should.

It was a Saturday in July that I called to wish lil’ Terry a happy birthday. But instead of the formalities of saying hi and so on, Terry passed me on to his grandma. She was expecting my call, and wanted a chance to tell me her mind. She had told me that HE had left, and moved away with another woman with kids of her own. She, my 1st, was now a single parent to the 2 kids, and that custody was entirely hers and that HE didn’t even contest it. Her mom then told me the rest of the story, of the fights and the counselling that went on in the background. The regrets she had by acting so rashly by marrying him, and the hurt and pain behind it all. How She had insisted on naming both kids after me, and that I had to be their godfather. Her mom confirmed all of my suspicions and more, and then lectured me about how it should have been me and her daughter from the start. Many more words were passed on, but the final word was from the Court of BC. I was faxed copies of the divorce papers, and besides “Irreconcilable Differences”, there it was written in HIS handwriting just under HIS signature:

“She’s still in love with that f***** and did this to hurt him.”

End of Part Three

—————————–

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 1
The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt. 2
The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude
The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind
The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers
The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

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?”