“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” – Mitch Albom
“Though lovers be lost love shall not.” – Dylan Thomas
Almost 30 years ago I met her. A bit over 20 years ago I broke both our hearts. 10 years and a few days, she broke mine, and those of “our” children one more time forever, when she was killed by a drunk driver.
The daughter of my heart, if not by genetics and marriage, my dear sweet Georgia will be coming to Calgary in a few days for a friend’s bachelorette party. I’ll see her for an evening, and then she’s back to Vancouver, all 3-4 months pregnant as well. But I know that while our reunion is in her mind, today of all days 10 years past is there as well, as in my son Terry’s too, as it was her death that profoundly changed things in all of our lives those days long ago.
As I think upon her, and of the path not taken, I still wonder what it would have been like to have had her in my life and to have raised the kids as my own. Would we have finally fit in the cosmic scheme of things? Would all doubts I had towards reconciliation broke us apart again? I really just don’t know.
But I do know this, and it’s something I’m simply so amazed by my wife, WK, is so understanding about. There will always be a part of me that was with her, despite the madness, the insanity of the situation and secret unspoken longings that we both shared yet never uttered to one another.
She was my muse of beauty and light, a mystery within, an enigma wrapped in a smile that could dazzle and warm the coldest of hearts. She was a lover of fine music and arts, curious of the glorious stars and galaxies above and a shield maiden to those who threatened her family. She hated high heels and the illusion of fashion, yet stood for all that was right in the world without, even if not satisfied personally within. She was that rare spirit that yearned to be free, yet was determined to be tied to the chains of love and memory. She was a warrior against fate, and saw that fate was in large part what we made of it, and fought for the chance for the both of us to reunite.
In the end…. she was as rare as lightning in a bottle and just as electric to the touch. The memory of her kiss, her skin, the deepness in her eyes, and the simple way … the way she embraced joy in the dance of thunder above still aches in me deep inside. She was my 1st love, and no matter how strange things came to be, I am thankful that she was a part of my life.
Good night my sweet these 10 years now past. While I may not believe in a heaven, if there is one, I hope you have found it and that you have found peace now and forever now that your… no… OUR children and I have been reunited after all this time.
Good night. I miss you. Terry, Georgia and I. We miss you.
My Rant for This Month… feel free to ignore if you’re religious as I warrant you’ll be happier if you did.
Earlier this week, and admittedly a few times in recent years, I’ve gotten myself into debates with the extremely religious over my atheist based view (we just don’t know yet, but one day through scientific method we just might) to his absolutist view (it’s God that’s the way, the life, the truth and the source of everything and go to hell you stupid Atheists if you don’t agree with me). To him, he couldn’t understand why I would rather live with that answer (where did life come from, or what goes on after us) unanswered in my life time, as allow it to be a mystery to be one day solved, than a world where his i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed by the all ever enveloping umbrella of surety and faith that is “The Answer is Always God.”
There’s a bit of wisdom from other Atheists/Agnostics that I’ve failed to heed, “Don’t debate creationists.” Why I didn’t follow that, I hate people acting like bullies. Period. This latest fight came from a guy trashing others Atheists with no one responding with a counter-view and a simple explanation. All he kept coming at me was, “you’re wrong, I’m right” and it was pretty obvious quickly that I was wasting both our times and told him so. I just stopped responding, having given the view that atheists are simply asking for solid proof and evidence. And then he kept on going and going, and I just ignored him and shut myself off from that thread, as I should have from the start.
Why did I fight though, and do continue to be vocal in general about religion? Because I find it appalling that religion is encroaching on secular matters as day to day government in our lives. I am shocked by how a right wing extreme christian movement is lording over Congress, and while to a lesser extent, trying to change things from time to time in Canada. And I’m so glad that a show like Cosmos has returned, to give and inspire the next generation on proven scientific fact, theories and show how religion in the past has limited the imaginations of our best and brightest because the beliefs were based on dogma invented by a small group of people of various beliefs who are more interested in maintaining power and structure than bringing inspiration and wonder to the people.
The universe is vast, and so far beyond any explanation as of yet, or possibly ever. Isn’t that enough?
Almost 10 years ago, the woman I first loved had died in a stupid car accident. She left me her 2 kids to care for as my own, only to have those plans torn apart, and divided them from me supposedly for good.
Last Christmas, after finding and watching me on social media, they contacted me in the hopes to rebuild a relationship though in what nature, only time will say.
As can be read in the New Frontiers, we’ve met in Vancouver. It was awkward. very strange but liberating as well. Even though the two weren’t raised by me, I can see my influence in their deeds and the way they act. More importantly, when I look into their eyes, I can so see the eyes of their mother in my mind’s eye. In some ways… it genuinely hurts, as every time I look at them, I wonder about the path not taken and the ghosts of Christmas past.
Terry, the older one, has turned out to be the son of my heart. As my fellow Calgarians can attest to, I’ve become a recognized foodie in the city (no, not a famous one, but it’s nice to be one of the crowd). Terry has turned out to be quite a chef-in-making, and is well on his way of getting his red seal while still completing his culinary studies. He’s apprenticed at 2 of Canada’s best restaurants, and now has an opportunity to work in Las Vegas under a truly legendary chef. Needless to say, you’ll hear about him a decade from now. I’m sure of it. Strangely enough, he’s actually working on a unique style that can only be found in the streets of New Orleans, a Cajun/Creole/Asian style. His crawfish po-boy with hoisin sauce is still a work in progress, but his updated version of bread pudding using Asian steamed bread is honestly to die for.
Georgia… ah Georgia… She’s her mom’s daughter. She’s smart, pretty, opinionated and multi-talented like heck. She’s mastered the flute, guitar and piano, loves cheesy movies and has some pretty interesting dance moves. More importantly, she’s taken the path not taken by her mom, and Is actually studying law on a full scholarship. Unfortunately, she’s also willful, headstrong and given to passionate actions that aren’t particularly well thought through. Yep… that’s her mom in there. Strangely enough, that’s exactly how I always expected a daughter of mine would be like.
What can I say, I love them both, though I’ve tried to establish the ground rules that I’m NOT their dad. That ship has long passed as I wasn’t there when It mattered. But, they both still insist to call me Dad as well… and they know that somewhere in my heart, I always wanted them to be mine.
Since the last update, it’s been an interesting time. I’m still learning all about them, and they’ve become open with their thoughts, their beliefs and their secrets. For example, Terry, it turns out is gay. He had the bravery to finally come out in October, and is now proudly showing that he’s accepted himself for who he is, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Fortunately, he’s also talking to a “Dad” Terry of 2013/2014 who has rejected religion altogether, which is in large part because of the stance against the LBGT community. I am proud to be the “dad” of a gay son, because it’s him at his essence. His boyfriend seems to be a nice sort, though I admittedly have no clue how to act in some ways. I always ran the scenarios of meeting the boyfriend with a daughter in mind over the years in my head, so it just feels a little odd to apply the same questions knowing it’s for a son instead. Still, they seem like a good couple, and let’s see where this goes.
Georgia, well, that’s a new story altogether. I can’t really explain the whole story STILL because there are some legal implications, but she’s happily married at 18 (note: I reallllly didn’t approve of it officially, but mostly because I think she’s so young). She had gotten married literally a few months ago, and had expected me to give her away. I had refused because I didn’t think it was my place, after all, her real dad is still around. In the end, NEITHER father attended since we both were in agreement that we didn’t think this was right. But, I did make the effort to at least call and talk to her. Her father didn’t. I guess that’s why Georgia and I are still on speaking terms.
How she can manage a part time job as a waitress, study at law school, and still be such a young wife at her age is still totally beyond me. Just in case, the economy box of condoms I passed on to her for Christmas should give her the hint to be sure to not get pregnant for now! (And YES, I DID send that for Xmas… and flowers). Her husband, well…. I see him as a bit of a flake really, but that’s more due to the fact that I really can’t relate to him. He sees the world from the eyes of an artist, a painter, while I tend to try to see things in a more straightforward manner. Ah well, when I visit in January, maybe I’ll drag him out to a bar and get him really blotto so I can interrogate him properly.
As for me? I’m about to start a new adventure of my own after 7 years in investigations and security. Hopefully this will give me more time to properly explore my relationship with my kids. Being in different cities makes it difficult, but not impossible. But either way… they are my kids in every way that matters. I love them… and I really especially thank my wife for being so understanding in a situation she never expected or wanted… but supports me anyways.
In the meantime, thanks for following the Days, the Frontiers and the rest. The story continues on….
So now you know the bits that knocked holes first in my trust in the church, and then in my sense of belief. All faith really is in the end is a surety of belief combined with unbridled trust. I disagreed with the Church in virtually all of the hot topics, couldn’t reconcile the comedy of errors that comprised the writing of the Bible, and found that the teachings spoon fed me through my life were at heart to me, violations to human rights and dignity… and that was just the start.
As the years went by, I honestly started to be truly embarrassed and ashamed to be Catholic. But I found that virtually any and all permutations and combinations of Christianity were no better as it was all founded on the same mistakes and philosophies that I was opposed to. And as I thought about it, I realized that it really didn’t matter about the religion in question, as that while the rituals and names of the deity in question were different, they were all basically a variation of the same belief whether it be God, Allah, Yahweh, Kali, Zeus, Odin or even the Man in the Sky. Religion then and there ceased to mean anything to me.
What was I exactly? I ceased to believe in any spiritual being, and even found myself quite outraged to have ever been part of that mindset. Back in high school, a fellow classmate, Dave M, had described himself as a secular humanist and not a catholic. Those words echoed back to me in those days of revelation, and I decided to check deeper into this. And it was in that definition, I finally found a truth that rang true.
“[Secular Humanism] posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy. Many Humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.”
In other words. we control our choices and define our humanity, good or bad. More importantly, it means that the decisions we make, the people we are, isn’t because some deity somewhere had defined us as such… it is because we are responsible for who we are and what we choose as our actions.
With this, I found that a great weight had lifted from me, and strangely enough a fair amount of self-hatred as well that I never realized I was burdened with. I still didn’t quite understand it, but a chance viewing of this debate with Christopher Hitchens put it all into perspective:
There it was. Religion poisons everything. Sure, there are examples of non-religious violence and so on, but compared to the carnage through the millennia, it wasn’t even a close comparison. And with the old saying, the truth will set you free. And without the shadows of religion of any sort, I now found myself with a new feeling… anger and rage to all things religion. That was a new one.
End of Pt 4. To be completed.
So a few weeks back, I began my explanation on why I left faith and belief in a supernatural being altogether, and embraced what can be proven, explained but more importantly, what was right for me.
I was very much the Catholic zealot at one time. I envied those who gave more of themselves for the greater glory of God, was fearful of eternal flames and so on, I followed the lessons given me, and kept up with the schools of Christian thought. There was what was right and wrong, seen through the rose shaded glasses of the Vatican, and tried my best to follow the tenets. But there was always something that was dissonant between what was taught, and yet what was actually done and what I felt in my gut.
As the years past, there were little things here and there that changed my views ever so slightly. But what made me start on a new path were a few things here and there…
I’ve explained about how science fiction and how the concepts embodied within had put some nagging doubts I’ve had into some form of perspective. The story “Dead Run” especially resonated with me much later in life, that is the concept that I was taught, and the Vatican confirmed after the new Pope’s recent comments, that atheists are doomed to eternal damnation no matter what good they did in life. Add the fact that I had just started dating a non-believer herself, I was getting especially pissed if anything.
That thought stabbed deep in me, as I couldn’t believe a loving God would just gladly damn my then girlfriend to Hell, especially someone fundamentally good as she was. Worse, there was the thought that at any time since the founding of the Catholic faith, something between 99.9999% (the beginning of Christianity) to 5/6 (modern days) of the world’s population has been doomed to Hell because they were not of the correct faith or by the simple fact that they would have never even had a chance to even hear of Him let alone convert. If God was all powerful, forgiving and loving, then what the HECK was casting the majority of the world’s population to Hell in the last 2000 years. That’s the act of a spiteful child, a cruel sadist and an outright sore loser.
Add my doubts in regards to abortion/women’s rights, women priests, the treatment of the LGBT community, the questionable politics, the ever expanding rape of thousands of children and women by priests and deacons the world over and the resulting deplorable actions and cover-ups by the so-called leadership in the Vatican… and I found that I was on the wrong side both as what I believe to be moral and as a simple human being.
As each scandal went by, each news headline, each action by a bishop, each reply from the Vatican and more, I found myself questioning why was I a Catholic? More so, I have always believed in a modern form of chivalry, whereas defending the right and the weak was what mattered. This was my state of belief, one foot out, one foot in right into my early-30’s.
What tipped things over was the election of Pope Benedict, the former Nazi pope. With his election, and his dedication to bring the Church back to the 12th century, I found that my membership in the Catholic church completely untenable. I broke off completely, and started to look for a Protestant option. Yes, I still believed in God at that point, but just refused to have anything to do with His chosen agents.
And in this modern age of YouTube and the internet, I would be soon introduced to even more ideas that I never had access as a child, a teen or a college student, that shed more doubt about the Catholic faith, but this time from a roundabout way via the unlikely combination of minds, South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Monty Python’s John Cleese. A particular episode covered the origins of the Mormon faith, which was all founded upon the story of how Joseph Smith found these mystic plates telling of the New Adventure of Jesus in the New World and so on.
I won’t go into it, but it was so incredulous, that I just shook my head in puzzlement for the absurdity of the premise. But not long after, I caught a chance argument between John Cleese and the Catholic Church in an old documentary. In this, Cleese made a key comment about how ridiculous it was for the Catholic Church to follow the books of the Disciples, seeing as they were (go ahead and verify this… won’t take long):
1) Based on scrolls from various ages in various ancient languages, that contradict one another with translation problems galore;
2) Based on INCOMPLETE knowledge as thousands of other scrolls were deliberately discounted and destroyed by the leaders of the Catholic faith in the 15th century
3) Many of the scrolls and books were written centuries after the original subjects lived, in an age where documentation and recorded history was spotty at best. Virtually all of these were written based on stories told time and time again each generation. Ever play the game Broken Telephone as a kid where the original sentence changes radically only 10-20 people down the line? Now imagine THOUSANDS of people down the line over hundreds of years. I would definitely say there’s some poetic licence involved here.
4) Most of the early scrolls were written by various factions, each who had their own version of the stories involved, and all around the 4th century. It was for this EXACT reason why Constantine convened the Nicean council to get everyone on the same page!
4) Books and scrolls were cherry-picked in the 17th century in what would become the King James Bible, of which the 49-54 or so writers apparently had very specific instructions to make it politically acceptable, and then was “Shakespeare-ized” by Sir Francis Bacon to make it more reader friendly.
So… the modern bible we all were taught with was a translated book, written under various political and personal rules dictated by King James to be acceptable, fluffed up to be easier to read, based on scrolls written in ancient languages in the 4th century, based on retelling of oral stories by hundreds to thousands of people over 400 years, all written by various competing factions with their own agendas, and still cherry picked for what was convenient by the (then) modern church.
This was totally and absolutely absurd. Now every lesson, parable and reading is now called into question, and Christianity as a whole is in some way centered around this??
This was a HUGE hole in my belief in Christianity. Corrupt and vile leadership was one thing, but to know that the documented heart of the religion was so fundamentally flawed was another. So now I was spiritually rudderless so to speak… or was I. It was then I finally was introduced to Christopher Hitchens.
End of Pt 3
(This is a continuation of what I now believe will be a 5 part blog. To read part 1, click HERE.)
So last week, I touched upon a conversation I had with my mother on how they couldn’t understand how someone like me, with such an upbringing and record of service in the Catholic church, could have abandoned all such teachings and become an atheist. Being staunch Catholics themselves, they asked themselves again and again, what went wrong with me?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And to ALL of my family, my path was no different than yours. Even as late as university and so on, I was still a true believer. I sang in the choir. I read the scripture before the crowds. I even mentored other youth in the faith at one time or another. My gal, WK, when talking about all of this, even told me that I was still a believer even 8-9 years ago.
But what made the difference that made me reject ALL religions, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Cthulhu, Buddhism, Taoism, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Elvis, Zeus, Odin and all the rest, was a triple knockout combo of logic, morality and ethics.
This week, I’m going to cover a bit about the logic part. That came through introduction to some ideas proposed by Robert Heinlein and of all things, an episode of the Twilight Zone and much later, to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.
Robert A. Heinlein is one of the grandfathers of Science Fiction, and a unabashedly unapologetic atheist. He was a war hero, a writer of worlds beyond measure, a believer in the evolution of society and more. His words through Stranger in a Strange Land, to Friday to the Lazarus Long tales, hit and resonated a chord inside me. Certain key words taken from the novel Friday had hit me hard, and put that first chink in my Armour of faith…
“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 A. Heinlein, from “Friday”]
These words had a ring of truth, and it resonated with somewhere deep inside me. But it had only dented my faith, it didn’t break it. It would take the words of another science fiction writer to do that, in an episode of the Twilight Zone, Dead Run.
In this tale, truckers were entrusted to bring the souls of the damned to Hell. But there was a problem, a rebellion in Hell had started, as one of the truckers had died in service to God and found himself among the damned. He would then discover that people were being sent to Hell for the wrong reasons, people who were good at heart yet had taken a stance on something that someone of faith might object to such as fighting to prevent a book burning of novels that might have sacrilegious text. And the souls of the damned would tell their tale, of those sent down because they were atheists, or because they overdosed on drugs but never hurt anyone else and so on.
That was the tale that knocked a hole into my sureness of faith. The issue I had was with what I had been taught about religion as a child to adulthood, which is that basically all non-believers will pretty much go to hell regardless of the good they did in their life. This wasn’t the act of a loving, forgiving God at all. Now having been introduced to the actual consequences in this tale, I suddenly I now saw this as an act of a malicious bastard, a cruel child who strikes out when he doesn’t get his way. It made me wonder how could anyone be good without the context of God, and the story of the damned atheist suddenly put things into a context I honestly never saw before. More importantly, when taking into the context that there are over 6 billion on the planet, of which only 1.2 billion are Catholics or Christians in one way or another, that means that just under 5 billion are going to go to hell just for the sin of being born in a country where “The Word” hasn’t even reached them. So, was God now allowing people to be born for kicks just so he can keep Hell pretty well full of people to toss into eternal fire? My instant reaction as a HUMAN BEING was… WTF?
I slowly started to look further into the texts and the dogma of the church. I would read the declarations of the Pope, and started to put some of that religious upbringing into focus through the eyes of an adult as opposed to an indoctrinated child. I would learn more about the causes the church had fought, such as women priests, abortion, and the treatment of gay people and the like. And with each page, I found myself having doubts about what the church taught me. These words, from the leadership going all the way to the Vatican, struck me as wrong. And the more I would look into it, I honestly started to be ashamed for what I was a part of.
Let’s take the topic of female priests for example. In the here and now, to even breach the possibility has gotten believers around the world excommunicated outright. Why? Mary Magdalene could easily be considered to be one of the apostles, She was recruited by Jesus, and was a recipient with the other 12 when the supposed miracle of tongues occurred. She went out into the world, and did her best to spread the word, just like the others.
So if Jesus didn’t care, why isn’t there any female priests? Why are nuns are at best second class citizens in service of Christ. And I read further. In the earliest days of Catholicism, there were female “priests” of sorts who would spread the Good News. There wasn’t any such separation, but all that changed when Emperor Constantine became the head of the church.
That hit me hard. It wasn’t some declaration by God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit that set the Church on this path. It was a declaration made by a man, based on the social conventions of his time. Yet, it was one that was readily approved of by the faithful, because said faithful believed that God spoke through this man.
But, I was raised and exposed to strong women in my life. My mother is and has always been the cornerstone of my family. One of the first women to graduate from Loyola College in finance, and later became the Director of Finance of a hospital. My grandmother on the Lo side, despite her many faults and my very personal misgivings about her, raised a small army of children through the ravages of World War II, the murder of her father by the Japanese invading forces, and still bring the family through the dark economic times that followed. She had to endure conditions that would break most people, man or woman, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Who’s to say she wouldn’t have made a hell of a priest? And as I look out now where women are leaders on the global stage, dreamers and thinkers throughout all walks of life, who says they can’t be effective priests? The answer is easy; a group of conservative men in their late 70’s to 80’s in a cloistered marble palace in Vatican City.
There are so many many more topics I’d love to hit on this, but that would have to be covered in some other blog entry. The treatment of the LBGT community. Birth control. Abortion. Divorce. This and so so many other topics I will write about one of these days.
So now through my own investigations and examination, my belief in the Church was thoroughly shaken. Then along came Christopher Hitchens…..
End of Part 2
I just spent a weekend for a sad duty, but one that was enlightening as well. My best friend’s mother had passed, and as he is my brother in every way that matters to me except biologically, I had to come to offer my support for him and his family. His mom was a pleasant, charismatic woman, a teacher, a seeker of knowledge and one who I always regarded with warm feelings and pleasant thoughts. She was a woman who loved, whether it be her son and daughters, her husband, or their large family of grandchildren, brothers, sisters and extended members. But I learned for the first time, how that love was extended to people in need, her students, fellow church goers and more, and I can only laud her that much more as she was loved deeply as well by all. Good on you Mrs. P, as I believe that the measure of a person can only be seen in the end by the tears of those left behind. As such, she was truly a wonderful, cherished person and I am proud to have ever made your acquaintance.
But this put me directly back into the path of faith and belief, as people who know me, know that I am very much an anti-theist. I see that religion is not so much a solution to problems as it is the source of those problems. But more on that later.
This was the second funeral I had attended in as many months. The first, was a tragic death of a friend of my gal from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and not long after the birth of her first child as well. She was one of faith, like most in the Filipino community usually are. But her memorial service actually angered me, infuriated me to a point that I would have walked out if it wasn’t for decorum. From the readings, to the psalms to everything said and told by the people (except for one unfortunately monotone presentation of the late person’s life), every single message was thanks be to God for making this woman’s life a living hell with this disease, and that everyone should be thankful. And as I looked around, every single thing that this woman represented wasn’t because she herself was a good woman, but because it was God who made her so and all credit belonged to God, not her. I saw this as an insult to her memory, and definitely one that demeaned her, made her achievements, her joys and her sorrows not of one of a remarkable young woman who fought against the oncoming tide, but one that it was all great because God had all the credit in making her act as she did. It had struck something fundamental in me, as credit was being stolen and more so, and I’ll get back to this shortly.
Mrs. P’s service however, still in the same context of God, was a celebration of her life. Sure faith and God might have led Mrs. P into certain decisions, but in the end, she was a person of true and virtuous character. Yes there were the hymns and the readings, but in this context, it showed that this remarkable woman was someone whose loss is something that we will all feel, and all would miss in so many ways.
The next day, I went to visit my parents, and some friends in Montreal. But the 2 very different celebrations was in my thoughts. Conversation with my folks eventually touched upon my relationship with my nephews, and, with faith on my mind, asked my mom’s opinion on whether my change from faith to atheism might affect my relations with my sister. She had chosen to raise the kids as Catholics as well, and I’ve stayed quiet around her as it’s not my place to dictate anything despite personal reservations. Instead, she mentioned to me how upsetting it has been to the both of them and how my activism against religion specifically hurts them, and how they wonder what they did wrong. It’s from this conversation where this blog entry comes.
As I bounced about in the skies above Canada on my way home today, all of these events of faith the last few days, reminding me of my own decisions, and wonder a bit about how that belief had given my friends and family comfort, and how it gave some a direction as well. And most importantly, how I’ll have to make those I care for and love understand why I have left that belief because it was right for me. So the only way I can express myself properly would be through what I know best… my writing. SOooo… where to start.
The path from faith and belief to what I like to describe as a growing up stage wasn’t one that was too difficult, but I can’t call it easy either.
I was given the typical Canadian Catholic upbringing. I was brought to church every Sunday to hear the sermons and sing to the hymns. I did the altar boy thing, dressed in the robes and brought the wine and the tapioca host circlets to be transformed into the blood and body of Christ. As I grew up, my role changed to that of one who served to one who taught, and did my bit to spread the word at mass, doing the readings, being a part of the youth faith groups and the occasional forums.
And no one can say that I wasn’t given the right encouragement either. I went from Catholic elementary school to Catholic high school. My instructors were priests and deacons. My parents are staunch Catholics, and can only be described as true believers of the faith. They themselves served the church in as anyway they could. Dad would help Father Tou of the Chinese Catholic Church with the regular affairs. Mom would volunteer years of service for convents and the like. On long car rides, Mom would lead the family into a round of prayers with the rosary, saying the Hail Marys, Our Fathers and proclamations of the mysteries over and over down the highway. My godparents would lavish religious items from time to time, and celebrate my entry into Catholicism with parties and dinners. My grandmothers, both of them, can only be described also as believers, though in many ways, I would even say zealots to the cause.
I myself, can honestly admit to being a zealot at one point as well. I went to daily morning masses in High School, would join in on the prayer events at school and home and even considered a calling to priesthood. I would pray on my own, asking for guidance and strength to be the good Christian, the good Catholic. I even wondered from time to time what it would be to be like those who would go out into the deepest darkest lands to spread the Good Word, converting the heathens and the unfortunate who would never had the chance to know HIS love, and be envious by their bravery and faith.
I feared Hell, Purgatory and all that, and would go out of my way to do good deeds like every Catholic boy who believed that there is some cosmic ledger out there weighing the good and the bad. My classmates and I would even go through a weird “who’s the better Catholic” game of oneupmanship unofficially to see who really was the most faithful, the most believing.
In all that, I was fated to be a true believer, a soldier of the faith. Everything that could have been done to me, with me, by me and for me that could make me believe was done after all. So, as my Mom and Dad, plus the other members of the Lo family might ask and wonder why I turned away… I thought it was time for me to answer their question… exactly “what went wrong”
End of Part 1
A few weeks back, I read this letter from Timothy Havener, the son of a Fundamentalist Christian minister and an atheist. And what he wrote here brought my feelings in recent years to light.
As a child, I was a devout Catholic, going to morning mass, serving as a Pastoral reader, the Church Choir, and even aspired to religious service. As I got older though, and strangely thanks to the Jesuits who asked me to really think about why I believed, I found myself falling completely out of faith altogether and into a place where I feel deep inside where I should have been a long time ago. But despite it all, I still find myself being drawn to a almost militant fervour in my rejection of religion, even as I am so dedicated to growing as a citizen of my city and country. But I still didn’t quite understand why I was so angry at religion as a whole, and the Catholic Church in particular. Mr. Havener, in this letter of realization of himself, explains it so well as he, and so many other of my fellow atheists, have found themselves in the same place. It’s betrayal. I could say more… but I think I’ll let Mr. Havener explain it all himself:
Since I have become an atheist there is a growing anger inside me that sometimes flowers into a quiet, and other times not so quiet, rage. Theists and even some atheists do not seem to understand this emotion, or they trivialize it. Even I have not fully understood this causal effect of my deconversion. I know that I am angry about the lost years of my life wasted on delusions of grandeur and superstitious nonsense, but I have felt that was not really an accurate depiction of the deep emotional undercurrents I have experienced coming out of faith.
As a child, I remember that I loved to help people. My parents would often take me with them as they ministered to the sick, the elderly, and the needy. I was taught to love people as Jesus loved them. When I grew older my human compassion and empathy was filtered through a world view that instructed me to preach self condemnation and guilt as love. After all, if you truly loved your fellow man, you would do anything to prevent their eternal soul from burning in torment forever. So, I became a missionary to spread the ‘good news’ to those who needed the salvation of Christ. This became my mission in life and it consumed me.
When the walls of indoctrination started to crumble in my later years, I began to feel a sense of panic and fear. Fear that my mind was betraying me and that Satan was tempting me away from the Lord. At the same time I felt a drive to seek the truth fervently as I had been taught to do. This love for ‘truth’ and understanding had taken an unexpected detour to a place I never thought I would find myself. I would wrestle in prayer for hours in tears alone in the dark, pleading with a God who was never there. There were nights when I would wake up in cold sweats as if I could feel the fires of hell licking my feet.
After a while, when the fear and guilt subsided, I saw much more clearly what exactly religion had done to me. It had taken the innocence of a child who wanted to love and help people, and twisted me into a pawn to perpetuate its lies and fear. Worst of all, it made me think that this was love. I was taught that only through Christ could I experience true love for others. I was told my own heart was corrupted by the curse of sin I had inherited from Adam. When I would feel compassion and love for the afflicted I would always attribute these feelings to God and give credit to him.
This is where my anger truly comes from.
That love and empathy I felt was always me. The goodness I expressed toward others was always my own compassion and understanding. Religion was taking my identity as a person and the goodness in me, and using it to make itself stronger. But it did not stop there, it twisted the best qualities of my human nature and perverted it to spread a message of fear and lies to those most vulnerable to indoctrination. Looking back, it was if someone had stripped me of who I was and replaced it with a shell of a person.
The biggest betrayal was when I started to really look at the God in whom I placed my trust. The stories in the Bible revealed a psychopathic monster, not a loving father. The message of salvation became insulting to me. Why should I need redemption from such an awful, horrible creature who would slay infants and pregnant mothers because his feelings were hurt. I felt a level of betrayal that reached to the darkest corners of my mind and at the same time felt like I was betraying everyone who I had ever looked up to.
Christians only serve to compound this anger when they attempt to explain away the horrid aspects of Christian faith with nonsensical psychobabble or cherry picking verses. They seem to think that I was somehow flawed and never really a Christian when the truth is I believed more passionately than most of them. I do try to understand that they are just as deluded as I once was, but when you experience such a profound sense of betrayal that comes from seeing your faith with the eyes of reason, it can be an emotionally brutal ordeal that opens up scars you never even knew you had.
The sunlight of reality hurts when you step out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition, but that pain pales in comparison to what that light reveals when you can finally see what you did as a believer and what was done to you. That realization leaves you with an unrelenting anger that burns with a passion hotter than the fires of any imaginary hell. This same compassion that drove me to be a missionary now drives me in my anti theism. I seek to tear down the lies of religion so that not one more child will have to go through the emotional torment I experienced. No one deserves that…no one.
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.