#MONDAYBLOGS – RANTS ON FAITH: WHAT WENT WRONG PT 4

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 utilitarianismethical 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.

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#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith: What Went Wrong Pt 3

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.

South Park – Joseph Smith and the Creation of Mormonism from swingitjack on Vimeo.

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

#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith : What Went Wrong Pt 2

(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

#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith: “What went wrong” Pt 1.

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 beginnings….

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 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.

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?”