My apologies to those who expect purely creative literature from this blog, but a five-minute-conversation-turned-uncalled-for-crying-fit-of-self-centered-stupidity is weighing heavy on my mind and I need an outlet which can bring on further discussion. If it is long-winded, I am sorry. I am rambling off the cuff.
To begin, I have been raised in a Catholic home (from a maternal angle, anyway). My mother takes her religion to heart, and I mean to heart. And I am completely respectful and understanding of that. I can proudly say that the Church has given me guidance in my childhood and brought a lot of important things into my life. I can also honor the fact that people need religion, whether by habit or to fill a spiritual hole. My mother, by both of these needs I believe, holds her religion highly and put a lot of time and effort to make my sister and me into practicing Catholic women. My sister has not followed this path, and her being the older daughter, my mother put extra effort into my younger years. I was put into Catholic school, again a great move for my life, where I met my first and only love, and my current boyfriend of 6 years, along with a multitude of life-long friends. And I cannot begin to narrate the moral grounding I have established through this lifestyle. But I have also developed my moral understanding from my father, a non-denominational man who lives his religion by being a good person. The fact that he could be such a great man, in intellect and personality, without the Church’s direct influence on his life, has been an extra outlook on life that I am glad I had, and possibly is an inspiration to my current stand.
Now a couple days ago I began a simple conversation with my mother on floral arrangements versus hand-made center pieces for my future wedding. (I am not engaged yet, so no congratulations or anything, please.) My mother made a reference to her church, as if we would be married there. Jake (my boyfriend) has a Catholic family as well, and we have, through his youth group, grown close to a lot of people in his church. Since I have no ties to my mother’s church besides her, I made it clear we would likely use Jake’s church instead. This somehow snowballed into my mother’s ‘talk’ of my not going to church on Sundays anymore. The result of this attempt at a talk was her selfishly crying over the fact that, in very different words than were used during the conversation and cry-fest, I am another of her failures at making another Catholic follower, and I am a disappointment for her, just like my sister. Again, not nearly in those words, but being the therapist of my mother since I was age 3, I know what she means.
I have given her my explanation for not going to church a few times now, and it seems to go in one ear and out the other, as many opinionated statements do when my mother confronts them. I have grown to appreciate the concept of a god which in some way created us, or at least has interest in our well-being. But I see it as this: a god, whether creator or observer, is not an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-great being if it needs weekly conscious and petty worship from us to consider us worthy of its love. To me, an all-powerful being who creates on a whim simply to create would have an interest for us to use the gifts we are given to whatever end. Yes, to be a good person, to benefit others around us, is looked upon fondly, but every person makes a good, and in turn a bad decision in life at some point. If I use my gift of choice at all, it is a good thing, even if my actual choice is bad. If this all-powerful god did not want us to utilize our ability to choose and experience all the results of free choice, it wouldn’t have given us choice to begin with. Perhaps in another world/universe this god has made that utopia world we vainly try to accomplish, but it is not here. I feel this god wants us to experience it all, even to bad ends. And that is a god worth thanking. I can take a moment out of each day to thank that god for what I have, and I do.
But church is not the same as this. The concept of mass has a lot of spiritual and ritualistic aspects to it, all of them I have learned through my Catholic education, and I do not agree with most of them. My greatest enemy is hypocrisy, and I lose that battle a lot. This is one battle, though, which I have now conquered, or at least I thought I had. I stopped going to church because it was hypocritical and disrespectful. I do not believe in the need for the moments of prayer during mass, I do not believe in the need for spiritual guidance from a priest, whether through a sermon or some idiotic ritual such as confession, and honestly, even sadly to a point, I do not believe in the Eucharist. And this is where I become a disappointment.
The concept of the physical church and of the mass, to me, is a tool for those who do not have the will to believe through their own soul alone. People need religion. I will never deny that. I will never put someone down for needing it. But for me, for now, I don’t need it. I have a concept of god which is personal, beautiful, and fulfilling to me. I do not need the institute of the church to reinforce what I already know to be my understanding of god. And I will happily discuss my belief and listen to another’s belief in due turn. I simply ask that the other person not force their belief on me, and do not say you are right and I am wrong merely because you have a religion and I do not. No one is wrong and everyone is right in the realm of religion. Whatever makes you feel comfortable, happy, and content when it comes to a higher power, the afterlife, what have you is okay.
It is not okay, however, to my mother. She has a longer life experience with the church, I will give her that. And again, that is fine with me, and a happy thought that she has that grounding in her life. She has not made a move to re-convert me. She does not look down on me in disgust. She simply sees a disappointment, a failure of her ability to raise a Catholic. And that is not fair to me or to herself. She has created a good, moral person in me, and I am grateful. Instead of looking to the positive, she takes her all-too-well-known path of pessimism and makes the whole issue about herself. It saddens her that I am not a practicing Catholic, completely disregarding the fact I am not a Catholic at all from my own point of view, aside from being baptized and confirmed. I am sure she will deny this for many more years. It upsets her that I do not go to church, despite my solid reasoning of avoiding disrespect toward those who do find church as a sanctuary and place and time of worship. She even went so far as to say it upset her that I had ever talked about taking birth control, which is all-together off topic at this point. Suffice it to say I have never had sex and taking the pill would have nothing to do with actually preventing a child, but would be taken for the other effects of the drug.
And so this little discussion, beginning nowhere near the realm of religious debate, ended with my mother’s tears and her running from the discussion as it she was the only on hurt by it and it could not be continued simply on principle. I have no idea when this talk is going to resume; I could see it being months or even a year or two. But it will still gnaw at me, because I don’t understand what response I can give which will be honest and still comforting to her. It bothers me that I am a burden on her conscience, and yet it angers me that she cannot be happy that I have found a sense of peace in this matter. I am happy with my current choice, and to me that should be enough for her. The fact she has made so much of her life into my religious status is just pitiful to me, and so I cannot sympathize. What else can I do but restate my position and hope that eventually she will understand?
Okay, it’s almost 1 am and I am done my ranting for the night. I would love to get feedback on this, either advise or comments on my view on god. I would prefer no religion pitches, please, but if you feel you must, go for it. I will respond accordingly. If you think you can explain my mother’s side of this better than I am may understand, by all means go for that as well. It might really help. More creative stuffs to come, I promise. I’m in a bit of a slump with the time travel short story, can’t get motivated. But I may post the first half for you all just to see if I can get myself going again.
Thanks for your time, everyone. Cheers.
~S. Virginia Gray