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Religion Is For Losers

It's a little bit lonely for a Christian in the blogosphere. Maybe if you stick to Catholic blogs or religious blogs in general it isn't, but otherwise the mainstream blogs usually display a very sober (as in non-delusional - unlike Christians) and humanist (as in pure and untainted by religious politics) attitude. This has to be so, because in today's media notions like "impartiality" and "independence" in thinking and living cannot be combined with strong religious affiliation. "Spiritual" you can be, "religious" - no. Even more appealing and convincing are individuals who have "been there" but now are "never again" in their views on religion. If there is a painful, ugly childhood story about hypocritical church members or family, the circle is complete and there will be lots of cheering in the comments as the person is embraced after her or his sad but brave and liberating journey from religious torture to atheist or agnostic bliss. Religion is for the weak, the dumb and unenlightened. Atheism or "spirituality" is for the strong self-determining man and woman of the new millenium. Behold, the warm water, it is discovered! Life without God and especially church has never been attempted before, but we will do it now! We are pioneers of the new beautiful and peaceful land that the earth will be once we embrace the spirit and discard the stupid stupid religion. There!

I get tired reading that stuff. I don't want to diminish anyone's experience and even though you might find it hard to believe given my sarcasm above, I am devastated with all those who had Christianity shoved down their throat or were hurt by not at all well-meaning priests, nuns, pastors, teachers... or their own parents. It's not easy to hear how someone turned to hate something that saves your own life daily, because they were lied to or simply ignored. What I'm tired of though, is the attention it receives because it gives a distorted picture. I'm also tired of people using their bad experiences for years and decades in order to avoid morality, to avoid the confrontation with the lies they tell themselves. Mostly I am tired of it all for personal reasons because I really crave a community of people, who are ready to look for answers and are ready to be honest ... and humble.

Life is hard. The longer I live it, the more it's becoming clear to me there are two ways to deal with it: numb yourself or live in pain. Both are ultimately not satisfying but one of them is real (Guess which!) and therefore at least has the potential to provide meaning. I have less and less patience for the philosophy of "everything is grey - so let's party". There are too many things staring me in the face... the need to not fail the people around me, the imperative of giving my children some sort of decent life, the commitment to become and stay the kind of person I'd at least want to be friends with, the demands of improving this world for other people etc. etc. "Sure, you can do ALL of that without religion!" I hear them say. I guess so. Honestly I haven't tried, so I can only assume... and I assume you can, but I firmly believe it is harder. Much harder. I don't see why I should make my life even harder though. The argument here is again, that you don't need anybody to tell you right from wrong, there is no black and white, so you just swim along and do what seems more or less ok. But unlike people would expect my counter-argument is not "Yes, yes, there is someone to tell you right from wrong! (The Church)" or "I find religion to make my life easier because I don't have to think for myself". First of all, religion doesn't make life easier (one could argue the opposite), but it facilitates a relationship with the source of everything and the creator of black and white - which immediately gives orientation as to where you are and provides you with a tool to wade through the grey of life. Life is just as hard with religion, but you have hope and you have the chance to succeed... even if you fail. Religion is indeed for losers - which is ultimately so off-putting I suppose, because you will not fully understand it until you are ready to accept that part.

I am tired of people saying "I'm just trying to figure things out" while at the same time they have set clear lines around themselves and their life as to limit just how far they are really willing to go in order to "figure things out". Mostly it ends when their own frog perspective tells them that if they go any further the sky will fall and crush the earth. Ironically our own perspective never exceeds much the one of the frog, but having faith helps us to live our lives with the perspective of God which is the only actually accurate picture of us and the world. And so... I cling to that faith desperately. I might be weak but I'm not dumb. It's not for reasons of pure comfort or mental abandonment but for survival, not of my body but of life as it is only worth living.

All of this is hard to live by yourself. A church helps with that tremendously, although unfortunately it also can help with the perfect concealment of truth. It's hard to believe in something if you have never seen the fruit of it and even harder if you were scarred in some way. I can't blame people for leaving communities where they only experienced lies and cruelty, where compassion and mercy were avoided like the pest. I do blame them though for leaving the search for truth and creating their own two-dimensional cut-out version instead and infecting a bazillion other people with their pseudo-spirituality and immature hippie-concept of love.

We're at year 2006 - plus. It's all be done before. Wake up.

Posted at 09:58 AM on June 26, 2006
Comments

he longer I live it, the more it's becoming clear to me there are two ways to deal with it: numb yourself or live in pain.

Yeah, I know. I usually take turns. Most of the time I stay numb. This is the way to be, no? Keeping your cool, rising above,not letting it get to you and all that jazz. I have not found the magic formula to be happy when I think about painful things. Religion helps some, but I am not that good I guess. Then there are the times when the numbness does not contain things and they overflow a bit. I vent on the blog, complain to my husband, (complain a lot to you, LOL) and then numb again. I sometimes wonder if this is me not being able to deal and I am crazy, and need medication or am overly self-centered. Sometimes when I am hurting and I complain to people like you, more so than complaining, I am taking a reality check and seeing if I have gone off the deep end, or if healthy sane people act and feel the way I do.

Even more appealing and convincing are individuals who have "been there" but now are "never again" in their views on religion. If there is a painful, ugly childhood story about hypocritical church members or family, the circle is complete and there will be lots of cheering in the comments as the person is embraced after hers or his sad but brave and liberating journey from religious torture to atheist or agnostic bliss.

First I agree with you when I think it is horrible to hear how people were hurt. But I have to tell you, and this isn't a blanket statement on all people like this, just what I have seen in my own experience, many of these stories are not that dramatic. Nine times out of ten there is a lack of understanding in pursuing morality issues, and a desire simply to not be moral. Then they devise a small event into a large revelation to make the leaving dramatic as opposed "I slept with my boyfriend one day and realized I liked it."

When I was a teenager, my girlfriend bought this ugly coat that was made out ugly, black-and-white, cow-printed, stuffed animal fur. She thought this was going to be a daring, but very cool fashionista move. But instead it became repeated remarks of "why did you buy that ugly cow coat?" Soon she fabricated this explanation that she loved cows and they were her favorite animal. Then she started collecting cow printed things to prove she was a cow fanatic. Then she started eating steak anytime we went out because she "loved cows dead or alive". Anyway, I see many of these "why I left the Church" revelations as something similar. They take on a life of their own.

The other thing too is I know nasty Catholics and have been hurt by them. If you are clergy, especially if you are orthodox and are in a liberal diocese, the politics are as bad as on Capitol Hill and I have seen the lives of priests and deacons destroyed in fashions much more dramatic than "when I was in third grade, Sister so and so said unbaptised babies go to hell..." I mean that both figuratively and literally. Many of these people still remain true to their faith because, well I can't speak for them, but I suspect that their religion is about their relationship with Christ first and foremost.

Posted by Pansy Moss at June 26, 2006 12:23 PM

We're at year 2006 - plus. It's all [been] done before. Wake up.

Preach it, Dinka.

Posted by Peony Moss at June 26, 2006 1:49 PM

So, I'm not alone with the options of numbness or pain? And here I thought, if you are a good Catholic, and you are married to a good Catholic, life in general is probably pretty good, excepting a few bad things here and there...

Guess not eh?

Posted by Jeanne at June 27, 2006 11:36 AM

Pansy, by numbing oneself i was thinking of filling your life with fun things that give pleasure and gloss over everything that is hard and indicative of depth. I was not talking of coping mechanisms when it comes to enduring your daily commitments.
Also obviously there is a difference between numbing yourself as a way of life or numbing yourself because you are overwhelmed.

Jeanne: I don't know what a good catholic is..

Posted by dinka at June 27, 2006 2:43 PM

Dinka,
Now my head hurts. I am not sure which category I fall into. I guess it is different for different things.

Posted by Pansy Moss at June 27, 2006 3:14 PM

Pansy, let's see:
Numbing as a life style choice: pursuit of easy life as in make money, avoid commitment (lots of kids for example would NOT fit into this), party, drink etc. and generally avoid dwelling on any uncomfortable life questions or events.
Numbing as a coping mechanism... "let me watch tv for an hour so i don't have to deal with my kids right now" or "let's have a glass of wine to relax even though i need a sitter, but can't afford one"

Posted by dinka at June 27, 2006 3:21 PM

I fall into the second cataegory. That is the not insane one, right?:)

Posted by Pansy Moss at June 28, 2006 2:07 PM

"Good Catholic": someone who tries honestly to live out their faith and the teachings of the catholic church.

Not necessarily good or good at it, but trying...

I've always thought that those couples who truely loved and respected each other mutually, who prayed together every day, and who basically had the same faith and moral code, must have it easier than say, me. Because I live with a heathen.

But perhaps I was wrong.

I guess even to those couples who seem "perfect" life deals out joker cards... parents or parents-in-law from hell, infertility, sickness, or maybe just the neighbours... To each his own suffering.

Could it be true that NOONE is actually ever truely happy in this world? Scary thought. Ahh to go back to childhood when one still believed in happiness... Well, those who had happy, protected childhoods anyway...

Posted by Jeanne at June 28, 2006 11:20 PM

Jeanne,
I know what is meant by "good catholic" but i dislike the term immensely because who is good? Maybe "faithful" could be a better term, no?
I don't know for who life is perfect in its complete sense and if it is, they are doing something wrong. ;) And being truly happy has nothing to do with the absence of pain.. it's my experience anyway.

Posted by dinka at June 29, 2006 6:39 AM

I know what is meant by "good catholic" but i dislike the term immensely because who is good? Maybe "faithful" could be a better term, no?

Many Jews when you ask them "are you a religious Jew" (something akin to "practicing Catholic") they will correct you and say "we are observant". I think the point is that their practice of their religion may or may not give any insight to their relationship with God, but it does show a loyalty to their ethnicity.

I've always thought that those couples who truely loved and respected each other mutually, who prayed together every day, and who basically had the same faith and moral code, must have it easier than say, me. Because I live with a heathen.

But perhaps I was wrong.

No, I think because there is sin in the world, no one is really immune to heart ache. Look at what the Blessed Mother suffered and she did everything right. I think the difference is if we try our best to live right, the things that go wrong are not compounded by horrible guilt,the damage to your soul, the influence on your family etc. and hence a desire to keep working to do things right.

For example if someone stole all your life savings out the bank or if you used all your life savings on a drug habit.

And being truly happy has nothing to do with the absence of pain.. it's my experience anyway.

I think this is a myth as well. We live in a culture now that tries to rid itself of any inconvenience. Frankly while I may disagree with the morality on how to go about this (abortion, for example), I cannot say I really have a desire for things to go wrong either. But I do know taking the hard road may sometimes be the right one, and the hardships we meet up with can be used as lessons to build strength and character(not that I corner the market on strength and character). It is easier to buy and apple pie at the supermarket, but when you go apple picking, chop up fresh apples, make a crust and make your own pie, there is a second joy afterwards than just the tatse of an apple pie.

Um, I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore.

Posted by Pansy Moss at June 29, 2006 7:23 AM

Good post, Dinka!

I'm not a Catholic, but I'm a Christian, and it's not easy to be a Christian and be in the profession I'm in. The weird thing is that when my colleagues find out I'm a practicing Christian they usually say something like, 'Well, but you're not like THEM."

Hah. They just don't know me!

I'm wimpy. I guess I have a "Don't ask, don't tell" attitude when it comes to what my faith means I believe about certain issues. Sigh.

But anyway, I mostly think "life is hard, God is good" and trust that God is also in control of even the things that I don't like or understand. And I live with that. I also think it's somewhat comforting to believe in a sovereign God because it means that it's not all meaningless. Even if I never understand (in this lifetime) why things are the way they are, I trust that God knows what's going on and doesn't make wrong choices!

I don't know if I'm making a lot of sense ... but there you go.

It's good to catch up on your blog. Happy weekend to you! :-)

Posted by patty at July 1, 2006 11:24 PM