One of my best friends in activism, Rena wrote a blog post that really touched me and got me thinking (“Getting Religion”).
It touched me because I always enjoy hearing about the deepest aspects of personal lives, of those moments when folks started to become the people they were to become. I think the world we better if we all share more of those moments with each other, because those are the moments where we best connect with others (because so often those moments reminds us of our own big moments, that we so often don’t share). But I was especially glad to get this glimpse into what make’s my friend tick, as to what has taken her in her life journey from point A to point B.
But the blog post wasn’t just about appreciation of someone else’s journey but also about some questions. Let me start with this, it is interesting to me that Rena was the only one of her classmates who saw that the imagery of Christ of the Breadlines was the more accurate picture of what the Christ of the New Testament was all about, than most of the more traditional imagery. And it is even more interesting that this recognition of difference was something that led her in the end away from religion all together (at least as a believer).
And finally this little excerpt really interests me….
I finally realized that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And that’s when I “got” religion and stopped being a Christian. I realize that it’s possible that someone else, under the same circumstances, would make the opposite choice — in an alternate universe, maybe I’m the Pope. It took me many more years to come to realize I was or had at some point become an atheist, and to come to terms with that. But religion still fascinates me, like a lifelong research project, in the drastic/dramatic way it shapes people, and controls them, blinds them, and even sometimes enlightens and elevates them, and I still think if you read the New Testament, even the Cliff Notes version, and don’t come away seeing the Jesus depicted there (man, god, or literary character) as Christ of the Breadlines, there is something seriously wrong with your comprehension (it probably having been warped even more drastically by the many evils of dogma so that even religion isn’t “religious” anymore).
All of this is fascinating to me, because many of the same conclusions that Rena made (that the traditional imagery of Jesus obscures his more literal message, that religious dogma binds people up in oppression, etc.) are ones that I’ve made. Yet we went different ways in the end.
Rena is an atheist, admittedly one with a pretty evolved and tolerant view towards her religious comrades in social justice struggles.
I’m a Christian, but admittedly one who doesn’t take the Bible literally in most aspects, and who think that God is too big to fit into only one religion. (and on certain occasions even wonders if God really exists or not — but in the end makes the decision to believe despite the lack of evidence to prove the existence of God).
(I should add despite my own choice, I’m not convinced my choice is the best approach. I just feels right for me. Part of me even admires the atheist’s courage to take the world on its own terms without feeling the need for a higher power to give things meaning.)
One part of the puzzle of making sense of all of this I think is found in a book that I recently read (or rather listened to in audio format), which was recommended by Rena. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
To be continued… Religion (Part 2)