20 June 1997
ReligionI don't have an organized religion, but this is a bit of exploration of the disorganization filling that place in my mind. I guess I'm an agnostic. Or perhaps "unwilling atheist" would be more descriptive: I would like to have faith in something, but my tries at believing in higher powers never stick. Not the Christian God I was brought up to believe in, and not any other one. My best efforts always seem like paying lip service, hollow at the core. It feels like just going along with the rules because you can't think of anything better.
Here in library school, I took a "Materials for Children" class. My classmates brought up the spirituality in C.S. Lewis' Narnia books and Madeleine L'Engle's Murry family trilogy. Numerous people said they, or children they'd worked with, had seen obvious parallels in these children's books to Christian stories/parables. Unsurprising, considering the background of both these authors, and the other stuff they wrote.
But none of it had ever occurred to me. I loved the Murry trilogy and the first five Narnia books, and I never interpreted them as being pro-Christian. I actually liked them because they had magic and good and evil, without involving churches and stuff. Supernatural Powers, sure, but no visible Highest Power. That's probably why I didn't particularly like the last two Narnia books; they got, not Christian per se, but preachy. I was uncomfortable reading them, even though I first read them at a time before I specifically realized I didn't really believe in the religion I was brought up in. (Either of them -- Catholicism or Methodism.)
Throughout most of my childhood and teen years I read anything I could find with magic, exaggeration, or other non-realistic stuff in it. (Still do, actually.) The folklore/fairy section of the elementary school library was the first place I headed after they told us we could check out other books than picture books (excuse me, "Everybody Books" at my democratic little elementary school). By 6th grade I was actually copying the spells into a notebook, and even trying a few. But when it comes to Bible stories, my favorites were and are the ones with absolutely no miracles. Yes, I know there are pretty few of those that can't be interpreted as having little nudges from God in them, but if you could possibly see the events happening through coincidence or because humans worked for them, I would like the story better.
So I like the idea of magic, but only as long as it's not God's magic. This is really weird. I'm mildly superstitious, with a lucky bracelet I've worn for exams and other important things for the last seven years. With a necklace with the Chinese character for "rat", as I was born in the year of the Rat (mid-Feb 1972 to mid-Feb 1973 by the Western calendar), a nightgown and a journal with stuff about Aquarius, my Western astrological sign, etc. (Despite the fact that I was about thirteen when I worked out an approximation of how many people are likely to have the exact same horoscope as me, and considered this proof to myself that astrology is garbage.) My superstitions are more faith than I have in the God I was brought up to believe in, but they aren't exactly faith.
This bothers me mostly because I really fear dying. The idea that I will someday no longer exist is enough to send me into a panic attack. This is why I refer to myself as "a reluctant atheist" -- I would like to have some faith that I will not die completely. Hell would be better than non-existence. [What would happen to masochists in Hell? Would they start thinking of Satan, or God, as their dom and hence be able to get some pleasure out of their pain? 8)] I've tried to get into non-Christian faiths, with no better luck. I just don't seem to be able to believe seriously in Higher Powers of whatever stripe, any more than I can take my own superstitions and affection for non-realistic fiction seriously in considering the real world.
So maybe eventually this will cease to bother me. I'm only 24, with luck (?) I have sixty or more years ahead of me. But isn't it supposed to be young people who believe they're immortal and middle-aged people who confront their own mortality? 8)
Maybe my ability to have faith will change. A previous therapist linked the fear of death and lack of faith to my history of childhood sexual abuse. When I heard that, it sounded so right, but I still don't like thinking that abuse even took that away. Dammit, I want some control! But only time will tell.
Discussions I've had with people, which explain in more detail how I look at certain things, and also goes more into how I've looked at religion over time.
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