I'm Afraid To Be Religious.

That's not to say I have a fear of being faithful; no, I'm getting the whole faith business down okay. What I mean is that I'm afraid to tell people I'm religious. Which may seem silly, since I'm a Christian, but it seems like atheism is much more popular nowadays. We're told to "know God and make Him known", in the words of Sean Witty, but I'm having trouble with the "make Him known" part. It's just so much easier to express that kind of faith around like-minded people. Like it's easier to talk about being queer with queer people. (Which is probably why I mostly only discuss it with Katie - "Ohmigod, I saw the cutest girl today!" You can't say stuff like that to straight people unless they're especially cool, because they get a little weirded out. Even the accepting-est straight people. Sorry guys.)

Here are the Beatitudes. Read them over, and actually think about it. These are promises. What the heck do they mean?

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Phew. That was a little much. If I'm going to talk about them, maybe I should break them up a little. Don't worry, I'll only talk about a couple for now.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Okay, so I skipped the famous one about the meek inheriting the earth, but come on, everyone's heard that one. Besides, I don't think it means you should be a doormat; I think it means you should be humble and not treat other people like they're less worthy than you are. But back to the merciful. Everyone likes to think that if he or she is good, good things will happen to him or her. You know, "what goes around comes around"? Well, that's a crock - at least on earth. The whole beatitude thing is about how if you're good on earth, good stuff will happen to you in heaven when you're physically dead. So first off, this requires belief in a God and a heaven. It's a nice thing to believe in - most people want to live forever. (Not me - life's not that much fun.) But everyone knows good shit doesn't always happen to good people - sometimes the meanest, most selfish people come out on top. That makes us feel crappy, so we invent stupid phrases like "what goes around comes around" to make ourselves feel better, even though they're obviously false. Well shit. I've seen some pretty good people go through a lot of rough stuff - just recently, a couple of Young Life leaders, the Crimmonses, lost their newborn baby boy during surgery, and at the same time David Crimmons lost his dad. It's been very tough for them, but being a part of a strong religious community really helps you get through stuff like that.

I think the whole point of religion is not to boost God's ego - if She has an ego, it's not in need of boosting. (I use He and She interchangeably for God - If that confuses anyone, you have a very small brain.) The point of religion is to a) say "thanks for making me alive, I'll do the best I can with it" and b) to help us through the tough stuff, by letting us know that we're not just randomly here for no reason at all and that we're basically pointless little short-lived specks o' dust. That's a pretty depressing thought. So if you believe (and I don't have one of those believe-everything-you're-told personalities, so it gets a bit tough at times), it's a very comforting thing. It's nice to think about it.

Sometimes I wonder what draws people to a religion. Is it the moral guidelines? Do people want some set boundaries for "right" and "wrong"? Does that mean they're intellectually lazy, and don't want to think of their own? Or are people drawn to religion because of the promise of heaven? It seems that anyone who is nominally faithful will get all the goodies after they kick the bucket. But that seems a little weird to me. I mean, if I'm faithful all my life, I feel like I deserve heaven. Man, all that good stuff is waiting for me up there! (That's not why I'm Christian, obviously. Just for the sake of argument.) So when some nasty old geezer who's been a gambler and a pimp all his life has a deathbed conversion and is told he'll get into heaven... What the heck? It seems like I might as well get out there and enjoy my life, live it up, fuck everything that comes my way, drink, smoke, party, do it all. But the catch is, I think that the conversion has to be for real. You can't fake shit like that. It's like, if you consciously reject God and go out and do lots of "bad" stuff, knowing it's wrong, and then decide you want the best of the afterworld, too, and "convert" right before you kick off, it's not happening. Or maybe that's just me thinking "what goes around comes around" again. I mean, if the person is genuinely sorry for their life of vice, sure, by all means; but if the person wouldn't give up a minute of it, the sucks for them.

Or maybe not. I don't know. It's religion; there are really no "accepted truths" or any of that crap. Theology is a lot like philosophy: you can't use the "scientific method" to test your ideas, you just have to believe what makes sense to you. Or sometimes you've got to take stuff on faith. After all, that's what religion is, isn't it? It's based on faith.

What the heck am I babbling about? I don't know. A lot of this Beatitude stuff confuses me: what does it mean to be "poor in spirit" or "pure in heart"? Ya got me. Well, that's all for now. I wonder if anyone will actually have the patience to read this.

Related Thoughts:
o next thought: love thought #2
o my queer religion page

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This page is the work of Sparky ( kumquat37@hotmail.com )
Written 01/25/98