Mother Mary full of grace, help me find a parking space

I have a lot of friends who are atheists, but most of them aren’t atheists like me. I was actually raised this way. I NEVER went to church, any church. When I was little I was aware that there was such a thing, but it seemed so ridiculous as to be, quite literally, beyond belief. In preschool I had a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness, which didn’t matter very much to me until I learned that this meant that in order to invite her to my birthday party my mom had to put on all the invitations “Please do not bring presents.” I’ve since learned that she also did this because several of my friends were too poor to bring me presents, but at the time I blamed it on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is really the only way I can now explain the following incident.

When I was little I was so shy that at least one teacher thought I was autistic. I did NOT speak to people, particularly adults. Plenty of parents at the preschool thought I COULDN’T talk, and they tended to get a big surprise if and when I would suddenly turn and speak to them in complete sentences. When, on her first day of school, Miss Tuki told her teacher that A was for antidisestablishmentarianism, I was proud not JUST for producing a little smart-ass, but for passing something along. Something lasting.

But anyway. It so came to pass that my little Jehovah’s Witness friend whose name has passed into the abyss of memory must have told her parents that she had a friend who didn’t believe in God, or didn’t go to church, or something. And they must have told their Jehovah’s Witness Juju Witch Doctor (I’m not clear on the terminology of the sect), who was concerned enough to COME TO OUR HOUSE. My mom was apparently pissed and upset when this perfect stranger showed up and demanded that they take me to church. My dad has always been harder to rattle, and just told the man to ask me what I wanted. By all rights and historical averages this should have gone badly. The chances should have overwhelmingly favored my hiding behind my mother’s leg and crying. But it has passed into the family lore that this is not what happened at all. I am told that four year old me calmly told the man, “No. I don’t believe in God.” And he went away.

To be fair, I don’t remember it at all. And my dad has never been one to let facts get in the way of a good story, but my mom confirms it, so I am guessing it is at least mostly true. I do remember being a first grader who was not shy about denouncing theism to anyone who got in my face about it. I was quite an absolutist when I was seven. I remember because it very nearly got me beat up by one girl named (deliciously) Romy, in a miniature playground version of the Spanish Inquisition. I was saved by having a much older friend who let it be known that I was under her protection, but even she was confused by my rabid anti-theism. I thought that this was utterly unfair as she was the one who had told me at five that there was no Santa, which was a far more tangible and believable idea than Jesus in my mind. Santa actually gave you stuff. So far as I could tell Jesus just made you get up early on the weekend.

Anyhow, if the theists had just been content to leave me alone I probably never would have cared very much what it was that they got up to when they gathered for their weekly chanting or snake handling or whatever it WAS that they got up to, but they never DO leave one alone. I went to public school from kindergarten through college, and I never once attended a graduation ceremony without a Christian prayer in it. I was acutely aware of being required, every day, to recite what amounted to a prayer witnessed by Yahweh to worship an idol made up of red, white and blue cotton. Although to be fair it WAS the 70’s, so the flag was likely made of polyester.

So I developed an interest. There was never a moment when I was tempted to actually believe any of it. It was always too obvious to me that the conflicting sects were just that, conflicting. I couldn’t see any compelling reason to choose any one faith over another. They all seemed equally made up to me, but on the whole the Judeo-Christian angry desert god was probably the least appealing. The Greek and Norse gods had better stories, and the Native Americans had talking animals. Coyote has a sense of humor. Yahweh is just a jealous ass. I drifted in and out of agnosticism, not because I actually thought any of it was literally true, but I could see that there could conceivably be more under heaven and earth than was dreamt of in my philosophy. Eventually I settled on the idea that I would just live by my own conscience and if it turned out that I was somehow wrong, and that one of these myriad imaginary friends was actually real, then they would have to just accept my best or they wouldn’t be worth worshipping anyway.

Along the way to that decision, though, I read a lot about religion. And it is fascinating as a cultural artifact. I’m sure that those in the faith based community will see my interest as a longing of the soul, a sort of pressing of the nose against the window of a restaurant whilst shivering and starving on a snowy January. Assuming they are capable of thinking beyond a prurient delight and anticipation of a sinner’s future punishment. (Don’t blame ME if that is how you seem to those of us on the outside. I don’t make you act the way you do.) But from my point of view it is more like peering through the windows of an asylum. Or in many cases a 19th century textile factory. Because SOMEBODY is getting rich off of this crap, and it is surely not the toiling masses inside.

That reminds me. I had a point when I started this… now what was it? Oh yeah. So given that I have an interest, and a bit of education, and like to look at things in a historical context, I was talking to my husband today about the concept of the Trinity. I find the Trinity hilarious. It is such an obvious software patch. How do you move from the old testament  idea of “no gods BEFORE me” to the idea that there is only one god, but still reconcile worship of Jesus as the son of said god. Well, you can’t unless you come up with a theological mind pretzel in which the father and the son are both separate and entire, with a holy ghost thrown in because three is just a much more emotionally satisfying number. Plus otherwise if you leave it at just two (but still one), they might fight it out. And we can’t have that. So the Nicenes get it all worked out in a way that is too complicated for anyone to really make sense out of, and then just yell “Faith!” Plus it works out really well for a professional priest class, because if you make it too complicated for the masses they are more likely to just go along with whatever you say. “Well, I don’t really get it, but that must be cuz I’m not as smart and holy and educated as y’all are. Here’s some money.”

Me? Jaded? We knew that. Moving along.

Because here’s a really funny part. Once they worked out a way to worship more than one god at a time without worshipping more than one god at a time, the Catholics blithely moved along to the most amazing proliferation of idol worship one can imagine. Got boils? There’s a saint for that! Just tell us your problem and we will supply a gilded statue for you to light a candle to. And the candles are quite reasonably priced. Want something a bit more heavenly than some guy who lit himself on fire for his faith 200 years ago so that he could spend the afterlife curing gout or overseeing the accuracy of the Russian nuclear weapons program? No problem. You can worship angels. There is a wide range of angels. You have your cherubim and seraphim, your dominions, your virtues, your powers. You can have an angry angel of vengeance with a flaming sword. You can have a cute, fat baby angel… for no apparent reason at all that I can tell.

But my favorites are the Marians. If you are feeling a bit shy about going directly to God with your petty problems… and Jesus? Well, he just seems so BUSY these days… why not call up Mary? She is much more down to earth. Or at least she WAS, before bodily ascending into heaven. Basically she seems to be the Holy Receptionist. She will listen sympathetically. And maybe, if he’s in a good mood, she’ll pass it along to her boss. Plus if it is just a little thing, she might be able to just take it out of petty cash and handle it herself. She understands how these things go, cuz she is a mom. But, like all good secretaries, she is also a virgin. Completely devoted to the Big Guy. But totally tapped in to all the gossip. Want to just bypass the regular channels? Call Mary, she’ll hook you up.

So yeah… religion.

I’m sure there is an ap for that.


2 Responses to “Mother Mary full of grace, help me find a parking space”

  1. Love it! You’ve expressed a lot of what I feel, although you’ve clearly put a helluva lot more thought and examination into rejection of religion than I ever bothered to. But then, I was raised Congregationalist (a species of thin-gruel New England Protestantism) so had less dogma and conditioning to shed than Catholics or Evangelicals. Just came to the conclusion that it was bunk and had done with it. Mom wasn’t too happy but she got over it.

  2. I was raised in the UCC which formed from an incestuous relationship between most of the Congregationalist and the E&R churches, because we don’t really care what you believe, so long as you accept the Trinity. I quit considering myself Christian at 15 because I could not make that whole God but Not God thing work for me. I trod my own path thereafter. It was nice to find Neopaganism, which was compatible with most of my beliefs and did not seem to care if I happen to disagree on some details.

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