Saturday, July 25, 2009

Religion and Me

I'm hoping this won't be an explosive topic but I can never be sure, so please... if you think you may be offended, please don't read this topic.

The main reason for this topic is to lay the groundwork for the next one. I plan to talk about Marriage Encounters, which is run by the Catholic Church but in order to see things from my point of view there, you probably need to understand the relationship I have with religion.

I was born and raised as a Catholic and like many catholics, I had very few problems accepting the Jesus stories (kids love stories) but lots of problems sitting still in church. My father never went to church with us, so it was always only my mother and my sister.

Early Church Behaviour
One issue that I was constantly reminded of was when we were sitting in a pew behind a larger woman and I was miming pinching her on the bum. I said "will I?" to my sister who was 2 years older than I, and she enthusiastically replied "Yes!". So of course, I did it. It caused quite a bit of embarrassment to my mother because it turned out that she knew the woman. Even worse, she turned out to be the school librarian when I started school a year later.

I grew up to be reasonably religious but since my father was Church of England and my mother was Catholic, religion was never "drummed into us". Funnily enough, my mother's parents had been that exact same mix - something that would have been particularly difficult for them in the 1920's when they were married. My father's mother had started off Catholic but some poor treatment by the church when she was just a girl resulted in her raising her boys as Church of England. Needless to say, religion was never very strong in our family.

Introduction to Dogma
When I was in about second grade at school, I was given a mass book for a first communion present. This was great because I had something that I could read and use to check on our progress... (how much longer the mass was going to last). It kept me quieter for a while, though I was disappointed that the homily. The part of the mass where the priest starts talking about his own experience and somehow trying to relate it back to our everyday lives - and to God, was not covered. Our priest was unintelligible - not simply because I was deaf - no, he really was unintelligible at the best of times.

I used to get so caught up in the dogma that when my mother lamented missing church on a Sunday, I'd hold a special mass for her in my room. She and my sister would attend but my mother was never interested in the communion (which was the cream scraped out of the middle of circular biscuits).

When I got to year four at school, I put my hand up to become an altar boy. It was a great time for me because then, at least, I had things to do during the mass. It meant that I wouldn't lose focus. This lasted for almost three years during which I had a great time fighting (gently) with the other altar boys over the bell, building wax bridges between the candles during the homily and having races to drink the leftover wine. I wasn't particularly bad - all the altar boys were like this.

Falling Out
It all ended when we moved house and went to a church with a really scary looking priest. I decided not to sign-up there. My mass behaviour went from bad to worse and eventually I stopped going. When my sister moved out of home to get married, my mother stopped going too - there was nobody for her to go with.

It was around about year nine at school that my religion started going bad. I started to rebel against the Catholic ways and against their teachings. Our school had recently converted to co-ed, the Christian brothers had fled at the thought of girls starting and I'd just had a particularly bad religion teacher. I began to delight in pointing out the mistakes and inconsistencies in the bible. I've still got that bible today, with highlighting all the way through it and scribbles in the margins saying that this contradicts that etc..

We also had a teacher called Mr Hampson, whom we called "hampster" and most of the pictures from Genesis through to Exodus have pictures of mice in them. The best one, and the one on which he caught me and sent me to the principle was in Exodus where the caption had been changed to read; "the princess peered through the reeds and noticed the hampster".

In my later school years, I chose a subject called "non-Christian religions". It was supposed to broaden our minds while keeping us focussed on Catholicism as "the only valid religion" and we had to do a presentation on a different religion. I chose Satanism - not because I thought it was good or because I was interested but simply because it was guaranteed to upset the teachers. I got an "A" much to the disappointment of my friends, some of whom were extremely religious.

Maturing? Beliefs
A lot of time has passed since then and I've thought long and hard on religion. I've also got friends in lots of other religions and I respect both them and their beliefs. For me personally, I don't have any problems believing in Jesus. There was enough evidence in James Cameron's "Lost Tomb of Jesus" to convince me anyway. Similarly, I don't have any problems with the teaching of Buddha - not only does it make sense but it's all good advice too.

I'm happy with the concept of "God" but I'm not convinced that we matter to him. I have little faith in the Catholic Church itself. I don't find its dogma appealing and I don't like their treatment of others - particularly people of different faiths. I don't accept the concept that one religion is right and all others are wrong beliveing instead that all are right and all are wrong to some extent.

I still send my children to a Catholic school because I feel that children aren't ready for such weighty concepts and that they need to discover things on their own. I'm keen for my kids to discover other religions at their own pace but right now, the morality offered by most religions is sufficient for them. Catholicism is probably the most appropriate place to start since it's the religion that I can give them the most insight into.

Today, I mostly describe my religion as "theo-apathetic". I don't dis-believe anything but I really don't care either. If I don't get a reward after I die because I've lived a good and just life according to my conscience, then I'll be content to exist with the millions of others in the same predicament. Life is too short for me to worry about rituals when I have a conscience to tell me what to do. If God is as good and as knowledgable as we are told, then he knows that I'm essentially a good person.

In census, I've described my religion as Jedi on the basis that I think about Star Wars far more often than I think about God. The opening paragraph on the Jedi faith page probably describes me better than catholicism anyway... "The Jedi Church believes that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together. The Jedi religion is something innate inside everone of us, the Jedi Church believes that our sense of morailty is innate."

It's interesting that aspies come from all faiths and that we have varying intensity of faith. I don't think that there is anything specifically defining about aspies and religion. Some are intense, some don't care and some are just resistant to change.

I hope I haven't offended anyone too much with this post.


Anonymous said...

You studied satanism? Awesome. Having studied in a seven day Adventist school in highschool, I completely agree that when they teach other religions, its sole purpose is to try make them look ridiculous to you'll believe in Christianity more.

As for that documentary, a quick google has plenty of christian's debunking it I haven't seen the doco myself, so I can't vouch for their validity.

Gavin Bollard said...

It never ceases to amaze me how Christians spend so much time debunking things which actually support their religion.

In the lost Tomb of Jesus they;
1. Find evidence that Jesus had a tomb.
2. Find some rather cool early Christianity symbols predating the fish and the cross
3. Permanently fail to obtain a sample of Christ's DNA because the contents of the tomb had been removed.

It doesn't prove or disprove divinity but it does make a very good case to say that there really was a person called Jesus who really did have those parents, siblings and relationships etc...

You'd think that the Christians could focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Anonymous said...

Gavin, I tried to send you an email from the "contact me" button, but I don't understand the letters in the code and got it wrong 3 times, but I don't know what else they can be. Any suggestion?

damo74 said...

up until the last paragraph once again it was like a mirror. I did exactly the same thing. 21 years and they wanted to send me to bible college. Then I started messing with them. I not only did the black bible but I voraciously read anything I could get my hands on.
Now I'm apothetic. I acknowledge but I also subscribe to a hybridisation of taoism, buddhism, karma and thumper rabbit. "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all."

Eeyore said...

Gavin, this is such a sensitive and gentle post, why would it upset anyone?

Gavin Bollard said...

Apologies if people have had problems with Kontactr. I've had a few people suggesting they can't understand the symbols to email me.

In any case, if you need to contact me, it's gavin dot bollard at gmail dot com

Just replace the dots with . and the at with @.

These 4 parts of me said...

It doesn't make sense to me how your post could offend someone - all it does is tell about what you think and what you did.

Amy said...

you haven't offended me, I use to be a wiccan before I became a Christian 14 years ago, I can honestly say having a faith and because God is my anchor it's helped alot in life, my 14 year old son who is also mildly affected was healed a great deal, and sorry if this sound whacko but we got prayer for him with a nice older couple and we noticed a difference right away. Keep being real :-)

Socrates said...

It's not difficult to picture Jesus as simply an Iconoclastic Rabbi... They have cropped up regularly in Judaism over the millennia... And then the 'Fact' of his existence isn't at all difficult to believe.

It was all going so well until the Tax Collector turned up.

pace said...

Would you think about changing your blog to dark font on a pale background? White on black is hard on the eyes.

Gavin Bollard said...

I have given a colour change a bit of thought but because I've modified so much of the underlying template, I'm not sure I want to have to redo it.

However... If you're using Google Reader (or most other RSS Feed readers) you should be able to get an RSS feed of the entire text of my posts - and that should appear in black text on white.

Elizabeth said...

Looking forward to your next post in particular. Thank you for sharing your journey!

Asterisp said...

From some posts on fora I get the impression that Aspies are more rational about their beliefs.

I got almost stoned by some class mates when I pointed out the similarities between Calvinistic and certain Islamic beliefs. Back then I was not that religious, but I tried to read about other beliefs.

Nowadays I am Calvinistic again, more or less. But I still not have the blind faith some people have. It is a rational belief (is that not a contradiction in terminis?)

Rachel said...

Great post, Gavin. I've had a somewhat different trajectory through religion, but I've arrived at about the same place as you have: every human being knows right from wrong, every religion has something to offer the world, and when all else fails, I follow my conscience.

Maureen said...

Gavin -
I was very interested to read your comments on this topic. My husband is Aspergian and similarly was very religious as a youth - considered the ministry - but then was turned off by the hypocrisy and disdain for others he saw in several "Christian" faiths. He has shaken out as what I would describe as a Celt - pagan but willing to merge toward Christianity.
Could I add your blog to my blogroll?

Gavin Bollard said...

You can certainly add this blog to your blogroll. I need to update my own links pages at some point ... it's just a matter of finding the time.

maggi said...

thanks for another interesting post!

Jennifer G said...

You have an interesting perspective that is much like my husband who is also an aspie.

Anonymous said...

@Maureen-am I supposed to ask before putting a blog on my blogroll? I never have before.

@Gavin- that is nice that you put a pre-emptive caveat at the top of your post. Religion and politics are seemingly impossible for people to discuss rationally, especially on internet fora where one is anonymous or semi-anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I understand why you say that this post might be offensive because some Christians seem to believe that you aren't supposed to question things (but not all), just accept them, whereas you questioned things. But that's only natural if you have an analytical mind.

I am Christian myself and I like looking for something that could be a contradiction and trying to work out what it means and how it ties in with other parts of the bible. My sister says I'm a nerd. But I do enjoy it. I now don't believe in an immortal soul or hell or the trinity. But I still believe in God. Although I do believe he has an interest in us individually, it makes sense to me, but I find it difficult to grasp and I wonder if that has something to do with the fact I can't grasp relationships in general. Gennie

Anonymous said...

Calvinists are often referred to as "The Frozen Chosen" as they are often so rational and not very emotional about their faith.

But I suspect Aspies whose intense interest is religion would particularly be drawn to the Reformed faith and Calvinism.

Reformed theology draws a host of very rational, literal, and highly intellectual folks as it seeks to explain through intense and coherent study of the entire group of texts, the most accurate meaning of the words of the Bible.

"The Frozen Chosen" . . . possibly stereotyped because of a large group of (undiagnosed) autistic Calvinists!

Dani said...

I feel a subtype of a subtype of a subsubtype XD
I am a seventh day adventist and I am an Aspie and a girl (that makes me being a diferent kind of aspie)and I seem the only one (i know im not the only one but sometimes it seems) that is hardcore on religion. Im not saying that is bad not being one. But sometimes i wished there where others like me too.

Beau said...

Not for me. I am glad that they found his tomb and stuff like that. It means that we did not made this stuff up. Archaeologist have even found quite possibly the nails that was used in the cruxification.