08 January 2020

Losing my religion

I was raised by atheists. My parents went through the motions of baptism and confirmation (in the predominant denomination in Germany which is Lutheran protestant) and the xmas service with us kids but this was just an exercise of not being different. Occasionally, my father would issue a long speech about the failings of religions and the christian churches in particular but that was it. 

For a while, we, the kids, sans parents, would go to the childrens' Sunday service because at the end they gave out these little pamphlets with stories and quizzes and rebuses. We loved them. My parents abhorred comics, so this was the next best thing. I remember my father waiting for us at the garden gate on a Sunday when we had walked back home, asking about the sermon and shredding it to bits, the stuff we were able to recall anyway. I remember vividly his outrage when we told him that the sermon mentioned the killing of Robert Kennedy. No respect for the dead, no decency, he shouted, they will just use anything to brainwash people.

So - in a part of the world littered with medieval cathedrals, baroque chapels and crisscrossing pilgrim trails -  I grew up godless, without prayers, bible stories, confessions. 

When I was a teenager I went to a Baptist church for while because my best friend in school was part of that church. They had fun evenings with handsome guys playing guitars and I was invited to come along to their youth camps, a summer week by a lake in Sweden, a winter week in the Alps. At that time, I was waiting for god to speak to me. I was 15 years old and I expected him to speak to me in a real voice or at least in a way I could recognise as something not made up by my imagination. Somehow I was convinced that he was most of the time speaking to all of the others and one day soon, this would happen to me. All I had to do was catch up with singing and praying and believing. Although as the daughter of scientists, I wasn't too sure what believing involved. Anyway, there was lots all night singing and prayers and enticing whatnots. And during one of these nights I - somehow fed up with waiting - asked one of the fervently praying handsome guys for guidance and he replied, what do you mean god speaking to you, surely you are not expecting a voice like humans, use your imagination. 
Well. That was my oh shit moment when I knew that it was high time to leave that particular setup.

Still, some nights I am hoping, quite desperately, that I did not make a huge mistake. That there isn't the slightest chance of me, once I am dead, that I will have to watch from heaven how the future unfolds on earth.

If there is one thing I believe it is that, surely, we - i.e. people with the power of language and memory -  figured out at some stage how distinguish between good and evil. Generally speaking.  I realise there are endless variations. We all know what pain is.  And we know that whenever we deliberately cause pain, physically, emotionally, in whatever way to someone, be it a person, an animal, any life form, we do evil.


Joared said...

Possibly many people who don’t believe in a religion have life moments or experiences when they may have questioning thoughts about the unknown after body death, despite their reasoning mind and acquired knowledge telling them a heaven there is not. I’ve sometimes speculated, for those who believe, that hell could be looking down on earth, unable to intervene to protect loved ones, also to become fully aware of the kind of person we were and how others honestly viewed us. I’ve also sometimes thought hell was the life we currently live on earth and for some it must be. Certainly everyone, regardless of beliefs, should be able to understand the undesirability or evil of deliberately inflicting pain on another, yet we look around the world and what do we see?

Roderick Robinson said...

Atheism isn't a belief; if anything it's an unbelief. I'm not out to argue anyone off the face of the earth, others may paddle their own canoes and I'll paddle mine. When religion is tied into something else - abortion, say - that's another matter, something we normally call politics. I may raise my voice then.

I was born as most of us are with an ability to think things out. My trade required me to ask questions and to recognise that many people - possibly most people - lie a lot. Occam's Razor seemed to be the best guide: look for the most likely solutions in life.

Some people imagine that atheism is pure laziness, a refusal to engage with big questions. The trouble is: what's "big"? Christianity is big measured by what it claims to have left behind it: cathedrals whose architecture I admire, masses whose Credos make me weep, even some books. But alas for simplicity; these entities came into being through human agency and the commonality would seem to be imagination. Architects have also designed palaces for tyrants, composers have put together utterly secular string quartets. And books? We know about books.

Perhaps atheism is simply dissatisfaction. Discuss.

Ms. Moon said...

I figure that the unknowable is just that- unknowable. And as much as I'd like to believe in some sort of deity who intervenes to our benefit I simply can't. Nope. And I'm at peace with that and try to simply do my best not to cause pain. I was at a fairly young age when the nonsensicalness of religions became obvious to me. Reading the Bible through helped with that process quite a bit. Even when the more "new age" religions became popular I took a hard look and turned away. I think that magic is real but it's the magic of what is. And that's more than enough for me.

Anonymous said...

I have read and re-read this post several times and even started to leave a long comment and decided to delete it. I know nothing about religion. All of my life I would say, "I was born Jewish, but I don't believe in God." We did not celebrate religious holidays except for Passover, and that was a family affair. After I had the results of my 23&Me DNA test and had it confirmed that I am 99.9% Ashkenazi, I have come to think of my self as Ashkenazi. We can't be born a religion, we can only be taught something by people who think they know something. I now say I am Ashkenazi. It's in my DNA. We are a species with genetic histories that go back much further than the bibles could ever construct. I have always been an atheist, and my god is the planet I call home in a universe bigger than my brain can conceive.

37paddington said...

As Mary Moon says, some things are unknowable, and thus I play with imagining what those things might be. I abhor proselytizing of any sort, so I will try to refrain from doing it myself, though I was raised by a very faith filled mother, I hesitate to say she was "religious" because as devoted as she was to her bible she did not hold with dogma and she remained very open to whatever spiritual explorations I might pursue. This is where I ultimately landed: I believe in God, but God to me, is simply another word for Love. God is here among us, within us, expressed when we love and behave in loving ways. Our human work is to simply to call forth love. Sometimes, as we are witnessing daily, we fail utterly. Thank you for this very thought provoking post.

ellen abbott said...

christianity lost me beginning as a pre-teen with the concept of original sin...newborn babies being sinners. and as I grew older more and more of that theology struck me as wrong or stupid but I didn't shed religion altogether until my early to mid 20s (after a brief foray into Judaism) when I became interested in the origins of religion and read and read and read (Jung had a big impact as did the writings of the channeled entity Seth - I know, New Age stuff - and Theosophy); how religion was used to take over and control a population, how many people were slaughtered in the name of a god. there is no big daddy in the sky who supposedly loves us all but needs constant devotion, who never intervenes in the cruelties of the world, and who condemns a person to everlasting torment for any and all so-called transgressions including who you love and when and with whom you have sex, a god that says to people here's a planet, use it up, not here's a planet, take care of it. I find it hard to fathom that people believe in that. if there is a god it is the sum total of all life, of all experience, of all things we can see, feel, hear, taste, touch, intuit and of all things we cannot sense because we don't have to organs with which to sense them, of all consciousness and even an atom is conscious. this planet we souls inhabit is a stage upon which we experience life...the good, the bad, the indifferent. if there is a god, we are to it as a cell is to our bodies, as an atom is to matter. it is the sum total, the All That Is. religion may lay claim to morals but goodness/compassion is just as innate in us as is evil. and even the expressions of evil are as much a part of god as the goodness. I read once that things we call evil are just things we don't completely understand and even evil depends on which side you are viewing it from. something that devastates one person may be uplifting another. it's all about your perspective. This planet is our mother and she was born of stardust as are we all.

Sabine said...

I am reading all your comments now for the third time - ar least - and I am so grateful for your honesty and details. You are amazing!
You gave me a lot to think about and I will let it settle for a while.

My life so far said...

I believe in the soul, in love, in the divine, whatever people choose to call that. I think our souls are here for a purpose but that it is only part of our journey. Of course who knows what will happen to me when I die. The great mystery. In the mean time I try not to be a dick and fail often, but I do try.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I tried hard to believe in a God and was very active in church in my younger days. Ultimately, it made no logical sense to me. I realized I had to provide my own moral compass and do what I believed to be right just because i believe it to be right.