Last October, my friend Cher was conducting a good conversation going on her site AskCherlock, about being Catholic and going to confession, to which I contributed several long comments. At the end, I thought, “what the hell am I doing putting all this here, when it would make a perfectly good post of my own?”
I tabled the idea for a while but then on Wednesday, I bumped into the notion again when BachelorGirl was talking about Ash Wednesday and giving things up for Lent.
I mentioned there that Ash Wednesday has always given me the willies ever since I had a traumatic childhood experience with receiving the ashes. I made the mistake of trusting that the priest had put his cigar out first.
OK, I kid. But it reminded me that I still hadn’t used the Cherlock comments. So let’s dive in.
When not referring to myself as a heathen, I usually self-classify as “Recovering Catholic”.
I only endured 4 years of Catholic school at St. Euthanasius, but it certainly left a mark (and I really mean that.)
I, too, dreaded going to Confession because I didn't think I had that much to talk about in that dark little closet. Cher had mentioned that when she was in Catholic school, the nuns had given them a little Book of Sins. (I would call it a menu.)
Now, I didn't have a neat little Book of Sins to refer to although I wish I did... It might have given me some good leads for after-school activities… so I only had the Ten Commandments to go by.
So what does a little kid really have to confess?
Not honoring father and mother was always a good fallback. Kids aren’t much for ‘honoring” anyone or anything. Let's see... false idols? I'm in 3rd grade, for Pete's sake... Does Batman count?
Coveting neighbors wife? Uh, nope... she was like a thousand years old. Coveting neighbor's goods? I did like his little electric lawn mower, but I wasn't allowed to cut the grass yet. How about coveting my brother's toys?
Ah... name of the Lord in vain! I didn't really do that one much, but at least it was plausible.
In all seriousness, I probably checked out of the whole Organized Religion thing right around 2nd grade, when we had a priest come in to take questions... you know... Play "Stump the Father". I hit him with the dinosaur question and he gave me a bullshit answer. 2nd GRADE, and even I could tell it was bullshit.
Like many boys, I read every dinosaur book in the library. (Wow... in retrospect, I'm surprised they even HAD dinosaur books in Catholic school.) Anyway, I knew that the dinos had been there for millions of years before mankind, yet he was up there still pushing that World Created in Seven Days stuff... He told me that back then, "the days could have been longer than they are now."
I’m thinking, in my little kid head, “Is he flippin’ KIDDING me?” I wasn’t confident enough to argue with him about it though… The nuns will get you for that. In fact, maybe that’s what happened after all… After class, Father Pinhead told her, “Make Dinosaur Boy pay…” I KNOW that’s really why she took my mechanical pencil away from me.
Another day, I asked what Jesus' last name was. He told me "Christ."
BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT... wrong answer, and again I knew he was BSing me. So I did what any kid would do and I asked my mom. She knew the answer... People were named after their fathers, so it would have been "Jesus of Joseph". It was a perfectly logical answer that I understood just fine. Why couldn't he have told me that?
I’ve always had problems with the idiosyncrasies of organized religion. I mean, why does it really matter what you eat, what you wear, or what day you do which activity? If there is a Supreme Being, would it really matter to him what you ate on Friday, as opposed to Saturday? And if it does, then that’s not the kind of micro-managing deity I care to hang out with.
I remember the exact moment I became an ex-Catholic. I was a freshman in college and we were visiting my grandparents in Pittsburgh, which meant we had to go to church on Sunday. On this particular day, the priest’s sermon was devoted to denouncing the new movie, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Or as the priest called it, “Brian is Alive.” Asshole didn’t even know the name of it, but he knew we shouldn’t see it. So that pissed me off right from the start, that this pious jaggoff was obviously under orders to come out and condemn a movie he hadn’t seen.
At the time, I’d just discovered Monty Python through their record albums and thought they were hilarious. (Still do.) So I wondered what it was that could be so upsetting to the Church establishment.
The priest said that we shouldn’t see this movie because it advocated thinking for yourself and following your own heart. (As opposed to doing what the Church tells you to do.) I just got madder and madder, thinking, “that’s exactly why people should go see this movie. I stood there, just absolutely fuming.
The second we got back home to Ohio, I went out and saw the movie immediately. Laughed my freakin’ ass off… it’s one of my all-time favorites. (Along with “Dogma”. Sense a theme?)
I see now what the Church found so threatening. They claimed it was making fun of God and Jesus and the Saints and the Martyrs. In fact, the movie didn’t make fun of any of that… it made fun of the weird shit people do in the name of God. That’s a big difference. And it told people to “work it out for yourselves… you’re all individuals…” meaning, seek God in your own way. No one can tell you what’s right or wrong.
This philosophy is no threat to God or spirituality. It’s merely a threat to the Church’s market share.
Cher said on her post, “I tell God my deepest and darkest secrets, regrets, and joys. An automatic pipeline, if you will. Right? Wrong? I don’t know. I’ll let God judge when it’s my time.”
I agree completely with the "automatic pipeline."
Who needs "the middle-man?" It's all the goofy shit that mankind made up in order to deal with the eternal questions that has made such a mockery of what God is supposed to represent.
I find that all these denominations are about power and influence. Sometimes it's monetary; sometimes it's not. Maybe all these divisions are necessary because they provide the powers that be with a reason to exist. If there are not differences that appeal to a certain "market", there's no reason for anyone to attend. Or chip in when the plate is passed.
I don't claim to have any answers to the eternal questions. I wouldn't call myself "atheist"... more probably "agnostic", because I just don't know. But what I do know is that if there is a God, you won't need an organization to reach him. All you need is your own brain. Of course, there is no money to be made in that.
All the other trappings of organized religion are just things that some men made up a long time ago, in order to control people and amass or retain power in whatever form... money, land, status, influence, etc.
I know that all seems rather cynical, but that's the way I'm wired. It puts me in mind of a quote I read once, but have been unable to track down again to double-check the author. But it said, "Religion is the only thing that keeps the very poor from killing the very rich."
OK, that and the National Guard.
So I told Cher to use that automatic pipeline with pride.
Anyone that judges her for that will have his own judgment to deal with soon enough.