Is There Anyone Up There?

15 05 2014

adam“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.” – Karl Marx

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about religion lately, and my pondering led me to this quote. I was not familiar with the full text beyond the famous “opium of the people” part. These two sentences contain the gist… while condemning religion and its control of the masses, I think Marx understood that faith provides solace in a cruel world.

I was raised in a strict Irish Catholic household… mass on Sundays and Holy Days, prayers before meals and bedtime, with a few family rosaries thrown in for good measure. Our house was festooned with all manner of religious articles – icon statues, scapulars on the bed posts, and crosses and crucifixes made of everything from wood to palms to Waterford Crystal. My favorites were relics – a piece of the bone of a particular saint that was either carried or worn. I still love the smell of incense in church, maybe because I fondly recall those days.

My friends growing up were either Catholic or “public” based on schools we attended. We never made a distinction between the various Protestant churches… what was the point? I only knew a few Jewish kids, but that was more of a neighborhood thing. We still joke about it today, but it was a real “us vs. them” thing going on. There was no hate, just that peaceful line silently drawn to distinguish something… I’m not sure what. Interestingly, I still know many areas of the city by parish boundaries. Lots of deeply ingrained stuff in this noggin.

My separation from the church has been gradual. I attended mass every week for years with my wife and family, then every other week when the boys transitioned from grade school to high school. Catholic schools, of course. The frequency lessened as the years went by. Now, I’ve missed mass on Christmas and Easter. Heathen spiral complete.

I could take the easy way out and say I’m disillusioned with my Church because of the unbalanced riches, or the priest predator cover-ups. I think many have used issues like that as excuses to sleep in on a Sunday morning. I’m a little guilty of this.

Lately, I’ve been to a bunch of funeral masses… too many. I’ve felt uneasy during the service because there have been changes that I didn’t know about. It is all so unfamiliar. I observe the devout in church, and while I’ve always admired the faith they exude… I am detached.  Nevertheless, I recited the prayers and went to communion.

But… I am a lapsed Catholic.

“Do you believe in God, Mr. Langan?” The echoing voice. Crap… That is the question, right? When asked before I have always responded in the affirmative. I say now that I am an agnostic. To be specific, I don’t think I believe in a higher deity but I’d love someone to prove that existence to me.

I don’t have the brain power to make a cohesive point in the debate about the existence of God, or a god. Or science versus religion. Or politics versus Christian values. I watch and listen with great interest, trying to decide what is true and false, and what is free of agenda.

I’m weary of people espousing religious beliefs for personal gain. Politicians and pundits are preaching Christian values one minute, and then calling for death and destruction for our “enemies” the next. I hear it every day and see it on my social media feeds. Comedian John Fugelsang said it best, criticizing a congressman for cutting service for the poor and taxes for the rich – “But if you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.” That makes more sense to me than the Bible.

Halloween0001Simply put, all any religion asks of you is to be a good person. Be kind and generous. Don’t hate. Try peace and love – like that handsome young man holding the sign. If you must have that weekly opiate fix to accomplish those goals, I’m all for it. I’m glad that the “heart in a heartless world” is there for the people who need it.

Is it contradictory to say that my Mom is looking down on me from heaven with shame? God, I hope not.  Maybe she’ll think I’m a hippie…

Peace and Love, my friends.

I wrote this post over a span of three weeks. These words reflect my thoughts today, May 15, 2014. The subject is never closed. It’s all very fluid, changing. And I continue to have more questions than answers. ~ JL

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4 responses

16 05 2014
Joan Schleinkofer

Great blog John. I feel the same as you after 12 years of Catholic school. What is the difference between being agnostic and being a Christian who questions their faith? I think they are one in the same.

16 05 2014
Gr8JohnL

Thanks, Joan… an agnostic says there may or may not be a deity, but needs proof. I think a Christian who questions there faith is a realist.

16 05 2014
Tamara

That’s your best post yet, John, and not just because you agree with me. Excellent. And fabulous use of alliteration! I’m proud of you! 🙂

16 05 2014
Gr8JohnL

Thanks… actual accidental alliteration allows any and all assholes to be awesome.

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