Friday, September 12, 2003
PBS, in its continuing coverage of where we are as a people two years after 9/11, ran a program on the crisis of faith that people from teenagers and community leaders to priests and rabbis are undergoing in their attempt to understand why god permits or causes such things to happen. This is the kind of discussion I shy away from because my views on religion were so soured by the twelve years of strict Catholic education on which my parents insisted.
I'm not sure when it started but my withdrawal from belief was propelled by the pride they had in all the people they had killed for heresies of one type or another, several of the nuns declaring that burning people alive to protect the faith was holy work. I also vividly remember a fifth grade teaching nun pausing in the midst of reading about the trial of Jesus from the New Testament to comment, "You see, children, the Jews have no business complaining about what the Nazis did to them because they DID say right here "Let his blood be upon us AND OUR CHILDREN." (Emphasis hers) I was only ten or eleven at the time but I know I reacted as if struck. From then on was in the position of having to continue in the system for years while personally rejecting the bigotry, anti-semitism and hate with which we were indoctrinated on a daily basis.
I am very spiritual but completely atheistic. I cannot look at the international scene without seeing that most wars, even in this supposedly enlightened modern age, are still playing out the religious conflicts of a millenium ago. And my great question
is: if religion isn't about improving the human condition and teaching people to live together in peace, what possible purpose does it serve? Yet so very many cling to the idea of Big Daddy in the Sky. Their argument is that without a god figure there can be no morality--this from religions that condone the persecution of gays, the degraded position of women and attacks on followers of other faiths.
I find my strength in joining with others working toward a common goal for the benefit of society. As for morality, it should spring from our simple duty to our fellow human beings, not from some archaic reward/punishment system. I feel deeply for those who have lost their loved ones and are now losing their faith. But I also feel that strength of purpose and love for fellow humans must grow from inside based on the simple conviction that it is the right thing to do.