(I started this on March 12. Thus the looking forward to California…)
Quite a lot has happened in this past week. But I don’t care about any of it, because in my head I’m already in Los Angeles. Getting all sweaty building things, chilling on the beach, drinking really cold things, and wearing flip flops and a tank top.
There’s a new pope. He is from Argentina, which I think is pretty cool. My dad tweeted, “The Conclave of Elimination based on Target Market demographics,” and that is totally true. My point of view in terms of religion is always changing, but that’s okay. I like to just stick to the words of the one, the only, Dick Van Dyke: “To live a life of love and compassion and to care about your fellow human beings and do no harm. I think that’s a religion right there.” And honestly, I think that’s all that really matters.
I’m taking a class this semester, and I decided to take it for three reasons. One, the course number is 3456W, and I like that. Two, it fulfills two LE requirements, and it’s an upper-level writing intensive course, of which I need three. Three, my final project is called The Porning of America, so the research is kind of fun. I decided to take it S/N because it isn’t for my major and generally, the fewer courses that affect my GPA, the better. However, I think I might try to change it to the A/F system, because I currently have an A because I dominate that class because I am super into it because it’s hella interesting.
That class is something that I just cannot wait to attend every Tuesday and Thursday. Every time I am doing my homework (which consists of reading an article, essay, or book assigned by the professor), my mind just has to prepare itself to be blown. It’s that cool. I end up reading these historical accounts or cultural narratives that completely, 100% support everything I ever thought to be true, from a completely fresh angle. I guess the reason I like it so much is because for the greater part of my life, I had people telling me that these things I thought to be true were wrong. Not only were they wrong, but I would eventually have to pay for thinking the way I do. They made me doubt myself, a lot. Obviously, these things that I am reading are carefully selected by my professor, so although we are not reading about his opinion, I doubt he would select things that contradict his own beliefs. But it’s still really cool to me that when I was in 6thgrade, people told me I was wrong, but taught me about Greek philosophers who actually think that I am right. My teachers just filtered out those philosophies that contradicted the version of reality that they wanted me to believe. And I don’t really like that.
Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for having attended Catholic elementary school. I’m just happy that I don’t any longer. I remember when I was in second grade, we were learning about subtraction. I asked my teacher what would happened if you had to subtract 5 from 4. She said that you couldn’t do it. I counted it out, and I thought it could just be 1 on the other side of zero, because I have always conceptualized numbers on a line, but in my head the line runs from right to left. I asked her if there was anything on the other side, and she told me there wasn’t. Then I entered 5thgrade, and all of a sudden you actually could subtract 5 from 4, and I was so pissed. Seven-year-old me could have totally handled the simple explanation of it resulting in -1, mostly because I already guessed that was what would happen. She lied to me because she didn’t think I could understand it, and that pissed me off.
In religion class when I was younger, we learned all about the stories of the Bible. We made our way from Genesis to Exodus through the majority of the Old Testament, and tackled the New Testament in 7thand 8thgrade. I’m really happy that I learned about all of that, if for no other reason than to understand where all of its cultural influence is coming from. People ask, “Well have you actually ever READ the Bible?!” Yes, yes I have. I get it.
However, when I was in 6thgrade, I asked my teacher how the world became populated without bestiality or incest if the only people created were Adam and Eve, and Eve only had two sons, one of whom killed the other. She then told me that the Bible isn’t supposed to always be taken literally. WHOA. HOLD ON. WHAT? THERE WAS NO ADAM AND EVE? WTF?
This was big news to me, as I had thought that the Bible was basically the final word on all things ever. That’s what they told me – it’s The Truth. To hear that even one part of it was something of a fable was a little too much for me to handle. My teacher told me to think of Adam and Eve as more of representations of humanity or spirits that were created. “Then how does God remove a rib from a spirit? Then is it okay for spirits to commit incest? If this isn’t true, then how to I know that the rest of the Bible is true? IS ANY OF IT TRUE?” I could not wrap my head around the fact that this may not be the truth. I was so confused. (I am still confused as to what she wanted me to take from that…)
Then we had an assembly from a Native American who told us all of these stories from his tribe that he told us provided them explanations for different elements of nature. In Social Studies (what my school for some reason decided to call our History class), we were told to write stories of our own to explain parts of nature. Inevitably, I decided to take a queue from the Bible and I wrote a story about how people came to be. It was something about the sun having nothing to watch as it crossed the sky everyday, so it created people and animals for its own entertainment.
In this culture class I am taking, we have read some (and read about some) pretty old texts from East Asian, Indian, Arab, and European cultures. I don’t really know how to articulate what I think about all of this, but I will try. Basically, even though many of these texts are super different from one another, one thing that they all have in common is that they offer explanations for things that had not yet been explained by science when they were written, and they create certain cultural laws for things that they are afraid of. They vilify the behavior of the “other,” and create laws to help maintain the balance of power (which was usually quite unbalanced). We have looked at the Old Testament (in the context that it is The Torah) in the same way that we looked at all of the other texts, and it’s become really hard for me to see it as anything other than just another one of those books. Another book, about another religion, about another culture, offering other explanations and trying to civilize and contain another group of people.
Do I believe in God? Yes, I do. The way I see it is that everything had to come from somewhere, and I doubt science will ever be able to produce a valid explanation for the existence of existence, so with that logic, there is a higher power that I call God (and that, for some reason, looks like the child of Corovado and The Statue of Liberty in my head) that created existence. But the God that I know is not the God that the vast majority of Catholics seem to know. Their God inspired a bunch of guys from a really long time ago to write a book that I can’t take seriously. But at this point in my life, that’s about all I believe in. I just find it really hard to understand a religion based on a book that was written so, so long ago by a culture so different from our own.
I think the one point that makes this hard for me to swallow is that as a Catholic, I am supposed to determine the way I live my life according to a book written by man. I have authority issues. This is no secret to anyone. “But a man didn’t write the Bible, God did!” No, no he didn’t. In the words of Russell Brand, “The Holy Spirit did not have a pen in its hand, did it?” No, no it didn’t. I do believe that the Holy Spirit could have had a significant influence in the writing of Scripture, but even with that little nugget of Catholic abidance, everything was still put through the impure filter of man. And that is one murky ass filter.
If you think about it, the fact that these stories were written makes complete sense (well…it makes sense to me). Of course there were stories written to explain the creation of man. Evolution wasn’t a thing. And when you don’t know something, chalk it up to the product of something of which you can’t verify the existence, problem solved. You now have an explanation that, although cannot be proven, also cannot be disproven.
There is also something that I never quite understood about Catholicism which is really just a question that was dodged like a flaming bullet every time I asked a teacher. What happens to the souls of unborn children, or children who die before being baptized? Whether in the case of abortion or miscarriages, I remember wondering what would happen to them when I was pretty young. We learned that everyone is born with original sin, original sin is only cleansed through Baptism, and that nothing impure can enter Heaven (it was in Revelation somewhere). So…then what? They can’t be damned to hell because they had never committed a conscious sin, but it doesn’t seem quite fair for them to remain in Limbo for eternity. In 11th grade, my teacher said that he personally believes that God would use extraordinary grace to absolve them of original sin and welcome them into Heaven, which seems reasonable, but that it not stated anywhere in the Bible. So based on that reasoning, anything I deem reasonable should be quite alright, which it is obviously not. These things perplex me.
I would just like to clarify, though, that I don’t think the validity of the Bible really matters when considering what we should take away from it. I think that when the Bible was created, The Golden Rule was created for a reason. Those guys were like, “Okay, we get that this is a lot of information for all of you illiterate folks, so if you take nothing else from this book, just remember this.” Coincidentally, I think The Golden Rule is stated in Leviticus, which is the same book that contains a lot of the stuff that people most often misunderstand. That could be wrong though, don’t quote me on that. My point is, even if it was a book that is 100% man-made, and 100% lacking any influence from a higher power, it’s still good to read something centered around teaching people how to be good to other people. Jesus was a real person, a historical figure, and even if you don’t believe in God and don’t believe that Jesus was his son, he still died to make a statement. He literally sacrificed his life to dig the point into people’s heads that he loved them and we should all love one another. Even if all of it is bullshit and the entire thing is lacking any kind of sacred influence, it’s still a message that people should take home with them.
The problem is that all too often, that is the only point that people do NOT take away from the Bible, or Catholicism in general. They focus on the footnotes, the mistranslations, and the parts that they find easy to abide by. No stealing or killing? Pssh. Cake. Treating others how you want to be treated? Not so easy.
I could go on about this for forever, but I have class and this post has been sitting idle for far too long so I am just publishing it.
“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” George Bernard Shaw