Why I’m not a Christian

After attending a reasonably funny, thought-provoking and interesting talk called “Laugh your way to a better marriage” I was feeling pretty good. Six hours over two nights away from the kids listening to what was a marriage course dressed up as stand-up comedy.

We’d been invited by friends at the church (no, they didn’t give me shit about being an Atheist) and it had been fun. We chatted in the breaks. Bought the book. As we walked out, feeling a little closer than normal, my wife cocked her eye at me and asked “So are you going to become a Christian?”

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but it’s a fair question. Mrs Idle knows that the three C’s – continuity, community and culture – are important to me. She knows I think Atheism is missing a strong version of the three C’s. Churches tend to provide them in spades. The church is the typical Euro + Mediterranean + Asian mix that seems to be the Aussie standard these days (in Sydney it’d be + Indian also but the coast is a little behind) and better for it.

I like my religious friends – they’re good people. Good family people. People deeply interested in education, values and top-notch backyard BBQs.

Mrs Idle knows in her heart that one day I’ll become Christian (as will our daughters) the same way I know in my heart one day she’ll become Atheist (as will our daughters). In fact, attending church a few times a year is part of the deal we brokered around how to expose religion to my daughters.

I’ve even written an anti-new Atheist blog.

So it is a fair question. I could slip right into this crowd and thoroughly enjoy life. Except…

The talk (by a visiting American Pastor) was insightful, thoughtful and pretty funny. Sure, there was a bit of preaching, he tried to relate a lot of it to God when I think it could have stood on its own, it was slightly sexist at times (I found I could laugh at his simple caricatures of men but at the ones of women I’d laugh uncertainly – Mrs Idle says I was overreacting and probably I was) and some bits I found inappropriately hilarious: “Sex only works within a marriage” and the ultimate lack of self awareness in “These scientists reported the facts even though they didn’t like what they found – rare scientists indeed”.

I’d recommend the talk to any married couple.

Now I’m going to talk about four minutes out of six hours. Four strange, odd minutes. The rest of the time I was part of the audience watching a performer, but for these four minutes I was ripped out of the reverie and was, instead, watching the crowd.

Now there’s an old saying that on the topic of masturbation you are either a liar or a fool. The Pastor said he’d never masturbated. I never have either. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

The discussion at this point was about sex in marriage – yes, in a church, I know – and it was funny, well-handled and interesting. The point he was trying to make was that masturbation is bad for your sex life. Mostly he talked about muscle memory, sex drive, the drive to ejaculation instead of ‘making love’ and other stuff. Having never masturbated – ever – I was on-side and nodding like crazy.

Mrs Idle even told me she’d stop.

Then, seemingly thinking he needed to drive the point home he said “Masturbation is like being half-gay”. Bam. I was out of the zone. What. The. Fuck.

He continued. “The reason homosexuals are an abomination is that the man rejects God’s creation: the woman, and takes another man. Masturbators are also rejecting the women… and taking… themselves. Masturbators are half-gay”. And on, and on.

And the worst bit was that throughout the church people whispered to each “Gays” or “The Gays”. I’d swear the lady behind us guffawed like Cletus the Slack-Jawed-Yokel and said “Haw haw those gays”. The word was passed around like an amulet to ward off demons. Of course, the whole thing was meant to be funny and the crowd responded.

A room that moments before had been joyous was still occupied by the same sound, except it was different. The laughter rising to the ceiling was the sound of evil. It was the sound of persecution, elitism and fear.

This Pastor, so seemingly reasonable, so modern, so pro-Dad, pro-family and pro-happiness – was encouraging pure hate. His only reason was a single sentence in an old book he admired.

“So are you going to become a Christian?”

“No”.

Oh, and plus theres is this: There is no God. Seriously.

**************************************

I’ll say it again, this was a few minutes out of an otherwise excellent talk. I won’t disengage from the community and I know – because I’ve asked them – that the prejudice is not held by all.

Normally comments on this blog are open, but this one will be moderated. Feel free to comment, but please – be civil.

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57 thoughts on “Why I’m not a Christian

  1. See this is what these new churches do to increase numbers – they reel you in by being fun, engaging, erring on the slightly conservative side (just so you’re comfortable) then out of nowhere …. wham! Out comes the weirdo Christian stuff.

    I say this as a Catholic. For many years I thought that if I interfered with myself I would go blind (I blogged about this http://wp.me/pD74v-ev warning contains pictures of legs). I haven’t thankfully.

    The whole spilling the seed thing is just plain weird & archaic but not unusual. Extremely right wing Christian views are held by good churchgoers and paraonoid schizophrenics. It’s a fine line between chaste and crazy. Just saying…

  2. Wow. I am a Jewish atheist, which will probably make sense to Jews but possibly not to non-Jews. Judaism has a cultural component, which I embrace, and a religious component, which I reject. My experience and my heart tells me that God simply does not exist.
    However, religion has a great deal to offer people in terms of comfort and community, and I do not judge those who turn to religion. EXCEPT in cases such as that which you have described. When religion – ANY religion – preaches intolerance and hatred, it is dangerous, destructive and evil.
    Thank you for that wonderfully articulated post. I’m going to go masturbate now.

  3. You are open-minded, moreso than I would be in this case. But whilst I don’t consider myself atheist, I have no religious affiliation…and part of the reason for that centres around those four minutes you talked about. Maybe my hubby and I could do some sort of online course…one where we could fast forward through the offensive moments so as not to tarnish the rich and relevant message. Great frikkin’ post, Idle!

  4. I pride myself on learning something every day, and today I learned I am half-gay (allegedly). Nice blog, Slackdaddy.

  5. Masturbation makes you half-gay? Yep, that makes sense.

    But hang on, it doesn’t explain why so many of the wankers I know are red-blooded heterosexual males.

    Great post, Mr Idle Dad.

  6. What. The. Fuck indeed?

    I nearly wet my pants laughing until I realised it was serious, then felt perhaps not a laughing matter, along lines of Kerri’s comments regarding preaching intolerance and hatred, and how dangerous etc it is/can be.

    Is being half-gay a bit like being half-pregnant? Kinda thought you were either one or the other …

    Mmmm … masterbacon ….

  7. Ok – so after all the love I guess I’d better comment:

    Things I love about this post:
    1. This: “Mrs Idle knows in her heart that one day I’ll become Christian (as will our daughters) the same way I know in my heart one day she’ll become Atheist (as will our daughters).” Tres funny.
    2. The three C’s – continuity, community and culture. FTW. I hear ya.
    3. This part: “but for these four minutes I was ripped out of the reverie and was, instead, watching the crowd.” This is your narrative turning point -and it’s why this is so awesome a blog.
    4. “Having never masturbated – ever – I was on-side and nodding like crazy.” LOLOLOL
    5.The craziest logic I have ever heard – would be even funnier if it wasn’t so crazy: “The reason homosexuals are an abomination is that the man rejects God’s creation: the woman, and takes another man. Masturbators are also rejecting the women… and taking… themselves. Masturbators are half-gay”. And on, and on.” wtf indeed.
    6. “The laughter rising to the ceiling was the sound of evil. It was the sound of persecution, elitism and fear.” BOOM. Money shot right there.
    Great work. You win. You are the best and possibly the boss of me from now on.

    1. A really well thought-out and structured piece. I like that you processed your responses to the evening, and obviously thought about how you would write it up. Thanks Chris! I particularly liked your Three Cs, and that you managed to hold onto to things of value in that meeting.

      I grew up in church community and a religious culture and sense of belonging – but not now – not at the cost of my wider human brother/sisterhood. Not at the cost of my self identity being totally dependant on being “good enough”, or not “half-gay”, or, and this is what is most toxic -” fear of exposure”… which is sometimes how such community actually gel together- pity. Community is VERY important to me, but that one is poison (for me). I know that sounds harsh. But hey – I am 7th generation preacher’s daughter – I had to be harsh to break out.

      You know what I have found though, is that everything I miss about the community I can still find “out here”. I just have to look, and participate. Doesn’t have to be an organised group. It is a self-woven web of like-minded people engaging in reciprocal relationship.

  8. The Christian thing is so tricky isn’t it. I say that coming from a somewhat Christian background, in that my father was an Anglican priest – was, because he found it harder and harder to reconcile the idea that people took the bible literally, and used it to incite the hate and prejudice you describe so well above. Was, because he watched his own children turn their back on the church, and the church turn their back on his children, on his dear friends, who may or may not have been masturbators, but were indeed gay, and on a range of other people willing & wanting to be part of a church that did not want them.
    The newer versions of christianity, with their hip rock bands, huge conference like buildings and the promise of community reel people in, then carry on their love of their god at a cost to all those who do not fit in to their (in my opinion) very narrow world view.
    It somewhat saddens me that while religions – of any bent – could be places of great acceptance, love, respect and community, they are not – there are rules to follow, norms to adhere to, and prejudices to keep alive, all supported by a (again, in my opinion) out dated, and frankly incorrect interpretation of the bible.
    Thank you for a very articulate post.

    1. Thanks for a really thoughtful response and not just focusing on the half-gay bit.

      In response, I wonder if it is human nature to gather together and create community in part by excluding. Why don’t Atheists attend an Atheist (for want of a better word) church?

      Sure, Atheists do have Atheists meetings, but the only people who attend are motivated by their hated of religion. Those that aren’t bothered by religion tend not to attend, and probably if they expressed their views, wouldn’t be welcome. The exclusion creates the club.

      Something like a quarter of all Australians are Atheist or Agnostic, beaten only by Catholics in “belief” size. Yet we have no political influence. No community. No power. Even the media-derided, tiny minority of Islamic followers in Australia have more political nous than Atheists.

      I think for Atheism to succeed as a community it has to establish what we are for. Not just wishy-washy motherhood statements but actual guidelines of behaviour. This includes rejecting behaviour outside what is declared the norm. And it has to have a clear view on sex and it can’t be “it’s fun, yeah”. Guidelines. Capture the middle ground by being pro-children, pro-family but above all, Atheists have to exclude something else beside religion.

      Maybe I’ll start an Atheist church. We’ll all stand around baking apple pies, read passages of “The Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan and “How to be Idle” by Tom Hodgkinson and then break out into “A Glorious Dawn” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc) and everyone needs to learn the uke.

      Who’s with me?

  9. One side of my family is very Irish Catholic, the other are Atheists. So I have grown up with a healthy dose of both viewpoints and probably fall somewhere in the middle. As in I believe in God but don’t necessarily go to Church.
    Recently the Catholic Church has been the subject of a great deal of publicity surrounding the abuse of children particularly by one Brendan Smyth. It is alleged the Pope helped to cover this up. My aunt was one of his victims. She killed herself a few years ago.
    That kind of knowledge is a huge scar on my heart and I struggle with supporting a patriarchal institute that perpetuated that abuse and covered it up. But I also question how a mother failed to protect her daughter and chose instead to allow the Church to dictate her actions, or lack thereof.
    So I am here, someone who believes in the existence of God, someone who believes in equality, love, tolerance. Hell if one of my kids came to me tomorrow and told me they were gay, bi or try sexual I wouldn’t give a damn.
    What I am trying to say in a very confused, inarticulate way, which is what ALWAYS happens when I discuss this subject is that I don’t get Church and your experience infuriated me more than I can say in one teeny tiny comment.
    I think Nomie said it best for me: “It somewhat saddens me that while religions – of any bent – could be places of great acceptance, love, respect and community, they are not – there are rules to follow, norms to adhere to, and prejudices to keep alive, all supported by a (again, in my opinion) out dated, and frankly incorrect interpretation of the bible.”
    Yes, me too.

  10. Thanks for a really interesting read. I think your post illustrates perfectly how difficult it can be for church goers to separate themselves from all the prejudice that is inherent in not just the christian religion, but in many organised religions.

    I am also an atheist and I actually can find it quite hard to countenance the idea of religion being in any way a force for good in the world. I realise that it can be good for the individual, but for the global community?

    I realise that my opinion is just one of many however, and it is always fascinating for me to read the opinions of others on this topic.

  11. Wow, great post Chris.

    I was raised a Catholic: went to Catholic schools, church, the whole lot. But I was always just going through the motions that were expected of me. I never believed any of it and, for me, it felt strange standing and sitting and saying the same words over and over. I felt like a parrot.

    Some of my family remain ‘believers’ and do all of that, but it means a lot to them. And I respect that. It just wasn’t for me. I never felt as though I belonged in that community.

  12. Firstly – very impressed by the balance in your family – makes me smile and feel hopeful.
    I grew up in organised religion (mother=priest=anglican) and religious schools and as such now go no where near them, but just the other day was wishing i had some kind of faith in something.
    I hate the politics of churches, lots of which are behind the scenes…but this…this comment sadly left me unsurprised and I want to be surprised. I wan to be shocked that a priest could say that and think that and I’m just not. I want to be saddened that people react like that and I am sad, but not in that ‘oh how could they’ way – just in a its wrong and nasty and I don’t like it but so not a shock way…and that makes me sad.
    I wish there was somewhere where people could have faith and believe and spend time together and not JUDGE.
    Thank you for this post – made me think – sorry for the long comment.
    *off to investigate religions other than anglicanism or catholicism again*

  13. I’m an atheist, one who believes firmly in the 3Cs, too! I’ll join your church, Idle!

    I do, however, want my children to learn about religion. Every religion. So I let them go to scripture at school (although I really wish the trial of ethics classes was more than just a trial).

    But late last year, Mr 8 came home and said, “Mummy … at scripture today we were told that if we didn’t believe in God we could NOT be GOOD people!”

    One of my good friends is a groovy, young, married Anglican priest. Fabulous man! I don’t think he’s barking mad, I admire his faith, but I don’t share it. I have asked him though for a bit of help in repairing the damage done by that comment above!

  14. How did you address this madness despite letting it through to the keeper? Is it deplorable enough to act on it or just blog? And if so, how did you respond? Did you address him? Or was the 6hr sex session’s outcome too much fandom?
    You can’t be half pregnant. Either you’re not going to let your daughters get some of this four times of year or you are. Evil is conducted when good men do nothing.
    A/.

    1. Hi Adrian,
      What an excellent point. What did I do? I’ve thought about this a lot. Even before I agreed to attend the church at Easter & Christmas and a few times in-between. And I have left myself wide open for your interpretation in my blog, so thanks for bringing it up.

      Why didn’t I stand-up, forcibly point out the error of his ways then forbid my wife from attending church ever again and shield my girls from religion? After all, I’d get the satisfaction of punching back, slogging the arsehole then every Sunday onwards reflect on my moral superiority while reminiscing about how I once told that US pastor a thing or two.

      Attack, then permanently retreat. Win the battle and call it a day. That’s what a Good Man, it could be assumed, would have done. It’s a tempting proposition.

      Would he have stopped though? Would he would have said “This Atheist is right! The GLBT folk are people just like you and me! I’ll stick to the marriage sermon and just leave that bit out”.

      We both know the answer. It turns out telling people they are wrong does little, if anything, to change their mind.

      And sometimes, the war is more important than the battle. Diplomacy and patience won the Cold War. Not nukes. JFK didn’t say “Nukes in Cuba! Mo fo’s! Launch the bombers!” He negotiated. He held on. He comprised. Of course, it took another generation for Communism to collapse.

      The acceptance of GLBTs is on the same trajectory. If you look at any graph split into age groups the younger the group, the more acceptance of GLBTs and of gay marriage. All that needs to be done is… wait. Just wait it out. The gay-bashers will collapse not unlike the Second World did in 1991. It’ll happen quicker than you think.

      Just look at the comments on this blog. Look at the response of the media to “Norrie” and Conor Montgomery. Positive. Balanced. Supportive even. The end of homosexual persecution is closer than you think.

      What did I do that night? Nothing. What have I done since? I’ve talked to my church friends (as I mentioned in the blog) about this. And yes, I posted a blog. What will I do? Engage. Instead of yelling at a preacher, I’ll talk to my friends. I’ll make more friends at the church, and bring them onside too. I’ll lose the battle quite often, I expect. But each win is a win for life.

      Apple pies, my friend. I love apple pies.

      As for my daughters and church, this was always going to be a blog in its own right, I get asked about this so often. “As an Atheist, how can you let your daughters attend church? Even only occasionally? The Church is evil”. But a short version will suffice tonight.

      To be clear, I’m not exactly plonking my daughters in front of the Christian channel and leaving the room. Every second my daughters are in church, I’m there. I’m hearing what they are hearing. I’m observing their responses and I have a brilliant ace up my sleeve: I’m their Dad.

      Should the preacher say something I don’t agree with, I’ve got the rest of my life to talk to them. It’ll start in the car on the way home.

      I’ll ask questions. I’ll listen to their responses and I’ll keep the conversation going.

      My kids will be fine. Hopefully, when they mature enough to ask me “Is there really a God?” I’ll be able to bring them on board with me too. If I fail, at least their moral compass will point in the right direction. Because the church isn’t simply “evil”. The power structure may be, but in the end the churchgoers are just sometimes good, sometimes bad people, not unlike you or me.

      1. Here’s what I have to say to this.. Live and let live… If it so turns out your children decide they want to believe there IS a god… Then would you not be just the same as those religious leaders who persecute you for not believing.? It will get to a point in time where it will become their own choice, and if you did persecute them, then you’d be no better than my parents who seem to think I am silly for not wanting to believe what they believe…..?

      2. Hi Em,
        In the above comment, I do allow for the possibility that my children will believe in a God. I’m far more concerned about their ethics.

        But, yes, that will make them nutters!

      3. I appreciate the rich response for it fullness and frankness. I feel I know more about where you’re coming from, and the way you shape your views. And they’re completely fair enough in the sense that I understand what you are trying to say but the extension of your logic is somewhat inadequate.

        There are a few points I wish to respond to.

        I agree that giving your daughters a critical mind on these matters is the most powerful thing you can do, and the difference of the views of you and your partner is a positive opportunity to explore different ways of looking at the world. When these views are assessed in objective way it is a powerful tool.

        But what’s objective? That gay people aren’t liked by God? Should that even be on the continuum?

        I have some sympathy for your position though.

        I was brought up in the Catholic school system with church regularly and while I believe none of it one of the priests in Primary School was this an awesome priest called Michael Malone. I respect his devotion and intellectual passion for his vocation to this day. Since I left the school, he became Bishop, and one of the most vocal supporters of the victims of child abuse and critics of the church’s witness protection program of switching priests.

        And I get your role as Dad.

        My old man was like your self in his attendance of the Catholic School I attended in East Gosford, but his views on the world are some of the most humanist and considerate I could hope for.

        However it’s the politics where I find issue.

        Your comment has a ‘she’ll be right’ view of social injustice. I don’t agree that we can a lasire fair view to some things, but let’s think about it what these neo-churchs/dance parties/self groups produce. Steve Fielding is not only nuts but fundamentally destructive. In the US these lobby has wayyy too much power and their views keep poor people poorer, stop them joining unions, believing in climate change, and thinking gay people are an abomination.

        And look, my old man would never voice this on a blog, so I welcome the conversation wholeheartedly.

        But, where the rubber hits the road, is where these views become more powerful, and it affect us all. Aids policies and contraception availability, abortion, euthanasia, censorship and even socially constructed notions of sexuality itself when presented with the logic of a higher power and a catchy band are actually really destructive. Because they’re not about what God thinks.

        And I think you know this, but don’t put it together given you don’t want to rock the boat in your marriage. And I respect that to as an unmarried straight dude hungover in Melbourne.

        Question time, if your daughter was gay would that change your views of the struggle for gay rights?

        Should she be able to get married?

        As for the argument that the cold war simply ran out of steam because of diplomacy and patience – the term mutually assured destruction makes the use of nuclear weapon untenable. The cold war ended because the Russians could not continue to fund wars of adventure like Afghanistan (Rambo 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambo_III) and if you hadn’t noticed there’s still a major communist power looming as the second power of the world against that major capitalist one…

        And there’s not much hot about that war either…

        And they don’t have an religion. Or many rights. Should we stand up to China?

        I think my Dad would take the bagging him out in the car on the way home option too.

      4. Adrian,
        OK, a brief as possible response to your points.
        1) Should the statement “God doesn’t like gay people” be part of my daughters’ path to a critical mind? Yes, of course but not right yet. She wasn’t at the marriage seminar.
        2) Laissez-faire means Steve Fielding and the US Christian Lobby do all the talking. Its been a while since I’ve been asked to save the world (let me tell you some Dad tall tales mate!), however I can’t do anything about either. Steve Fielding is a problem for Victorians. Of course, he’s a hardly an evil powerful overload controlling Australia. He’s a national joke. Just a silly, stupid little boy, elected off a 2% primary vote and a preference deal that neither major party is likely to repeat. He’ll be gone in this year’s election, or I’ll eat my hat.
        As for the US Christian lobby, I’ll fall back on the old joke: Why do we have America? It’s a place to keep Americans. The problem there is not mine to fight.
        That said, I’m not laissez-faire: I talk a lot but only in my community. My point was I could be relaxed – the fight is all but won.
        3) The views of the Christian Right are becoming more powerful. I’d admit they are becoming louder. My own reaction of shock to hear such overt displays of GLBT-hate is a sign that it is not acceptable outside the four sides of a church building. Even in the US some states have already approved same-sex marriage despite the power you assign the US Christian Right. That itself should raise questions about their true power.
        4) I’m afraid to rock the boat in my marriage. Absolutely on the money here. LOL. Marriage IS compromise, after all. And I do want to have sex with her again (maybe after a nap though). I’m not ashamed to say I’ve compromised on my personal beliefs about the existence of God and allowed my daughters to attend church to please my wife.
        As for GLBT issues, her twin sister is ten years into a same-sex relationship. So I compromise on an issue that doesn’t matter day-to-day (God’s non-existence) but we agree on one that does (GLBT equality).
        5) I’d change my tune if one or both of my daughters became gay and wanted to be married. Not really. There is very little I can do to impact the political discourse in this country, except vote and maybe… blog? I can however, engage my local community through BBQs and yes, through apple pies.
        As for the fall of communism and the rise of China, let’s take that to a pub. The topic deserves beers. I nominate the Old Woy Woy pub. We could even watch the footy.

  15. You remind me of my reasons for being a christian and for being anti-religion. I was raised a Catholic and have rejected that church for all the bigotry, hatred and narrow-mindedness of its hierarchy and many of its adherents. Yet I allowed my daughter to choose to become a Catholic because there are values I hope she will learn from those within the Church who seek to be part of what is good within religion. I want my children to learn that community is important, that what we do, how we act does not stop at our door, that we all need more in our lives than our nuclear family can provide. The Church in this instance, can support what I teach my children and assist me in showing them how to recognize, and refuse to be party to, all that is destructive within that same frame. There is so many things within Christianity and Religion which have the potential to support your three C’s. There are so many people and rules within them that destroy real chances for it.

    On a side note – What of women? Does he not consider that women masturbate or simply failed to include them in his unbelievably ridiculous statement? Whether I masturbate or not, I’m still heterosexual.

      1. I’d love one of those too but only if I can still believe that there is a manifestation of all that is good. Good begets good, evil begets evil…

        And ok – I’m half gay then… least I know I’m in good company as it doesn’t include those wankers who don’t wank lol

  16. See, you lost me at the 3Cs. Not that I don’t love and want them too, but the idea that Churches provide them, or rather that they are a good way to get them. Because to me, that 4 minutes describes it perfectly and you called it – they are about rules and exclusion. I’d rather not have them at all than have them based on hate.

    And never having been to churches I certainly don’t feel their lack – continuity is family and history, community is friends, volunteer groups, parent networks and sporting clubs, culture is the entire enormous range of art, music, literature and discussion that surrounds us. It would never occur to me that atheism would need to provide them, because they are all around us in a healthy, positive way.

  17. Well, I think you got my take on it the other day… And I think it is the same.. The reality here is that I am not a christian, but I am not an atheist.. I like the three c’s.. I like the community, continuity and culture.. I like it.. And it has been there for me in my time of need. I truly do admire what you stand for Chris, and I think your girls are truly lucky to have a father like you.. I think that the balance you are presenting them is more than most could say.. I think that it’s important for kids to get all the stories, cos one day they will get to a point where they will make up their own mind… I wish I could articulate what I am thinking as well as what you have… Now, do you have any brothers, say around 25-29yo? Hehehehe!!

    1. Sure, sure. If I was single, five to ten years younger and you were drunk in a bar… After listening to my drivel for five minutes you’d look over my shoulder and say “Is that Kerri Sackville’s gardener? He’s hot!” take him home and do-what-doesn’t-work-outside-of-marriage.
      I’d go half-gay.

  18. This post is very timely for me. I was raised Catholic and even went as far as having my children baptised, mainly for cultural and family reasons I suppose. My husband and I are now at the stage of choosing a school for our eldest child – the Catholic school across the road, or the public school several blocks away. I mean, it’s across the road. Seriously, it would have to be some kind of major deal-breaker for me not to choose it, right? Particularly since we *are* Catholic (after a fashion) anyway. Then again, given the way the Christian Church has done and continues to disgrace itself with not only its actions and reactions, but with its core teachings, how could I possibly send my child there, as a lamb to the slaughter? These are deal-breakers and then some.

    Of course in many groups of human beings you will get a wide range of the spectrum – from tolerant, loving and inspiring through to bigoted, mean and ridiculous – but the institutionalised nature of the bigotry and misogyny is what worries me the most here,(and I am more knowledgable about the Catholic Church here than other Christian churches). Not just that you happened to strike an incredibly ignorant, homophobic person who is a minister of the church, but that his views are supported and endorsed by said church’s teachings, all the way to the top. What the hell kind of recourse is there then? But. You have articulated very well my main argument for sticking with it, not by subjecting myself to weekly verbal lashings at church, but by continuing to engage in a discourse with the Church community, and even, dare I say it, sending my child to a Catholic school.

    I had a very good experience of Catholic school, particularly in high school, rather than endorsing these evil aspects of Church teaching, on the contrary we were taught to challenge, debate and dissent from within. We had a feminist nun principal who rocked many boats; openly gay teachers who were embraced into the heart and soul of the school; and religion lessons that saw us learning about every religion under the sun. We questioned whether there was a God, and if so why did humans insist on ascribing it with a gender – things I found pretty awesome as a 16-year-old. Maybe the school was an underground renegade movement. A Resistance school, if you like.

    I read a recent article by Wendy Harmer who said that she sends her children to Catholic school because they are receiving a history and culture lesson in religion as much as anything else, and whatever they are taught can be brought home and discussed at length in the (hopefully) more influential sphere of the family home. That article as well as your point about playing the trump ‘Dad’ card has reminded me that what I’m trying to achieve for and with my children are that they will be analytical, free thinkers who are not just capable but interested in forming their own conclusions based on many different sources of information.

    I am very uncomfortable identifying as a Catholic because of the shame of that institution, and also (just as importantly) I have very different ideas about what God means and is than is expressed by the church. But I am unwilling to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.I identify with Kerri’s claim to being a cutlrual Jew but not a religious one. I feel a bit the same way about the rituals and practices that have come from being raised Irish Catholic.

    I too believe and hope that the tide is turning and widespread tolerance is just around the corner. Surely once these old dinosaurs die off it will make way for a new and better-informed generation? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is idealism at its worst. If I left the Catholics to just atrophy in their own irrelevance I will never know. But I will be asking pointy questions of the school principal before enrolling my son at the school, and I do know that my children will be strong enough to challenge ideas that don’t sit well with them, and if I can’t stand the heat, well… they will be moving to the public school down the road.

    1. Choose the school that is going to best meet your child’s needs. Catholic schools do have a great sense of community and many of the basic ethics of the church are sound principles for life. My daughter went to the local primary and my son goes to the local catholic school. I chose for each child rather than the location or avoiding the catholic school. The other thing I like about the Catholic school is that along with the community aspect goes the expectation of betterbehaviour. Bullying is far less of a problem because it is more noticeable and tolerated less. There are no excuses that nothing can be done due to a lack of parental acceptance or government guidelines etc…

  19. Great post. I think you know I’ve a bit of a problem (from the perspective of a lapsed Catholic) with organised religion and Christianity in general and this is precisely why. The four minutes of evil bigotry out of hours of good stuff – but it’s the four minutes that shows what the doctrine is really about. You can be a Christian who is against that kind of bigotry but you’ll be in opposition to what I see as a core, undeniable tenent of that faith – that if you don’t believe the same things we believe, you won’t be saved. And the evil that flows from that one pernicious little requirement is quite without measure.

  20. Thanks anidledad, you’ve made my day. Love the post and all the comments. Bring on the Athiest ‘church’ we can all shout out our love of community. We’ll need to write some hymns…

  21. Ok. So first up, can you please stop writing brilliant posts as I’m about to walk out the door. Got this yesterday as we were about to embark on a 2hr trip and I was plastered to the screen, and then tried in desperate vain to add comment (first one even) putting relationship with half gay hubby in to major jeopardy til he stomped his feet and shoved me out the door. In the car, I tried to add comment about 5 times, interrupted each time by new comments to read and hubby telling me to get off blackberry. This morning kids have not stopped talking/jumping on my head for 2hrs straight as my fingers hovered over the keyboard/desperately trying to get through some damn fine comments and finally comment myself. It has got to the point where I had to have hubby read it, him respond with ‘yeah. that’s good” in order to get him to round up the kids, take them to the back corner of the garden, virtually sitting on the neighbours fence and shut 3 layers of doors. Just so I can respond.

    Right, now that’s over and done with….

    I’ve had one negative experience with the church I have no interest in being a part of but is kinda being forced on my kids by virtue of their grandparents being religious, at least at a helicopter level. Grandparents, I may add that are beautiful, caring, kind, non judgemental and….Catholic.

    Having had a premature baby that would likely not survive (and very sadly she didn’t), I was asked to rush a baptism. I was happy to do this – I knew it was important to them. What distressed me was finding out at the funeral that had she not been baptised, chances are ‘God would not have accepted her in heaven’. And they lost me there. They never had me, but maybe just maybe one day they would have. But in that single moment of ridiculousness I was lost for good. That individual beautiful baby, barely 2 months old, and not even full gestation at the time we lost her, was to be judged and sent to eternal hell or limbo spirit land somewhere because some fella in a black robe hadn’t swept his fingers across her. I was gone. For good.

    It is those four minutes that you experienced, the four minutes that I experienced and the zillion other four minute bundles of experiences, that have me stand in judgement for that for which I have minimal tolerance for – others judgement. Because it is there in bucket loads in a place I just cannot admire. The good people that follow that and other equally dictatorial churches? Hell, I reckon they’d be good people anyway.

    Faith is good thing. It brings people together. But most faith worship is driven by fear and ruled with an iron judgemental fist, usually in a transparent way but sometimes in the fine print as per the four minute theory.

    So. In short, respect for the individual (the good ones), but no thanks to inclusion to your god fearing church.

    I am sorry for the rambled comment. With kids banging at the door wanting to be let in there is no time for self edit. Next time I’ll comment when they’re asleep 🙂

    Thank you for the balanced view. They’re the ones I love best.

  22. Wonderful blog. Nothing irritates me more than these evangelical churches that pretend to be so funky while they reel you in and poison your mind. At least the Catholic system is so ritualistic (and boring) that you can count on most of it going over our little ones’ heads. Loving your work in Sunny Days too. I write for Jayne every now and again also and I’ve been enjoying your stuff. You and I live in the same bible belt and I’d even place bets on which church it was that so kindly enlightened you to the fact that you are half-gay. My husband and I are forever despairing at the rate at which new churches spring up in this area. Prime land wasted!

    In saying all this, my 7 year-old is attending a religious school (actually, she’s already attended 2 religious schools, The first one was sub-par). The brain washing concerns me but it does promote regular discussions at home about different beliefs. Now, when my daughter repeats sweeping religious statements made by her teacher, such as ‘Miss K says when we die we stay in the dirt until jesus comes down to earth again and then, if we’re good, we go to heaven’ (WHAT THE) she follows it up with ‘but that’s just HER belief and it doesn’t feel right to me.’

    The influence we have as parents is so impactful. Far more powerful than that of the religious doctrines being taught at my child’s school. Thank god! ha ha. For now, we are choosing to deal with the religious values of the school because it is academically superior to other primary schools in our catchment. Class sizes are small and the school’s teachers and resources are incredible. Short of moving to the Big City, it’s the best choice for the moment..

  23. Cool post (and comments) – there’s a lot of talk in Australian History community about the value of learning the heritage of our value systems.

    Religious Judeo-Christian – traceable via:
    1) Brits
    2) Roman (Western AND Eastern)

    But they’ve also been blended with at least 2 our maybe 3 revolutions –
    The US,
    French
    Irish

    Add the most successful economic theory, capitalism.

    Its hard to imagine Australia being secular, ordered and morally ok (ish) without these influences but can we now, as a mature society (?) move on without religion? I reckon you can.

    The religious rules/dogma were designed to create an ordered society (albeit a few thousand years ago) – and they served us well for all the time that westerners were virtually all deeply religious. But we can keep the rules, keep the influences without having to underpin the whole bag with the line ‘because that’s what god wants me to do’. The proof is the huge range of religions in the world that have common themes of justice, honesty, compassion etc. We as ape-ish animals living in large communities must have rules. Birds have ‘rules’ about flying in flocks, ants have rules about function and bees have rules about communication. We are the only lot to have taken two extra steps:
    codification and
    spiritual attribution of our conditions.

    I reckon these certainly happened in the opposite order – but that’s not really what I wanted to get into.

    To go back to the beginning – kings and emperors would always claim spiritual authority (or even divinity!) for their position – it makes it hard for someone to consider revolt when really they’d be spitting in a god’s face. It also makes their position absolute. Charles II argued his way back into England by basically saying “If you can guarantee me certain rights AND uphold them then I can do the same for you and all other Britons”. Like there were only two ‘people’ in the whole country!

    But when the above mentioned revolutions took place the kings god-ish authority was happily ditched for, as the Americans put it, things that were ‘self evident’. All men ‘were created equal’. The French with their own ‘equality, fraternity, liberty’ – these were ideas that were born either by something MUCH deeper than dogma or something utterly divorced from it.

    What it does show is that we can write the rules for our society we want, while tipping the hat or giving the finger to our predecessors. Even better, we can do both!

    That Pastor’s only reason (I am guessing) for denigrating gay folk is a line in the Old Testament. I doubt he was pondering all possible relationships in the world, tossing (pun intended) around scenarios, people, circumstance and came to the conclusion that ‘hey, you know what, this whole ‘gay biz’ just doesn’t work – I know, I’ll check the Bible and see what that says…well! My my! It also says that gayness is not on. Well, that’s that then!’

    He started with a conclusion and worked backwards – cherry picking ideas and ‘proof’ to prove his point.

    I’m yet to hear a compelling argument to ban homosexuality that doesn’t have somewhere in the background the idea that a deity did some smiting once and we’d also better behave unless he does it again. I have, however, been convinced that stealing SHOULD be banned – not because god zapped it onto the 10 commandments but because my society is better for it.

    Rant over. Here’s another angle from Hedwig and Angry Inch.

    1. Holy shit Cameron, thanks for the comment! You’ve officially made it take longer to scroll through the comments than the whole marriage course thingy was.
      A couple of immediate responses:
      1) Drinking red wine then posting is fun, isn’t it? Time to back away though
      2) When I wrote that the preacher “was encouraging pure hate. His only reason was a single sentence in an old book he admired” I kinda meant, you know, was implying what you just wrote.
      3) You have made the Ant God very, very angry. Do not go on a picnic
      4) Any disclaimers or conflicts of interest you need to make?
      5) China! Cameron, China! That is what this post is really about, isn’t it? Wait, I can’t remember..

      Ta,
      Chris

      I mean it about picnics.

  24. Good Lord (or maybe not), but what a lot of comments! And incisive, articulate, interesting comments too, to go with the blog. Great stuff! I was brought up in the Anglican church, but a fairly charismatic/fundamentalist strain (speaking in tongues, people getting slain in the spirit, women preching etc.) and they positively encouraged masturbation. I remember sermons on the subject- the theory being that if it saved us from the dreaded premarital sex, well that was all good- why not? I left the church b/c of sex, but I was always pleased they were brave enough to at least have that approach. So sorry that you saw the other hateful, bigoted side- I think I would have stood up and left at that point. Sadly,even in my progressive church a good friend of mine (who was the youth minister) got booted out when he realised/announced he was gay- the church needs to come to terms with this issue to maintain some sort of relevance in today’s society, but it’s clearly not going to happen. So sad.

  25. I consider myself Christian- I imagine hard liners would not as I live happily in sin with my Jewish partner and neither I nor he have any desire to switch religions to unify the house, because, as far as we are concerned our house is UNIFIED. I taught Sunday school every week for years until I moved across the country, but I do not think I was a “better ” Christian then simply because I was in the Church.
    I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the holy trinity and if I am an uneducated fool at least I am a relatively peaceful one.I submit to you ,that unlike a lot of organized religions, you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian any more then my non practicing partner is less Jewish for not keeping kosher food laws and eating a cheese burger.
    Its sad that an ignorant slippery Pastor had to ruin an entertaining evening by slipping in such hate, but its sadly, not unusual.
    I believe, and again this is just me that a lot of Biblical laws and Jewish laws for that matter were more survival tactics then ” God will smote you for having hand to gland combat”
    Kosher laws of not being able to mix dairy and meat were to avoid food poisoning, among other things.Those laws worked at THAT time just as my telling my seven year old unless he behaves Santa is so not coming- its bunk but it gives me less back talk when its egg nog time.
    In short, I am a Christian who thinks that its none of my business what my neighbors and friends do in their own beds, that there is no stigma ,divine or otherwise that should be placed on homosexuals or masturbators for that matter, and that the preacher was for lack of a charitable Christian verb to throw in here- was a hate mongering bastard.
    So this is not to tell you to fling away your cloak of atheism, but in a forward thinking world, please do not think that this jerk off ( wow look at the angry Christian not turning the other cheek, hey) speaks for all of us.

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