I love church.
I loved church, and God as I was taught and told to. I prayed, religiously. I was baptized, took communion, attended bible study and Sunday school regularly as my Mother instructed. I was in attendance to church most every Sunday until… 1998. I was about 15 attending a catholic all girls college prep school. There was an ish teacher (Scottish or Irish) with a thick accent, Mr. McGrane. He taught one of the required religion courses, The Old Testament. I did not know what to expect in the class but it was religion, I felt like I already had the plug so it’d be fairly easy, nope.
Mr. McGrane was woke. He taught The Old Testament as a book not as doctrine to instill. The class was focused on the making of the Old Testament. Who wrote what and how many times it was written, edited, translated and destroyed. I learned of the books missing and those added as time progressed, leaders changed and the ideologies developed. I learned the Torah (Pentateuch/The Law) was the same scripture the Jewish used and that most of my Christian bible was actually Jewish/Hebrew. (Judeo/Christian traditions) I learned who King James was and the Hampton Court Conference. I learned how each ruler switched the religion of it’s nation as they saw fit. The Council of Nicea. The Crusades. I saw religion in all of its tyranny.
It didn’t stop there, I also took a New Testament course and a World Religions course in high school. I learned that many of the bible’s stories were recycled and edited to fit the culture of the day. I learned that men, anglican white men, wrote what I read altered to their tastes. The jig was up. I was steadfast in my faith until I had to reconcile the history of how the bible was written and what had to happen for it to be rewritten. I began to see the bible, the church and religion exclusively as history.
I didn’t lose my religion. I held my faith in fear. Fear of death and hell. I was in and out of religion until I took an art history course in college. The art predating Christian, Jewish and Muslim tradition was much like that of the images I saw in church and the bible. The stories of immaculate conception, a trinity or three headed deity, the rituals of prayer and fasting. (Many people saw their gods after long periods of fasting when most people reach deliration and hallucinate due to malnutrition.) There were so many similarities and blatant copies of ancient practice that no passion could be had for religion knowing that few, if not none of the stories were original. It was no longer holy to me.
To add, I began to look for monotheism in African tradition. I asked how Black Americans became so
programmed impassioned to a religion not their own. Beyond the use to justify enslavement the bible is/was used to comfort the enslaved. The message I’ve gotten from religion is of salvation in death. It’s a literal placating prophesy of hope to those unhappy and living in misery to a divine purpose. The solutions to problems in the bible are often passive aggressive: messages of prayer and forgiveness and simultaneous messages of penance and reparations by acts of violence. I’d like to believe we have evolved and can mediate our problems with practical solutions. I’d like to.
Now I see the church, the leaders and its elite syphoning money from members and communities it does not support. Preaching prayer and objectives towards prosperity without a mission. There are very few missionary churches these days. I see the exclusion of people based on judgements of behavior by the hypocritical faithful. I see the falling of social programs and quality of life in the communities these churches live in tax free. I don’t see acceptance, love and forgiveness in religion. I see that in people.
I’ve stepped out on faith. I’ve taken the courage to let go of religion and the fear of god. I’m no longer performing acts of kindness as ritual but in love. I’m learning how to be a better person for the sake of others not my own soul. Although according to social media god is responsible for everything from Obama’s winning to Courtney’s sushi lunch, I promise you people are responsible. People are responsible for the good and bad in apathy and action. Prayer doesn’t solve problems, people do. No, I don’t think the world should stop praying or practicing religion. I think we should stop living for god and live for each other.
If we love the beings we connect with everyday we can heal with more power than prayer ever could.