Julian wants to “eat the bread” which means, take communion at church. He no longer attends a Catholic school, so we have to take sacrament preparation classes after school, every Tuesday evening until sometime in May. Not only does he have to take classes outside of school, but he requires a special needs class structure.
I made a call, found a class at our parish, and absentmindedly volunteered to help out however necessary. Before I knew it, I was co-teaching the special needs class. Me. The “Catholic Agnostic.”
Yeah, it’s a little dishonest to walk a walk yet not support all the talk, dogma and misogyny that go with it. But after struggling most of my life with faith issues, or more specifically, issues with organized religion, I’ve come to accept that I’m simply an agnostic, or maybe a spiritualist or humanist. I act like a Christian, but without the advertisement label. But I do feel like I have to pretend to be one of “them” when we’re mixing, by taking part in the litany of prayers, the genuflecting, and generally believing in things like consubstantiation, virgin births, resurrections. Oh yeah, and that Adam and Eve didn’t have bellybuttons.
Why do I go to all this trouble? Because I promised. Before my husband and I were married, we spilled our guts about who we were, what we believed, etc. I essentially said that I was spiritual but not associated with any particular denomination. He was Catholic, all the way.
I agreed that once we were married, he’d lead, and I’d follow. We’d planned to have children, and we all needed to be on the same page. So I’ve kept my promise. We and our two children go to mass every Sunday. I help with religion homework. My children know all their prayers. I teach them Christian values. I volunteer at the school and church. I attend home masses, help with fundraising, donate to all causes Catholic. We look good on paper.
But I’m secretly just going through the motions. I tend to agree with a bumper sticker I saw recently: “Science flies us to the moon; religion flies airplanes into buildings.” It’s true. Invisible beings can say just about anything desperate people want hear. And I’ve seen this craziness in motion, within my own family of origin, my husband’s family and others. My mother saw Jesus at the foot of her bed once. My sister-in-law punches stuffed toy owls “because they’re evil.” My older sister went on a healing frenzy once, praying over everyone in her rural hometown, “curing” one by one (per her), yet God seemed unable to cure my sister of her heart ailment, terrible smoking habit, or her sailor’s mouth.
My father-in-law once paid a curandero (Mexican witch doctor) $750 to rid him of the poisons his wife was allegedly putting in his food. The “cure” required my father-in-law (aka “Beast”) to rub a rooster all over his body, hide the bird in a back bedroom for a week, and feed it anything the wifey cooked up. “It worked,” he told me later on. Though these days, he’s not sure why God allows so many visible ghosts and spirits to follow him everywhere he goes, male and female, adults and children alike, in his car, bedroom, living room, bathroom. They talk to him, float in and out of walls, shape-shift. He’s sought the help of priests and psychics, but to no avail. Oy vey…
I could tell stories about this kind of thing all day, the tales of over the top superstition and religiosity. I’ve studied every religion, attended their respective churches. It’s all the same, and boils down to the same thing: Nobody wants to die. That’s it. If you can show me a religion that doesn’t promise an afterlife, I’ll rethink my position. Until then, I’m open to more information, but I’ll put my money on science, philosophy, psychology, neurobiology. Maybe God speaks in binary code, “God” being an energy with no gender or personality, more of a committee than a lone entity. It’s certainly complicated, and no tedious pontificating religion can embrace or explain it.
Organized religion scares me, and it should scare you, too.
So tonight I’ll begin co-teaching four little boys about all things Catholic, so they can participate in the sacraments with other typical children. This is very important to my autistic eight year old. He wants this, and by “Godmittee” I’ll do whatever it takes to make this happen, even if it means encountering some supernatural wrath and bursting into flames.