From James van Aarde
(Before anyone has the potential to get offended, the bit about nuns is a joke. I have never in fact struck another human being and the idea of ACTUALLY burning someone to death is of course highly offensive)
I simply don’t know where to start. This is not exactly a story of de-conversion and I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this – If anything is certain it’s that the very act of writing this will make me feel a little better about the awful things I have witnessed tonight.
Let me begin with some background on myself – I live in South Africa and my parents sent me to a catholic school because apartheid (or at least the ripples thereof) was still in effect (what an awful situation that was) and it was one of the few schools in our city that offered a multi-racial education. I’ll give them that – Not particularly fussy about whom they brainwashed.
In order to label this a de-conversion story I’ll assume that at some point in my twelve years in this system I believed that Jesus was the son of God and there was this holy spirit (we were taught ghost) floating around. At some point though I began to acquire the amazing superpower of rational thought™ and (luckily for me) this was pretty much the dissolution of Catholicism (and all the other supernatural nonsense that was part and parcel) in my mind. It sucked though because I sure wasn’t falling for any of it but you are told in no uncertain terms that you are going to BURN IN HELL FOREVER almost no matter what you do, forced to attend mass, say confession (to a priest pissed on whiskey) as well as it being made perfectly clear that if you speak out or ask questions you are pretty much going to have your ass kicked by a nun. Ah, the wonderful memories of my youth.
I am now at the ripe old age of twenty four and I realized the other day that I only stopped praying about two years ago. Unbelievable. If I did not have a strict moral code to live by (gasp! morals in the absence of religion?!!) I would go back to that hell-hole (pun indeed intended) and take a flamethrower to the place. I’m ashamed to admit that the image of a group of nuns frantically flailing about, habits aflame is a slightly erotic one for me. No, I’m only kidding – I’m not actually ashamed to admit it. At least I’m not telling them that they have a chance of roasting in hell FOREVER. At least all I want to do is kill them ONCE. It’s impossible to conceive, this concept of eternity – I used to lie in bed at night totally freaking out with the thought that I might not dig it in heaven and if so, what the bloody hell am I going to there for all of eternity? The concept of hell for eternity was, I think, impossible for me to grasp, otherwise I would probably have tried to kill myself, except of course that would have sent me straight down (these people have an answer for everything don’t they?).
As I said I only stopped praying about two years ago so it has taken me a number of years to finally shake off the last vestiges of Catholicism/HellFearDeathHorror syndrome.
That’s my story of religion in my life.
Or at least I wish it was.
My grandparents are very traditional Afrikaans people and therefore very involved in their church – The same bunch of idiots who justified apartheid by quoting verses from the bible. Of course since apartheid ended the church has apologized but still… I think when it comes to something like that (for all intents and purposes treating non-whites as an inferior race) what’s an apology really worth? Anyhow, I could be mistaken about this but I really doubt that you are going to stumble upon a lot of black people in their church, even today. Although that’s great – The less people supporting that nonsense the better.
Man I’m waffling. I do apologize. It’s late (2:30 A.M) but I’m going to write until I have this all off of my chest.
Point is, aside from my nuclear family I’m related to a LOT of very religious people – Different churches but at the end of the day all Christian in one form or the other. And something I’ve had to put up with my whole life is a subtle yet very obvious feeling that I’m not… quite as good/special/blessed/whatever as my religious relatives. Don’t get me wrong I’m not boo-hooing or anything – It’s just unbelievable how people can totally disregard your character (I think I’m a relatively cool guy) and pass judgment on you simply because you have trouble buying into their particular brand of superstition.
I’ll try and cut a long story short:
Last week I had a band with two other very awesome human beings. We had played a couple of gigs which went awesomely and we were, I think, on the verge of international super-stardom ;). In all seriousness it was a future oriented activity for all of us and we were giving it our all in order to try and make a success of it.
Then last Thursday our drummer came over and told me (to nutshell it) that he had became a reborn again Christian and that he had to leave the band as a sacrifice to Jesus. To prove his love or something I think. Which brought up the question (which I posed to him) of why an all knowing god would need to have anything PROVED to him. I still don’t really get it – Seems he/she/it is a little on the insecure side.
Anyhow, this brand of Christianity, while not being totally new to me was mostly pretty alien territory and I have spent the last week attempting to understand it all. I know that I haven’t scraped the surface of the whole issue but I think I may have a definite handle on the whole thing. I’d imagine that you are probably the last people in the world who need to hear about the absurdity of original sin (what’s it got to do with me) and Jesus dying for those sins (again, what’s it got to do with me? And he’s an immortal all knowing god who must have known how the whole thing was going to play out anyhow). For sure I’ve heard or read just about all the arguments and rationalizations in the past couple of days but EVERY SINGLE TIME I bring up ANYTHING that would actually challenge their universe it’s either I don’t know yet/the other Christian (brain #2) will know or the lord works in mysterious ways/Puny humans have not the right nor the capability to even begin to understand God. I’d love to be tolerant but it’s a pathetic cop-out. I think, above all, we as the human species have to try and find a way to operate smoothly on this earth together and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that without religion that would be about half the battle won.
Back (finally) to the events of tonight:
I went to church with my ex-drummer because I still hope (in vain I’m beginning to realize) that his massive emotional paradigm shift can be opposed with a good sensible dose of reason and I want to show him that I’m willing to check out his side of things. Well, it was sickening. Being outside of their lovesick/delusional? framework the service, I think, really showed itself for what it was. The charade began with a bit of praise and worship (swaying/singing/muttering/flag waving) which was followed by a rather hectoring (it seemed) request for money. I was even told that I could (should/must) borrow money from my neighbor if I had none… While asking (demanding?) for money the pastor brought up two things that disturbed me – He said his cousin (a non-believer) had died two days ago and that if his cousin could rewind the day died, he would have accepted Jesus into his heart. I don’t think I need to point out how unbelievably presumptuous and callous a statement like that is not to mention the thinly veiled reference to death/hell/worship = more money to God if you don’t want to fry. The second thing that annoyed me was he kept on harping on about how Gods love is priceless so give, give, give! As much as you can afford plus 10%. This really pisses me off because South Africa is a seriously poor country for a lot of its inhabitants and I somehow doubt that *god* for all of his priceless love is actually going to see any of that money…
Then the guest pastor spoke. Horrible little toad of a man. Wobbling jowls, the lot. Again, two things that really grated my carrot – His entire sermon was based on a mistranslation of (I’m a little hazy here, hadn’t eaten the whole day and I smoked (used to) cannabis for six years which has not done wonders for my memory) I think the Greek word for word. Now the guy was somehow trying to explain why God never actually seems to respond even though you, as a devout Christian, have dedicated your entire existence to him. What struck me as odd though is that he stated that the entire bible (“from Genesis to Revelation”) was translated from Greek. Now, in my last couple of days of admittedly rather amateurish research the bible (or at least the various bits and pieces that eventually became the bible as we know it today) stems from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. To base an entire sermon on the lie that it was all written in Greek is, well, a LIE. I mean the guy really made it sound like somewhere out there in the world is the original bible which is similar to the modern bible except that it is written in Greek and that even ordained ministers/scholars have a hard time translating it. Ridiculous.
I’m almost done! Have you read this far? I commend you ;).
The second thing that got my goat was that after all this he started telling a long story about a woman who had cancer and how her faith miraculously healed her (!) never mind the fact that she had undergone an operation as well as chemotherapy. I honestly cannot think of many things more pathetic and irresponsible than leading people to believe that their faith is going to cure their illnesses. Not to mention that if they do die their faith was obviously not strong enough which does not bode well for them…
I had to leave at that point. I simply could not take it any more.
Crazy. I feel like I’m living in the twilight zone.
I’m all for freedom of religion (freedom of anything really, providing it does not hurt you or the species that have to inhabit the earth with you) and I will stand up for people to have the right to believe whatever they wish. But a mind-control cult that teaches people that they are worthless sinners and that miracles are possible. I think not.
I DO feel better. But tired. Its two minutes past four in the morning.
I’m a high-school drop out so please excuse all the commas :)
James van Aarde
email: twenty_five_hour_day At hotmail dot com