Apparently there are two things you should never talk about on your first few dates with people: Politics and Religion. I think this is a stupid rule, because your politics and your religion are probably fundamental determinants in whether you will be compatible with anyone (unless you’re of the belief that a Devil worshipper and a devout Catholic can fall in love and live in divided bliss? Well I’m not, so good luck with that).
And I believe conflict of religious beliefs is the number one contraceptive these days? I JEST OF COURSE; not having sex is the best form of contraception, duh. What do you mean that’s less fun?
Anyway, anyway: religion. I am a firm believer in the freedom to practice any religion you see fit, in the hopes that it’s requirements don’t insist that you murder other people as sacrifices to the god of saucepans, or who/ whatever. But besides that, I think that believing in something is great, and for many it can be a source of protection and comfort. Speaking as someone who used to also have religiously motivated beliefs, I used to view God as this all powerful being that was like my bodyguard twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He didn’t get annual leave or time off in lieu; I was a task master. And I believed what I believed for a lot of reasons that eventually had little to do with my own personal feelings about God, religion and the whole shebang.
Regardless of how my feelings and beliefs have changed and evolved, it’s none of my business what other people believe, and vice versa. I’m all for respecting others beliefs but only of they’re going to respect mine and not tell me I’m destined for Hell (or whatever the equivalent of that is in other religions that aren’t Christianity) if I do not start believing what they do. Judgement of others based on our own expectations, makes me slightly incensed. We all do it because we’re only human, but many of us do it silently and know that it’s our own opinion rather than something that’s been glorified in the name of religion. Wars have been started and continue to rage because of this judgement-entitlement religious fanatics have taken on and made their own. So until someone proves to me otherwise, there are aspects of religion that seem pretty dangerous to me.
So I will, even before a first date, probably mention it, to save both parties a lot of time and hassle (like say if you’re a reverend or religious leader, we’re probably not destined to be together). It’s usually a brief conversation that once out of the way, can pave the way for lighter, more enjoyable things like favourite books and a potentially questionable interest in line dancing.
I’m less concerned with getting the politics out of the way because unlike religion, its fundamentals are not (or at least I hope they’re not) based on just blind belief. Someone usually has specific reasons for their following of a political party, even if they’re misguided (obviously I’m biased about my own party following, shock horror). So politics can be discussed and argued about, and sometimes changed. I’m always open to change in the intellectual sense, so I don’t know why people say you shouldn’t talk about it; unless you’re someone who’s not open to change intellectually. Again, we probably won’t get on in the long term.
I don’t come from a family where we “talk about things”, despite choosing a career that actively encourages that – probably as some form of subconscious (actually very consciously aware) rebellion to that. And one of the things we didn’t talk about or question, was religion. Yes I’ve gone back to religion, calm down! This is a stream of consciousness, not a “structured piece of writing” – you should know this by now, Reader. Anyway, I’ve come back to it because I think I should present the other side of my experience of it, and not just the time when I turned away from it and stopped believing primarily in what other people said I should believe in.
Despite the many, many contradictions I was privy to as a young person growing up in the church (both Baptist and Seventh Day Adventist; just to cause me confusion and take away my ENTIRE WEEKEND), there were many things about it that I found beautiful. The twenty-four hour security that I mentioned earlier was one, but the music was another. Singing in the choir was the only time I felt remotely close to the God I imagined in my head, and I was inspired; but not by church or the rituals or even the scripture. Instead I was inspired by the humanity of it all. It didn’t (at one point) seem like a desperate need for a group of people to cling to something that gave their lives meaning, it just came with a sense of hope. The joy that filled the room when it was just melodies and voices, without judgement or reprieve, was for a long time, unmatched.
I remember visiting Notre Dame in Paris for the first time when I was 23 or 24, and being completely blown away by the beauty of it all, and the humanity again. I was so in awe that people, actual people, had built the entire thing and you could just tell that nothing but love had gone into its creation. It could have been love of the work itself, love of buildings or for many; a love of God. But either way, it was the human capacity for love that I felt when I walked in. That was the feeling I got when singing and hearing music in church; that it came from a place of love.
Perhaps that’s why I left it, because as great as we are at love, we are still fallible with a great ability to let each other down. In my mind, love is about an openness and acceptance of all; an unconditional mechanism that has no ifs or buts. Yet the longer I stayed and the older I got, the more conditions I realised there were. And the more conditions there were, the more hypocrisy and double standards began to overtake things, until all I could see was close mindedness around me.
Of course, I must stress that this is my experience only, and perhaps those that still believe know something that I don’t, and if so I am very, very happy for you. I’m also pretty certain that some people might read this and hate it, and some won’t, which is fine. But it kind of proves my point (like I ever have one, I’m just trying to make you believe I do by putting a resolving sentence at the end. You’ve been punked), that religion divides people.
I still think it’s something we should all talk about though.
Image credit: quiet by Bohdan Burmich from the Noun Project