Friday, January 22, 2010

Religious Freedom

I haven't posted anything about couples counseling in over a year, but E and I have continued to see Dr. S just about every week.  I suppose an observer might think, "If you haven't figured it out by now, you're just stalling."  But it has been both liberating and helpful to deconstruct our 30 year relationship.

Compare it to the process of clearing land mines in an former war zone.

Eighteen months: learning to talk about things too difficult to discuss in the past.  And throughout, two dreaded subjects largely avoided: my disillusionment with Christianity and my extra-marital affair.  Again, I imagine the observer's surprise.  "Eighteen months and you haven't even discussed the affair?!"  It's true.  But if until now we've been learning to remove land mines, imagine these subjects as 1000 lb bombs embedded in the basement of the Children's Hospital -- it's better to defuse them than blow them up.

This week we explored my "loss of faith."

I was unable to attend last week's session -- E did it solo and I suspect she expressed frustration with our slow pace.  I'm guessing so, because this week Dr. S started with a bang and moved right along.  He began by asking me some pretty direct questions about my family history and how it has shaped my values.  This was not uncomfortable in itself -- we've touched on it before -- except for my feeling that I was being cross-examined.  But perhaps it was intended as a distraction because we pretty quickly moved out of my comfort zone to questions about church: when did my feelings change?  What were my beliefs 10 years ago?  20 years?  How did I feel about being a church worship musician with an eroding faith?  Was I deeply conflicted?

And I felt that I had good, thoughtful answers at hand.  I surprised myself: I really am not conflicted at all when it comes to my rejection of religion and dogma.  Good riddance.  And it was liberating to talk about it so openly with E, to disarm this particular bomb.  I know it's painful for her, but it's better than leaving the matter buried -- a lurking destruction.  In this I feel no ambivalence or regret, no longing to "go back".  I can see that this has been a process of change reaching back at least 25 years, bringing me to where I am now.

Not that I want to camp out here -- let the journey continue.  But I'll continue without prophets, messiahs, sacred texts, and the industries which exploit them.  God, save us from religion.


Kyra said...

Nice post. All of it.

I have similar feelings about my religious upbringing and my lack of interest now. I'm confident in my beliefs and have only one regret that is unrelated to my personal well-being (will share via email if you're interested.) But I was a 'believer' for a relatively short time compared to you.

My Dad went through something more like you. He was active in the choir and he and my mother were pillars of the church (read: avid contributors in both financially and abstract ways.) He is now an atheist and not active in the church (not saying you are an atheist, just comparing your separation from church with his.)

I asked him recently what his reaction is to the spiritual music he once participated in. And he said he has no rebirth of belief in god, but he still loves and is inspired by that music. I need to ask him more about his feelings on this topic. I find it very interesting to explore with him our mutual non-belief.

Apollo Unchained said...

Dear Kyra, thank you for your comments. Thoughtful as always -- I'm sorry I don't keep in touch more.

Music was actually a big part of the discussion in this counseling session. Dr. S (who is a practicing Christian) was surprised that I didn't look back on the worship experience as something intrinsically "Christian" and thus begin to yearn for what I was missing. Or perhaps he thought I would at least acknowledge the hypocrisy of playing in the worship band while losing my religion.

But that's fundamentally mistaken.

The real "worship experience" is not generally associated with any thoughts of doctrine or dogma. For the most part it's more a left brain vs. right brain thing: the worship I'm referring to is "ecstatic" and can often be experienced at a good rock concert.

Thanks for sharing your Dad's experience -- I relate very deeply to it. People in our shoes usually keep a low profile and thus are generally lacking in support, so it's good for me to hear about.

Kyra said...

Damn, can't get to your email mobile.

To sum it up, I keep you on my blogroll because whenever you do right, I relate to some aspect of it.

Huge hugs to you, darlin'!

Kyra said...

Ugh. Write, not right. *grin* the other works, too.

Anonymous said...

God made religion- The Devil organized it.

Apollo Unchained said...

Excellent point Ms. Winkle! And welcome to my blog ;-).

nitebyrd said...

Having never been religious, I've never had a loss of faith. I always am perplexed by people that sum up tragedies with, "It's God's will." Really? Why?

If clergy take vows of poverty, why does the church need so much money?

Why do you have to go to a church/building to talk to "God" if he's everywhere?

"Good Christians" have always proved the opposite to me. Maybe you haven't really lost faith but you've found something more meaningful.

Who am I said...

Apollo, glad to hear from you, and some of your experiences. Also, Kyra, interesting to hear more of your background also.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this insightful post. I was seriously involved in the musical worship in my parents' church when I was a child and teenager, and I liked the sense of community there. However, as a thinking adult, I had to reject much of the doctrine, and I've never looked back. I try to keep an open mind, but at the very least, I don't believe in organized religion, and I doubt mightily the existence of a single god-like being. Interestingly, my parents became more involved in religion as they aged. When I was young, it seemed to me that they attended church and participated because it was the expected thing, but in their later years, they seemed to gain more comfort from their faith. I've wondered from time to time whether I'll change my tune once I age and get closer to the natural end of my life. I doubt it.

Hosea said...

The real "worship experience" is not generally associated with any thoughts of doctrine or dogma. For the most part it's more a left brain vs. right brain thing: the worship I'm referring to is "ecstatic" and can often be experienced at a good rock concert.

I once worked with a fellow who was a Catholic convert. Before Catholicism, I think he had pretty much been just a stoner. But he told me once that, in his opinion, the three ways he knew to get closest to God were (1) really good sex, (2) Grateful Dead concerts, and (3) the Mass. His wife, who was a little bemused by his religious trip but went along with it good-naturedly, added on another occasion that she had found LSD to be a big help in understanding God.

I thought that was an interesting thing to say; so I mentioned that gosh, I didn't feel like I understood God very well, and I wondered if I should try acid. She looked at me very seriously and said, "Hosea, I don't think you need acid."

I'm still not sure quite what she meant by that. But of course the bottom line has to be that if there is anything real about God at all (and I am inclined to suspect there is), then living experience has to be more important than mere words on paper. Blueprints are all well and good, but I'd rather live in a house.

Apollo Unchained said...

Hosea, my first truly religious experience was indeed on LSD. But I thought I was God.

Marianne, yes besides the community I think we all like the idea of belonging to some special, secret club, and churches certainly qualify.

As for aging, it does seem to be a conventional stereotype that people either embrace religion as they age, or become bitter old geezers. I hope that by seeing the pitfalls ahead I can avoid either one.

Who, nice to hear from you, hope all is well.

Byrd, I always enjoy hearing from you too, and appreciate your perspective. I think I could still honestly refute your objections to the church (but I won't). In my opinion the biggest problem is simply that True Believer-ism is always tar pit best avoided.

... said...

Would love an update from you Appollo.