Thursday, 17 December 2009

To God or not to God

The other day we tagged along with a large home ed kid and adult group and visited the All Saints Church.

For the church, I grit my teeth. I pull up inside the car park, and Shark, Squirrel and Tiger ease out timidly from the car, looking tense, unable to separate mind from body, probably expecting to step over into that churched world and, in their present state as non believers, cause the roof to fall in and the earth to rip open.

We will just have to risk it, I say to the little grits. We have to learn about religions, and this is as good a place as any to do that. After all, the world where you grow up might yet bomb and blast itself to atoms using someone's god as the reason why. Let's learn while we still can.

Once inside, we wait for our group to assemble, and we stare at the pulpit. Let's start with the idea of church authority, I suggest.

How is that relevant to us? I'll tell you, Shark. Say you think you have the right of access to the fireside based on the fact that you are one minute older than Squirrel. Then you assert the moral righteousness you believe comes with your authority while smacking Squirrel's face into the floor. Remember that issue?

Let's just say your job today is to look, listen, think, and we'll talk about it later. And above all, be respectful to your education. Even if you succumb to that itch to brawl in the aisles.

Reader, you can probably tell I do not trust any organised religion. Or any disorganised religion either. I think it is hocus pocus cooked up to control the masses so political powers can march about this world doing what the fuck they like. People I know are capable of listening to each other, behaving decently towards each other, and generally doing as they would be done by. They don't need religion to be human. And I don't like the way religion seeks to monopolise these human traits.

Personally, I blame the old gent who ran our primary school. Making us repeat the Lord's Prayer until we said it in the right tone of voice; forcing our dutiful hand clasping eye shutting for prayers in assembly. I spent those assemblies listening to someone in a position of power tell me I am all sinned and doomed at the age of eight and need to be good because otherwise god don't love me. Heck, all I could remember doing in the evils department was getting myself dressed in clothes I didn't want to wear, eating breakfast earlier than I wanted to, and walking to school without causing my mother to weep. Better think of a sin, quick. Like existing, Eve shaped.

But we've not come today only for Grit's bad memories and a Christian example. We're on a total faith tour. When we're done with the Church, we all head off next door to the Mosque.

I cannot say I feel any more generous to Islam than I do to Christianity. But by now I'm feeling vulnerable, and want someone to stand up for me.

Unfortunately, I don't see too much celebration of female Muslim scholars, although undoubtedly there have been strong women forging that history. Maybe those voices are all wiped away with Wahhabism. There seems to be what is described as women in 'unnatural relationships' instead. I feel this idea could, at a step, be extended to walking down the street and clapping eyes on some unfortunate bloke struggling home from the Co-op. Somehow, I suspect that type of unnatural relationship is all my female fault again. I have a vagina. It could be the undoing of us all.

So it's the next stop. The Gurdwara, or Seihk temple.

I'm a little more disposed. Any religion that holds a pair of underpants as a special garment, and follows a custom of putting a book to bed in a proper bedroom, could be given a special place in my heart. Along with the memory of an enjoyable evening in Hyderabad spent in 1994 with Dig, a Seihk gentleman, and a bottle of whisky, where that lovely turban wrapped man spent the hours brightly offering insightful comments about the world, making sense, and laughing.

But even here, sitting on the thick pile carpet of the prayer room, where we are told people can wander in and out at any time during the service, I can detect trouble. Like some folks say that some gurus are better than others, and some folks might start splitting up who can follow whom when, how and where. My vagina might not be the trouble maker, but there are hierarchies and divisions here, and I bet somewhere it'll be implicated.

Another religion we encounter today that's not for me, then.

Dear little grits, religion might, or might not be for you. Sure, I will complain, quietly, if one day you come home with God. But I will also remember that sometimes cynical old mama wished she could have a religion too. It would have helped me offload that mental torment I had; I could have given whole chunks to a deity that I couldn't see but in whom I could trust. So I will try and understand. I'll respect your choice, whatever it is, and I hope that you interpret your duties kindly.

But you should know I am a lost cause. I cannot be converted.