The existence of God… or, why I think religion is helpful…

There is a lot to say about religion — some folks are pretty much against it because of how religious people act — be they Christians, Muslims, Jews (those seem to be the three troublesome religions, but that’s my western viewpoint for ya) — and, I should start out saying that picking out any one religious system as being the cause of more violence or hatred than another is just a losing game…

Personally, I’m kind of remotely religious — perhaps more Buddhist than anything, but for the most part it doesn’t play a large role in my daily life.  i don’t go to church, I rarely pray, and I try to concern myself with the suffering of others (thus, the Buddhist bit..).  That isn’t to say that I don’t think religion and belief in a higher power is a bad thing — it’s just not my thing.

Why it’s good is pretty simple — it’s good when it helps people to live better lives here.  There, we’re done…

Well, not quite — but, that’s the essence of it.  IF religious belief leads you to positive things in your life, then do it — and don’t apologize to anybody.  IF it doesn’t, then stop.

Religion can lead you to a community of folks who will support you in the life you want to lead, help you when life is hard, and generally go on the path of life with you – -that’s a good thing.

Religion can lead you to be a better father, son, daughter, mother, sibling etc — and that’s a good thing.  It can also lead you to helping folks you otherwise wouldn’t have helped – -good for all that.

I happen to have lots of GLBTQ friends — many of them in the south – and I can tell you that religion hasn’t always been a positive thing in their lives — think about one person I know.  She’s a kind of unusual person for a small town in Florida — she’s a lesbian who (now) is also a drag king — she often goes by a male name (I’ll call her Frank) and has romantic relationships with women.

Frank was also bullied out of school in junior high — yes, junior high.  Up until then, bullying so disrupted her education that she has a really difficult time reading and writing.  The bullying was more or less versions of “God hates fags” — and it was intense.  Frank’s family didn’t help — in fact they reinforced the message the bullies gave, because they thought that was what God wanted.  They said she was making sinful life choices and that she needed to stop, get a boyfriend, behave like a real girl, get married and give birth to kids.  That is not what Frank wanted, and she left home —

So — as a teenager (like many, many, many GLBTQ teens in the south) she hit the streets — was homeless often, living with grandma when it got too hard — but grandma also believed what the family believed about GLBTQ folks, so that never lasted long — and generally Frank learned to survive by being really good at hard work.

Frank is a smart, skilled person with a huge heart and a lot of love to give — Frank got involved with a woman who took advantage of her for a long time, and continued to tell Frank she wasn’t smart and could only really do the manual labor she was doing.  Eventually, Frank got smarter and left.

The trouble is — now Frank is in her 40s, alone, very little education and few reading skills… She has to work temporary work because she can’t read well enough to do job applications or college.  She’s very smart, has a huge spoken vocabulary, knows what’s going on in the world — and would like nothing more than to get a regular job that isn’t back-breaking, settle down with a nice girl and have/support kids.  She lacks the reading skills to get the job part rolling… and she lacks them because where she grew up having a strong religious faith entitled people around her to bully her and oppress her.  That’s wrong…. I can’t say it any more strongly than that without using cuss words.

I met Frank on the street in the south while on vacation — since then, she’s been homeless (but uses facebook on her phone), while homeless she was repeatedly attacked by idiots who hated her because she’s a woman who can easily look like a guy — and now she’s struggling with basic things like getting a lease signed — because of her lack of reading skills.  Every time I get a facebook update about Frank’s new challenge, it makes me more angry at the religious bigots where she grew up.

So — if religion is helping you ACTUALLY be a better person – great… part of that probably should be embracing folks whose challenges are different from yours…

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1 Comment

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One response to “The existence of God… or, why I think religion is helpful…

  1. JC Davis

    Spot-on about religion and your views mirror mine in many ways. As you noted, the central argument often framed around religion isn’t really about religion at all but rather instead about tolerance.

    Your story about Frank made me sad, and reminded me of the recent story of Leelah and of a personal essay I posted elsewhere on this topic, which I will include/repost here to add to your example:

    My original post:
    _______________________________________________________

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/31/us/ohio-transgender-teen-suicide/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    I’m not writing this to enter into the public discourse, to make a statement, to raise awareness, or anything of the sort. I’m writing this as a personal rant because it really bothered me and it struck a nerve.

    WTF world?

    I know a lot of people who say/do/believe in things I don’t agree with. I know a lot of people who believe in stuff I think is bat-sh** crazy. I know a lot of people who are things I am not, and don’t want to be.

    But you know…
    Who cares if you are black or white or brown?
    Who cares if you are Indian or Chinese or African?
    Who cares if you are muslim or christian or atheist?
    Who cares if you are a girl, a boy, a boy who dresses like a girl, or a girl who wants to be a boy?
    Who cares if you like sports or music or unicorns?
    Who cares if you are a thumb-sucking, goat-(**redacted**)(as long as it’s not my goat) Chinese muslim boy dressing like a girl who believes in the easter bunny…?

    What ever happened to simple human kindness and dignity? What ever happened to loving someone or caring for them just because they are? Why is that so hard? Why can’t we say, “Hmmm, that’s an interesting thing…” and explore or examine things that are different with some curiosity instead of thinking, “You’re different: now I hate you (and/or must kill you)!”

    We are the most judgy selfish self-centered narrow-minded (**redacted**)-up species imaginable, and I’m surprised we’ve made it this far without killing ourselves (oh wait! we try very hard at that, don’t we?)

    I’m sorry Leelah.
    Oh, and World: you suck.
    _______________________________________________________

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