Tuesday, December 24, 2013
This is the second part of my answers to my latest “Ask Arthur” post, which I posted last week. There’s still time to ask questions if you want: Just leave a comment on this post or on the original linked above (or my shares on Facebook or Google+).
So, today’s questions from Roger Green are about me and religion. First, he asked:
“Back in the day when you were a PK (preacher's kid, for your readers), was that a drag or a benefit or both, and how so?”
It was both. When I was particularly young, it was a benefit in that I got a sort of respect from other kids. This was particularly true at church, but in school as well. Later, when me moved to another town (I was 9, just about to turn 10), it was different. The town was pretty heavily Catholic, and they couldn’t care less that I was the son of a Protestant minister.
For some people at my dad’s churches, I could theoretically get away with a lot more than other kids, but there were also some who were all too eager to tell my dad about some minor infraction or other. Again, good and bad.
My mother used to say that kids would say to my brother, “my mittens are holey—oh! I mustn’t say that in front of you!” I always kind of doubted that story primarily because it’s not the sort of thing a kid would say, and no one ever said anything like that to me. Maybe she was just translating it.
Many years later, in my first couple years of high school, the kids (mostly Catholic, but some of other Protestant churches or nothing in particular) used to try and make fun of me by asking innuendo-laced questions, like, “Do you play the organ in your dad’s church?” I pretended I didn’t get what they were trying to imply and would answer with things like, “No, they pay someone” or “no, I can’t read music”. I had many different answers because they asked it several times.
Then suddenly, in my third year of high school—age 16 and 17—it just stopped: All the teasing, all the attempts to embarrass me, all of it just stopped. In fact, I left high school on reasonably good terms with some of my former tormenters.
Aside from that, there was no benefit or drawback to being a preacher’s kid. When I became an adult, people might be a bit curious about it, but only in the way they’d be curious about someone who had a dad with an unusual occupation.
Related to all this, way back in 2007 I got together with some of my fellow gay podcasters who were also preachers’ kids to talk about our experiences. That episode is still available.
Next, Roger asked:
“What is your take on religions? Is there one out there that says to you, ‘If I invested the energy into investigating that faith tradition, maybe I could be THAT?’ Do you see religions more as quite different, or variations on the same tenets?”
I’ve always thought that even religions that are seemingly very similar can actually be quite different, and in religion, even subtle differences can be deal-breakers for people.
As I was drifting away from organised religion, I “tried on” a few alternative belief structures. First it was Deism, primarily because of its rejection of supernatural hocus pocus. But it’s still theist and promotes the belief in divine creation of the universe, something I didn’t believe in even when I was a practising Christian.
For a brief time after that, I looked into Unitarianism, and for two reasons. First, like Deists, they reject most of the supernatural stuff of traditional Christianity. But, unlike Deism, they have churches and for a time I missed the fellowship of belonging to a church. As a bonus, they don’t usually insist members adhere to any doctrine.
Both of these were more of a way to deal with leaving organised religion behind than they were serious explorations of alternative religions. At the time, I thought that it would be easier to say I was something than that I was nothing. You could say that I was a closet sceptic.
The problem with these alternatives was their assumption that there is, in fact, a god, something I became increasingly sceptical about. A couple years ago, I wrote about my move away from religion (“The road from Damascus”). I rejected organised religion generally, and that means that no alternate belief system or religion had any appeal. On the other hand, I don’t say categorically that there is no god or gods—how would I know?—so I don’t look down on people who have religious beliefs or are members of a particular religion. That’s their business—as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on me, of course.
So, I don’t personally have any use for organised religion, and I’m no longer reluctant to say so, and all of that means there’s no other faith tradition that could be of any use to me. But for other people, as comedian Dave Allen used to say, “May your god go with you.”