My topic for tonight is “the earth is not round.” I’m not sure of the intent of this writing assignment. Am I supposed to write a defense of the world being flat? Or rebut the statement? I’m not going to do either because, for some reason, those words make me want to write about belief. People thought the world was flat until someone proved it to be untrue. I thought that was Columbus, but according to a couple of website that’s one of the most widely held historical misconceptions . Whoever it was, they believed passionately enough that the world was round to risk falling off the edge. . The consequences would have been dire if they had been wrong. Even if they researched it extensively first, it’s still pretty brave
Of course, God is the most widely held belief out there. Take, for example, the whole “rapture” thing that was supposed to happen on May 21. Ok, I admit that for like ten seconds I allowed myself to think, “what if” (I do have a pretty active imagination, after all) but once I got over that, I started to think about the people who really believed it was going to happen. There were people who changed their entire lives because they believed, they knew that they were going to heaven at 6 pm on that date. People quit their jobs and gave away their life savings. I read that people even euthanized their pets. If you do those things, you don’t have any doubts. Or at least you aren’t listening to them. There was a guy on the news that had sold everything and drove to New York so he could be standing in Times Square when the rapture occurred. He was surrounded by people and when the time came and went, the reporter said that people were making fun of him. He said that the man looked sad and confused. I think about that man every once in a while. What is he doing now? Does he believe, as that crazy radio pastor said, that it was an “invisible rapture” and the real deal is coming in October? That would probably be the easiest for him. He could simple swap one belief for another. Or does he have nothing at all to believe in now. How do you go on from something like that? How do you keep living when your whole world, your whole belief system is ripped out from underneath you? That man makes me want to cry.
To be completely honest, I’ve always struggled with organized religion. I refuse to believe in a God who selects only the 20,000 best people to save, or whatever the number was. But I also have a hard time believing that God thinks homosexuality is an abomination, or that women shouldn’t be clergy. And why do so many people believe that God thinks the only way you can celebrate Him or Her is going to a certain building once a week? I know people like the community, but I’ve never been big on “fellowship” and, although I’ve never confessed this, the “call and response” and group prayers freak me out. People sound mechanical, like robots, pre-programmed to say what they are supposed to. It feels cult-like. How many of those people really know what they are saying? Have thought about it and decided, “yes, I believe this” instead of “this is what I’m supposed to believe”? Maybe more of them have than I think, but it certainly doesn’t come through in their voices during those creepy “God be with you, and also with you” moments.
Maybe my real problem is that I think too much and I’ve never experienced a church that allows me or (heaven forbid) encourages me to question God or the church itself, so I have this idea that one of the requirements of belief is being a little mindless. I realize the snobbery in that statement and take full responsibility for not doing any work to change my ideas of religion. I’ve never shopped around for a church that does engage in those conversations or even discussed the issue with a clergy member. Maybe I don’t want to believe… “Opium of the masses”, etc. Maybe it’s easier for me to believe that I’m intellectually above religion instead of delving into the issue and finding a religion that’s right for me.
I don’t mean to insult or upset anyone when I write this. Quite the opposite, I’ve always been envious of people who believe in something blindly, passionately. I’m jealous of people who can put away all their doubts long enough to have faith. I think, in some ways, it’s an easier way to live life… to be able to trust that God knows what’s happening and has a higher plan.
I’m not just talking about God when I write of faith or belief. People believe in other things too… that the Red Sox will win the World Series, that life exists on other planets or that people have the right to bear arms. Dr. Kevorkian just died and he believed in the right to die with dignity. I never really knew much about his story other than the broad strokes until I watched the movie “You Don’t Know Jack” with Al Pacino. I know it was fictionalized, but Dr. Kevorkian seemed like this normal guy who really believed that people should be able to decide when they had enough pain and die on their own terms. But that belief wasn’t normal. I’m not saying it’s abnormal to believe in death with dignity, but to have that level of passion for something, anything? To view your own life, your own circumstances as secondary to that belief? That’s extraordinary. Those are the people who change the world.
(I just realized that it’s after midnight, so I technically didn’t post one thousand words on Saturday. But I did write most of these one thousand words before midnight, so I’m going to count it!)