Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quite the quandary

Imagine Sorry I've been so quiet this week, but something is really weighing on my mind.

I don't want to go into too many details, but I feel the need to write about it, and maybe someone will have some advice for me. I think this is something I need to figure out on my own (and perhaps even on the fly), but any helpful hints would be welcome.

I recently had a phone conversation with someone I'm close to, and it turned into a discussion of how I need to be "ready." Well, it wasn't so much of a discussion as me listening to how the world is going to end soon, and I need to be ready so I can go to heaven. I would never hurt this person, not in a million years, so for once I held my tongue. (I can do it when I need to. Don't act so surprised.) I was told that I really should be baptized in order to make sure. I did say that this sort of thing is really very personal for some people, and I got a sharp retort: "Personal? What could be so personal that I shouldn't want to make sure people I love are going to heaven?" ::sigh::

A couple of things here. First of all, I have my own thoughts and ideas about religion. I've written a little about them here, but not in great detail. I have had many dealings with the topic over the years, and not all of them have been pleasant. In fact, I have come to realize recently that there are some things that I have blocked out, and I am just now remembering them. Want an example? My ex telling me that he thought I was possessed by a demon. Right. It's no wonder I've blocked stuff like that out. It's still hard for me to believe I had to deal with that. I can laugh about it now, but it was obviously traumatic enough at the time that it was lost to me for many years. Anyway, I have my own ideas about it, and suffice it to say that they don't jibe with those of the person I was talking with. I came to the realization quite a few years ago that I didn't believe a lot of the stuff that I was brought up to believe. My epiphany resulted in a strange mixture of discomfort and relief. Discomfort because I was breaking away from the indoctrination I'd received, but relief because...well, because I was breaking away from the indoctrination I'd received!

I don't feel the need to go into any more detail at the moment. However, you get the idea. If I were to say what I really think about this particular brand of religion, it would not be received well. There is a certain mindset there that these are things that will happen, it is all laid out in the Bible, and if I don't follow along, I won't be joining the rest of the gang in heaven. I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis (and I'm so excited to get to use's a rarity). I don't want to hurt or worry this person, but I also can't pretend to be something I'm not. I can't enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon and say that I believe certain things that I don't believe. I just can't do it.

The other thing is that as we were talking, this person started to cry. Yes, they started to cry because they were so worried and frightened that everyone they love might not go to heaven because they aren't "ready." That pissed me off. Not at this person, but at the religion that put such fear into this kind and decent person that it made them cry. What kind of a cruel god would cause a person to burst into tears because they are so afraid that their loved ones will be tossed into the fiery pits of hell? Why would I want to be associated with such a capricious and malicious entity? All my life, I heard promises of the riches of heaven, how everyone will be walking on streets of gold. Why would I want to walk on streets of gold? Why is that even an incentive that is promised to believers? I don't like a lot of bling. And there will be no toil. Sometimes our struggles in life are what lead us to a greater understanding of the world around us, and a greater empathy for our fellow human beings. A little toil can be a good thing.

I'm not trying to make light of it, I just honestly don't get it. The whole paradise thing just seems silly to me, and the whole intimidation thing seems cruel. The certainty of apparently every religion that theirs is the only path to heaven isn't logical to me. The surrender of my mind and rationality to the unknown and unknowable goes completely against my grain.

I think you see my dilemma. How can I manage to not hurt this person but stick to my own convictions? The closest I can figure is to say that this is something that I find very personal and it is my decision to make. I guess I will be kind of forceful if I need to...not mean, but attempting to put a rest to it by saying that this is MY decision and no one else's, and that it is something that I think about often. (That is completely true.) This is weighing heavily on me, and is it any wonder that I get where John is coming from?



  1. "Imagine no religion" kind of says it. I have faith, not religion, and that always pulls me through in these kinds of situations. I know the dilemma one feels about talking to beloved ones who insist they can't rest until you are "saved" or at least ask forgiveness etc. it's a rough one. I can only proffer what I do in this situations: I thank them for having such deep concern for my immortal soul, and tell them how I have that same concern for theirs. I explain that God already is expecting ALL His children home, and no amount of blessed water is necessary - it's a comforting act, but not needed to "go home" as it were. I tell them asking forgiveness from God isn't necessary because He forgives me before I even know what I'm going to do. I explain how I don't believe the God I have faith in would allow such a place as hell to exist, and I do this with respect for their tenets without "dumbing" myself down. It's a very personal thing, but it's heartening to see you understand religious indoctrination isn't faith, or spiritual feelings, it's just what it sounds like lol. When you decide how you'll handle this once it appears again, I would look to your own instinctual need to be truthful, which can be done without hurting your loved one(s). They will need to adjust to YOUR thinking, I'd say. We all share faith in something. Still we're all different, and wouldn't want to be automatons I'm sure. Tell them that you know God has faith in you, just as you do in Him, in your way, as you are most comfortable and honest with, remind them of your love for them and hope they get it. The "end times" is always upon us it seems, from eons ago people prepared for it. Tell them that. Most of all, have faith in your own ability to share your spiritual beliefs with someone you care about greatly, who has other ways of believing. O and one more thing: don't do anything but take advice on this, make your own decision and be comforted in knowing you have friends who want to help. Namaste.

  2. I can give advice but, like most things in life, what works in one situation may not work in another. You just need to be honest. Of course, that honesty doesn't have to be blunt but can be couched in a way to be softer. If you're not being honest with yourself as to who you are and what you want to do, it will weigh on you. At least I've found that to be true for myself. Rip the band-aid off. The slower it goes, the more painful. I realize you don't want to hurt anyone else, and that's admirable, but you're the one getting hurt in these situations. People need to love you for who you are, not for what you give them the appearance of being.

    And perhaps that way you won't be stuck between the Cilia and the Charlebois.

  3. I think I would tell this person that I love them, but you just do not want to discuss religion. If they love you back, they should respect your wish for privacy. And if they bring it up in the future you say "I'm sorry, but we talked about how I feel that discussing religion makes me uncomfortable, remember?"

    This person needs to realize that they are making you uncomfortable, and you might have to make them uncomfortable for them to see the point. Making someone uncomfortable isn't necessarily the same as hurting them either.

    The fact that you are struggling with this shows how thoughtful of a person you are. Good luck with this dilemma.

  4. PS Forgot to mention how impressed I am by the "Wrapped Around Your Finger" reference. Sting and the boys would be proud.

  5. This is a tough one, Beth. My own odyssey had not been one where people have not acosted me fearing for my eternal soul.

    I agree in part with Darren. What works 'here' may not work 'there'. This is less about religion and more about principle and what one can live with. (btw, the Devo 'Are We Not Men'is up, and the line 'God made man, but he used the monkey to do it', takes me back to having my Mom grit her teeth at me for repeating them!)

    I know I would not have been able to live with myself if I did not shirk back from my principle for a loved one. I think you get a pass when you have to step from what you believe (a little) to provide salve for that person.


    I don't know.

  6. I have had this happen too Beth. I simply tell them my soul is fine and I know exactly where I am going. I don't feel a further explanation is needed and they don't ask. Heaven, eternity, the hereafter is different to each person. My Heaven is totally different than someone elses idea of Heaven. What you have in your heart is right ~ you don't need, or shouldn't have to convince anyone else. It isn't your responsibility to make your loved one feel better about your "eternity". I mean no disrespect to your loved one when I say this.

  7. I appreciate your dilemma, Beth. these are all great comments. I think Cathy says it best. It is a personal thing and should remain so. Your relationship with God or no-God is a personal thing. If God tells you to be baptized then do it. If He doesn't, then don't do it. Absolutely it's a matter of conscience.

    I was never baptized, the family didn't believe in it. I spent an hour discussing it with an Episcopal priest I know well and was told that if I wanted to find out I should join a congregation until I decided. I didn't do that. The Bible says "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

    The idea of baptism is symbolic. A splash of water is not going to save anyone's immortal soul. I belive it is as much superstition as any of the other so-called necessities of traditional worship such as Eucharist.

    The advice in these comments about not wanting to discuss religion and saying so should get you out from between the rock and the whirlpool. I agree with that.

    It's the same priniciple as to why I don't discuss politics with consevatives and I say so.


  8. This is a tough one. Beth, I'm sure you can extrapolate how I feel about this. Here is my shot at some advice.

    Honesty is always best, although I would expect you would be nice about it with someone you obviously don't want to hurt or belittle. Maybe you could tell her you are grateful and honored that she cares so much for you, but that she shouldn't worry so much about things she can't influence or change? Maybe you can help her to find out productive things she can do for the world before she ascends? I've done this and had some success.Let her know you have fears too, but that you have found other ways to deal with those fears and that is personal.

    I don't know how you can deal with the hypocrisies and conflicting information she has taken as part of her personal belief system. This is where everything starts to go to hell in my experience. I've never had much success with getting a person like your friend to realize there are other ways of knowing the universe and that their beliefs, though important, are not the only beliefs that exist. I'm guessing most of her spiritual guidance is based on faith, with little fact and reflection in the mix. That is going to make any discussion about the subject virtually useless.

    Above all else beth, trust your gut and intuition.

  9. help me to understand- is it that you have NEVER been baptized or that you haven't been baptized into the 'RIGHT' religion?

    i've been a victim of the goodwill of a cousin in the latter situation and it's hard to get snarky with her because she is so sincere in her efforts to bring the entire family to the banquet table with her jesus.

    we went to a baptism today and the priest told the parents if this was where their child's religious instruction was gonna start/ end it was pointless to be there because they had to live it for their kid to internalize it and live it too.

    be well and stay gold.


  10. I hope that knowing that this person is sincere in their concern for you will help a bit. But you just need to say very firmly that it is a personal thing, that you truly appreciate their concern and love for you, but that you are the only person who can make a decision about your own faith, and you don't see yourself making any change in that area in the near future.

  11. Sweetie, if you don't believe, you don't believe. For your "friend" to want to coerce you into believing her fantasy to ensure her own happiness in the afterlife is a bit selfish, don't you think?
    I personally think that we have options in the afterlife, just as we do on Earth. Our faith on Earth we lead us to our chosen options in the afterlife. Follow your heart and your soul....they will guide your faith and lead you along the right path!

  12. Beth, I'm glad when you write seriously about your perceptions about religion. I am coming to appreciate and better understand your point of view. Like Cathy, I'm more about faith and spirituality than religion. There is far too much contradiction in religions. I've never been able to fathom the concept of an angry and vengeful God. Just sounds like a human being with way too much power. I respect your beliefs or maybe I should say non-belief; sometimes it's awkward to figure out how to say it accurately.

    I'm afraid that I don't have any sound advice about your dilemma but I do empathize and understand more than you might expect. Among my extended family members, there are many who consider that one must be baptized the "right way." There's the submerge in water fully group and my immediate family who were baptized with a little water on the forehead. There is also a major debate about being baptized in the name of Jesus vs. being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. My spiritual beliefs aren't good enough; there are those who still are concerned that I and my immediate family members are all going to hell. When my mother was alive, one of her sisters, a believer in baptism in the name of Jesus only, opined that if we all weren't properly baptized that we were most certainly going to be left behind when the rapture came and ultimately end up eternal residents of hell. My mother's response still makes me laugh, "Well Ruth, given the folks that will be in heaven, I'd just as soon burn in hell."

    I think that you have exhibited much patience, and obviously you have lots of love for this person. Perhaps the most that you can do is remind him/her of that love and ask him/her to show their love in return by agreeing to enjoy living and not by dwelling on when the end may come. If that doesn't work, perhaps you, like my mother, can try a little sarcasm.

  13. It's amazing how desperately some people cling to their mythologies and fairy tales.

  14. I think I fall into the "Thanks for caring, but No thanks" category.
    I would tell the person, and I have told the person when i've had these same conversations, that we all have our own paths to follow that lead us to...wherever...heaven....hell...reincarnation....some sort of spiritual end, but we cannot, and must not, inflict our beliefs on others.
    It's nice to know this person cares, but the jourmey of life and through life is a personal thing.

  15. At my Father's funeral, which was a Catholic parents life-long religion, a friend of the family, sitting next to me, wanted me to go up and receive communion. It actually turned into a little discussion-in the first pew- about my Atheism(which they were all well aware of way before this point)--while the priest practically tapped his foot waiting for this to be rectified--It was a NO. I guess taking care(& loving him like crazy) of my Dad all those years didn't count if I didn't receive communion at his funeral. K.

    A couple of people couldn't believe the person could "do that" to me at Dad's funeral...but that person thought it MATTERED MAJOR that I do it; she is generally a very loving, kind woman.

    I do not believe there is a nice way to extract yourself from someone like that--without having an add on of: I really cannot discuss this in the future with you. I love you, but we must agree to disagree & move on.

    The only caveat for me is if this person is your Mother..then it takes on a whole different cast. I'm hoping that is not the case.

  16. Hi Beth, I am with Lori in this discussion. If this person is a true Christian she will know that one comandment that Jesus gave was that we love one another...If we do that we would never want to upset others and perhaps she should be reminded of that. It is your life to live as you wish.
    love sybil


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