Things he believes in…
That money is dirtier than other items and you shouldn’t handle it without sterilizing yourself afterwardActually, this last one is just mildly annoying to him when he yells at the kids. I always wonder how he hasn’t caught me doing the exact same thing even once in the 20 years we’ve known each other. I don’t think I have tied my sneakers in 35 years.
That swallowing gum is very bad for you.
That his car still needs premium gas to run efficiently (hasn’t been true in at least a decade due to the way they build engines these days).
That you will ruin the heels of your shoes by slipping them on without tying them all the time.
But here’s another thing that came up last night that we might not feel the same about. God. I guess his mother recently expressed a concern that The Kid didn’t have any particular indoctrination or know how to say a prayer or anything. So I asked him how he felt about the whole thing. He said that he felt like they should at least know how to pray.
30 minutes later I had made his head explode by asking him questions about his tenets and the state of his own faith in general that may or may not have ended with the question, “If they find intelligent life on another planet how does that affect religions that are Christ-based?” I do things like this. The question of faith is not a simple matter for me and I have always taken it with fair amount of gravity. When they told him when you die you go to heaven, that was good enough for him. This is fairly reflective of our attitudes toward life. It also explains why, as an individual, he travels through life in a far less troubled state.
At least some of the reasons for the relative state of our relationship with religion has to do with the religions we were raised in. His background is with the Catholic church and mine is Mormon. You can be an active Catholic, but just as often, you can attend Mass on Sundays and be entirely comfortable with your ticket to Heaven having being punched. On the other hand, there really are no casual Mormons. It is a highly demanding lifestyle with a church structure designed to weed out the casual types. So religion, to me, has always involved a very active, daily faith. When the blogger, Dooce wrote that it was years before she felt ok about drinking coffee, I can relate to that totally.
But that night, we discussed the Old Testament, the New Testament and Satan, among other things. (I once fried a Mormon missionary this way. If you tell them that you don’t believe in God, they’re ready for that. But if you tell them you don’t believe in the devil, you’ll absolutely confound them with that one. The young missionary I made this announcement to was still blown out of the water an hour later). Then The Golf Pro asked me THE question. “Well, don’t you believe in God?” Can you hear the crickets filling the void of uncomfortable silence? sigh. Yeah, that’s me these days. I don’t know.
At the risk of alienating most of my family and the majority of my readers, I am going to confess that I might be one of the only people in history for whom having children actually lessened my faith in God. Usually, it’s the opposite, right? The normal process of having children, of being the conduit through which the mystery of the human soul appears on earth, is that it increases one’s faith and connection to the esoteric veil of heaven. Makes total sense, right? And I can assure you that no one was more shocked than I was to find that it didn’t happen that way after the birth of my own kids.
I don’t know what I believe anymore. I do know that I take the question seriously and that I don’t exactly rest comfortably here in my void of spirituality. I was always a profoundly spiritual person. I was the kind of teenager who was fascinated by mysticism and Eastern religion and who took “The Bible as Literature” as an English course. But over the years, I have struggled to find within myself of any type of spirituality at all. I’m loving science, but that profound sense that God made the world? It’s mostly gone. The world still fills me with awe and wonder, but I don’t know if I feel the Great Oz is behind the curtain any longer.
“Don’t you believe in God?” All I could really tell The Golf Pro was that I felt that I could no longer really connect to the idea that I saw direct evidence of God in my life. Things you could explain as workings of faith, could as easily be explained in a dozen other ways and I had to ask, did I believe in God only because it’s what I had always been told. Mother Teresa’s posthumous confession that she lived in spiritual darkness most of her life is entirely understandable to me. She referred to it as the complete absence of God. I suppose the difference was that she suffered greatly from it. My suffering does not reach such levels.
I have chosen not to indoctrinate my children into any particular belief, arguing instead for their right to have a spiritual journey that will be uniquely theirs. Instructing them, I hope, to be wide open and respectful in this area and to use a simple yardstick for any religion they encounter. Does it make the lives of it’s followers AND non-followers better? Are they in the business of telling you who the enemy is? Who to hate? Because if they are, in any way, you’re in with the wrong group. Do they respect the beliefs of others and preach tolerance and compassion? Do they demand that you act in any way against what you know it right.
If it’s important for The Golf Pro to share his religious beliefs with The Kid, then I can support that. But it can’t be just empty words and you have to be ready to answer the questions that will come your way with meaningful conviction. I don’t know how to have faith in the house in any other way.
I’m including this because Mormon missionaries played a pivotal role in my separation from faith too. Soon, I’ll tell you the story of my 6 year old, a chess game, a Mormon missionary and a jarring realization.