Friday, November 6, 2015
I am not a religious person. Like all people who are not religious I say that I try to do good and harm no one. Is that enough? I do not know but it is the way I try to live my life.
As a child I went to church. Usually it was only for Sunday school. We went and learned about the Bible and the players in it. A small donation was given then which came from my allowance.
I have read the Bible and remember a great deal of what it says. I even know a few quotes. Even better to my way of thinking is that I understand most of the messages given. Some I agree with, some I do not.
If I were assigned a religion based upon my upbringing it would be as a Protestant Christian. I knew very few people of other religions as I was growing up so I had nothing to compare.
But I am not here to tell of my religious beliefs or any lack of belief. I simply wished to inform you of my background as related to religion. I want to offer some observations I have made over the years.
My two best friends both attended the same church. If I could go with them I would, just for the opportunity for us to be together. It did not hurt anything that the minister had a really cute son our age. Each of us had a crush on him. The church was in a town about twenty miles from the town we lived in.
My father took a job working for a house mover. His boss and wife had grown children who did not live in the same state. They decided to take pity on this poor little heathen and see to my religious training. The went to the same church as my friends. Of course I would ride with them.
When I would get into the car on Sunday the couple would give me a handful of money. For me it was a lot of money. I thought they were paying me to do something I would have done free. Looking back I now realize they expected me to put it all in the collection plate. But I had my donation from my allowance.
My mother worked washing dishes in a small cafe in the town where we lived. After church I would have the couple drop me off at the cafe. I would order lunch and pay for it with the money my father's boss had given me. By the time I was done eating my mother would be finished working and take me home with her.
The church was a Pentecostal church. The preacher would preach a mighty sermon. Often the worth of the sermon was measured by how long it would stretch past the noon hour.
The minister was masterful. He would drone on and on and on sometimes almost in a monotone. Then suddenly as men's heads would begin to nod as they fought sleep he would scream at the top of his lungs and the men would sit upright. It was fun to see.
One morning I had gone to church with my friend rather than the couple I usually rode with. My father's boss's son and his family had been in town visiting from another state all week. They left for home the night before.
As a regular part of the sermon the minister asked for people ask for any special prayers they wished to be included that day. The woman stood and asked for a prayer to be said for her son and family to have a safe trip home.
The minister screamed, "Sister, I rebuke you in the name of the Lord!" He invoked the wrath of God because she had the temerity to think that God would not automatically watch over her son.
He screamed at her for several minutes. I felt so sorry for her. All she really wanted was for people to commiserate with her because she was going to miss her son and his family. She simply wanted him to be safe. That horrifying exchange has stayed with me for almost 60 years.
My youngest sister is a shy timid person. She has few friends but the ones she has remain friends for life.
She went to church with a friend of hers one time. The preacher was a "fire and brimstone" sort of minister. He was very loud and then would scream even louder to make his point. It scared her half to death. My sister has not gone back to church since. It has been more than 45 years.
Now lest you think that I am against religion I must say that I know a lot of people who find comfort in their beliefs. My mother-in-law was one.
Mom was a devout Catholic. She was not able to attend church regularly because she lived on the farm and did not drive. But she had a rosary on her at all times.
She made a point of going to mass several times a year and made arrangements for Novenas for her loved ones. At Christmas we received a nice card letting us know that a prayer would be said every day all year for our family by the nuns she occasionally donated to.
When my brother was killed in Viet Nam we were one of the fortunate families who were able to have an open casket funeral. We received his body in a timely manner.
One of the things that touched me most at my brother's funeral was a neighbor. Before the funeral began she came in wearing the same old housedress she wore all the time. She went up to my brother and knelt in front of the casket. She had her rosary and said her prayers for him. Then she quietly left.
How comforting for her to know exactly what to do in such a sad situation. The rituals of a religion give a person the way to behave in specific times. The neighbor knew what prayer to say and what to do when she said it. It has stayed with me all these years and I thank her still for the feeling of calm she instilled in me at that terrible time.
I now know people of many faiths. They all have things in common as well as differences. If they find the comfort to face life it is a good thing.
Peace is what I believe we all are looking for. If you find it within your religion wonderful. If you feel you do not need religion to find you peace that is also wonderful.