I’m feeling profound lately. I’ll try not to burden you with it. 🙂 At least a bunch. I think it happens when I’m in the waning stages of the first draft of a book. I’ve come to know the characters, understand them, yell at them, and commiserate with them and I don’t really want to say goodbye. An inner sadness seems to take over at this stage. I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with a diagnosis about that, but I think it’s a writerly thing. It might be something movie people or visual arts people experience, too.
I’ve been thinking about organized religion and our culture.
Bear with me, I’m not getting really religious here. I think that religion – organized religion – offers us guideposts. (That goes for ANY religion.) Maybe you could consider them lanes we’re supposed to walk. Things like not killing our fellow man, honoring our parents, valuing the vows we give one another. These are the rules we expect each other to follow.
What happens, though, when we dismiss religion?
We’re getting more and more secular as a society. People are bragging about being anti-God, or being atheists, agnostics, or even satanists. Those of us who used to go to church aren’t going any more. Count me among that group. I haven’t been in years. However, church attendance was part of my life as a child. I went every Sunday unless I was dying. Strangely enough, my father never went to church, but my mother always dressed to the nines and hauled my brother and I off to services wherever we were living. I was a card-carrying Sunday School attendee. I got attendance awards.
I continued to go to church even after my first marriage. My husband was Roman Catholic and I was Presbyterian. We didn’t marry in the church. However, I took my boys to Presbyterian Sunday School every week. I even taught Sunday School. It was important for me to make sure that they had reinforcement to the values I was trying to teach them at home.
(One time, my husband and I, along with our two boys, attended a pot luck supper at the Roman Catholic Church my husband occasionally attended. That night the priest tried to set him up with a single woman who was seated at our table. Evidently, the good father didn’t recognize our mixed marriage and thought my husband was ripe for dating advice. My husband never said a word to the priest. As he said later, “that would have been disrespectful.” Rolling my eyes here.)
Several things happened to change my mind about organized religion over the years. Suffice it to say the experiences opened my eyes to the fact that we’re all human, even pastors and the most devout of church goers. I won’t bore you with those episodes, but they were doozies.
Okay, most of us aren’t going to church anymore. Yet if religion set rules for us in the past, does that mean we’re ungoverned now? I think you could argue that, yes, we are without boundaries. I see cultural mores changing every day. Almost anything goes. When people start arguing the merits of bestiality or marrying your dog (or yourself) on Twitter, you know you’re living in weird times. Frankly, some of what I see renders me speechless.
I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I don’t steal. I try not to lie. I know that I would wound my soul deeply if I ever took anyone’s life. However, I sincerely believe that the most righteous individual can be pushed to the brink of that decision. Sometimes, they fall over. I consider myself moral although I cut a wide swath in my salad days, as they say. (Okay, nobody says it any more, but I’ve always liked archaic sayings.) I learned all those values from my parents, but they were verified and validated by the life we lived. They were reinforced by our going to church, by those endless Sunday School classes.
If organized religion is no longer a viable entity in our lives, what will validate the values we teach our children? Will those life lessons be reinforced by our culture? Or will they be knocked down and erased? I don’t think the answer is too difficult to find – the internet is a force to be reckoned with. Just think of all the “influencers” out there teaching our children stuff.
Isn’t that a scary notion?
“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
― José Ortega y Gasset