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Day: December 16, 2008

In Defense of my Religious Upbringing

Frequent readers of this blog or people who just look at the preceeding post to this one might get the idea that I’m a firm anti-religious type, and you’d be wrong.

I’m still a big fan of the Catholic School Board I was educated by from 2-13 in Ontario and wouldn’t exchange it for an irreligious or secular school any day.  I was taught by (for the most part) dedicated people who handed the students the tools and means to make an informed decision about Church and Religion. They taught us about comparative religion and evolution and science and reasoning and problem solving and history.  It wasn’t “The Catholic” version of things, it was “the facts as they knew and understood them”  which prepared my class and some of the surrounding years for a future where we could choose for ourselves.  I like that and encourage it.  I was handed a bible and a measuring stick and told to find out the distance the words in it would go.  For a long time they went pretty far.

I still write Roman Catholic on Government forms when I’m asked to identify my Religious Affiliation; although I don’t practice anymore (I got it right and decided that I’d leave an open seat for others).  I’m an Agnostic, not an Atheist.  I don’t know if there is something more than me, I don’t think it is likely that the Christians, Jews  or Moslems or any of the other Religious groups are correct though.  I critique the “Religious” because they are the Rediculous, they just seem to want comfort from the Universe; comfort from a Parent that they can’t touch or see.  I’ll admit that the thought that this life is all I have is scary, shouldn’t it compel me to make the most of this life?

I imagine that where the Religious and My Agnostic classmates diverge is motivation.  I do good things to make others feel good, not for the rewards (well, not the rewards alone anyway) but I do good things in secret too, without anyone knowing.  I don’t need magical rewards that only show up when I die to motivate good deeds; I try to encourage this in my daughter.  However in the Religious, good deeds are motivated not by love for one another, but by fear of punishment beyond the grave.  If you are living in fear of Hell, please take this simple advice:

If you die and there IS a god and a heaven and you have been good according to their rules, WIN!

If you die and there IS a god and heaven and you have been bad and end up in hell, at least you have eternal life and take comfort in the fact that eventually god saves all the souls in hell once they have been redeemed.  Also, famous dead people! WIN!

If you die and that is it, what would you know about it?  You’re gone.  Win (for you)

Death, scary as it is, is only hard on the living, the dead don’t suffer from the heartache that the survivors feel.

My Dad (who knows everything) says that Hell is probably the Black Nothing of being without life, but if one was aware of said blackness, then isn’t that still eternal life?  This is why my Dad calls me a smart ass.

All of that aside, I was well-educated and prepared for life by my teachers, almost all of them religious people, good church going folk.  Only three of them ever made me feel in danger for either my physical well-being or my uh sexual well-being  (One time a Religion teacher growled at me as I walked by, he was a former Monk and I swear he was coming on to me in some clumsy way that still puzzles me. I’m tubby, hit on someone who wants it Mr. Beardy Former Monk).  My history teachers gave us a rich view of the world, spanning the centuries, putting into perspective the stories from the Bible as the work of Men who lived in fear of the Night.  Our Science teachers (biology, Chemistry and Physics) gave us the keys to the worlds workings, showing us the diversity and simple beauty of the math behind it all.  Our Social Studies and Technology teachers showed us how we interacted with the world and let us discover how our interactions affected it.  Our arts teachers let us appreciate the written word and visual arts for what they were (within a strict and often compellingly bad structure, at least we had creative writing!)

All of this aside, I was given a good Education at Catholic School and wouldn’t prevent my own daughter from experiencing it or discourage other parents from signing up their kids for the same district.  I can only speak for my own experience and would love to hear from my former classmates if they happen on this post.