10 January 2009

re: spoiling the illusion

(Comments from LiveJournal)

Ian: While there is much to be said for the "just add water" nature of the religious social experience, you are almost certainly right that it wouldn't be worth it to pretend. Maybe next time you get invited you should go and not pretend? Though I'd suggest sticking this in your bag, just in case.

Nicole: There are plenty of people I know who are religious without being RELIGIOUS, but (perhaps I am waaay overgeneralizing) it seems to me that the people who socialize based around a religion are... kind of cuckoo. They just (mostly) seem to be more extremist than the non-social folks.

Michelle: Like you, I occasionally toy with going to services once in a while, especially Mass, but for slightly different reasons. For me it's less about the social outlet and more about feeling the sense of drama and ritual that a good religious service can evoke. Also like you, I don't believe any of it, and the truth would come out sooner or later, and probably somewhat destructively.

As far as socially acceptable goes, I think that the Northeast is probably one of the best places to live if you aren't "conventionally religious". It doesn't seem nearly as central to everything as it does in say, the South or the Midwest. So far as I can tell, being a member of a mainline church isn't mandatory for, say, public office, and it's unlikely you would see coworkers and socialize at church on the weekends, and no one really bats an eye at a courthouse/city hall wedding. It doesn't seem to be a mandatory piece of being a part of society up here. Sure, it can help with some connections, but I've found that even conventionally religious up here get a lot less bothered if you aren't drinking the same kool-aid as them.

Also, infiltrating an uber-religious organization quite possibly would be fun in an evil sort of way, but it's not really going to teach anyone anything.

In terms of social output, again, being in the Boston area, there's a lot of that that isn't dependent on religion either. Boston Ski & Sports Club, dances or dance lessons, stitch'n'bitches (Boston has a mailing list), Drinking Liberally... etc. and so on.

Turn the page ...

spoiling the illusion

(Cross-posted to LiveJournal)

I've more than once contemplated rejoining a religious group, if only for the social outlet.

It is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day...

Even now, there's an odd look one receives ... I get it at work sometimes, not from everyone, but from a handful of people. Disbelief? Concern? I'm not sure how to describe it properly. It's the look I get when I decline an invitation to a church gathering, and then let them know why I declined when they ask.

Ambivalence ... nonchalance?

It does seem to be a reaction divided by race. None of my Asian colleagues think it strange (or if they do, they have the good taste not to react); most of my Caucasian colleagues are equally disinterested; it's primarily my Black colleagues that are most visibly taken aback.

So I wonder, as I read the common zealot rant on a message board, as I cross paths with colleagues and the occasional LDS pavement-pounder, Would I be more socially acceptable if I were part of a religious group?

But then I reconsider, knowing exactly how much I'd hate myself--how much I would come to loath the pretense, how much I would resent the people around me (whether they actually believed or were just similarly pretending for the sake of human company). Could I pretend? Oh, I'm certain I could--and quite convincingly, at that. Things move me for many reasons.

The right (or wrong) combination of musical chords can send a shiver down my spine, fictions make me cry or shudder every other day. To achieve the same reaction in any so-called holy place to so-called holy music or so-called holy words would hardly be proof of anything.

Reactions to stimuli.

[Sanity], [sanity], all is [sanity].

It's not to say that I don't think I can believe in things; but many things that were once categorised as beliefs have been moved to fantasy and fiction and intellectual interest. Fairly weighed, nothing "supernatural" makes any more sense than anything else. I guess that's where my mind stops.

It's not to say that I don't think others should believe in things. More [of something--though I'm not sure what, but "power" seems incorrect--] to them, if they can.

But I resent them and I pity them, and I can't make myself feel guilty about those feelings, because I'm almost certain that they feel the same way about me.

Back to the question: Could I fake it? Yes, for a while, but I'd probably self-destruct eventually; and, as is my habit, I'd most likely take a few people with me. People who, in their turn, would resent me for spoiling their illusion.

A more wicked side of me thinks, It could make life interesting for a little while ... Allow the most outlandish thing possible to recruit oneself (something like Opus Dei or equally miserable). Bewilder both friends and family for a good six months. Convince the believers of conversion. And then--leave, to the confusion and disappointment of all.

It's more for self-indulgent fantasy than reality, isn't it?

I'm lonely and bored of being lonely, but I'm also proud--too proud to whore myself to something I don't believe, too proud to keep my opinions to myself.

Maybe tomorrow I'll write out a few of my thoughts on the dichotomy of good and evil in Western literature.

Maybe I'll go see The Unborn instead.

Who knows?

Turn the page ...