Thursday, June 13, 2013


I do not believe in God.

Raised by a Japanese mother rooted in Shinto and Buddhism, and a father who practiced no discernible faith, my brothers and I got to enjoy religious freedom. Sundays weren't for church. Only in my teens did I decide to start nosing around various houses of worship, and I finally decided the Catholic Church was the way to go. For starters, it was hard — they didn't just let you join; you had to go through the RCIA and learn the ins and outs, be catechized. It helped that Monsignor Kenny was cool; I remember asking him once about transubstantiation, the doctrine that the Eucharist actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. He gave me a look and said, "Just go with it."

I also dug the Catholic Church because of its rituals and history, and its stances on the death penalty and caring for the least among us. There was also this hot chick I liked who was Catholic. She turned me on to the Teens Encounter Christ weekends, where I met even more women. Never underestimate the power of a Catholic babe.

So technically I'm still a Catholic, though long lapsed. It's impossible to embrace a religion that allowed men of faith to abuse children and covered up those crimes. That's as close to evil as it gets. But still I called myself a lapsed Catholic convert, on strike from the church. And even as late as this year, I found myself occasionally praying the Rosary, losing myself in a hypnagogic trance while reciting the Hail Marys and Our Fathers, as a small voice in the back of my brain asked, "Why is this not working?"

I called myself an agnostic for a time, but that's a coward's way of confronting the issue. No commitment, just a chickenshit dodge that there's no way of knowing the truth. But I know the truth. It's simple. There is no God.

The collection of chapters published as The Bible contains great stories, full of contradictions. Genesis has God creating beasts first, then man first. The Decalogue has a God insisting his creations have no other gods — shouldn't be a problem if there was one supreme being. Judas hangs himself, or he falls to his death after buying a field with the money he got betraying Jesus. Again, great stories, but as a narrative it has a few plot holes. I read the Bible at least once a year for the cadence and the stories (and the bizarre poetry of Revelation). But it's easy to see how a bunch of bad editors (and they were all men, of course) screwed it up.

There are mysteries in life, to be sure. There are things beyond the comprehension of men and women, puzzles that make no sense but contain profound truths that make even the hardest cynic cry. Opposites attract and fall in and out of love. Bonds of the heart stretch across time and distance and refuse to break. Kismet is real.

But these aren't the creations of a big-G supernatural being who hangs out on clouds. They belong to the people who feel them and live them. We are the gods, then, creators of our own inscrutable fates — which would explain why sometimes things that seem so perfect go so terribly wrong, because we are humans and we are really good at fucking things up.

My younger brother is a minister, and a true believer. My older brother is Mormon, and he also embraces his faith. My father converted to Catholicism in the last years of his life, and I believe he believed. Three men, forming a Trinity I love. But that doesn't mean I have to believe as they do, any more than they should subscribe to my lack of faith in a deity.

My mother, she had her own belief: we are here, we should do as much good as we can while we can, and then we're gone. She also taught me this — that we should do our best to pass along whatever wisdoms we acquire, and if they reach the right hearts, those lessons will be given to others along this string. In that sense we live forever, always a part of someone's heart, even if they never met us, never knew us.

I believe we live on a rock. I believe true delights in life are rare, and we should hold them close while we can, because they can vanish with the morning light, and too often they're gone forever, leaving holes in our hearts. I believe it is best to forgive, and try to forget, even as the deep cut forms a scar that will never fade. Because once we're gone, the scar no longer matters. The agonies end. There is only silence. We are forgotten, and life goes on.

No comments: