Friday, January 10, 2014

They Find My Lack of Faith Disturbing

About that wedding...

There is one very important fact about me that you must know before committing fully to reading my blog regularly. This truth may make or break our online relationship, dear reader. I hope that you are capable of overlooking this "flaw" of mine. The truth is...

I am an agnostic.

A dirty heathen.

A non-believer.

A doubter.

A free-thinker.

One of the many things my husband and I agreed upon that sealed the deal of our marriage from the beginning is that there would be no god between us. Any children we created together would be raised as free-thinkers, free of religion. Our wedding would have absolutely zero church involvement whatsoever.

Let me tell you something. That last part wasn't easy to accomplish.

I owe most of the success of my wedding to my Aunt Carol, who was more than delighted to step up to the task of being my free-of-charge wedding planner. I don't know what we would have done without her. She bought pretty much all of the decorations for our reception and ceremony. She found us the park and reserved the time for us. She rented the chairs; I think from her own church. She found us our reception hall and put in a tremendous amount of time into giving me exactly what I wanted. She and her sister (my other aunt, duh) both paid for our honeymoon by giving us a gift pass on their timeshare. I can't thank them enough.

A lot of other people pitched in, too, though. The father of my childhood best friend came in all the way from Pittsburgh to be our pianist for the ceremony, playing an eclectic selection of music instead of the traditional march. Everybody in the wedding party helped decorate the reception hall before the ceremony, bright and early the morning of the big event. My maid-of-honor's friend filmed everything, though I don't think I've ever seen the video and nobody knows where it went. My brother Keith got a photographer on discount, and unfortunately we never received our wedding pictures. But through the generosity of gifts given to us from all of our guests, we have photos aplenty to share.

Mawwiage. Keepin' it classy.
The trick was finding someone to marry us! The disturbing truth of the matter, in 2003, is that there were only two types of people willing to perform a marriage ceremony. The number one and most commonly used method that my husband and I avoided at all costs was through a church official. The other method was to make a date with a judge. The word from the courthouse was that they only performed marriage ceremonies at the courthouse. Nobody was willing to come to our park of choice. Except one lady I found in the phone book.

I found only one ordained minister, official Justice of the Peace, in the entire phone book for Northeastern Ohio who was willing to come to Canton to do our ceremony outside of the confines of a chapel or courtroom. Only one person who was willing to do it without any mention of any god whatsoever. I wish I could remember her name. She found for us a lovely Cherokee love blessing, and tossed in a moment of silence to honor my long-departed mother and father, neither of which were alive to see me on my wedding day.

Everything went swimmingly, completely faith free . . . until my uncle sneaked in the before meal prayer at our reception without first consulting me about it.

Appropriate reaction is appropriate.
~     *     ~     *     ~

Apart from our love of nerdy things -- such as books, video games, and chess -- my husband and I share a conviction that religion is not without flaw. On his part, he was raised in a household in which religion was not an issue. Though his mother is a woman of faith, it was never pushed on him. They never went to church as a family. It was the one thing his father was thankfully adamant on, that his children not be subjected to religious indoctrination.

I, on the other hand, am a victim of just the opposite.

When I was a child, we went to church every Sunday. I do not at all remember the name of the church, or which denomination it was specifically (maybe Lutheran or Methodist), but my involvement in the church scene is impossible to forget. My very first impression of religion was that it was vitally important we dress to impress.

"So help  me you will smile for this picture
or I will--!" - November 1984
My mother would wrestle me into a starched, scratchy, moth-ball stinking white frilly dress, with stockings and black patent leather shoes. I hated the thing. I hated wearing dresses in general (still do). I was a notorious tomboy at the time. Skirts and dresses just got in the way of climbing on things and being rambunctious, and made me feel partly naked. My daughters feel the same way. They hate it when I put them in dresses, and are always pulling at the skirts to try to get them out of the way.

To make matters worse, my mother also forced me to put curlers in my hair the night before. So I could look pretty. I didn't want to look pretty, but apparently it was very important to her that I did.

This is what the result of subjugation looks like.
I couldn't tell you what I learned in Sunday school, other than basements are cold, dusty, and the snacks are gross. I remember being given a pocket Bible, that I put stickers in. Stupid fruit stickers that may have been scratch 'n' sniff. I guess we earned them for doing something right. Probably reciting what we'd been spoon-fed to believe. Coloring Jesus riding a velociraptor. I don't know. All I know is that these experiences of my early childhood began the downward spiral to my future as a nonreligious adult.

My mother died when I was 8, and we stopped going to church. My father never brought it up, but the looming shadow of religion's oppressive power still hung over us when we attended family gatherings. Before meal prayers always happened. They still do. I suffer silently while I'm told to hold hands and get in a circle, bow my head and stand and listen while someone leads us in a prayer. I never bow my head. I never close my eyes. I tune out whatever is being said and spend my time reflecting on other things. I consider it a minor inconvenience to endure until I'm permitted to get some food to eat.

(Just ignore my daughter as she runs around giggling maniacally. She's three. She doesn't care, and I'm not putting in the effort to brainwash her.)

Though nobody ever says anything to me outright about my lack of faith, I can feel their disapproval. I know it's there. It's not like I keep it a secret. I'm friends with my aunt on Facebook. I have a tendency to post anti-religious propaganda now and then. Chances are she's reading this right now (hi). But I digress.

I began seriously researching religions of the world when I was a teenager. I wrote many essays on the topics of various faiths. I think my studies really began when I stumbled upon The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You to Read at the library. After suffering the same superficial stereotypes of expectation from the super religious mother of my first boyfriend (that's another story). After so many of my friends seemed determined to save me by asking me to attend church services with them. (I did go to church with them, but I never converted.) After the Bible/Myth class I took when one of my fellow classmates gaped at me and asked, "You don't believe in Gawd???" As if she had never, ever encountered such a phenomenon in her entire life.

Too many people tried to "save" me. It was annoying.

Even after my father died nearly 10 years to the day of the anniversary of my mother's death, I still did not find God.

I found out a lot about how similar all the world's religions are, however. I dabbled a little in the occult. I thought Wicca sounded more my style. I even hung out with a coven for a bit. But deep down inside I found believing in multiple deities that did what I wanted them to do by simply praying to them seemed just as ridiculous as putting all my faith in one.

I tend to see myself as sitting on the line between belief and disbelief. Neither side can prove to me one way or another that a higher power does or does not exist, and I think it's a waste of time to bicker about it. There is plenty of proof, however, of how violent and horrible religion can be as a whole: The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, 911. Disregarding the debate about whether or not he even existed, just look at what happened to Jesus! The things people have done in the name of their faith are nothing short of atrocities, and I want nothing to do with any group of peoples with such a horrific history marring its name. Even the pagan religions have their fair share of historical evils to account for.

Back to my issue with needing to dress to impress...

"But, Stacey! My church isn't like that! You can dress however you want! Heck. I wear sweat pants most of the time myself!"

I've heard that before. My experience begs to differ. If I show up wearing my usual comfortable ensemble of jeans and a tee-shirt, I get so many disapproving looks. Maybe I just haven't found the right church, people say. I don't really want to find the right church, though. I'm not comfortable in churches. My husband and I are in agreement that church is no place for introverts like us. My biggest discomfort comes from that moment when -- and it always happens -- the pastor or priest or whatever tells the congregation to turn and introduce themselves to the people around them. Shake hands. Make friends!

Listen. I don't like that. Whatever happened to just going to church to hear the "Word of God" and leaving? Why does there have to be this push for fellowship? Why do I have to flee the premises before a sermon is even finished just to avoid being hunted down by the super friendly sharks who can smell my visitor blood from a mile away?


I don't want to get to know you. I don't want to have to talk to you. Let me observe quietly, comfortably in the back row, as far away from everybody else as humanly possible.

Please stop pushing your preconceived notions of human behavior on me.

Please stop pushing your religion on me.

Just let me be.

I wish people could just let it be, but unfortunately how one self-identifies in regards to faith has become a status symbol. If you confess to being a Christian, 80% of the time you're going to be warmly welcomed by your fell man (or woman). Tell anyone that you self-identify as atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Jew, or ('Murica forfend!) Muslim and the war begins. The war to try to convert you. The war to thump you so hard with Bible verses that you're left dizzy and bleeding and beaten down so sore that you just don't want to fight anymore.

That's where I stand, really. I don't want to fight anymore. There are instances in which I feel compelled to do so, however. Particularly regarding "the sanctity of marriage" that always comes into play these days with the fight to legalize gay marriage.

There shouldn't even be a fight. Religion does not own marriage. If it did, I never would have done this:

By all rights I shouldn't have even been
 wearing white.


  1. You're a non believer?!?! I would have never guessed! >:D

    You're a perfect Stacey <3.

  2. All I have to say is, AMEN SISTA!