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The Evil You Think You Know

ReligionI almost started my own religion last week. Then I realized that doing so would contradict everything that I believe. Oh, I don’t mean that doing so would go against my religious indoctrination. I just mean that organizing a religion is a contradiction for someone who has a problem with organized religion.
A few weeks ago I was angered by a cousin of mine who upset my mother by running her mouth about how she had visited my web site, and how what she found there scared her, and how Wiccans and Pagans are this or that or the other thing. How she knows so much about Wiccans and Pagans and witchcraft is beyond me. I don’t imagine she knows any Wiccans, Pagans or witches, or would recognize one if they passed her on the street. And she obviously doesn’t know me as a person from Adam’s house cat (to borrow one of my mother’s colorful phrases), since I’m not a Wiccan or a witch (though I’ll certainly admit to using the word “pagan” to describe myself on occasion).
What upset me most was that this cousin and the wife of another cousin started running their mouths about Wiccans and witchcraft and how I was messing around with dangerous stuff to such an extent that they upset my mother to a point that she went into the bathroom, shut the door behind her, and cried. That’s a most excellent way to wind up on my shit list. Make my mother cry. From that moment on, you’re a maggot, and can only influence the degree to which I think you’re a maggot. But you’ll always be a maggot.
Of course, these people weren’t trying to upset my mother. They were just spouting off about things they knew nothing about, with that assured comfort that comes from the belief that your way is the only way, and all other ways are wrong. Had this cousin actually visited my web site and poked around to any great extent, I don’t imagine she would have found anything genuinely scary.
Honestly, I’ve been scratching my head on that one, trying to figure what the hell she could have been looking at that would have warranted this impromptu inquisition into the religious beliefs of one Wicasta Lovelace, and I’ve come up with nothing. However, if there’s anything on my web site that upsets anybody, I stand by it. I’m sorry your delicate sensibilities rubbed up against the abrasive fabric of my reality. Okay, I’m not sorry. That was sarcasm. But you know what I mean.
Naturally, my mother’s encounter with these people led to the monthly re-examination of my spiritual and religious beliefs, which I constantly have to go over, again and again, to soothe my mother’s fears. No, I don’t believe exactly what my mother believes. I probably don’t believe exactly what any of you believe.
What upsets me the most, though, is the unmitigated arrogance of Christians who believe they are within their rights to label other people. If I don’t consider myself a Christian, then obviously I must worship the Devil and eat babies’ brains with a melon scoop on the weekends while I’m smoking crack and having sex with children and/or farm animals. You know. A faith-based reality that’s completely set apart from the real world.
Personally, I think that’s what scared my cousin. She went to my web site and discovered I wasn’t a member of the home team, and then she stumbled across some keywords like “pagan” and, well, came to her own conclusions. Facts be damned (no pun intended). I couldn’t care less what she thinks of me, or what she thinks I am. What pissed me off is that she had the unimaginable nerve to go to my mother and upset her with these insane theories.
Then a few days ago I found out that another cousin of mine had been talking to my mother about witches and Wiccans (again with no first hand knowledge whatsoever), and inferred that someone out there had told him a thing or two about what Wiccans believe (again, I’m not a Wiccan, remember?), and that it was all bad in some vaguely ominous but undefined way. At first it amused me. Then it pissed me off. This person, who hasn’t worked for more than a few weeks at a time in years, who drains everyone around him of their charity and goodwill like he’s suckling at the breast of Aphrodite herself, dares to have an opinion about what he thinks my religious beliefs are? It’s bad enough that the Christians conjure up dogma-based fantasies about me. Now the drunkards and drug addicts are going to get into the act? And who are these people he’s been talking to? Are they the same idiots who think President Obama is a Muslim and that the Democrats are trying to turn the United States into a socialist country? The people who, rather than writing you and asking you what you believe, will decide who and what you are by talking to other people who haven’t written you and asked what you believe.
As part of my monthly penance for not believing the exact same thing that my mother believes, I found myself explaining, again, what it is that I believe. This got me to thinking that perhaps it was time to start a new religion. It’s been heavy on my heart since I was a kid that all of the world’s religions are basically bullshit. Every one of them. If you study the world’s religions, every one of them is based upon the same foundations; basically, don’t be an asshole, a thief or a murderer. Then they pile on a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with all that, and they’re off an running.
I’ve studied enough of the world’s religions to see a recurring theme in what I’ve studied. Essentially, each one started off with some pretty good ideas, and I kept reading until I found that point where my eyes started rolling and I was shaking my head. Pretty much that point where you get beyond the stuff about not raping, pillaging and plundering and find yourself addressing the 1,001 ways you can be a failure in this religion, and how you’d better go kiss someone’s ass and give them some money so they’ll be inclined to offer you guidance.
I’m paraphrasing, of course. But it always gets down to the fact that someone wants to take you beyond those basic, valid truths that are at the heart of all religions and explain to you why it is that their religion is the one, true way, and why you shouldn’t eat fish, or why pork is the Devil, or why this guy, or that guy, or another guy, was the one who figured it all out, and how the only way you’ll ever figure it all out yourself is if you listen to him and him alone (and be careful not to read the works of any other of the world’s religions).
Ironically, for all the people who seem to assume I’m a Pagan, Wiccan or witch, I’m a damned poor one. I had that same problem with Wicca. I studied it, and I reached that point where it became ridiculous, and I set it aside. If I’ve considered myself Wiccan on occasion through the years, it’s only been because I found that I could agree with about 65% of what I found in Wicca, and that’s a good bit higher than where I got with any other religion. For the most part, I later settled on “Pagan” because that pretty much offends everybody. That says to the world that you’re not Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Mormon or Buddhist (much less Baptist). It cuts out a lot of unnecessary explaining. But honestly, I’m getting tired of being defined by that label, as well, and I find myself bristling at it.
I know what I am. I know who I am. I don’t need a priest, preacher, rabbi or holy man to explain to me how I should best reach out to God, because when I was kid I had my first religious experience, and it defined me from that moment on. Here’s the story…
Every Sunday in church (a Baptist church, mind you – Second Baptist… which is kind of like the Christian equivalent of those Double Muslims that Richard Pryor used to talk about), I started marching down to the preacher during the Invitational and, when he bent down to hear me, I’d just say “I love God”. He let this go on for about a month or so, and then one Sunday when I marched down there and declared “I love God,” he put his hand on my shoulder, and seriously asked me, “Do you? Do you really love God?” I told him that I did, and in that moment, to borrow Christian terminology, God came into my heart. I told him I did, and I meant it.
The only problem was, God didn’t come into my heart like that preacher thought he should, or like my mother hoped he would, or like any other Christian expected that he might. God filled my heart and spirit to the brim, and he didn’t leave any room for anything else. He didn’t leave room for Jesus Christ. He didn’t leave room for Mohammad. He didn’t leave room for Buddha. Or Shiva. Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All I’ve known in my heart since that time has been the presence of God, and I’ve never questioned it. I’ve taken great comfort from that constant, calming presence.
So, if someone really wants to know what I believe, it’s right there in a nutshell. God laid it upon my heart that all religions were created by man and served man. God isn’t a Christian. Or a Muslim. Or a Jew. God IS. And that’s really all you need to know. I’ve never met Jesus, or Mohammad or Buddha. But I’ve met God. It doesn’t matter to me if you understand this or approve of it. It has nothing to do with you, and your opinion is as meaningless to me as if we were in a restaurant and I’d just ordered the meatloaf, prompting you to rant about how you think meatloaf is nasty. It doesn’t figure in, ya know? I’m still going to have the meatloaf.
In the end, I just wish more of these people practiced their religions more and talked about it less.
To that cousin who so greatly upset my mother, if you want to impress me with the validity of your religious beliefs, why don’t you take that money you donate to that mega-church every Sunday and instead give it over to a soup kitchen, or some charitable organization that’s trying to clothe the poor or give homeless people somewhere to sleep at night.
To that cousin who apparently took great pleasure in mentioning to my mother that people had been talking about me and making assumptions about my beliefs, I’d like to point out that after all the misery you’ve brought into the world, the idea of you questioning anyone’s beliefs is little more than a pathetic joke. Get your life together and do a little good in the world, and then I’ll gladly debate religious theology with you.
And to those people who might believe that I’ve been a negative influence upon my girlfriend because she’s seen in me, if nothing else, that it’s alright to believe what feels right in her heart, I’d say that instead of sending down tokens and veiled admonitions as reminders of her Evangelical past, you might prove your own religious beliefs more valid if you simply opened your arms in that much talked about but little practiced expression of unconditional Christian love. You might be casting a wary eye upon me, but I’ve cast just as wary of an eye upon you, too. And forgive me for saying so, I’ve seen nothing in you that makes me think you’re fit to judge anyone.
In the end, all that matters is that I am what I am. I am what God made me. I’m fine with that. God is fine with that. What the rest of you make of all that I really couldn’t care less about.
Should I start that religion (and I may yet), it’ll be a religious theology that’s stripped of all the bullshit. It will incorporate the one, all-binding and useful concept that I’ve brought with me from the Pagans; the concept of, simply, that if it harms no one else, do whatever you want to do. Most of the surface thinkers will read the second part of that and think it means that there are no rules. But if they dig a little deeper, they’ll realize that the first part is very binding. “If it harms none” and only if it harms none. Think about that.
What can you really do without hurting someone else? You can’t steal from someone, because you’re harming that person in one way or another by doing it. You can’t coerce your unwilling girlfriend into having sex with you without violating that code, because you’re harming her spirit by doing so. You can’t gossip about what someone else may or may not believe, without any proof whatsoever, because in doing so you’ve harmed that person’s reputation, and that can be as real a harm as a physical injury. Taken in its literal sense, there is no greater creed to live by than “If you harm none, do what you will”, because it leaves no room for personal desires to over-ride the will of others. Needless to say, this obviously covers all of the Ten Commandments. Raping. Pillaging. Plundering. They’re all covered.
Beyond that, what do you really need? Do you want me to explain God to you? Sorry. I can’t do that. To my mind, the true nature of God is so far beyond our understanding that it’s pointless for us to try to conceptualize what God is. We can use all of the convenient labels that we want (just as I’m using the label “God” now), but they’re meaningless. We’re like ants trying to describe the true nature of an elephant that just lumbered by when all we saw were a few grains of sand wiggle about. All we can really say with any truthfulness is that we felt the presence of the elephant. We can’t make assumptions about what the elephant wants or thinks or feels.
Maybe I should start that religion. Sometimes I feel like I was put on this Earth to lead people out of the darkness. Not because I am a prophet or a messiah, but simply because what I believe seems to resonate so deeply and instinctually with people. Maybe it’s something that just has to be said, but no one really wants to say it.
I’m just a guy who realized what I think all of us have known deep in our hearts from the time we were children. God is. He, she, or it, is all around us. We are as much a part of God as the cells in our own bloodstreams are a part of us. And God is a part of us. If you need to conceive of God as some wise old man sitting on a throne in the clouds, that’s fine. Whatever works for you. But you cannot prove that. None of us could. But I think we’ve all felt the presence of God. What he is exactly doesn’t really matter. God IS. It’s enough to know that. Let’s dispense with all of the ancillary bullshit that we’ve been murdering each other over for these many centuries and get down to the business of building a better world.
In closing, I feel that I should state that I don’t believe that my concept of religion being an artificial construct made by man for the benefit of man is the only valid theory where religion is concerned. But I’ll contend that my religion is a lot easier to prove than yours. We’ve all met God, whatever we choose to call him. Even the poor atheists, who spend so much time trying to disprove the existence of God, have a religion of sorts. Theirs is the religion of disbelief, and they cling just as desperately to their dogma.
What I am trying to say is that instead of one or some religions being right about things and others being wrong, it’s quite possible that every religion on Earth is correct to believe what they believe. Maybe God doesn’t care what we call him or how we address him. Pray to Jesus. Or Mohammad. Or the Saints. Or the Goddess. Conceive of God as a man or a woman or a plate of spaghetti with two meatballs, and it’s all the same. God is God. It doesn’t matter what we call him. As long as we reach out to him. That’s why he gave us religion, that we might find the way that suits us best on our long journeys home. We may take different paths, but sooner or later we all find our way home.
If that is a Pagan way of thinking that frightens some people, then so be it.

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