Thursday, July 3, 2008


Religion keeps popping up in my life these days. It's not that I've ignored it in the past, but for whatever reason, I've had more conversations in the past two months about religion and spirituality than any other time in my life. Then the other day I visited a blog where the writer posed the topic of religion. He asked people their opinions of organized religion. Being a definite religious blend, I have a lot to say on a very sensitive subject.

I was raised Catholic, yet my father's family are the only Sicilian Baptists I know, or ever heard of. HONEST!! During the depression, my grandparents could not feed their 6 children. The local Baptist church aided in feeding and clothing my father and his siblings. Gran and Poppo, fresh from Sicily, did not know how to repay the church, so they did the only thing they knew to do, convert. Except for my dad and an occasional cousin, my dad's family were the only Sicilian's I knew who did not drink or smoke. Most Italian weddings are filled with wine and dancing. Not ours. The "heathens" of the family were usually trying to find a nearby liquor store to smuggle contraban into the reception hall.

When my dad married my mom all sorts of conflict and chaos ensued. He couldn't marry that "Catholic" girl! Funny, just a few short years prior they were all Catholic. I don't think anyone saw the hypocrasy behind their concerns. To them lines were drawn. They were now Baptist, so Dad should marry a Baptist just like all of his siblings. And to be fair, I am positive there were a few raised eye brows on Mom's side about Mom not marrying a Catholic. The two of them did something even more scandalous for both families. They ran off and got married by a justice of the peace. Eventually, Dad converted (back?) to Catholocism and they were married in a Catholic church. When I think about it now, it all seems odd. Gran loved my mom inspite of her being the wrong religion and Gram O'Sh loved Dad. Much to the chagrin of my dad's family, we were raised Catholic. Not the best Catholics (which bothered Gram O'Sh just as much) but we did occasionally go to church and went through all the rites of passage: Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.

Although I didn't grace the steps of a church too often, I always loved the ritual of mass. The one area that I always questioned in Catholicism was confession. In theory it sounds great, but were you really absolved of sin after confession. Shouldn't there be some remorse to go along with your actions. Sadly, I know people that can be cruel, or rude to others, but justify it because once they walk in the confessional they are free of sin. WHAT?! Was that really how the program was set up? Break a commandment, go to confession, slate clean; repeat. Just one of the many questions I have about religion.

After doing battle with the Catholic church during my divorce, I opted out of raising my children with any religion. Our Parish in McHenry suggested that I stay and fix my marriage. They would not assist with counseling. I didn't consider annulment an option. Kat and Adam existed, so there was a marriage. Good thing I thought that way, as they informed me that they would not assist with an annulment if I requested one. I was told repeatedly that in God's eyes I needed to return to my marriage. No ifs, ands or buts. Sorry, God. I was not going to subject myself or my children to that living hell any longer. And so we left. The marriage and the church.

Later the Arch Diocese of McHenry told me that if I paid them $400 my marriage would be annulled. Hmmm...annulled with two small children. That seemed too weird. Besides a year ago, they said it was impossible. No thank you. That's when I looked into a Protestant based church and finally decided that I am completely unsure about organized religion. My beliefs are more spiritual than anything else. I believe in a higher Being as well as angels (spirit guides), etc. To me, He/She has many different names for many different cultures - God, Allah, Buddha, The Big Kahuna...

I believe in prayer. God, Jesus and I chat all the time. I need to remember to say "Thank you" much more often. These past couple of weeks have been strong reminders that I do not say thank you enough. The area of religion that consistently confounds me, and one of the reasons why I walked away from organized religion, is that people are ridiculed or ostracized for their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, as well as their differences. Think about it, my father was not supposed to marry my mother because she was, God forbid, Catholic! I'm sure the Catholic side did not recognize their marriage until they were married in a church. They both believed in God and Jesus, so what is wrong with two divergent viewpoints? To me, God would not condone ridiculing others for their beliefs as He/She is a benevolent Being; loving anyone and everyone.

The idea of someone being killed because he/she is different is impossible for me to wrap my head around. Yet, this has been the cornerstone for wars. Someone recently tried to explain it to me and although his arguement was quite persuasive, it is still a difficult thought to swallow.

Organized religion seems to categorize people which I find extremely unhealthy. Should a women fall out of favor with her church because she finally found the strength to file for divorce and leave an abusive marriage? Should homosexuals be told that they are sinners because of their God-given sexual orientation? Just because I believe one way and you another does not mean that we fight to the death. To me, diversity is to be embraced, to ignite discussion and growth, and finally a way to learn about each other.

Leaving organized religion offered a variety of challenges and many would say I failed miserably while raising Kat and Adam. I was never very good at biblical stories and my children gleaned what they could from me, but more so from the neighborhood children. I remember one day when Adam and Jake (his best friend at the time) were 5 and sitting in our living room discussing the story of Adam and Eve. Jake went to a Lutheran school, so he had a much better grasp of religion at 5 than I did at 40. The two of them were talking about Adam (of Adam and Eve fame, not my son) eating the apple when Kat walked in the room. She turned to me and stated that Adam and Jake really had the whole Snow White story mixed up. My children were obviously raised more along the lines of the Gospel according to Disney.

In fact this past Easter, in front of the relatives, Kat announced that she was pretty sure that Jesus was just a regular guy who did a pretty good magic trick or two and had everyone bamboozled. Our relatives are sure that I am raising devil worshippers and are now praying over their souls. I questioned many beliefs while growing up, but wasn't as vocal. Kinda wish my kids weren't so vocal either. As a parent you can't wait for your children to speak and then when they are teens, at times, you really wish they learned to be quiet!

Yeah...I am in definite trouble when it comes to my children and religion. Quite often I wonder, "Who ARE you two?"

Kat's questions started with her first communion. By then the church already knew that I was planning a break. Kat, my little sage soul, at the ripe ol' age of 7 questioned many things in her CCD class. Then, due to a bout with the flu, she threw up suddenly and forcibly on her desk in CCD and possibly (if I remember correctly) her teacher. Kat swears her religious life was fairly non-existent after her teacher yelled at her for being sick. After her first communion we planned our escape. Looking back, I should not have made her follow through with her first communion. It was rather hypocritical on my end. Yet, at the time, I was confused and thought if she started something she should finish it. The fact that Katrina lost a tooth just prior to her communion and we almost had blood spilling down the front of her white dress should have been another sign that organized religion was not for us three.

When it came time for Adam to make his First Communion, we were living here and he heard how much money his friends received. His commitment to religion was purely economic based. So, he did not even enroll in a CCD class.

Kat has always entertained the idea of a more spirituality than religion. If you ask her today, she will tell you that she is more Wiccen than anything else; being one with the world. Adam has announced that he is atheist and believes in evolution. Sadly, Adam also learned freedom of speech and religion can be quite costly. He has been ostracized by many of his friends due to his beliefs. Many of the kids at his school are Latino and they take their religion very seriously. Those children do not take kindly to someone who questions Jesus' existence. It was a hard lesson to learn. But freedom of speech and religion unfortunately have their costs.

I believe in a higher power. Who else could create such amazing sites and sounds. The beauty of a sunrise, or a baby's laugh have to be the creation of a higher Being. I am lucky and blessed to be here and to have the most amazing friends and relatives. That fact alone are acts of God. Yes, I do need to say "Thank you" much more often.

Kat, Adam and I are all firm believers of karma. What goes around comes around. We believe in treating others the way we want to be treated, with love and respect. Lies and cheating have no place in our lives. We may not be religious, but we are good people. Not perfect. But good. We love and care for others. A trait that some of the most devout need to learn.