Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An Agnostic at a Catholic Dinner Table

Tonight I'm having dinner with my partner's Catholic family. It's not the first time, nor is it the last. What makes tonight's dinner so different is the fact that we're both going to sit down to eat, silently, and pretend that the elephant in the room doesn't exist: I'm not Catholic! This is particularly relevent given the foibles and fiascos that have been occuring due to our upcoming nuptials.

Out of respect for their devoutness, I have always been respectful of their traditions and practices even if I don't share them or even, to be honest, agree with them. This has recently come to bite me in the ass, but that is another story, and has led me to rethink my position on polite tolerance.

I originally thought that it was more important to be respectful of another's traditions, and ultimately still do, but am continuously astounded by how so many religious traditions (particularly very devout practitioners) fail to accord the same respect back. I have been put through the ringer for not complying to expectation and getting married into the community church because it is seen as disrespectful and manipulative. My question is this: when did my spiritual identity start meaning less than your Catholic identity? When did my spiritual beliefs lead to the conclusion that I don't have strong opinions of my own about religion? I was raised in religion and chose to leave, for very specific reasons. Why am I now being demanded to forget all of my issues with Christianity, and go a step further, the Catholic church, just for the sake of others when my partner doesn't require it?

For the record:

I have serious issues with the Bible being the "divine" word of God. I think God, in all "its" infinite glory, would be less prone to inconsistency and contradiction should "it" sit down and write (or inspire the writing of something).

I don't believe in the Pope

I believe that all religions essentially boil down the same truth and the same Divine source

I can never accept the idea that if you don't accept Jesus as your saviour, you will be denied a relationship with God. Moreover, I don't accept that God would be so cruel as to say that there is only one way to live in "its" light and then deny 3/4 of the world population knowledge of that way until the 19th century and later. I think God is bigger and more conscientous than that

I believe that God's message is love, and that love can come in any form, between any gender. Our bodies are merely shells for our souls and gender is learned. Who you choose to love is irrelevant as long as you love.

I'm a feminist and believe that the Bible was written by men, for men. Nothing will convince me otherwise. Nothing. I think the Bible has many very important messages and lessons, but that ultimately the story is flawed and needs to be recontextualized based on our current generation. To insist on maintaining the values/rules of another time period is to perpetuate a human right violation in the 21st century.

I think "God" is everywhere and the need for an intermediary is false. I do not need the house of God to speak to God. In fact, I've always found God more present in nature: God's creation, not ours.

Those are just a few of my beliefs, but when I sit down to eat with Catholics, bowing my head for their prayer out of respect, all of them seem to be erased by the act of respect I accord for their beliefs. Should anyone actually care to ask, those are just a few of the things I would share but no one does, which is fine because most are taught not to ask those questions. But in light of all the wedding debates we've been having lately, I find it infuriating that my willingness to eschew many of my own vehemently held beliefs and marry in a Catholic church outside of the "community" is being spit on and regarded as disrespectful. Where in any of this equation is respect towards me being considered? Once again I'm going to sit at a table with people who prefer to pretend that everything is all right than really talk about the issues, and it is slowly killing me inside. For three years that silence has bothered me. And now, with the wedding issue, it has grown into a demon inside that is just screaming to get out. I'm not a person who holds secrets and this secret has been held too long and is destroying me.

Heaven help them if they feed me wine tonight, that's all I've got to say....

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