Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wedding Ceremony Blues

I attended a wedding this weekend, which is unusual for me because I like attending neither weddings nor funerals. But since it was my niece who was getting married and they were going to serve me food at the reception, I had to attend.

The reception was fun. They did have food and it was a chance to visit with members of the family. The wedding, on the other hand, was excruciating. First of all, let me say that the beautiful bride, my niece, handled herself with poise and dignity when the minster called her Laura. (Her name is Heather.) He also called the groom Justin. (His name is Ricky.) Then he interrupted the ceremony by trying to explain to those in attendance that he had forgotten to change the names on his notes from a previous wedding. If I had been the bride, I think I would have stopped the whole thing and made him start over.

I also would not have hired a minister. Granted, my niece calls herself a Christian, but then so do most other Americans who never attend church but on Easter and Christmas. I don’t know how often she attends, but I’ll have to say I don’t attend at all anymore, and it was almost painful to sit through a wedding that doubled as a Sunday morning worship service. Yes, there was lots of bible reading and praying going on. God’s name was spoken more often than the bride’s and groom’s, especially given that he got them wrong on at least three occasions during the ceremony.

But I’m not writing about the wedding, per se. While I was sitting there during the church service, uh, wedding ceremony I was struck by the realization that most, if not all, the members of the audience who went along with the minister’s calls for prayer and who nodded in agreement every time the minister uttered the phrase, “our lord Jesus,” had all been taken in by one of the world’s greatest hoaxes: Christianity. Did they not realize how silly they all seemed? They were, after all, mostly adults who were intelligent enough to make a decent living but who had succumbed to the propaganda that is their church’s dogma.

When they reached the age of 8 or 9, did they all not question the existence of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Did they not all stop believing in the Tooth Fairy at an even earlier age? Yet they keep their belief in an ancient myth about a talking snake that tempted the mother of all mankind with a fruit and now we all must suffer for her sins throughout all our time on Earth? They believe that a perfect and benevolent god created all of us, then allowed us to be tempted by the devil (whom he also created, since he created everything), and then he sends us to eternal torment if we actually give in to the temptation. And when all that doesn’t make sense to them, they make excuses for their god by saying things like, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It’s all part of God’s divine plan.”

And when asked how they know all this stuff is true, they invariably point to their holy book, the bible. Everything in there is true and right. How do they know that? Because the bible tells them so.

People believe silly nonsense because they are raised to believe silly nonsense. Most people stop believing in silly nonsense like the Easter Bunny because their maturing minds become more curious about how things really work. But because society grew up believing in myths to explain things that were not understood, most people still believe those myths. I guess that means society hasn’t reached the age of reason yet.

At the wedding, the minister lauded Heather for actually choosing which bible verses she wanted him to read. He praised her for knowing enough about the bible to choose wisely. I praise my kids for dumping their belief in the bible. I applaud people who know the bible, too. But I applaud them if they actually know about the bible as well, and how it came to exist. Who wrote it and when? Who decided which of the hundreds or thousands of early writings would be included in the canon? Were there any early challenges to their religion by other sects? Most people don’t know much about the history of the bible or of their religion. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research survey, atheists and agnostics know more about the bible than most Christians. If more Christians knew more about the bible rather than just what’s in it, they probably wouldn’t be Christians anymore.

I long for the day when people will start really questioning their faith in a critical manner. Most Christians have moments of doubt, but they lament these moments as signs of weakness. Instead, they should embrace them as flashes of incite.

We, as a society, don’t have to give up going to church if we give up our faith. We can still be spiritual. We can still congregate. We just won’t congregate under the delusion that some higher power is watching over us. We’ll appreciate that everything we have accomplished is due to our own ability and resourcefulness. And we will be proud of ourselves for doing it, all without the help of a supernatural father figure in the sky.

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