Religion is an Oxymoron to Me

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~~HH the Dalai Lama
When I found these words by the Dalai Lama, I thought to myself, "yes, it's time." The words called to early childhood memories that formed the growth of my belief system, and the curiosity of how you came into yours. Sharing my memories with you will help set the stage of understanding for both of us, I think.

Though I half expect a membership invitation from AARP to be in the mail any day now, I find it funny that most of my very early memories are the same ones I've had all my life. But today, another one, small and hazy, popped up in my mind. It was around the time that I found that hiding place behind the dining room door, so that puts it in the year of 1962, the year my brother was born.

My father held my hand as we were walking by the park not too far from our house. It was very cold, yet I had on a dress, ankle socks and shoes instead of boots, along with that hated knit hat with the 'dingle berries' on top. My father was dressed in a way I had never seen before, a suit, and I was frightened by that. But, it was so rare, so new to be walking with my father alone, that it somehow didn't seem that big of a fright. I was fine until we got to the front of this massive, tall, very dark looking building with huge doors. When I realized we were going to go into the church, terror took hold, and that's where the memory ends. This small memory brought up many more to go along with it.

In 1964, my parents bought a small parcel of land and built a house 'out in the boondocks.' As soon as we moved in, we would drive into town every Sunday morning for mass at St. Mary's. We'd park in the same spot on the street, walk past the same policeman on the corner, go in the same side door, walk down the same side aisle, and sit in the same pew. In the pew in front of us sat an old lady that always wore enough bath splash to stink up that whole area of the church. Immediately, my eyes would sting and then water, my nose would start running and I'd sneeze what seemed like a thousand times before mass was over.

Through my misery, I'd watch my parents pick up the 'misstle-ette' from the magazine rack, a new one every month, and follow along throughout the service. By then, I had a good start on reading and could follow along too, so I'd grab one. In this little book were instructions. When the priest said this, you say what is in bold print right after. It even told you when to sit, kneel, stand up, sit down. The only time you weren't supposed to follow that little book was during the sermon. This was a fancy church, complete with a microphone for the priest and speakers mounted all over, so even though I couldn't understand much, I heard every loud word.

Once mass was over, the priest and alter boys would file down the main aisle and wait in the vestibule. We didn't go out the same door we came in; we had to go by the priest and shake his hand. The thought sends a shudder down my spine. The hands were always soft, cold, and about as genuine feeling as a store mannequin. I felt smaller and smaller as this massive, formless shape leaned down to shake my hand.

Tagging along like a well-trained puppy, eyes swollen and red, nose flowing rapidly, back to the car we'd go. On the way home, we'd stop at the grocery store where my brother and I had to wait in the car while my parents shopped. Then, the yelling would start between my father and mother. Ear-shattering volume, they yelled at each other so loudly that you could almost feel the yells bounce off the windows of the car. I'd run for my room as soon as we got home, listened to the yells through the walls, and listened to them until my father went to bed after dinner because he had to work that night….

This was the routine for years. Slowly, I began to comprehend more and more, and with that comprehension came a sort of horrified wonder at the blatant hypocrisy of it all. Everything from the rote recital of what was in bold print to the intimidating priests to my parents' habitual Sunday feuds spoke nothing but phoniness to me. Add to it all my physical distress with severe allergic reactions to perfume and you have a kid that absolutely hated going to church. I took away nothing from those years of Sundays but disdain for a ritual that stood only for misery and anguish, and sometimes terror.

This was the beginning of my rejection of religion. Now, it couldn't have been that bad for you, could it? If your parents took you to church every Sunday, what were your experiences like?


  1. It was that bad for me too! My Dad would wake me up for church every Sunday, screaming, get up, get up, get, up open my shades, and rip the blankets off of me!!! It was never peaceful. Then my parents would argue with me over my choice of clothes or whatever... It was always stressful.

    One Sunday, I waited at the back of the church to get communion with my Mother, and an old lady kicked me! She thought I should not be standing there I guess. There was no love, no peace, and no joy. Oh, and as a teenager, the priest made me kiss a statues feet in front of the congregation. (I didn't know a statue was the real Jesus). He said I didn't love Jesus if I wouldn't do it.

    Oh well, I feel ya on this one for sure.


  2. You too, Deanna? Egads, that's horrible. How were we ever supposed to get past all the negatives to glean anything at all positive about Sunday church?

    What's with that old lady kicking you? Yikes. I have to wonder how many others were humiliated into kissing that particular statue too.

    There you have it. The reason for the decline of the Church. Their style of 'teaching' leaves a lot to be desired.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Deanna! I sure do appreciate it!!

  3. I wonder too about the statue. I was so glad when I was old enough to decide not to go to that church anymore!

  4. I can't believe it! I really did get my invitation, complete with a card, to join AARP today!