Religion, Interrupted


As part of my daily routine coming back from work is to pick up my mail and sort through bills, junk, mistaken mail and the odd but exciting old fashioned letter. I always look hopefully for an old fashioned written letter from a friend from overseas or from back home. For a second, I got quite excited to see a handwritten envelope. My curiosity increased when I saw the remittance name. Who is this person I thought? A name that I had never heard from addressed the letter to my partner and I. Quickly I opened the letter fantasizing that it would be a lost friend wanting to reconnect when oh big surprised. The letter came from the Mormon Church inviting us to attend a workshop/talk/conference on how to find real happiness and the true meaning of marriage. Enclosed to the hand written note was a magazine clip from a Mormon publication where the Bible sites the importance of marriage and how it should be in between a man and woman. I was surprised that the quote wasn’t highlighted to make it even more obvious what this was all about.

I then had to start putting all of my thoughts and feelings in order. Was I upset because this person who signed the letter (which name I am not going to mention for confidentially matters) was trying to teach me what the real meaning of happiness is? In what are they basing their assumption on that I am not happy? What does God have to do with my happiness? Who are these people to tell me that I haven’t being able to find the true meaning of a relationship or furthermore happiness? For a second I thought that maybe the reality show Big Brother installed a camera in my apartment and is broadcasting my partner’s life and mine to the Mormon Church and now they are calling me to dismiss me from their show.

Just when I was putting away the letter and trying to find the answer to my questions the phone rang. There it is I thought, the Big Brother calling me to vote me out of my house. Thank God it was my mother. I could tell by her tone of voice and the odd time of her phone call that she had something to tell me desperately. Fair enough, she started the conversation by saying: Your dad and I walked out of Church yesterday. While dropping my body like a sac of potatoes to my couch I asked why?

Not really wanting to know the answer as it sounded like trouble she went on about how the priest preached non-stop on how evil gay marriage is and how bad for society homosexuals are. The priest was basically bashing gay people. The priest wasn’t passing the word of God he was basically lecturing his fellowship and not in a very objective way, since his sermon had nothing to do with any of the three readings of that day mass. She looked around and saw how everyone was wondering where the priest was coming from in trying to explain his anger towards gay marriage. My mom and dad stayed for a few more minutes just to hear what else the priest had to say. To my parents’ surprise, the priest said that this “style of life” is not what God wants for humans, that this “life style” is damaging society and encouraging people with gay relatives to seek help as homosexuality is a major social problem that can be solved.

Without any concerns, both of my parents stood up and left the church. My mom again took a glance around the church to see people’s reaction and was glad to see that more people followed their action of leaving the church.

After I hung up with my mother, I was left with mixed feelings about this: happy that my parents were so supportive of their gay son and sad to hear that my religion, Catholicism, bashes homosexuality and dares to label it as “”life style” as something that we chose from our closet every day and that whenever we want to we can just put it back and then forget about it.

And there I was left thinking: Why are two religions trying to decide what is best for one’s life? I don’t know much about the Mormon Church, but haven’t Catholic priests learned from their past errors? There is a reason why the state and church separated centuries ago, there are some matters that the Church shouldn’t be getting involved. Haven’t Catholic priests learned that they will not gain more followers by telling them how to live their lives and by judging peoples lives? I thought religion was about love and helping each other, about being giving and look after your brothers and sisters, about forgiving, and most importantly about accepting.

In order to find ease to my thoughts and to my curiosity to find out how many followers the Church has lost in the past I had to search for a reliable source, Statistics Canada. There I found that the proportion of adult Canadians (i.e. 15 years old and on) who either have no religious affiliation or do have a religion but don’t attend religious services increased from 31% to 43% between 1985 and 20041. Ironically the General Social Survey (GSS) mentions that some Canadians who do not attend religious services still attach a high degree of importance to religion in their life, meaning that Canadians continue to practice their religion in private. When I looked to see what practicing religion in private meant I found that this involved prayers, meditation, worship and reading of sacred texts on one’s own, not exactly attending religious services. I realized that I was in this category; I do consider myself a religious person but do not agree in going to mass to hear someone lecturing me of their own opinion.

Decades ago, Europe started to experience extremely low percentage of regular church participation and recently the number of priests is dropping as well. Now it is happening in North America2, it is only matter of time until other countries will start adopting the same behavior once they realize how manipulative Church can be.

Here is some food for thought for those religious groups who are trying to change people’s lives: change peoples’ lives by encouraging peace, by organizing volunteer programs to help the homeless and fight poverty. Teach people the meaning of sharing time and wealth with the ones in need and with different capacities. Motivate people to organize food or clothing drives in their community or even better use the religious temples to collect all these items or raise other funds. Tell people how killing each other in meaningless wars is no good. All that for me might attract me more to join again a religious group, meanwhile I don’t need a priest or religion telling me that how I have chosen to live my life is wrong. Oh, and one more thing – don’t waste money on mail stamps, use that money on something more meaningful.

Submitted by: Israel G.
Israel, a 28 year old marketing and communications coordinator

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  • Nic O.

    That was a really nice article Israel. And very well thought out. Religion as a structure, no matter what the belief system, is a very powerful beast, and I think everyone would agree that not only tolerance, but focusing on positive actions, would benefit everyone, religious or not.

  • bruin

    very nice article indeed.

  • Braden

    Religion is heresy to humanity. I acknowledge that some people feel comfortable with it in their lives, because it takes quite a bit of energy to live up to one and it can feel fulfilling, but it dissentiates the real legion of human love on this planet. I am glad your parents took a stand against their church. Mine would have been the ones preaching those things to them…

  • Justin

    My church is slowly moving towards fully affirming same-sex couples and accepting gay people as fully equal members of the congregation. It is a struggle always, but there are places where you will be accepted for who you are, where you are loved, and cared for. I guess in my experience, Christianity was a part of my coming out experience, and so for me I’ve experienced mostly the positive aspects of a caring spiritual community. We are all beloved children of the universe, and some of us find that belovedness through a faith community. But then some of us do not, and are conversely, hurt by a faith community. May you find your own belovedness where ever life takes you.

  • Israelg

    Thank you all for your comments. Justin, I am glad to see that you belong to a religious group that is so progressive and accepting. I definitely agree with you about the importance of belonging or believing in something, whatever it is, it adds a lot of meaning to peoples’ lives. I just wish there were more groups like yours helping people with their own problems, specially when they don’t have any support at home.