Monday, August 4, 2008


So, I'm on this mailing list that deals with mastocytosis (which no doubt many of the readers of this blog are on too) Recently a conversation came up, and I feel I might've been a little trigger happy in trying to quell it, but it happened, and it kind of pisses me off.

Discussion went towards evolutionary theory of diseases, and it was mentioned that we are descended from apes. The minute I saw that I started to get anxious since I knew that some people with a creationist viewpoint would no doubt find offense to this.

It's interesting, I feel like under the Bush administration that the whole creationism/intelligent design/evolutionary theory discussion has taken on a much harsher tone than it had when I was younger. It seemed like there was a time when all of these theories could exist with far less acrimony than they do now, but maybe that was me. I don't see how my believing in evolution is personally offensive to someone who believes in creationism, and if the roles were reversed, I don't see it being much different. I respect people's beliefs to have faith in whatever they want to, but I also think that people should respect others beliefs not to have beliefs. If I were a hardline atheist, I wouldn't find someone's belief in god offensive. What bothers me is that the reverse rarely seems true. Instead of having an intelligent or level headed discussion it just seems to be "Fuck you you don't share my faith and therefore your perspective is invalid/uninformed/irrelevant/inferior and therefore unworthy of discussion." and if anything that seems entirely unchristian.

I was raised Catholic, however my faith took a great shaking over a few things. There was a situation involving me that was handled very poorly by my church, and later on we had our own sex abuse scandal that came years before the one that rocked the Boston Archdiocese a few years ago. These events didn't necessarily shake my belief in spirituality, but they absolutely muddled my feelings regarding organized religion. whether you believe in god, nothing, the individual, a collective conscious...It is easy to find comfort in some greater design vs. arbitrary actions, but I also consider myself to be fairly science minded.

These feelings were further cemented when I traveled through Austria, and saw the Melk Abbey, a building of extreme wealth and prosperity, where only a few miles away was KZ Mauthausen, one of the more infamous death camps. Somehow the juxtaposition of the lush Abbey being so close to a place of such death and suffering made me uncomfortable. Walls gilded with gold flanked by walls lines with crematoriums. It was an experience that really changed my life, wandering around the empty camp on a slate gray afternoon when only a few hours I'd been in the presence of a Gutenberg bible and more gold and relics than one could imagine.

This isn't to say I want to entirely discount duality. I was in the room with my grandmother when she died. It was, sadly, a gruesome death. She'd been on a respirator for a month and the damage that does to an 82 year old's lungs is irreparable, especially when they have emphysema. We had gotten a phone call that afternoon from the hospital saying she was dying, that they felt her death was imminent. My father was out that afternoon picking up some FAFSA documentation for college for me, and we couldn't find him to drive us to the hospital. Under normal circumstances we would've made it there in under 10 minutes, this day it took about 90.

We got to her room, and one of her lungs had burst or something, and there was this dark, dead, thick blood streaming from her nose and her mouth. Even still, she was my grandmother and I loved her more than anything in the world and she was still beautiful to me. Seeing her in that shape was too much for me, and I went down. My mother, in one of the greatest examples of strength I've seen in a person was able to look past the blood, look past the suffering, walked up to her mother, held her hand, and told her she loved her. Her sentence was punctuated by the shrill constant beep of the heart monitor flat lining. It was as if she'd held on, far past the point that any human would want to, to say goodbye. One can easily argue it was coincidence, timing, whatever. All I know is that it genuinely felt like some part of her knew we weren't there, and wouldn't leave until we were.

They ushered us out of the room and cleaned her up, removed the tubes and let us back in to pay our final regards. I remember looking at her, cleaned and bathed, not covered in blood, her features smoothed out of the grimace of pain she'd previously held...and it meant nothing to me. It was a shell. It wasn't -her-. She was still warm, it had been only moments, but something irrevocable had changed in that instant. She went from being one of the most important people in my life to just...a husk. I wanted to find comfort in stroking her face or holding her hand, but I couldn't.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to get at. I am jealous of people who have unwavering faith in a supreme being that looks out for us, that created us in some divine image. However, with all the pain and suffering and unfairness in this world, it's difficult to, before one even takes into account the vast amount of science based evidence to the contrary that is far more dense and difficult for one to sort out than the bible. I worry that many people who are sick are reaching out to faith for something to hold on to, almost like a bartering system. Like, if we're good enough, pious enough, devout enough, that maybe God will take mercy on us and fix whatever is wrong with us. I'm not saying that this is the case for the bulk of religious people, and I'm not trying to make a gross generalization, because I'm not, I am not even saying this applies to anyone I know, either from the list or in real life.

It just bothers me that we cannot simply take comfort in our own faith and simultaneously respect the faiths or beliefs of others without taking it as a personal affront. I have friends who are born again, uu's, hindu, pagan, catholic, and we are all able to coexist peacefully and happily and respectfully, something I feel was sorely lacking in the exchange on the list over the past few days, and that makes me sad.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when feeling it not.
I believe in God even when God is silent.

-this was found written on the wall of a basement in Köln Germany in the aftermath of WW2, most likely by holocaust survivors. I guess it is fitting in a way to what I'm saying, or not saying.


Kim said...

haha I know what you mean about Melk (or whatever) I was in Austria years ago. I can't understand that kind of wealth..and/or waste...when you think of all those in need....I understand your point about accepting other's faith..but as a Christian it is hard to hear others say there is no God...or want us to accept what they believe, because being a Christian there aren't options. understand what I'm saying? Not to say you dislike the unbeliever or look down on them....but, just can't accept that is ok to not believe. Does that make sense? I think really the only way to make the decision (if one is troubled) to believe or not, you really have to read/study the Bible. I never did that until into my 40's, but I have to tell you it did change my life.(however, "I have always been a Christian) I have been with people as they die, and you are right, once they is no longer them". I believe it is because their soul has left them. It IS no longer them. I also think as one grows older, their perspective of life changes. Anyway, I love you and hope I didn't offend you. :)

Bridget said...

oh you totally didn't offend me. i've been struggling with spirituality for a while. and it's true that things like melk were made by people, not God, and therefore not necessarily really representative of his will.

I've just met some strongly religious people who seem very belittling when dealing with someone who is either conflicted with their faith, or who has a different faith.

What you are saying makes sense. I'm guessing it would be like if two people were staring at a black wall and one person said "the wall isn't there" while the other person clearly saw it.

Kim said...