Christianity and Imagination
As I grow older, the people around me also grow older and the people I meet are older as well….obviously….. I just happen to be acquainted with a lot of young adults and not so young adults who are very outspoken. (yay for free speech!) Anyways, for the past year, my Facebook and twitter feed have been taken over by various extreme religious and political statements and my thoughts on issues associated with these two topics have also started to cement themselves. One topic that seems to come up more often than not is Christianity. I've seen people who look at Christianity like it's a clown who fell off of a unicycle in a pit of mud and people who look at Christianity like it's some well dressed Time Lord ready to take them on a tour through a vault labeled "everything you need to know about anything that actually matters."
I was raised in the Christian faith which is probably why some of my most distinct memories are associated with all the fun and not so fun Christian things that I've been through in the past 18 years from sneaking fruit snacks to my cousin during service, singing with the choir in front of my first real audience, sitting in the pews half awake listening to the beautiful harmonies of gospel music, dressing up like some type of European princess on Easter, and having the most joyful and relaxing days in the shadow of a thoroughly decorated tree…to sitting in an empty church trying to figure out what to do with my life, watching one of my best friends cry her heart out by the altar, seeing the lid close on the coffin containing the corpse of one of the wisest and honest men I have ever known, and disagreeing with a teacher for the first time…I've experienced a lot of things growing up in this faith, but when it comes down to it, I've never really felt like a Christian.
The bible stories that I love so much have always been just stories, the ceremonies I participate in have always been just ceremonies, the prayers I say mean as much to me as the multiplication table in the back of my notebooks, and god is just a reoccurring character in my brain….a character with a great influence….in the scheme of things. This character's influence is just strong enough that I feel funny if I say "I don't believe in god." Perhaps the easiest things to get used to are the things you're born into, and this guy called god has always been a part of my life in one way or another, lurking between the words my grandmother tells me, spit at me by politicians on TV, entwined in some of my favorite fictional stories to date. Sometimes I wish that I could've just sat in church and believed everything they told me. It would be so nice to just be given a book that tells you all you need to know and heaven sounds like a pretty awesome place to end up in. I want my family to go to heaven and be happy for the rest of eternity, I want god to watch over everyone, I want everyone to be happy to wake up every morning… but this good life, the good life talked about in the bible is just something I can't accept. Even when I set my mind to it, I feel like I'm a guest when I'm kneeling at the altar, I feel like a guest when I'm sitting in the pews, and I feel like a guest when my entire family has their hands joined in prayer. It's too easy. It feels wrong. For a long time I thought that perhaps there was something wrong with me because the thing that motivated my relatives to do good things with their lives made me feel like I was being shoved into an empty broom closet with thumbtacks sticking out of the walls.
From the time I was young, I'd make up stories. I'd have imaginary friends - not all of them human. My house wasn't just a house; it was a boarding school where all of my imaginary friends would be. I'd play with a bag of small metal jacks on the floor and pretend they were people, I'd go to science museums and craft entire civilizations before the tours were over. Of course there would be the stories I'd be told, a little story called Harry Potter was a popular one, but these are what all kids think about when they're younger, yes? Well mine didn't stop. As I grew older, these imaginary worlds would continue to get more real and complex to the point where I could just sit in a chair in a blank room for hours just lost in my thoughts, walking down a road in a city I created all in my head, cities that started out pristine with fairies and graceful white horses soon had trash on the streets and homeless people and sadness and stress and death and hope. I could do anything to these people: I could make them happy, I could make them sad, I could make them believe they could fly, I could make them fly, I could make them believe in a god, a spirit, a prophet, and I could make them kill each other over it. I used to call them "make believe religions," until I came to see that, in reality, my religions were just as real as Christianity or Judaism or anything else. Just as valid. Made up, pulled out of thin air…convincing? Maybe not. For these imaginary people though, they'll end up in the land of gold, absorbing the suffering of their people in order to ease the pain of Omicron so that it may defend itself, mothers will pour acid into the eyes of their own children, and with the ring of a bell a little girl will sit on the forest floor without food, water, or shelter until she dies.
In school and on my own I've learned about a lot of different religions but each one just seems like a well-crafted story. If I actually tried to follow a religion, convince myself that this is the one, I think I'd just be miserable. Why not just bathe in a sea of stories and let my imagination overflow? What will happen to me when I die? I don't know. Do I have a soul? A spirit? I don't know and I don't try to figure it out either. Unlike other people, I don't call Christians "stupid." I understand that Christianity does a lot of good things for a lot of good people, most of my family members included. While Christian things are a part of my routine, I can't consider myself to be a part of the community, a part of the faith. Maybe someday I'll grow out of it? The night before college admissions decisions went out, I prayed to every deity that I had ever learned about or created….and I prayed hard. Religions are fabricated? Yes. But one of them could be true. All of them could be true/have some truth. All of them could be false. I look up to the sky and say "yes!" at the end of each victorious lacrosse game. Why? I don't know. Habit again? Maybe. I want there to be something out there, so I make it that way (in my head). What's out there? It changes from day to day...an unseen imaginary friend....but the second I get out of my head, there's nothing except the silent universe and I'm on my own.
Some say that for every design, there is a designer. Now doesn't that just make you all cozy inside? It's a very human way of thinking. We can look around us and conclude that something is going on here. Too many things are similar, everything has a purpose, but does that mean it was designed? Maybe that's just the way things are. I feel like there is something though. That's why I don't go around shouting at the top of my lungs that there is no god. It's a common feeling. Was it built into us, or is it just what it is? It's a question and a thought that occurs all too often. Even if you have a religion that answers these types of questions for you, you've still thought about it, right? You thought about it and found the answer: [insert deity/theory here.] It's like all of humanity is suffering from some sort of amnesia. We woke up, we're here, we don't know how we got here and we don't know where we came from. Science keeps going back and back and back and there are just as many theories as there are religions! Yet even after all of this time, we can't remember. Is there anything to remember in the first place?
The only thing that is as vast as the universe is the imagination. Things that are unimaginable? They're in your head somewhere, just keep looking. To those of you who are comfortable with a path set out for you by a religion or philosophy, congratulations. I hope it makes you happy and content. I haven't yet found a path that appeals to me, so I'll just keep fishing around in my head until I find something so profound that it might just actually make sense to me. Should that time ever come, deep down inside I'll still know that whatever I believe is fabricated...not necessarily untrue, just fabricated....like how a red bird told me that you can't get to heaven or hell from here.
- Expired MIlk