Religious Disgruntlement

Uncharacteristically, this morning I am writing for the simple need to speak and add to the ocean of voices that seems to be falling on deaf ears.

I work in an organisation with values I hugely respect. Between study and work the necessity for diversity and the importance of actively promoting diversity is a no-brainer, the benefits for our organisation and society as a result of that are visible and the changing paths of our culture within the organisation something I feel immensely proud to be part of.

Personally, I have been fortunate enough to never have felt the wrath of discrimination – sure I’ve seen less hard working men promoted ahead of me, I have to speak louder and longer to get heard in meetings and I get the constant ‘oh, let’s not talk that way with a lady present’ (I’m never really sure what that’s about so I take it as born of polite intentions?) – however these challenges are overshadowed by the reality of what has been within the organisation historically and what many other organisations still exhibit. Of course I can’t talk first hand of the 80s in the workplace, but I have read many studies with sadness and had my own attitudes and views challenged.

It’s the subtleties, the once-was drinking culture that I’d rather looked forward to – pub banter and all nighters where the tail of the night blends into the early hours of the next day at work… so where’s the harm in that? Some people don’t drink, that’s their choice… and yet the reality is that submerged in a drinking culture they never get the opportunity to feel they belong, despite hours of hard graft, probably delivering more due to being on top form and strong work ethics. In jokes and community have for a long time been built on pub behaviours, and as much as I do like a good drink, I’ve come to realise that the divide created can have pretty unpleasant consequences.

So, now at this wide-angled tangent I’m looking to reign in the point – over the years we have improved the ways in which we accommodate and promote diversity right down to subtle culture traits and behaviours, we are edging towards the ideal of removing judgement and prejudice from the way we do business, make friends and ultimately create families though a number of teachings that I relate back to most religions.

And yet somehow I know this is at odds with one religion that I know a little more about that the others, a religion who’s name is used (falsely, as has now been made very apparent) to represent love, acceptance, embrace. “Jesus loves you”. Unless, of course you are gay. Apparently this particular type of love is damaging the family structure that God intended, something about the essence of the human creature – utterings that would sound at home pouring from the mouth of a bitter, insular low-life that are generally pretty easy to ignore. But these words came from someone a little more important, who at least portrayed belief in these ideals as I understood them. Pope Benedict XVI didn’t only seek to completely outcast LGBT (in which only 0.1% are deemed to be affected – ahem, b*llx – not only are these figures only vaguely representative of the many variations of LGBT members but what about friends and family of LGBT? Are they totally unaffected by the fact that their loved ones are being condemned?) he also inadvertently sought to re-affirm and in many cases re-define all that believers – believe.

It was a personal choice of my own to leave the church at the age of 13, and I couldn’t really explain why. The teachings were mostly of acceptance, learning to make the most of life and all things good – but something definitely wrong enough for me to give up eight years of study and attendance at church. Perhaps it was that there was no room for my own opinion that I was becoming quite good at expressing, the withdrawal of ‘acceptance’ and ‘love’ when I aired views about something that didn’t sit with the bible. At the time it was most likely feminist opinions, or perhaps being from a (successful) single parent home. Perhaps deep down I suspected that some the the happiest years of my life would be shared with another woman – and the bible, church, teachings was a institution oblivious to all of these lifestyles that were intrinsically linked to my own happiness.

I left the church on good terms and later read stories such as ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ from which I learned what the church was like for Irish Catholics in years gone by, and a proud LGBT member and supporter felt content that we would never see such atrocity in modern times. I was still very young and in many ways naive and over time I encountered experiences that silently screamed the reality beneath the preachings. I still attended church for weddings and christenings and always felt the same old security and warmth that I had done growing up, distanced from religious based argument and possibly in denial about the foundations on which the preachings are built. Perhaps sometime I will write about the ferocious conflict I encountered that had nothing to do with religion and somehow became about nothing else…

My point now is that I have happily lived for a long while as ‘not really religious’ but uncomfortable ticking the ‘atheist’ box and continuing to statistically being ‘Christian’ as I’ve always identified with my roots being the core of my upbringing and integral to the person I became. But this, I cannot abide:

“In the fight for family, the very notion of what being human really means – is being called into question.”

It is with some sadness and a dose of internalised anger for not addressing this personally in the years gone by that I can say with certainty, I am not Christian. If this is what Christianity means, then I never really was – I interpreted the religion wrong and I realise now that some of that was through denial. But Pope Benedict has made these points very clear and I can say this –

I believe in family. In any shape or form that encourages love, support, sharing and direction. The number of males / females is inconsequential, but love and protection of one another IS the foundation of ‘family’ as I believe in it.

I believe in Love. I believe that there are some people who become vulnerable in the name of love and there are times where it may be necessary for the law to protect those people, but two consenting adults, no matter how unconventional, have the right to enjoy their love the same as any other human being, because like it or not, our ‘species’ cannot be compromised by sexual preference or identity.

I believe love and family are to be celebrated. I personally don’t seek any religious building for this and many LGBT people would prefer to find their own place to share their vows, there are many special ways to celebrate. Much of this debate is instigated by people who thought they knew and understood and loved their religion and wanted to widen their embrace. The pope has now shut the doors to them too. This is not love, nor acceptance, so what on earth did I have faith in all these years?

The residue from this fallout remains the same to me. We must love one another as modern, civilised human beings and concern ourselves less with what goes on in other people’s bedrooms and more with the delights of having people in our lives that our loved ones love and are loved by. 0.001% or 100% of the population, love should never, ever be condemned.

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