February 27, 2006

Stranger in a Strange Land

(or, why I've been gone so long)

I lost someone I love very much recently. It was very unexpected. It did however lead me to a discovery that was most amazing.

My family is xian. Lite-weight to be sure, but xians just the same. So, I went to a mass of xian burial for this person. (Luckily, it wasn't in a church). The pastor was female (because Methodists are cool like that) and was there the whole three days. At the wake there were so many people packed into the funeral home that all were shoulder to shoulder- unable to move. After the funeral, people lingered around the coffin despite the 10 degree weather.

Despite this being the absolute worst few weeks of my life, something surprising and fantastic happened at the funeral. Sitting there with my brothers and cousins, listening to the pastor I realized something. You know those sales pitch vacations? You know, the come to Florida to this gorgeous hotel for a free (or really cheap) weekend vacation - but you have to come to this six hour long sales pitch about time shares?

That's exactly what religion is. Half the service was about gawd and jebus - random Psalms, and verses. You have to sit through the mind-numbing and childish gawd sales pitch in order to get to why you came there- to hear about the loved one passed away.

After she was done babbling on and on, the mayor got up and did the eulogy. It was what we wanted to hear. Funny stories about the one passed, and laughter instead of sobs, if only for a moment.

Then, the pastor got back up to close and asked everyone to recite the Lord's Prayer. (You know the one drilled into your head like a bad ad jingle?) And absolutely no one in my row recited it. I was sitting with my brothers and cousins, and not ONE of them spoke the prayer. I thought perhaps they just didn't know it.

At the luncheon that followed we all sat together and I mentioned that no one said it. And something fantastic happened. Nearly all of them (10 in total) piped up with "We know it, but who believes that stuff?"

The one who passed would have been very proud to know they left behind a family of free thinkers, and who maintain it, even in the face of unexpected death and crushing grief.

(sidebar: this finally gave me the opportunity to talk with my new bf about the fact that I'm an atheist. He took it better than I expected, though it was clearly not something he agrees with. But that's cool. He doesn't have to agree with me, as long as he doesn't try to change my mind as I make no attempts to change his.)