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I hear arguments every day about how god said this or says that and that he doesn't waver and that his word is very clear. But is it? I am admittedly extremely cynical and have my own sets of walls up against the teachings I have had ever so slightly discussed in my presence, in no small part because of my avid support of sexuality, freedom and shamelessness. *Note: as I write this I am suddenly made aware of how much the word "shamelessness" carries this awful connotation- as if you are a brazen criminal if you carry no shame- but surely you understand that I mean this in the most literal sense (after all, we try so hard to liberate people of the shame they have been trained to feel).

I get all of the reasons religion was made, I have studied how the bible came to be- with centuries of letters compiled and corroborated with other letters from other lands. I have looked at the rhetoric of messiah expectations at a time when people were deflecting from the belief system, and his miraculous arrival just under a decade after the message was spread. Imagine being that mother for one second... this tiny person you grew carrying the expectations of the world on their shoulders. The terror we feel daily with our regular human children and the amount of pressure put on them, and how that would be exponentially multiplied if we knew the entire race thought him a god. I also understand why branches of Christianity idolize Mary as an entirely different type of saint.

Inside all of my very well-founded skepticism, all of the ways in which I avoid the misinformation trickling into the minds of my children, there is one specific field in which religion has any other theory beat: DEATH. The idea that once you die you are lifted into the kingdom of heaven and that all of your passed loved ones would be there waiting is just the single best motivation to get through all of the hard stuff there can ever be. By hard stuff, of course, I mean not having premarital sex, not eating pork (I mean, who wants to give up bacon!), and not wearing pants (if you were unlucky enough to be born with a vagina). Also, the background thought of those who have harmed you or think differently than you going straight to a burning pit for all of eternity isn't half bad...

Which is why when I heard of a dear old lady that I am vaguely connected to feeling extreme shame when on her literal death bed, I felt compelled to speak (write) rather loudly about how toxic this relationship to religion can be. This woman, she was incredibly pious. She prayed her rosary, she blessed everyone who walked into her house and even included religious sermons into her conversations with everyone... just as a way to spread "his" word. Then, after allergic reactions to vaccines, fall after fall, barely being able to move, she cries in her bed because she is asking her god to bring her home. She cries because she knows she is asking for suicide, and suicide is a sin that damns you. Imagine being that mother for one second... this huge person you grew into the expectations of the word on your shoulders. The terror we feel daily with our regular human lives plus the amount of pressure put on her, and how that would be exponentially multiplied if she thought she was going to hell if she dared be real. If she begged her god for relief.

Of course the people who wrote christianity into existence would tell people that damnation awaited if they took their own life. What type of life did the droves of slaves have waiting for them at home? What kept them showing up to work, to home, to expectancy itself, if not for the threat of eternal fire? Let's face it, suicide has never been up to god the same way murder isn't even up to god when it is done in his name.

So in this one moment of respite that religion could have given her, it failed her in the worst possible way. After centuries of causing divides, serving as a launching point for judgment, providing excuses for inexcusable behavior and creating patterns of shame and abuse, there are still those who work agonizingly to fit into a mold created to build a direct trail to a promised land. But if religion cannot provide us with the answers to keep going, the peace that comes with ridding ourselves of the unknown and present us with an opportunity to make comfortably guided decisions (especially when it comes to the single most unchartered transition of human life), then what is it really doing for you?

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