Often I find religion and spirituality conspicuously on my thoughts, and therefore also in my writing. Maybe it’s that much of my life was spent learning of, and from within, its purview. Maybe it’s that after all these years I question so persistently the institutions and the people ultimately responsible for framing much of its practicalities. I’ve been a Roman Catholic, taken in the body of the son of god, but I can only say with surety that, when I did, I tasted just unleavened bread and felt nothing more than apathetic superstition.
Of the things I seek regularly to reconcile is a nearly universal doctrinal assertion that humans are outstandingly imperfect, that what religion does for us, above all, is offer absolution. It excuses us, justifies our place.
I walk into a cathedral somewhere in the world and all I see are dramatically beautiful, expressive manifestations of a human presence, grief and consternation, fear and curiosity, disappointment and fulfillment painted into sallow brushstrokes and engraved in high relief. Perfect creatures, not at all–I’ve had my sinful moments, and my days are nowhere near complete–but in the absence of the human touch, what might instantiate these modes of human spirit? I’ve prayed indulgence for my life from entities whom in the absence of my mind would merely be an absence, too. A figment.
So I stand up from the pew that men much like myself but for a moment built, a prayer to echo from my lips and scatter in the fickle bands of light that make mosaics of the marble floor beneath a stained-glass window, and I wonder who it was to utter first those simple words. The doors are always ponderous and dense, as if in struggle just to keep the outside out and inside in. They open slow, and I can see again how light it really is, but as the growing sunlight moves across the gold and violet altar, there’s a brilliance not deserving of the shadows where it lives.
I’ve been an atheist as well. A humanist today. And who knows what tomorrow, so long as I’m not spending time in worship of mistakes. So long as I remember what I see and what I hear is born of people, fallible, terrified, angry, perfect.