Religion and Family

My grandmother is in town from out-of-state. She believes in a god, intelligent design, souls, and reincarnation. I visited with her and my aunt earlier this week. My aunt considers herself a non-denominational Christian.

I posted on Facebook on Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) about how I thought Lent was silly. I posed a question asking why people choose to give something up, and asking if anyone had learned anything by this in the past. The post sparked an interesting conversation, in which my aunt and another family member posted their pro-lent ‘whys’ and a couple of my friends posted some lengthy (more atheist) responses. Apparently my family members considered a lot of what my friends said unnecessarily aggressive.

At lunch with my aunt and grandmother, this post was brought up in conversation. I listened and responded quite calmly, and defended my friends’ comments. I agree with my friend in almost all he said, possibly not his approach, but certainly his intent. My aunt repeated her meaning to me, saying that Lent is a chance to give back to your Creator, who sacrificed his life for you.

My thinking is, of course, that my creator is my mother, with the assistance of my father. I have no desire to sacrifice something meaningless like TV for 40 days to ‘give back’ to my mother (with whom I no longer speak). My friend’s argument was that if you truly wanted to give back, you would do something like give to charity. This is a measurable and meaningful way of sacrificing something that is yours for the benefit of others.

This led further into this particular strain of conversation. Before I knew what was happening, my aunt was tearing up (granted, she’s pregnant) and saying “I just have to believe I’ll see my dad again.” He died in 1993. Later on, after she’d calmed down, I said that I don’t have an emotional attachment to death. She said it’s not the same when you don’t have someone who’s died. [Added 12/09/2013: This is actually a form of ageism!]

Actually, I HAVE known someone who died. It was awful, we knew about it before it happened, and I had a lot of things to say to her that I didn’t, because she was weak and needed to sleep a lot and I didn’t want to interrupt that. In some ways, I lack closure because I’ll never get to say those things to her. On the other hand, I DO have closure, because I don’t expect to get to say things to her. So, instead of being expectant about an afterlife that doesn’t exist, I force myself to move on because I’m never going to have the opportunity to talk to her.

This is the thing that I took from this conversation–belief in an afterlife prevents closure with dead loved ones. It leaves you expecting, it leaves you wanting. You don’t really move on because it isn’t really over to you.

I’m glad I don’t have a faith. I’m glad I can put things behind me and truly move on.

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