Got the Spanish Inquisition?
Don’t worry, this essay is atheist-friendly
From my May 2017 essay Human Interest and Muslim Demons, this was a deleted
Speaking of God, I can imagine my European readers asking, “Why are Americans so patriotic; why are they so religious?”
For the patriotism, I don’t know, but here’s a thought: Maybe Americans have enough democracy to feel safe being patriotic, without being scared of any masters using their patriotism against them.
As for religion:
I’m aware that in Europe faith is not so important. In fact, I read in Reasonable Creatures that back when I was a boy, even when fascist General Franco was ruling Catholic Spain, the Spanish still had less church attendance per capita than in America. I shake my head. (Historical note: Franco wanted to join the Axis, but Hitler wouldn’t let him in the club)
I’m North American myself, but I’m not living down in the States, so today I won’t speak for folks down there. Where I live, my short answer for “why so religious?” would be that here in the bible belt, stretching over three lonely prairie time zones, with small towns dotting the cold landscape, where we measure the distance in hours, not in kilometers, the church is a big part of our life.
I remember, at my university, hearing the European students, in an LGBTQ (Gay club) meeting, being amazed at how Canadian students were so concerned, were spending so much of their precious club meeting-time discussing safe churches and efforts to reconcile their faith to their orientation.
The faith answers I still remember are: You can’t judge God by God’s followers; thou may not make a golden calf (to worship) out of old testament scriptures; Jesus has given us a new testament.
…So there I was, with a group of students milling around in the hall outside the college chaplain’s huge meeting room. We were waiting for him to come and open the door so we could have an open-to-everyone faith discussion.
One of the typical students who showed up looked a little ill at ease, and confessed he wasn’t Christian. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict he’d be feeling a little shy, foolish and “out of it.”
As we went inside and put our chairs in a big circle I wondered, “How could I help this guy?” How could I encourage him not to be intimidated by “real” Christian students? I believe in coming from a place of love, and “telling my own story” with “I” statements. Not “preaching at,” not telling a person what to do. The loving thing is to be honest and vulnerable.
And so, after the subject of “journaling” came up in our group conversation, I shared, “When I write in my journal I spell god with a small g, (not a capital G) so I don’t get mixed up with the “bad guy God” in the Bible.”
Well! Are you wondering whether the others got angry at me? They didn’t. In fact, it slowly turned out that roughly half of them had at one time resorted to using a code word for God—including the chaplain. I think it’s like how if a child’s feelings have been desperately hurt for years by her dear parents then, in adulthood, she’ll end up calling them by their first names. Same principle.
God bless us, everyone.