Monday, October 19, 2009

LOSING MY RELIGION

I go to extremes: I'm hot. I'm cold. I'm yes. I'm no. I'm in. I'm out. I'm up. I'm down. I'm wrong. I'm right. I'm black. I'm white.

In other words, I'm a bundle of wildly divergent contradictions, someone who works out religiously -- pilates, running, weight training -- yet parties like a rock star. I rarely stroll down the middle of the road. I live life swerving from shoulder to shoulder.

So why is it that when it comes to religion, I can't seem to get off the fence? My name is Jeremy Helligar, and I'm a staunch agnostic. I believe in something. I'm just not sure what that is.

One thing is for certain: I'm no religious extremist. On the one hand, I don't get blind faith. This morning I read the following status update from a Facebook friend:

"Give your impossibilities to Jesus. He's got your miracle! Have a super day!"

To my eyes and ears, that sort of thing sounds suspiciously like fortune cookie wisdom, only less useful. And I see and hear it so often from so many of my old high-school classmates on Facebook. They must have found religion sometime after graduation because I'm pretty certain that Osceola High School was not overflowing with holy rollers in the mid-'80s. Even my mom, who was the personification of religion when I was growing up, doesn't talk like that anymore. While I understand that some people need religion to get them through the day, and sometimes, to make them feel better about themselves, if not superior to non-believers, I'm not buying it.

But I can't quite let go of the hunch that there is something more. Growing up in a super-religious household, atheism was always a dirty word. I've eased up a bit in my middle age, but the concept continues to confound me and frighten me just a little. If the physical world is the be-all and end-all, then why not just totally give in to the pursuit of pleasure? Why not live recklessly -- within the realm of humanity -- without considering the consequences? If there is nothing greater than us, how does one justify feeling anything at all? Doesn't the very idea of love -- the deep, everlasting kind that so many atheists I know have claimed to feel at some point -- prove that there is more to life than just the tangible. And when we die, does love die with us?

I don't have any answers. But I'd like to think that at the end of the line there is something more waiting for me than the cold hard ground (or the burning flames of cremation, which is how I intend to check out of the physical realm). The traditional concept of heaven doesn't particularly appeal to me. How boring would it be to spend all day lounging around on clouds, playing the harp and singing God's praises? If that's life after death, I'll give it a pass. God knows... um, heaven knows... well, you get my drift... I skip that part in everyday life, so I'd prefer not to take it up after death.

Reincarnation makes the most sense to me. It would explain so many of the strange deja-vu sensations I have experienced. But I'm not convinced. For all I know, this is it. But that doesn't mean there isn't something bigger in the here and now. It may not always be enough to get me through the day -- or night -- but when the physical world begins to bore me to tears, it's nice to drift away and think about the endless possibilities that I'm pretty sure are out there.
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