The Cure For CancerbyHeathen Hemmingway©
"Please bow your heads." I said, and everyone at the table complied, although there were a few wary glances cast about. My family, for better or worse, all know how I feel about religion.
I closed my eyes, clutched my hands together and bowed my head. I spoke slowly and deliberately, pausing at times for effect, allowing them to breathe and think between my words.
"If there were ever an ultimate test of faith, spirituality, and yes, religion, it would be to bring a child into this world, to encourage and enable them to be intelligent and educated, and to teach them the difference between right and wrong, and see what they grow to believe on their own, instead of giving them a book and telling them what to believe. " I followed with a long pause for effect.
"For their can be no freedom of religion without freedom from religion." I continued. "A man does not need to believe in a god to be a decent man, and just because a man does not believe in a god, that does not mean that a man does not believe in anything. I, for one, will not allow the mania of religion to enter my home. As one who is not blinded by the myth of a merciful god, my eyes are open to see the world as it truly is. For indeed, the path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. "
With the closing words, I opened my eyes and stared at the preacher man, and as I said those last words 'tyranny of evil men', I lifted my eyebrow ever so slightly and smiled. The entire family, including my baffled and befuddled relative who invited him there were staring at him.
Checkmate, Motherfucker, I thought to myself.
There several moments of awkward silence, and finally he mustered the courage to speak, barely so. "That was nice." He finally managed, then immediately fell silent.
I should mention that my father died when I was very young, and my Mother has never expressed a desire to be a part of a religion or a church. She has, of course, attended church many times for various reasons including weddings, funerals, etc., and so forth, and as to be expected she has always been polite, caring and accommodating for people who were religious -- or as the case often is in the South -- very religious. My Mother always has been and always will be a genuine lady. Being the strong person that she is, she has never allowed the church any control in our family despite many efforts on behalf of the church over the years, and for that I am forever grateful. Southern baptist preachers are keen predators, you see, like the Golden Eagle -- a creature that is known to prey upon young mountain goat kids -- spying a small one from a great distance and then diving in at a breakneck speed, digging it's wicked hooked talons into the poor creature's hide and lifting it off of the ground and then flying skyward, only to drop the hapless to creature to its doom, splattering on the rocks below. Then the Golden Eagle flies down to feast upon its prey.
My Mother knows of the lies and evil that fester within the church, too. She never permitted any of the lot to prey upon our family. None were ever allowed close enough to assume any kind of control or authority over us. Thinking back on it now, I can only imagine the kind of fortitude it took for her, being a single mother of ten children in the bible belt. Any Mother of any kind shares a common instinct; they know when a predator is close by, and they protect their babies well.
She has spoken of god briefly a few times, but never with the damning blind patriotism typical of a religious zealot. I respect her beliefs, whatever form they may take, and she has never once pressured me to express or manifest any certain beliefs. I was flattered to no end when not too long ago, she confided in me what was to be her final request, once her time came to pass. "I don't want a funeral service, Son." She said to me. "I want to spend time with my family the same way we always did. I want to be together with all of you one last time."
I responded by telling her what I felt was the only thing I could tell her. "I don't care what it takes, Mama. I'll make sure it happens. When your time comes, I don't want to mourn your death. Instead I want to celebrate your life."
And I will, no matter what. Something as weak and fragile as words cannot properly describe how relieved I felt, knowing that my Mother isn't going to spend her remaining years tolerating the religious dogma that so many others have. She won't spend a moment of her time stressing and worrying over the countless 'what-if's' and 'why's' that religion can plant in a person's mind. Thanks to the strength my Mother possesses, late in my life I have realized that religion is a cancer than can be cured. She has arrived at a peaceful place in her life, and through her I am finding the way to mine.
For anyone in doubt, I hope you are able to find the way to cure your own.
The End. For Now.
* I also realize that everyone has had a different experience with religion, and mine is no more important or significant than your own. I feel a particular kinship with people who have suffered due to the double-standard and protection from prosecution that the church -- in its many forms -- enjoys. The catholic church has been under intense scrutiny for its historical practice of protecting pedophiles and its systematic efforts to conceal and shelter them. I know in my heart that this is a classic case of 'too little, too late', but I do take some solace in knowing that in my generation I can see the church having to take some responsibility for its actions, and even though the accountability is small and limited, it is a start. It is a change, Ladies and Gentlemen, and there are few things that the church fears more than change.