Sunday, January 24, 2010

On thinking for yourself

Today I am cranky. I'm really trying not to be, but I hear myself being short with people, and feel as though I can't help it.

I was talking with my father on the phone earlier, and it has really soured my mood.

I know my dad means well when he starts trying to tell me about the virtues of some bastardized interpretation of a bible verse, and how we really should take the lord's advice on a particular topic, and I can barely contain the bubbling frustration in me that wants to point out to him that he should probably read the entire book for himself before he starts spouting off about how great and true it is.

He knows I'm not a fan of religion, but it seems as if he thinks it's some sort of a phase that I will grow out of, and it frustrates me.

It is so hard for me to feel the way I do when I have spent much of my life admiring my dad for his intelligence and strength. I don't want my father to feel like I'm talking down to him, but some of the things he says really set me off. How can a man with so much wisdom not see the hypocrisy in some of the things that he says? How can he start quoting scripture as if he is speaking in truisms, when he's never actually read The Bible himself, only had it read to him bits and pieces at a time, followed by some perverse interpretation and prophesying from some middle-aged, over-privileged white dude telling him how to analyze and apply the information.

I just want to yell at him to THINK FOR HIMSELF!!! for once, and really listen to what he is saying. Really analyze where that information is coming from, when it is coming from, and really question how much sense it makes. Really!

He likes to say he's a Christian, and how good and noble that is, how wonderful a guide for living he has, and he easily ignores any criticism of his supposed religion. My father hasn't even stepped foot in a church, save for the occasional wedding or funeral, in at least two decades. I've never witnessed him reading any literature on the subject, or having any conversations with any clergy or other religious scholars. He has this tiny little bit of information, and he clings to it and quotes it as if it were the absolute and complete truth, and it is driving me just a little bit mad.

Though I disagree with religion in an utterly complete way, I can at least understand the extremely pious individuals who had studied "the word" intensely and have found themselves to be passionate about the subject. I can respect a religious scholar or a learned clergyman who is able to debate on the subject, and defend their viewpoint, as much as I disagree with them. But when someone has very little knowledge of the subject about which they are arguing, they immediately lose any credibility, and this is what frustrates me when it comes up in conversation with my father.

He will mention something to me about a certain bible passage, and how it is words to live by, and sometimes I cannot help myself... I will point out to him that lovely as that verse may be, it is mere pages away from this other verse talking about stoning someone to death for gathering wood on the sabbath. I will ask him how he can pick and choose which verses he believes and lives by, and which ones he disregards. I will ask him how he can call his god a loving one, when his god would wipe out an entire city for daring to not acknowledge him in the way that he would like. I will ask him how he can believe that this book is one of love and goodness when it is filled with so much hate and violence, and I am so irritated when he easily brushes these questions aside... dismisses them as not being the important parts... being the wrong part of the book.

Apparently the new testament is the right testament... the old one, the original one, the one which provides a foundation for the other, is all irrelevant in the face of the new testament. Apparently, upon sending Jesus to earth, God got to take a mulligan on the entire old testament.

Some days it is so hard for me to continue talking to my father about anything else when I am so sad for him that he truly believes the things that he is saying. I have such a hard time taking anything else he says seriously, and this makes me so angry with myself.

I love my father. I love him so much, and I aspire to be as kind and strong, and gentle as he is. I hope to be half as wonderful a parent as he was to me when I was a small girl. Nearly every happy moment I have from my childhood involves him somehow... his strong hands pushing me on a swing, or lifting me from a pool... the way he turned scrambled eggs with cheese into the exciting and enticing "Eggs Surprise" that I would beg him to cook for me when I would see him during our scheduled weekend visitation. My father was a strong beacon of light and strength for me during some pretty dark years growing up, and I don't ever want to lose that.

But more and more often I am finding myself losing my patience when speaking with him, because he keeps peppering our conversations with religion and I cannot stand it. My father is one of the people I cherish most, and I feel myself losing respect for him. It makes me feel sick and depressed. I want to be a good daughter. The problem is that my dad taught me to stand up for myself and what I beleive in (or what I don't, in this case I suppose). My dad taught me that my intelligence was my greatest asset, and that I should be strong and assertive, as well as kind and compassionate.

How can I be a good daughter, be kind to my father, and also be myself and stand up for what I know is right?

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