Why religion and organised sports are essentially the same thing
Today, I was going through hand me down bags in my youngest's closet, and found a few things that had missed the first round of hand me down cuts. Most of these were sports oriented, and like most sports related things, go to the clothing bank unworn by my kids. I couple of times the people handing stuff down to us express surprise at this. Aside from the fact that nothing screams "POOR" like putting your kid in a shirt for a school or sports team they have no connection to, my kids are as likely to wear a soccer shirt and the kids of my militant atheist friends are to sport crucifixes, and for pretty much the same reasons.
Why? It's simple. It's become clear to me over the years that in more ways than not, organised religion and sports fill the same niche in our society. I'm sure to upset people by saying this, but let's look at the similarities:
Both have a regular meeting time. Sunday morning? Monday night? If it's your things, you block out that time slot.
Allegiance to a particular group: Many religious groups stay with the same denomination or congregation all their lives. Sports fans have similar loyalties, often remaining fans of a team after they move across the country
Willing to demonize "the others" : How many times have you heard members of one denomination refer to those with different beliefs as "heretics", or say they're going to Hell or worse? And what about sports fans? I once heard a Husky's fan say he'd like to nuke Eastern Washington just to get rid of the Cougars.
At their best, they provide camaraderie, something to look forward to, and inspire people to make the world a better place. If you're volunteering or giving to charity, does it matter if you do it for reasons related to what your church or sports organization is doing? No.
At their worst, they can hide the most egregious abuses. The Catholic and Penn State sex abuse tragedies were entirely the same: organizations that let children be abused in an attempt to shield the greater organization.
The takeaway? Humans all have certain needs, and we will meet them: camaraderie, purpose, short term events to look forward to, and a unifying purpose. We will meet then in a variety of ways: sports, religion, fraternal organizations, comic book conventions, (or some combination thereof!) and unless someone tries to push their own on us (a football team jacket we once had to forcibly refuse comes to mind), we should pretty mush leave others alone to enjoy their thing.
Whatever gets you through the night
I've been thinking a lot lately about when it's appropriate to bring negative attention to someone's faith or religion and when it's not. Some would say it always is, and some would say it never is, but I think a more nuanced approach is necessary in a civil society.
If someone is trying to use their religion to deny you basic rights, like the benefits of legal marriage, it is right to call them on it. If someone tries to have their religious view of human origins taught in the public schools,it is correct to insist on science that is backed by science. If someone wants the Ten Commandments or Bibles in the classroom, it's is right to stand on the separation of church and state. If a clergy person or church lay leader abuses a child or embezzles from the congregation, he or she should be prosecuted to the fullest by civil authorities.If a coworker doesn't respect your polite refusal to invitations to their church, that's an issue for HR. Unsolicited religious callers have every right to be turned away.
However....respectful discourse calls for us to allow people their beliefs about religion without denigration. If your religious friend or neighbour is not trying to convert you or use their religion to deny you legal rights, what would ever inspire you to try and take that from them? If the hope of an afterlife and seeing their loved ones again helps someone sleep at night, is it not cruel to try and convince them we end at death? What do you think you ever gain by claiming that all religious people are fools, that religion....which both brings peace to many and provides an important social safety net...should be abolished? On the other hand, does any religious person really think that bringing up the specter of hellfire is going to convince anyone to believe what you do? What is ever gained but division when we judge others for their beliefs about religion?
A Wedding for Ourselves
There's an episode in season two of Glee where Coach Sylvester marries herself. While it was obviously meant as a commentary of Coach Sylvester's extreme narcissism, I think she may have been onto something. I think a lot of people would be happier having a wedding for ourselves.
Now, I'm not saying this to impugn the institution of marriage. In fact I'm not even really talking about just marriage, but really, weddings.
Whenever I see weddings like those featured on When Geeks Wed
, or see a wedding flash mob, I think; "Too bad I;m already married . Or that I can't sell my husband on renewing our vows. Lavishly".
Then I realise the point is moot, because even if I could convince my husband we should renew our vows, he'd want a very traditional service, and not in the this would not include the traditional Klingon.
As I thought about this today, and my brain led to all the women I follow on Pinterest who pin WEDDINGWEDDINGWEDDING and I think of the multiple people ( usually women) who spent all their childhoods planning their wedding and latched onto the first person willing to go along with marriage, often to have it fall apart, I think i see a solution.If the person we find doesn't share our vision for a wedding, or if we simply don't find Ms or Mr Right, we should gather our friends together and have our wedding for ourselves. No saddling ourselves with a supposedly lifelong commitment because we can't wait to put on that white dress. No acquiescing to someone else's desire not to dance down the church aisle. Think of the pressure it would take off couples!
This is changing
This is the last year for things as they have been. This is the year things change.
I have been writing the April progress reports for the two younger kids, for the online academy they're with. For the 8th grader, I have marked history as finished. We completed History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer. We have had so much fun with this book and with History of the Ancient World. Bauer has a great sense of humour, a predilection for the shocking bits of history, and geek cred.
But now we're done. My 16 year old will be going to community college and my daughter will be hopefully going-knock wood!- to arts high school, if she gets in on one of the next three rounds of lottery.
Things will change. It is most probably that next year it will be just the going-to-be 6th grader at home. He'll be 11, and I will probably decide it's just fine for me to take a walk while he's playing his daily game time. I'll have to decide if I give him off all the crazy vacation days that colleges and public schools seem to take. I may decide to take on more work teaching for MOPS groups or other part time child care. I will have less help but less of the seeming endless checking of schoolwork to slog through.
My days will be filled with neither the challenges or joys of having all three kids at home with me all day.