Friday, December 17, 2010

Religion and Relationships: Golden Balls and Sexual Fantasies

I remember the moment it happened. We were drinking rum in a bar in Chaguanas. She talked about studying in Japan, her two dogs, how to choose a good tennis racket, and how the Soca mafia operates. I was trying to sound smart, telling her about my love for “The Killers”, and why “Spider-Man 2” was a work of art.
It was going great. She was laughing, I was laughing, and then she dropped it on me.
“So what religion are you?” she said, softening her tone of voice.

I stopped and tried to think about exactly what I was going to say as not to jeopardize her liking me. Should I tell her the truth? That I don’t believe in God, that I have no religion, or maybe use the old “well I’m not really religious, but I’m spiritual” line? Nah, I thought. That’s for fence-sitting pussies.
I figured to hell with it. Why shouldn’t I say what I truly believe? I am an atheist. Nothing is wrong with that. My beliefs are based on rational thinking and a desire to discover the truth. Just because I don’t believe in a supreme being, doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. I too, have a philosophy about life and the universe. My belief that there is no God in heaven looking down on me only leaves me in awe of how magnificent, random, spontaneous and beautiful our lives are.  Plus, I can back up my beliefs with sound, scientific facts. Yes, I thought. Take a stand for atheists everywhere, have faith in your convictions. Tell her you’re a proud atheist dammit!
“Well actually I’m not really religious, but I’m spiritual,” I said. And that was the moment I realized that when it comes to religion and women I am a fence-sitting pussy. I usually have no problem telling people what I think, as evidenced by my lack of friends on Facebook, but when it comes to religion and women, I lose my conviction faster than Judas saying yes to 30 pieces of silver. I wasn’t always this way. I think the problem started with my high school girlfriend Tina*.

Tina was a kind, caring, soft-spoken person, who wanted to be a biochemist, which meant she had a love and a passion for science. However, Tina also had a love and a passion for Sai Baba, which meant she was also crazy. Sai Baba is a popular Indian guru. He has millions of followers all over the world who claim he is a messiah. Tina would constantly try to point out to me that Sai Baba was special, citing his ability to “manifest a golden ball” from his mouth, as evidence of a miracle.
“What’s the point of a gold ball? Why doesn’t he just manifest a cure for cancer or AIDS that would be much more beneficial to mankind?” I asked her once.
“Don’t be stupid Darryn,” she said angrily. “Stop insulting my religion. Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean you can criticize it.”
“What does he do all day?” I replied. “He just seems to sit, and manifest random objects from his mouth. What kind of a lame messiah is that?”
“Can you please have respect for my religion Darryn?”
“I respect you Tina. I just think you’re in a cult. Sai Baba is crazy and he has really brainwashed you and your family into believing that he is a messiah,” I said, hoping she would see my logic. But she didn’t. She even broke up with me, after which I found out she was seeing my cousin behind my back. I suppose there is nothing in Sai Baba-ism against being a slut. In hindsight, I realized maybe I wasn’t really sensitive or open minded about the Sai Baba thing, which is why I gave the whole ‘religious understanding approach’ a better attempt with Nadia*.

Nadia was Muslim. She even wore a hijab, and, ironically, that was part of my attraction to her. She looked exotic and mysterious, and I hoped I could convince her to have sex with me with her hijab on. She said she didn’t have a problem with my lack of religious conviction, but at the same time gave me a copy of the Koran as a Christmas present.
Intent on trying my best to see her point of view, I tried to read it. Every night I would pick it up and read a bit and leave it next to my other books on the floor near my bed. It was around this time that I discovered the writing of Eugene O’ Neil. He wrote amazing plays about death, failed dreams, unrequited love and drug addiction. It was fascinating and not in a stupid ‘emo’ way. Reading O’Neil opened me up to a new world of writing, and the Koran got lost under my comics on the floor of my bedroom.
One day while Nadia was over, and I was trying my best to live out my ‘hijab fantasy’, she saw the Koran on the floor – in pristine, unread condition – next to the stack of “Uncanny X-Men”, and proceeded to get stark raving angry.
“How could you leave it on the floor?” she shouted.
“I put all the books I’m reading on the floor.”
“The Koran is holy; you don’t put it on the floor!” she said.
“Don’t you pray kneeling on the floor?”
“Yes, but that’s different… that’s praying, not reading.”
“Listen babe. My Eugene O’Neil books are on the floor.”
“Who the hell is Eugene O’Neil?”
“He wrote the greatest thing I ever read; you have to read it!”
“The Koran is the greatest thing ever written Darryn!”
“No this play is better. It’s about this family, and two sons who love prostitutes and are alcoholics, their mother is a drug addict and their father is…”
“That’s supposed to be better than the Koran?”
Nadia and I didn’t last long after that, the final straw breaking when I told her there was no way I was giving up geera pork, and when she told me that there was no way she was having sex with me with her hijab on.
I had made up my mind that I if I ever had hope of maintaining a relationship I was just going to nod my head and keep my religious opinions to myself…. Like the way men do when women ask, “Do I look fat to you?” And that’s what I did… until I met Joyce*.

I met Joyce while I was at university. She was from Dublin and Irish Catholic, as she put it. Joyce was White, and, except for our shared love for drinking, from an entirely different culture. So I felt that if I told her about my Catholic upbringing, maybe it would help establish something we could both have in common.
“So you were really raised Catholic?” she asked. She looked bemused.
“Yes, my mother’s side is Hindu, but she converted when she met my dad and I was raised Catholic,” I said.
“So what made you stop believing?”
“Nothing. I just stopped?”
“Oh… you weren’t really serious?”
“No I was serious. I was even an acolyte until I was 15.”
“Oh,” she said, in an odd way.
“What do you mean ‘oh’?” I asked.
“Darryn, can I ask you something personal?”
“Were you molested while you were an altar boy? Is that why you quit believing in God?”
“Of course not!”
“You can tell me you know… nothing will change with us.”
“I was not molested! I actually liked my priest; he was a good, decent man!”
“I knew a boy on my street, who was an altar boy who was molested by our priest. It’s so wrong. It’s so sad. Look at me… nothing will change with us. I promise.”
“I was not molested. I just find it’s not for me. I find beauty and truth in other things; plus the idea of having to believe things that I am not allowed to question seems wrong to me. I love to question everything!”
“You have a right to be angry Darryn. Let it out. Let it all love… I’m here. You are not to blame you hear me. You are not to blame.”
“Joyce I was not molested!”
Joyce and I never had a religious discussion again after that, and she even stopped going to church because of “what they did to me”. When we broke up, she was still fuming about the way the Catholic Church doesn’t deal with child molestation, giving me a conciliatory hug. Which brings me back to that moment in that bar in Chaguanas, with me being a fence-sitting pussy.

“What is ‘spiritual, but not religious’ supposed to mean?” my new interest asked, still in her soft tone.
“It means I don’t have a religion. I don’t really believe in God,” I said, in a deflated way.
“Oh ok.”
“What do you believe?” I asked.
“I believe people should stand up for what they believe in, but also be prepared to defend it, and take on criticism. Criticism can make things better. You should never follow anything blindly.”
“I believe the same thing. You wouldn’t believe the problems I have had with women about me being an atheist.”
“People should be open to other ideas, especially if they are rational ideas. Relationships are a two-way street.”
“Yes! I fully agree. You wouldn’t believe the problems I have had with women who never wanted to understand the reasons why I am an atheist. I think it’s the main reason behind the ruin of most of my past relationships.”
“Really Darryn? That’s the only reason? Have you ever thought that you might also just be an asshole?”
“Eh? No... Not really.”
“You should really question everything Darryn. Be open to new ideas. Don’t just think you have it all figured out.”



Anonymous said...

Good piece. You're a good writer and pretty funny...for an asshole ;-)

Anonymous said...