Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'ain't So, T'is Too


Jackie Spinks                                                     



                  Covering All Bases: Agnosticism

It’s comforting to believe the party won’t be over once we do the final number—that we’ll go on living in another dimension. So as we near that final countdown we sometimes turn to religion.  Figure it doesn’t hurt to cover all contingencies.  Furthermore, if it gets out that  we’re an atheist, we become so repugnant we might as well announce we’re a child molester.  We’d get about the same results. 

After you’d incorporated their look of repulsion and rejection, you’d slink away like you’d contaminated the air, while you swallowed the concept, your audience looked like they feared you might pull out a 45 and give it to them between the eyes.   It takes about the same amount of courage to say you’re an atheist as it is to admit “I was a screw-up--the divorce was all my fault.”  Anyhow, I decided not to set myself up like that anymore so I became an agnostic.

My early religious education was pretty mundane. My mother was raised in a strong, extended Mormon clan that were converted by missionaries in Sweden, and as Mormonism at that time was an object of derision, Mama was ashamed.  She didn’t want her kids to be in the same place she had been when she was a kid, so she never told anyone she was Mormon, even her kids.

It was because Mormons were considered objects of ridicule.  And as this was in the early l900’s, my mother was teased mercilessly—called names: like Mormon Moron, Poly Poliggi, dumb Mormon, etc. So Mom didn’t give us any of that Angel Moroni, Golden Tablets, war between the Nephites and Lamanites, Jesus visiting the U.S. or that all of us became Gods and returned to our bodies (hence no cremation) after we died and Jesus had returned.

But as all my aunts, uncles and cousins are strong practicing 100% Mormons, and announce it to everyone, I guess Mormonism is kind of fashionable now.  Especially, with those well-known Mormons in government, such as Governor Romney become a front-runner GOP presidential possibility. 

Anyway, to make a long story short,  I was pretty free of indoctrination.  But the little indoctrination I got stuck.  Here’s a secret before I go on. Don’t tell anyone this but if we were being objective about Jesus and Joseph Smith-- both were prophets and as such, semi-brothers, Joe would have to be classified as the black sheep brother prophet, as Joe had a wagon load of wives and also bestowed his “divine” semen on a score of lovely ladies.   Don’t know about Jesus.

One instruction I got was, I wasn’t to work on Sundays—the rest of the week I’m to work like a group of ox, (Mormons are workaholics) but on Sunday all I could do was rest. Anyway to compress my account of my early training, I wasn’t trained in religiosity.   Nor did I want it. Part of it was as a kid I was irked to discover only good Christians made it to the top sphere, while all the rest, little kids in China and even guys like Ghandi, burned in Hell.  But I’m old now and don’t hold that strict sense of fairness that I did as a kid.

So as the years passed I considered going to church.  And although rational thought for decision-making has not been my forte, I, on occasion, make a good call. One of these good calls was to join the Unitarian Fellowship (sort of an agnostic hangout at that time).  My attendance there, though, was based on a couple of irrational decision. 

Sometimes dumb decisions have happy endings. Anyhow, here’s how it went. I liked to hang out around intellectuals—they have better conversations than non-intellectuals and I’d been reading a psychology textbook that talked about body types. The body types were endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph.  Anyhow, I read that the skinny body types were the scholarly types.

The scientific validity for this axiom has been shot down—but remember this was thirty years ago.  Anyhow when I first came to town, looking for something to do on Sunday—find an agreeable group to socialize with—I noticed the Unitarians were all skinny.  There were about fifteen of them. Hence my exposure to agnostic/atheistic thought.  (By the way they are no longer skinny.)

I haven’t been to church lately but I went to church the other day.  It was the most boring hour of the week, although it was fun to talk to members when they congregated in the social hall.  (There are now about 300 members.)  Thirty years has increased the fence-sitting crowd.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to believe in superstition.  I can’t walk under a ladder.  I’ll walk around one even if I have to walk through mud to do it. And I have faith if I buy a lottery ticket, I’ll win a million dollars. Of course, it’s a bummer when it lets me down, but my faith continues I’d like to be a believer.  They say believers are happier than non-believers.  Therefore, if I knew that I could go over this particular bump of death and be with my second husband you couldn’t hold me back. 

But something holds me back from become a believer, now that my time is running out.  I don’t know what it is—maybe my reading addiction, my cynicism, listening to accusations by intellectuals of being a rube Part of it is the believers I know don’t want to die. Well neither do I, but I’ve noted the most spiritual ones call 911 more assiduously than the non-religious.  I can’t understand why they would prefer to live in this cruel, stratified place, rather than go over that particular bump in the road and live in that perfect place. 

For some reason, all these deeply devout traipse, from doctor to doctor, some make the doctor’s office their second home, hoping some pill will stay their time here on this greedy, suffering earth.  They don’t want to enter Heaven’s Wonderful, Beautiful Gate and be in this friendly, welcoming, place where you can eat all you want and not get fat.  Are they nuts? So I wonder if in a secret non-admitted place they have an insecurity—an “am I pleasing God enough to make it up there, or can God see inside of me and see my “iffy” feelings.  

I saw a poll the other day asking young people what the best thing in life would be and their number one choice was celebrity and the last choice on the list of ten was God.  Can’t understand why  being famous for a couple of years was more exciting than spending an eternity being famous in Heaven.  Calls for a few math classes.

Looking at it objectively I would surmise that deep in their unconscious they don’t quite believe.
I’m not yet at the stage where I’m shuffling down the hall dragging my IV, looking around wildly for a nurse, as I await the arrival of the grim reaper. 

But I am in my 80s and  in the place where it would be nice to be with my dear friends and beloved 2nd husband and able to get up off the floor without having to grab onto something to do it.   I don’t yearn for death, you probably assume that by now, but I do yearn for that on-going life after death. 
So do we become more spiritual as the clock is ticking the hours and days away moving closer to that final show down?  I guess it all depends on where we were earlier. Did education or the lack thereof  make us yearn for spirituality or for a more secular way of looking at life? 

It’s made me more secular, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I gave a final prayer as darkness descended. You know cover all the bases, just in case.  The whole Heaven thing is such a pleasant idea.

Some others go the other way, give up religion, become proud, kiss-my-butt atheists, but only fearfully announce that they are atheists, as —we all know nobody likes atheists-- and humans want to be liked.  So they change the subject .

They say it’s harder for the rich to die.  They have more to lose.  I read that kings have a hard time accepting that they can die like lower mortals and lose all that money, power and adulation. 
Heard that joke about the banker who got to Heaven’s Gate and was carrying a suitcase.  The Angel at the Gate said, “You can’t come in here with that.”

“But I have to,” said the banker.

“Okay,” said the Angel, “Let’s see what’s in there.”

The banker opened up the suitcase and it was filled with gold bricks.

“Oh,” said the Angel, “street pavement.”

I keep asking myself, why wouldn’t a leader, a President, who believes the Biblical myths, believe other irrational ideas, such as one tiny nation, who had a nuclear bomb would drop it on us.  And never believe that tiny nation has the smarts to know the U.S. could drop two hundreds of nuclear bombs in retaliation-- wiping them out completely, even their  lead honcho.

Furthermore, I’ve read that every leader, no matter how much they repeat the  current, popular dogma, they are all, in reality, atheists.   At the same time maybe it’s hard to admit to themselves—I’m a mere mortal and no matter how elaborate the funeral I’m no different from those ragged, unschooled, starving beggars. I would hazard in this world, death is the only fairness in life.

Another one of my gripes is that   God’s behavior, objectively speaking, seems pretty mean, although I’ve been told he’s full of love. Like he seems pretty partial to some people, (I believe that’s the Calvinist Doctrine) —giving them breaks and others nothing but hunger, suffering and pain.
I have several more gripes against spirituality.  One is that the church glorifies those that live in poverty—making poverty okay.  So you’re poor, so what! You’ll get your paycheck along with mansions up there in Heaven. 

Another gripe, it’s hard to believe Noah carried 18,000 animals, a million insects and a bunch of dinosaurs  each weighing over 100,000 pound on a 40 cubit boat.  According to the fundamentalist creed, dinosaurs were around a couple thousand years ago.

It is nice to live in a country and be able to think, even write and speak about your doubts. In the Middle East I’m told if you mention any doubts, you’ll quickly end up tortured, stoned, or executed. 
Moreover, being an atheist is pleasant, even though the wisenheimers tell you it’s not.  It takes a humility and a lower level of egoism, to believe once your time is up—it’s up—nothing, nada, zip, all done for, over.  No teetering, no doubt.  Try it, you’ll see. 

But for a long time I went around, not admitting to being an atheists, but rather an agnostic, thinking that’s a good compromise that won’t offend anyone as I’m of the “I want to be liked,” mentality.  I’ve now tossed that agnostic mantle off and come out of the closet.

Although, once when I was stuck and had to tell my religion when I entered a hospital, I didn’t want to admit to being a dumb klutz, low brow, Mormon and at the same time fearful if I said atheist or even agnostic, some fervent religious hospital care-giver would give me a lethal injection.  So being somewhat paranoid I said, as I’d gone to a Presbyterian church youth group a  few time. “I’m a Presbyterian.”  Not a complete lie. But we do become what’s called chicken-shits in our old age.

So I am told in the end, all of us non-believers will fall to the floor and beg for salvation.
Those ancient authors who wrote Revelations sure knew how to do a Best Seller Horror story.




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