I’m not comfortable talking about my faith and personal ties to religion but here’s back story on…me. It’s where I stand and what I believe and in some ways, how I came to it.
I’m a baptized Catholic. Maybe Roman Catholic, I don’t know the details and that should give you an idea of my history through vagueness now shouldn‘t it? John ain’t well connected to his faith! And that’s a truth. Oh, I was exposed to religion; I went to mass with family on an inconsistent basis during my childhood in the 1980’s. I went to a communion class in the evenings during 3rd grade and had my first communion in 1987. We had a big old party in the backyard of my house in New York.
Religion was more constant during 1988 when my father departed the family – he didn’t exactly leave my mom, he moved to Florida ahead of a full family relocation. He transferred his career at the United States Post Office sort facility from near LaGuardia Airport in New York to the one near Tampa International Airport in Tampa during the summer of ’88. My mom, my siblings and I wouldn’t relocate to Florida until the house was sold.
While my mom was certainly challenged while doing single-mom duties with three kids, it didn’t make us children more tied to faith, or she didn’t stress it as a day-to-day necessity; it was inconsistent prayers-before-meals but beyond that? Oh, we went to Sunday mass – a solid walk from our home we were living in at the time in Blue Point, but it was accessible none-the-less. We made the Sunday walk through the elements and changing seasons until January 1989. That’s when the relocation happened to Tampa Bay.
We started off in a rental home in Clearwater through June 1989, my parents as a reunited couple and me and my brothers as displaced children. We made weekly trips to a Catholic church on Sunset Point road into the spring of ’89. I can’t remember specifics of what we heard or saw. I can remember the morning attending church stopped, for what reasons has never been discussed nor have I asked.
I woke up early or I hadn’t slept well the night before. I had been having issues in elementary school with thanks to me being an out-of-place kid. I was just a well-dressed nerd to the rednecks who were native; a nerd who hadn’t been exposed to a solid mixed race social sphere like I did in the school I landed in Clearwater. Being above the class average intellectually and just a stranger who tried to be social put me on the outside of things.
That Sunday morning that I remember, I got up and got dressed for morning mass and sat around, waiting for my parents to get up. The clock kept ticking and I decided to go pick up the newspaper at the corner of Union Street and Hercules Avenue, it was just a short bike ride away. I got taunted by kids as I passed a local apartment complex, “John! There’s no school today!” Yeah, a polo shirt and slacks weren’t foreign as my school attire at that point. Casual Long Island attire wasn’t the same as the casual dress I was being introduced to in Clearwater, nor would the pleasant-dressed clothing be comfortable in the heat and humidity of the coming Florida summer. They taunted me with the same cry again as I raced back to the house. I thought my parents would be up and ready to go by the time I arrived. I didn’t want to be late.
Nope. They weren’t up and ready, nor would they be rarin’ to go when they did finally get up. Spring of ’89 was the last time I ever attended a weekly mass. And as a 9-year-old, I was not truly married to faith and didn’t push for church.
So what am I? Am I an available free agent? Oh, no, I grew up and I learned my own faith and loyalties by way of what I was exposed to in life by way of personal experiences (you try growing up with NF2, see where it takes you) and what wrongs witnessed that were defended by certain faiths while ignored by others. Having moved to Florida, religious elements inundated TV and came off prominent…and corrupted in one fashion or another.
That’s not to sully religion as-so-much certain approaches that make flash His name (along with cash contributions!); faith expression as a for-profit entity. Think of it like the movie Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin; capitalizing on others faith in the Lord.
These factors – Faith first being promoted – countered the simple math of logic. I learned in school, I learned by reading the newspaper and magazines, I learned off news broadcasts I saw in the evening and on cable broadcasts, or education minded shows on PBS such as “Nature”. Facts, reality, exposure to events that were local, national, or elsewhere around the world and yada-yada-yada, it all taught me. It all showed me.
So? What the hell is Johnny Fonts? I’m an atheist, right? Because I’m outside of religion means I don’t believe in God or aren’t devoted to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior? I didn’t follow George Harrison and find religion in India or something, right? Sidd Finch’s Buddhist fury isn’t my cup of tea, is it? No, no, no… no. No.
See, where I’m at is just the blank truth and the simple logic that applies to life in general: We don’t know it all. You can put faith in something larger and beyond human comprehension, but you can’t put faith in religious teachings and texts with thanks to human manipulation of those teachings and words as it’s been done commonly for millennia. I’m sorry to bring politics of the moment into this but look at what US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tried to do to justify separating immigrant children from parents: He manipulates the Bible to defend the action by the Trump Administration. He used a religious text, twisting the interpretation, to defend a moral wrong being committed. Things like that will happen again, and again, and again. Some of the faithful will see the wrong and react while others will put faith in what is said because of loyalties to the speaker.
I don’t bring it up to as if to say you can’t have faith in the Bible or other religious texts or those delivering sermons or masses or other religious services. It does mean you shouldn’t have blind faith in what others tell you the words actually mean.
Back to the point of my write up and my own faith: I’m agnostic; there’s something there, there’s something beyond, it’s just not based on one deity or another. While I put faith in humanity and morality, it’s tarred and feathered on a daily basis by actions and deeds by people (including myself). We all could be better and working toward moral, ethical and social standards in this world, we all could support others and see past differences in race, gender, financial status, physical status and sexuality. That means working toward a standard that doesn’t tolerate human monsters and doesn’t ignore those who break moral and ethical laws. It means our faith should be the goal of the betterment of general society.
Religion too often is another point of division among us. It’s too often the basis for judgment and all too seldom the catalyst for warfare upon this planet. That goes against my standard.
Anyone devote to their religious faith may see this text as just proof that Hell will be accepting another tenant to burn through infinity after life ends for me. I’m already in hell by way of a genetic disease that causes pain and ruins my person. Ruined to the point where I’m in solitude in more ways than the average person can comprehend I know right from wrong, I practice it, I have prayed (for myself and for others welfare) but that’s often just turned into wishful thinking. Here I sit in a worsening state by way of that disease. It – your hell thoughts or my pains – doesn’t change my perception that something is indeed beyond our state of living… It just isn’t heaven or hell as we’ve been taught through the existence of mankind.