by Giselle Renarde
My girlfriend believes that Jesus was an alien.
If you say to her, "Hey, Sweet, do you believe that Jesus was an alien?" she'll say no, no, no, not really. But you'll notice a glint in her eye, and if you know her as well as I do, you'll realize she's not being entirely honest with you.
She'll go on to say "for argument's sake" that it's entirely possible Jesus was an alien. "I mean, if someone from 200 years in the past were to see you using modern technology, they would think it was some kind of magic, right? Jesus is reputed to have performed all these miracles. Isn't it possible he just came from a more advanced civilization--whether that be from Earth's future, from another planet, or, more likely, from another dimension? From a race of beings that could adapt their physical forms to look human?"
Clearly, she's contemplated this topic quite a lot.
I haven't spent a great deal of my adult life thinking about Jesus, or religion in general. But when I was thirteen, religion was my bag, man! I loved reading about religion. Religions. I never read the Bible, but the Ramayana? Yup. The Bhagavad Gita? Check. I would peruse the shelf of sacred texts at the public library and read everything I could possibly understand.
And what did I understand as a thirteen-year-old? Excellent question. Probably more than I'd understand now. I feel like I've spent my entire adult life in an ever-quickening process of stupidification. I swear I used to be smarter than this.
But I digress.
There was a rule in my family, which came from a rule in my mom's family: kids go to the local United Church until they turn 14, at which point they can decide whether or not they want to continue attending.
That's why 13 was such a big year for me, religion-wise. This was a huge decision, something I took very seriously. Did I want to continue attending a Christian church? There were so many other religions in the world. Should I choose a different one?
My family wasn't churchy in the least. My father was too hung over to do much of anything on Sunday mornings. My mom "has always been a follower" (direct quote from my grandmother, there) so you could tell her pretty much anything and she'd buy into it. She only started taking me and my siblings to church in the first place because, when I was 6, I asked, "What is God?" and neither of my parents knew how to answer that question.
I don't remember my father's parents ever going to church, but I spent lots of time having deep philosophical conversations with my maternal grandparents: an atheist and an agnostic.
The only people in my family who really talked about God either questioned the existence of a divine entity, or staunchly disbelieved. (It was my grandfather's participation in WWII that convinced him God could not possibly exist, because a divine being would never allow the atrocities he witnessed to occur.)
As a kid, I was magnetically drawn to mysticism, and I really appreciate all the time my grandparents spent talking with me about this topic that seemed of vital and immediate importance. I didn't understand how all the other adults in my life could be so disinterested. If I asked my mom questions about God and spirituality and world religions, her eyes would glaze over and she'd tell me she never thought about those things. She wasn't interested in thinking about those things.
Now that I'm the age my mom would have been when I was asking all those questions, I get it. I experience spiritual joys, mostly interacting with the natural world, but spirituality is not something I actively think about or even attempt to process.
As a 13-year-old researching which religion was right for me, I ultimately decided... none. I felt that I was a spiritual entity, but I was just so put off by the massive corruption that seemed to accompany every organized religion I researched.
When I attended my childhood church later in my teens (I guess to keep an eye on the little ones or as a favour to my mother? I don't remember) there was a new minister, someone who has since become infamous as an author and atheist.
I remember her saying that Christianity wasn't the "right" religion. The United Church wasn't the "right" church. Different religions were right for different people, and any religion could be the right religion. It was up to the individual to use their religious beliefs to do good in the world, and not to use dogma as a tool of oppression.
Now I'm thinking: Right on! Sing it, sister!
But at the time, I thought... if my own minister doesn't believe this is the "right" religion, why should I?
When I turned fourteen, I decided to go it alone. One day I came across a word, "freethinker", and that sounded good to me. I wanted to be free to think and analyze and process the world against an internal sounding board, not a book or a building.
These days, if I'm asked to fill out demographic information, I check the box that says "No religious affiliations."
And that's fine. Authors are supposed to be all introspective and stuff, but I guess I've grown away from 13-year-old me. I just don't think about these things anymore.
On another topic, can you believe I've written a novel's worth of blog posts here at The Grip over the past four years? That's a lot of words! So I've decided to package them up into themed ebooks for your reading pleasure (and the reading pleasure of people who don't tune in here).
The first in the series is available now. It's free, but not forever, so if you've got friends who are committed to failure, tell them to grab a copy of How to Fail Miserably at Writing!