Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Took John to Church

atheists and death, atheist in church, children and death
We went to a funeral wake and Catholic mass and funeral this week for someone very special to a family member. It was a sad experience and we were all very moved by the loss of this very lovely and very family-oriented man.

For my kids it was interesting because they have not attended any churches for any reason in a very long time. In fact, they have only been in church for other funerals and for a graduation from a Catholic high school. John and I have been talking about his experiences and thoughts while in the church and during the mass.

I hope you will indulge me a bit because I thought that so many of his thoughts and questions were brilliant so I asked him to write some of them down for this blog.

Please know that he is very sincere with his questions and comments even though they may seem, to some, to be very rude or insulting. The following is John's writing in his own words.


When I walked in I was instantly struck with the angel statues and scary mannequins along the walls. I noticed the giant alter display in the front and the words “Blessed in Jesus’s Most Holy Heart” and I wondered if there was also an unholy heart or, maybe an non-blessed heart? Is there a Least Most Holy Heart? If something is holy, are there different levels of holy or blessed?

I saw the cross and I thought, Wow, you really do worship this piece of wood.  You have made this symbol so holy...weird. Who decided to used that symbol as a thing to worship? You had so many other options and you chose that? Also, I wish he had more clothes on, that loin cloth is just too little...maybe a hat. Some other options for holy things to worship might be holy animals, holy sheep might make sense...

Behind us was a band; that was kind of nice. The sound system was really great. How do you get that job? Singing at funerals? Do people who play the organ think my life’s goal is to play at church? The songs...well, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, the words weren't clear, but if I heard them every week I might understand them. In my own head, I could make them say whatever I wanted. At one point I was singing “What is gooOOOoooing on…?”

The whole time I felt like I was doing an aerobics class...stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, da da da da! Don’t people’s knees hurt after awhile? Can we just choose one, stand or sit, and just stick with it? Is there more holiness in standing than in sitting? 
If so, why not stay standing?

So we were there for a funeral mass. It seemed to me that the priest was saying This was a good man, he didn’t have a long life, but it was a good one. I liked that he said that; that message was inspiring and really didn’t seem religious to me. Then came the odd part where the priest said, let’s sing some songs and then we’ll eat Jesus. This man died so let’s eat Jesus
Honestly, it was weird. It's just what I saw.

When other people went up to the front for a cracker I was tempted to go up and get one of the crackers because I was feeling a bit peckish by that time.

I was confused with how they made the cracker holy and with just how much body Jesus must have! I mean, they eat part of it every week, right? It seemed like it was just a cracker one minute and then it was Jesus the next minute and the priest was saying Here is Jesus.

The shepherd metaphor, where he separated the sheep from the lambs...why don’t the lambs get anything? That’s kind of crap. Also, that part about I was naked and you clothed me, why doesn’t God do that part? Why would he leave his children hungry, thirsty, or naked?

About Holy Ghosts. Is he the only holy ghost? Who was he before he was a ghost? Are there other ghosts who aren’t holy? Why aren’t they holy? Also, why do they start everything with Oh God Who Art in Heaven, why isn’t he ever in the Bahamas on vacation? That sounds facetious but, really, does he have spare time? You'd think that with so many funerals he would be busy with that.

The mannequins are really creepy. Why are they there? Are they so holy that it is so useful to have them there?  Because they are creepy! Who is the guy holding the really long stick, cross thing? Is that for poking fires?

If the cross is holy, are the nails holy? The chalice is holy, right? The crown of thorns is holy, right? He, in general is holy, so why not the holy nails? You could build a church with holy nails and a holy hammer, you know, a hammer from the person who nailed him to the cross.

Also, why do I have to give my life to God? Doesn't he get my soul afterwords for all of eternity?

Back to the funeral, then we went to the cemetery where everyone in heels had their shoes sinking into the ground. The minister seemed to say the same things again that he'd said at the church. We give him to you...again. The cemetery was very pretty. From one angle one of the trees looked cel-shaded. It was cool.

If Mary was the Immaculate Conception, who were her parents? Don't you think she has an existential crisis by not knowing her parents?

I asked Mom about many of these things later and she explained them, their origins, their intentions. So I know some of these answers now.

 I am honestly questioning these things. I intend no rudeness or insult. 
Even if they seem funny, they are my actual thoughts and questions.


We mean well.


  1. as an atheist (having been raised in catholicism) I find your insights and thoughts very interesting. I don't have the ability any more to step back and see the whole shebang for what it is, so any fresh eye comment is very much appreciated. thank you for your insights.

    1. Actually, I told John the same thing!
      It was amazing to hear his questions and thoughts about things that I had been brought up with...

  2. I enjoyed reading this and applaud John's very reasonable and thoughtful questions. He's a ponderer, that one! ;)
    I was raised Catholic and always had many, many questions about teachings and dogma, such as "Don't we all *really* know that the bread and wine ARE NOT the body and blood of Christ?" and "How could God--whose supposed to unconditionally love us--damn someone to eternity in hell for divorcing or having an abortion or not believing?" and "What do you mean that a rape survivor should be forced to birth a resulting child?" and "Don't you think God has better things to do than keep track of who is having sex outside of marriage?" and "Abortion is a mortal sin, bu war is not???" and "If God is this all-loving, all powerful, parental figure, how and why does He let awful things happen to His children???" (I still argue that one today, as reasoning against the existence of such a being.) Catholic nuns, deacons, priests, and catechism teachers abhor questions, so I was regularly being threatened to stop with my questions or they'd call my mom. My routine response to that threat was "Go ahead. Call her. Please tell her I said 'Hi'." (They never did follow through on those threats.) The truth is that they have rehearsed, illogical pat answers which they regurgitate for all of John's questions, my questions, and anyone else's logical queries. And here I sit, decades later, seeing the whole lot of it for what it really is. Don't get me wrong--I am happy for people for who this religion stuff has meaning, gives hope/joy/comfort/peace. Whatever floats their boats. It just doesn't do it for me.

    1. I find it interesting that this post hasn't been read and commented on because *I* found John's thoughts and musings SO INTERESTING!

  3. I know exactly what he means about all the standing, kneeling and sitting. Even though I wasn't brought-up a Catholic I went to a Catholic secondary school. My parents were kind enough to ensure we were opted out of catechism classes and regular visits to the cathedral. However, occasionally I chose to go along on some of these outings to see a friend sing or things of the sort and found myself having similar musings to John, but the standing-sitting thing was the one that really puzzled me. I found the whole thing would start to make me feel a bit dizzy ... I wonder if this is intentional... a dizzy person can get more easily confused and be open to accepting more illogical and repetitive speeches. Check it out for yourselves next time you attend one of these things.
    Again Karen, congratulations on raising a child capable of seeing the world so objectively. Eugenia x

    1. LOL...I was raised in the Catholic church, so I know just what you mean.

      I would love to accept he praise for my children, but they are just so cool on their own. (Y)

  4. Wow, this cracked me up at times. At other's, I simply thought: well observed, John! I'm almost surprised that the priest was talking about what a good person the deceased had been. I have been at a funeral mass of a father of three, who had died of cancer in his early 40s, and the priest went on and on about absolve this sinner, forgive this sinner, blablabla. At one point, I just wanted to yell to him that obviously, he had not known this man, so he'd better shut it and let others talk.

    I definitely second Karen (who may be jaded as your mom): You're cool, John :-)

    1. John says THANKS, I appreciate it!
      He says loves comments as he is my son. ;)

  5. Lots of interesting insights (and as a former Catholic, I found myself saying, "Yeah, he's so right" several times). I shared it with our 8 year old son and he enjoyed it as well.


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