Hello there Papabear!
First off I would like to say that it is awesome there is an advice column for furs by a fur. I've considered Dear Abby in the past, but I'm not sure a non-fur would be able to figure out how to help me.
A bit about myself, I'm a 27 and was recently (and officially) diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and ADD/ADHD. My therapist was surprised that I survived as long as I did without medication or seeking prior help. Mostly I had to motivate myself through depression and hard times, especially a royally nasty divorce. I graduated high school with honors and the prestigious American Legion Award for organizing a fundraiser for American Cancer Society in high school.
It was quite successful, their goal of $100,000 went far beyond, netting between $300,000 to $500,000 dollars for cancer research. Currently I am a college student who was inducted to Phi Theta Kappa while attending for an art major. I switched from electronics as math beyond algebra becomes perplexing to me with it's contradictory logic (a+b=c, but not if a is equal to c D:>). I am currently the proud uncle of healthy baby boy, it's been a challenge to deal with as it can be stressful when he starts crying.
I really don't have a question, but rather a quandary. I during the time of the divorce, my mom ran into trouble with church. Mostly she was blamed for my dad’s infidelity, though I knew the truth having spent countless nights praying he would come home safe with my mom. Faith has always seen me through rough times, so when my mom was excommunicated I decided to drop the doctrine (lose the middleman) and seek God on my own level.
I understand that there is a higher force at work, one that goes beyond my own understanding of the world. I've seen the many wonders from the anatomy I studied to improve my art to the very stars I would see in my telescope. It's a humbling sight to see the rings around Saturn or the moons circling Jupiter!
But here in the South, if you ain't in "X" church you're burning in Hell. Work isn't really a place for religion or so I'm told, but one time I had a boss rip into me because I wasn't in church every Sunday. Mostly likely that was part of the reason I was let go, the other might be because of how slow I process things (I'm getting better lol).
But I was shocked that a boss would say something like that to his employee. I should have known when the mechanic quickly rolled his eyes when the sermon began. Again, I'm not good at picking up most social cues like I am now. He pretty much condemned to hell and berated me in front of the other workers.
Even in college we had folks from local churches recruiting for their youth groups. I wasn't particular interested, truth be told I got a bit frightened that they wanted my personal info. My friend was a Baptist and got a bit offended that I wasn't going to be part of his group.
Later at my new job, I apparently was indoctrinated into being a Christian (was raised Catholic) by reading a prayer provided by a fellow coworker. I merely did it so she wouldn't get offended, but I kind of regret having to people please just to keep a touchy subject at bay.
Well Papabear, I grow weary of people's antics about religion and what's the one true path they believe I should follow. In my own belief, I believe there is no greater Hell than the one we create for ourselves, so I would love to drop this ball and chain once and for all.
I don't like being guilted into doing anything I don't feel comfortable with, and I'm tired of being the bad guy. What would be a proper way of handling this?
P.S. Thanks for taking the time do make this column happen. :D I believe it's a positive thing you do.
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Thanks for your kind words about my column. I try my best to answer everyone’s questions objectively and helpfully.
Your questions and experiences are similar to mine over the years and you, like me, have come to question why people professing to be Christians—a religion about love and forgiveness—act with so much unkindness toward other human beings, whether or not they are also Christians. Sounds like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, religion-wise. You came from a Catholic home and you are living in the South, where there are a lot of rather extreme Christians, such as the Southern Baptists (I’m familiar with both denominations). My husbear comes from a Catholic background and explained to me that, while it doesn’t happen as much these days, the Church can excommunicate you for a divorce, though they might not if you have a lot of money that you give to them on a regular basis. Sounds like that’s what happened to your mom. Now the Catholics are not such sticklers on attendance as the Baptists, who really get pissed off at you if you don’t attend services every Sunday (as you noted, they tend to threaten you with an eternity of burning in Hell. I loved the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Amy makes a comment on this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g9OszJFIzg).
If you could prove your boss fired you because you didn’t attend church, you would definitely have a legal case against him; but if he comes back and says it was because you were slow, then that would be the end of that.
You sound like an intelligent person who can think for himself. You’ve overcome the disability of ADHD to excel in school and, not only that, work to benefit your fellow man. A lot of religious people can’t understand that. They cannot comprehend that people are able to live and achieve without the Church, and that, quite frankly, makes many of them furious. Some might even say that you must be in cahoots with the Devil to be able to do things without giving the Church it’s cut ... er, 10% tithe.
Now, before I get a lot of hate mail, let me say, as I have done before, that churches have done a lot of good and charitable work, and there are a lot of good religious people out there whose hearts are full of sincere love. My belief, really, is that such people would have been good anyway, but they were brought up in a religious atmosphere and became good people under the Church that way. A lot of my readers may disagree with me, and I completely respect that. These are just my opinions and that does not in any way make them the Gospel truth. These are my conclusions after spending 47 years on this planet.
You, R-Complex, seem to be heading down the same path. You recognize that you don’t need a church and a religious organization to have a personal relationship with God (much as the Gnostics taught before the Catholics wiped them out). So, your question is how do you deal with these people always foisting their beliefs on you and telling you that you are a bad person if you don’t believe as they do. Good question.
Well, one way would be to move someplace with more liberal views, such as New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. Places where they don’t judge you based on your marital status or how often you attend church. But, if you can’t get away from the self-righteous, you have to set up a confident front. There is little chance of your educating or enlightening people with deeply-entrenched religious values, so don’t even bother.
You deal with their opinions and pressure by being confident in your own spiritual values. This way, you won’t be guilted into doing things, like you did when you were cajoled into reading that prayer. People often do things in life not because they want to but because they wish to be accepted into their social groups. Once you realize that you can never reconcile your personal beliefs with theirs, no matter how you might try, you can be your own person. I have come to a point in my life, for instance, where if somebody looks me in the eye and tells me I’m going to Hell for not being a Christian, it doesn’t fluster me in the least. Don’t apologize for your beliefs. Ironically, when they do this to you, do what Jesus did and turn the other cheek. When someone says you’re a godless heathen, tell them, “Well, this godless heathen loves you anyway and wishes you a happy and healthy life.” It’s interesting to see them try and figure out a comeback for that one.
Each time you are faced with hate and fear, confront it with love and acceptance. Accept that these people have certain views that you don’t hold true, and know that this in no way should affect what you believe.
You’ve worked hard to be where you are today. Your spiritual views have also been hard-won. You have earned them and no one has the right to take them away from you.
If there was a question somewhere in your letter, I hope there is an answer somewhere in mine.
May Grandfather Bear watch over you,
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