Window shopping for religion
”â¹St. Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Church on Upper North Street is a misty place to spend the majority of your life. Father R’s face is a permanent fixture in this darkened room and the results are very obvious. I’m here today on business . . . a very strange and curious sort of business ”â to meet with the Reverend and find out just why his religion is better than all the others. I’ve come here to get the big Christianity sales pitch from him, the religious fast talk ; and so I had no choice but to lie to him. Quite a lot. I’m not proud of it. But I’d most probably do it again.
I strolled into the huge airy room, introduced myself, and told him that I was going through a hard time in life and felt like there was a big empty void that needed filling.
“Father, I think that finding God is exactly what I need right now but I’m not sure which religion is the best one for me just yet. I don’t know anything about religion at the moment so I’m collecting information on every different faith so I can make a clear judgement on which one I’m going to devote myself to.”Â
Now I’m not the religious type myself. Some may even go as far as saying that I’m a bit of a sinner. Just occasionally, of course, but appeasing the holy one certainly isn’t the first thing on my mind when I drag myself out of bed in the morning. If I’m being honest, I was there for my own amusement, and to find out exactly what I could or couldn’t do if I joined this religion and see just how far they’d go to reel in the squirming little fish at the end of their giant religious fishing rod.
I asked the Reverend if he could spare ten minutes to answer some questions and maybe even convince me that his religion is the one I supposedly need so badly. If Christianity were real, I’d definitely be going to Hell. But fuck it. I’ve got much more important matters to be dealing with . . .
He agreed, readily, and lead me past the alter and up into the church backstage room where I sat myself down in the empty seat opposite him and pulled out my clipboard.
“Wow you’re very organized,”Â he remarked at the sight of my pre-prepared questions that had been safely clipped in.
“Well this isn’t a matter to be taken lightly, Father,”Â I replied, digging a pen out of the front pocket of my bag. “This investigation is going to change my whole life and I’m not going to risk picking an unsuitable faith. You don’t mind if I make a few notes do you?”Â
“Not at all,”Â he responded and sat back ready for the challenge.
“So firstly,”Â I began. “I need to get one thing straight. What kind of things would I not be allowed to do if I joined your religion?”Â
“What kinds of things would you not be allowed to do?”Â
“Yeah what would I not be allowed to do anymore?”Â
“Ummm . . . Ok . . .Well . . . You wouldn’t be able to have sex unless you were married for a start.”Â
“Oh really?”Â I said, jotting down his answer.
“Yeah and you wouldn’t be allowed to swear or use the Lord’s name in vain.”Â
“How about this?”Â I asked. “I run an online erotic bakery called ”Ëtasty buns’. We sell penis shaped cakes and things like that. Would I still be allowed to run my business if I joined your religion?”Â
The Reverend cast a pondering gaze up to the ceiling. “Well I suppose there wouldn’t be a problem with that,”Â he said after a brief pause for reflection. “It’s a tough one. As long as all you’re doing is making cakes, I don’t see it really hurting anyone.”Â
“That isn’t definite enough for me, Father?”Â I pressed. “I don’t want to get to The Pearly Gates and find out that God had a problem with it all along. Would I go to Hell for running an erotic bakery or not?”Â
“No you wouldn’t,”Â he concluded. “You’d be fine as long as you were coming to confession regularly.”Â
“Ok great. So here’s another issue I’ve been thinking about . . . I was collecting information from the Muslims the other day and they were saying that in their religion, when you die, if you’ve been good, you get a load of virgins in the afterlife. Would I get anything like that in your religion?”Â
“You’d be with God,”Â he replied. “You’d be with love and trust and beauty and faith.”Â
“Forgive my ignorance, Father, but will there be virgins as well?”Â
“I don’t know. You just can’t conceive of what will be waiting in heaven.”Â
“Well the Muslims were pretty convinced that there would be virgins,”Â I said. “In fact, they were completely sure of it. Do they have more of an insight into the afterlife than the Christians?”Â
“No I don’t think they do. They just have different beliefs to us, that’s all.”Â
“Ok sure,”Â I replied, not looking very impressed. “So Reverend, I’ve been told that Jesus had many super powers. What kind of things could he do?”Â
“I wouldn’t quite call them super powers,”Â the Reverend answered. “He performed miracles and that’s what you must have heard.”Â
“Miracles,”Â I replied in awe. ”ËThat is so cool. Could he fly?”Â
“He could mentally and spiritually fly.”Â
“But could he physically fly?”Â
“Well there’s nothing in the Bible about him actually flying.”Â
A look of disappointment shot across my face. “Well could he at least walk up walls?”Â
“I think you’ve confused the meanings of Christ’s miracles with a more Hollywood way of thinking,”Â he said.”ÂHis miracles were performed out of love and understanding.”Â
“Ah I see. Sorry, Father. I just saw that film, you know, ”ËJesus : Back for his Vengeance’, a few months ago and thought that Jesus’ character in the movie was based on his actual personality.”Â
“Was there another film made about Jesus?”Â the Reverend asked with a puzzled expression.”ÂI hadn’t heard about it.”Â
Now just for the record, there was never a film called ”ËJesus : Back for his Vengeance’. Not that I’m aware of anyway. But I thought it would give the Reverend something interesting to look into that afternoon when I left.
“Yeah it was amazing,”Â I replied. “Jesus came back from the dead to find the re-incarnation of Judas and seek his revenge. The special effects on the machine gun fights were incredible. There was a pretty graphic love making scene between Jesus and Jennifer Anniston as well.”Â
The Reverend looked quite disturbed. “That doesn’t seem very appropriate,”Â he said to himself. “ I’m going to have to mention it in our next church meeting.”Â
“Yeah you should watch it too,”Â I suggested. “It’s very insightful. I learnt everything I know about Jesus from it.”Â
“I don’t think it sounds like the ways of Christ. Having machine gun fights!?”Â
“ Oh well. I guess the Hollywood folks must have added a few extra bits of their own to help sales. Makes for great watching though. Anyway, Reverend, we’re getting side tracked.”Â I held up the clipboard of questions. “Right what’s the next . . . Oh yeah . . .Is there a limit on God’s forgiveness?”Â
“No there’s not,”Â he answered immediately. “It’s so complicated. The process of repentance and contrition, and how that all works, it can take a long period of time. But there’s no limit on his forgiveness.”Â
“So if for instance . . . I don’t know . . . I went out tonight and smoked a load of crack . . . and . . . took a prostitute home with me . . . could I just turn up to confession in the morning, confess my sins, and be back on track for Heaven again?”Â
“It’s not as simple as that, but, yeah, essentially.”Â
“So if let’s say I went out again that night, smoked a load more crack and slept with a few more prostitutes, could I just come back to confession again the next morning, confess those sins and be completely in the clear?”Â
“You see that’s quite interesting,”Â he replied. “Errr . . . I think . . . Errr . . .It’s a difficult one.”Â
“Well could I, Father?”Â I urged. “If there’s no limit on God’s forgiveness, does that mean I could sin as much as I wanted as long I was truly sorry and went to confession every morning?”Â
He waded around my question for a couple of minutes, never actually answering it, but instead rambling about it being complicated and about how you can’t look at forgiveness as an equation.
“Right . . . Ok,”Â I started after a second of trying to make sense of what he had been saying. “So if I did join your religion, how should I treat people from other religions?”Â
“Well everybody is a child of God, Kyle, and is therefore equal. Even if some people haven’t made the right decisions.”Â
“So there’d be no tension between us and people in the local area that follow other religions?”Â
“No absolutely not.”Â
“But they are going to Hell, Father. Surely that would lead to some barriers in our relationships?”Â
“It’s not as simple as that,”Â he informed me again.
“But surely if they aren’t following the teachings of Christ and confessing their sins to the Lord they couldn’t possibly get into Heaven. I don’t see how I could treat people the same when I knew deep down that they’re going to Hell.”Â
I could see that the Reverend wasn’t going to give me a straight answer, and again, he launched into a vague speech about God speaking to people in many different ways. I’d had more than enough enjoyment from the experience anyway, and made a move to start wrapping things up.
“Well Father, I must admit that I’m not convinced. Your God just doesn’t sound cheeky enough for me – I need an easy going kind of God, you know, a God I could relax around. I appreciate that yours doesn’t mind my erotic bakery but on the whole he seems pretty uptight.”Â
The Reverend understood.
“I can’t thank you enough for your time today, Father,”Â I continued as he lead me back down past the alter and out towards the door. “Looks like becoming a Jedi Knight is still top of the list.”Â
Window shopping for religion