I will let you decide where.
l have no idea if l am believer but as every good religious person, I pray silently to God only when l am in trouble or want to obtain something. I also pray when I don’t see any escape or options coming out from a certain situation.
Sometimes I think to myself:
That’s it! This is the end of you. Only a miracle can save you.
It usually happened when l was not prepared for a test or an exam, when l was in trouble and l wanted to avoid a slap or when l had a crush. It happened when l needed money, when l wanted something from my parents and they only had a statement to say: ‘’NO!’’
Being ‘’raised’’ in Orthodox Christianity and Islamic religion, I had no idea which one the congregations I belonged to. My parents were never religious people. In fact they didn’t care at all. They only obeyed the rituals so they could get a pass from their own parents and have their own piece of mind (smartly played.) My parents never went to church or mosque unless it was a funeral, wedding or the baptism of a child.
If l start thinking about my childhood, l can’t remember my parents ever discussing religion. They ‘’baptized’’ my siblings and I in both religions and as l said, just to have their piece of mind from their families. In fact, if my parents were religious bi-peds, they would not be together for 45 years.
As a child, it depended pretty much where l was. If l was in the Middle East, l had to go with my aunts or grandmother every Friday to the mosque and pray all five salah per day. As a child l used to spend every summer vacation per year in Eastern Europe. We were dropped at my grandparent’s house and collected when we had to go back home, in the Middle East. While we were spoiled by my maternal grannies, we also had to attend Church every bloody Sunday. We had to pray before each meal. I had no idea the meaning of the words when l was praying, when l had to do it or why l had to do it. But l do remember being asked to do so because they said so. Mostly l pretended to pray. l never had the urge to do it. l was literally repeating like a broken tape after my granny.
In the Middle East, l was just asked to grab my namāzlik (prayer rug) and my abaya which was white. I knew the prayers by heart. After the prayers l remember chasing my brother or the neighborhood kids pretending to be a ghost. As you may imagine, afterwards it was a ‘’catch me if you can game’’ between my aunts or uncles and I.
When l used to go to church with my grandmother, I thought that was another level of insanity. Hearing all kind of chants, surrounded by elderly people, kneeling with an odd form of singing and praying. I couldn’t understand a word from it except ‘’Lord have mercy.’’ I would ask how much mercy shall we pray for and doing hands gesturing like traffic police while they worshipped or did the cross over their chest with a fake humble look. The orthodox Christians do it from right to left, the Catholics from left to right. I cannot understand why and my intention is not to find out either.
My granny used to give me the ‘’look” and whisper between her teeth that l am doing it wrong. Whenever granny wasn’t able to take us to the church, it was grandpa’s duty. That poor guy knew my place isn’t at the church. He knew l was getting bored and staring at the stained glasses, candles, the gold at the altar, the priest wearing black clothes and chocked by gold chains. At a point l knew each crack in the church walls and each elderly lady who showed up every single Sunday. l could easily recognize a new face. It was like an old school Facebook.
When grandpa took us to church, we would sit in the church garden. He would tell me the story of the architect of the building. He would tell me who built it, what sacrifices were made, why it was named after a saint. He would look at the watch and coach us what to tell grandma if she asked us anything about church. Basically, grandpa taught us how to tell a white lie at the church and afterwards we would have ice cream. Those were the jackpot Sundays for me.
I got older. l started being aware of the word religion especially when l noticed that one of my cousins was taking mandatory religion classes in the primary school. Out of curiosity l started looking into his book and homework. I was stunned. For the first time l started questioning myself and what my religion was since mum is Christian and dad Muslim. I didn’t know how to approach my parents with this question or what to ask.
l took a deep breath and l asked my dad. His answer?
You are a Buddhist.
To me this sentence is priceless. I proudly accepted it and thought I stood out of the crowd. Yay! This sentence put me in so much trouble at the school when a teacher asked what my religion was. l said Buddhist.
I asked my mum what’s my religion. Her answer was: Whatever you want.
When l went to my bed I wondered. Who should I believe? More confused than l was before but l didn’t want to give up. I was tortured, boiling and l wanted answers.
Next day. This time both of my parents were sitting in the living room. It was a Friday evening, around 8 PM. l know that as a fact because X Files was about to start, and my parents were fanatics of watching it.
Me: Mum, something doesn’t make sense to me. Baba says l am Buddhist. Your say I should be whatever l want. So, what’s my religion? It can’t be that l am Buddhist and l can pick my religion since according to what l read in my cousin’s book, it says l must take my Baba’s religion. So, am l Muslim?
Mum: This is not the right time. Get lost. The show is beginning and we don’t want to miss it.
Me: Mum, but am l Muslim?
Mum: No, you are Christian. Now go to your room.
More clouds were forming.
Me: Am l Christian?
Baba: According to the books you are Muslim. Now go to your room. Don’t upset your mother. We can have the conversation after the show is over.
l was this frustrated child and my parents were playing with my nerves. l sat in my room more lost than ever, trying to deflect my attention, to forget about it. None of them bothered to tell me anything. l had to wait until Agent Scully and Agent Mulder were done chasing aliens. That hour was the longest hour of my entire existence. My ears were bigger than Dumbo’s and finally l hear the music at the end of the episode. I ran back to our living room.
Me: So, l am Muslim. Are you sure? Mum, am l?
Mum: No. You are Christian!
Me: Baba, am l?
At the end, my parents started telling me that Mohammed was a gold digger, pedophile and incestuous and Jesus was a magician Batman because he was raised to the sky after three days. There is only a God, regardless of His name in other religions. Which is still a perspective, if you had the curiosity to read the holy books.
The next day I went with my dad to a book shop and he bought me Koran and the Bible and told me to decide which faith l want and l still couldn’t choose.
Later, l read the Tora, some passages of Shruti and Smriti. Once when l went to Hamburg, my hotel room had a book about Mormonism, another time Jehovah’s Witness. On my trip to Japan l started reading about Taoism and Buddhism. It’s all about the Ten Commandments. Why are we so divided?
l made my decision based on my ethnical background. I am a self-proclaimed Blasian agnostic atheist.
I have nothing against religious people (by the way, if you ever get the chance to watch a good movie-documentary l highly recommend watching Religulous with Bill Maher) but please spare me and don’t try to convince me that l should embrace any religion. I have my reasons. I have seen too much shit in my existence, and the crap with ‘’God is testing.’’ Wasn’t school enough for that? Do l have to be tested by an invisible power to see misery and suffering when l am not blind? I have read about inquisition, wars, ISIS. l was born in a country which was constantly at war. l know what hunger means, death which by the way pour le non-connoisseur is famous for the severity of tortures and persecution of other human beings is all about the money and power. The rest are just excuses and political games.
I know l will stir up some emotions in some of you, but spare me, would you?
My motto: It’s easy to harm someone but it’s harder to be kind to someone.
Recently l was watching documentaries about traditions practiced in some of the tribes in Africa and Asia. Showing your love to your future wife by beating them up. In Asia death by stoning is still practiced when your wife doesn’t approve the divorce and you want to get rid of her. As a man you can always play this trick and let the men in your community throw stones at your wife. Child marriages between a 50 year old guy and a 10 year old girl who ends up being sold for a cow . According to statistics, she dies in less than a year. In Europe, Opus Dei translated from Latin means Work of God, another insanity which promotes elitism, misogyny and mortification of the flesh. I wonder where God is? As Dante would say: “Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice.”
Someone was trying to convince that is perfectly normal and those traditions should not be judged, and l should not judge. It’s like BDSM.I won’t detail what this BDSM thing is about but I doubt any man or a woman likes to have their love shown by leaving wounds on their bodies. I don’t think they want to be sadistically beaten up. How romantic! That’s not a way to show or share love. Or do we have to agree with it and accept it until people die in the name of love? How sad!
The Divine Comedy by Dante is one of the best literature masterpieces which expresses so well the human nature and the story structure of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. It is a shortcut from each holy book.
Remember: Cheating makes life easier. Hehehehe.
“Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.”
Master and Margarita by Bulgakov which combines supernatural elements with satirical dark comedy and Christianity philosophy portrays evil as being as inseparable. We all have an inside battle of Jesus and Satan. As all siblings, they fight and yes, Oh Margarita and Worland, a beautiful love story.
“Is that vodka?” Margarita asked weakly.
The cat jumped up in his seat with indignation.
“I beg your pardon, my queen,” he rasped, “Would I ever allow myself to offer vodka to a lady? This is pure alcohol!”
Last year, one of my aunts came to visit me in za Germany (Ernesto asked why l keep saying ‘’za.’’ Try to hear a German saying ‘’the’’ and you’ll have the answer.) I had an exorcisms tour with her. I have been living here in Germany for six years and l haven’t seen any of the churches but she dragged me into each of them. I admired the buildings from outside but never went inside. So now had to. I was staring at the inside paintings, elderly men with white beards and near by a flying cherubim. My aunt was praying. So l started questioning myself. Am l the only one who sees Jesus exposed naked on a Crucifix? Isn’t that also a form of blasphemy? Or is it as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm book?
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
The Buddhist temples, filled with aggressive statues, all of them holding a weapon and their stories.
The shrines, a starving community but hey, let’s offer some food or money, right? Stones may get hungry and they need to keep themselves in shape, eventually on a diet too since most of the Buddha statues are suffering from obesity. Where is God to care about their wellbeing?
Mosque. The smell of unwashed feet and a guy who failed his career at Tuscany Opera, a nose delight regardless how much perfume you sprayed on your headscarf. The smell still penetrated. The best part is, that in some of the countries where Islam is practiced, the Imam learns by heart the Koran verses without knowing a word in Arabic language. Oxymoron!
Abandoned babies in bins because of their gender. Where is God?
Albino people being chopped off, so their organs be taken to ‘’healers’’ doctors to make incantations for wealth and prosperity. WTF? What does God think about it?
Why shall we educate or help the unprivileged people? Why shall we build hospitals or schools? Let’s donate the money to build showy holy places, the bigger, the better. Let the priest drive his Mercedes and spend his holiday in some Greek islands, pretending to go on pilgrimage to Mount Athos. I am listening to Louis Prima – The bigger the figure and smiling despite the anger which is piling up even more.
The best human species l encountered are those who are believing and practicing, and l keep thinking well that’s an odd way to do it. Here are some examples.
My godfather is a wonderful guy, smart and with a huge sense of humor but with a short temper (especially in traffic.) He is always trying to convince other family members that we shall believe in G almighty. He had his driving license suspended for drinking. After a while he got it back. I went with him to pick it from the authorities because l had to renew my ID. On our way back home, he tells me he wants to stop by at the church to let the priest bless the driving license. I told him, l will wait in the car. After a quarter an hour, he shows up and starts telling me how great he feels after each visit at the church. At the first intersection, he starts cursing worse than a carman. I looked at him and l asked what’s the point of going to church a moment ago, when the first sentences coming out of your mouth are cursing. Isn’t that forbidden according to the Bible? He never answered.
Another acquaintance/friend…let’s put it this way… l heard the most idiotic reasoning from people who use religion as an excuse. I call them special people, or complicated geometric figures.
One the best excuses used that someone doesn’t want to celebrate Halloween is that in their religion is a pagan ritual. Getting costumed. If you relate to this religious rule, let me ask the following questions:
Isn’t sex before marriage also forbidden?
Isn’t smoking self-assigned medical grass or alcohol also forbidden?
Isn’t pork also forbidden in some religion? But when it comes to Jamon (dry-cured ham), well that’s acceptable? It was made in halal style. Yay, so your sins might be forgiven.
But hey, getting costumed is a pagan ritual! WTF? In my culture, Halloween is not celebrated. l always wanted to be costumed but l never had the courage to do it mainly because l always refused to do what other people did. I always found St. Valentines Day and Halloween overrated. This time, l joined the crowd. l wanted to be this deviant black sheep and guess what? I honestly enjoyed it. It was fun and another reason to get wasted, meet my friends and laugh. If l get the chance to do it this year, l will not hesitate. I guess l need to be occasionally a little bit flexible.
Best excuses regarding the pork meat l have heard are yet to come.
A pig is not a jealous animal. WTF??? Animals, and l know that also as a fact, I have been raised with pets (Guinee pigs, dogs, cats, turtles, fish, turkey, chickens, ducks, goose, piglets… not that we had an animal farm, whenever someone was offering us a pet, we welcomed them in our family) are not jealous. They have instincts. If you feed them, they love you the most or simply ignore you. Pigs intelligence ranks higher than dogs and even some primates.
Pig hooves are cloven in shape (divided in two) to enable the pigs have more balance when walking. Some say that this the reason why it is forbidden in Islamic religion, because they have four toes on each foot, with the two large middle toes. TWO? Ouuu, the Devil has two horns, how sexy! Men also have two testicles, but they are not forbidden to perpetuate the human species, not all women can be Virgin Mary. Adam and Eve were also two. Pork is haram (forbidden) to eat, because its essence is considered impure. This is based on a verse from Koran. It is described as rijs (impure). How about men behavior? They can have 4 wive’s, cheat on them, marry children when death is knocking at their doors. Oh, so let me get it, that’s not a sin? That should not be forbidden? I see.
Well let me tell you the reason behind it and not the fairy tales. In antiquity we did not have fridges, as some of you know, the pork meat is one of the most dangerous meats (but it tastes delicious, especially the ribs, yummy!) and many died of trichinosis, which is a parasitic disease. Some random guy came up with the idea to put it written in the holy book so he can induce fear in people and make them stop eating it. It is also a business strategy, to increase the sale of sheep and cows. May Allah save the pigs, yay! Same goes with the alcohol. Some dumb ass drank his brain out and due to the high temperatures and heat he vomited on namāzlik. As we all know, drinking alcohol in the sun, is tough love.
The Alawis (Shia Islam sect) …oh, that’s even better. They do not eat the female animal meat. Based on their concept, we shall not kill an animal which gives life. It is like eating your own mother. I strangely admire this practice, but l cannot say that l can accept their excuse. I asked a simple question to one of them. How do you know the gender of a fish or chicken before slaughtering and eating it? Again, l haven’t received any answer. My lifetime drama whenever l make people feel uncomfortable.
Last weekend l went to a party, at Samson and Delilah house. Apparently, there is also a church called ‘’Jesus Embassy.’’ I asked if l join the club, would l get a diplomatic passport?
So, is God testing us? All l can say if He does. He has macabre ways of doing it!
I think by writing my thoughts to you is like some sort of unconventional therapy. By the way, it helps and it is free of charge while l am listening to Led Zeppelin- the immigrant song.
I should have my own sect too. Who’s in? I like nicknaming or altering my friend’s names. My GuruGirl friend (I will write another story about my friends, @ Ernesto, l wrote on purpose together) has sent me one of the Ted Talk cover video after sharing this story with her. When l finished watching the video, it was like a revelation to me. Next book to read: Stalking God: My unorthodox search for something to believe in by Anjali Kumar.
Image Credit: Animas