Autostraddle Roundtable: I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners than Cry With the Saints

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carly-icon2Carly (Hebrew School Dropout):

Personally, Religion has never been a huge part of my life. Even though every single person on both sides of my family is Jewish (mostly reform, a few conservative), my parents were never really into going to temple and things like that. When I was younger, I went to Sunday School, and eventually started Hebrew School, well on my way to being Bat Mitzvahed. But, Hebrew School conflicted with karate or basketball or whatever other nonsense I had gotten myself into and when I told my Mom I’d rather do that stuff than Hebrew School, she consented. She didn’t force it on me or look at different temples.I wasn’t even a teenager yet and I was dropout… a Hebrew School dropout.

The kids in school made fun of me, called me a “lesbo” and I was like, “I don’t know what that is,” but I figured it out pretty fast. I’d go home crying to my mom every night after school and she’d hold me and tell me it was OK.

Since then I’ve only set foot in Synagogue for funerals. We celebrate holidays with the whole family but it’s more about the culture than the religion. Similarly, I consider myself Jewish but it’s more of a cultural thing.  I like Judaism and what it stands for and what it teaches, but in many ways that’s where it ends for me.

For me, religion has never had any affect on anything going on in my life, nor has it been a device used against me by anyone close to me. When I was growing up, I didn’t actually know what “gay” was, I was a bookish weirdo with no friends who lived in my own little world. I was a total boy, though. I got mistaken for a boy, I dressed and acted like a boy, I played with action figures and other boy things, and there were a few weeks in middle school when I would ponder why it was that I wasn’t just born a boy (these thought were prompted by me thinking I looked like Kirk Cameron one day, true story). My parents always let me act, dress, and think how I wanted (though I’m sure they sat back and laughed at some of my ensembles, #80 especially). The kids in school made fun of me, called me a “lesbo” and I was like “I don’t know what that is” but I figured it out pretty fast. I’d go home crying to my mom every night after school and she’d hold me and tell me it was ok, and that I was better than all those losers at school… which is why I have a huge ego now! Har har, just kidding, those pep talks were all that got me through middle school… and really great grades, cause then I got to escape those assholes and go to a magnet school for nerds, where I fit in pretty decently.

I am not sure if I’m actually making a point here. Few things scare me as much as organized religion, most of it is crazy brainwashing or people trying to make a couple of bucks. Organized religion (and I know I’m generalizing here, but bear with me) is helping to destroy the ideals that our country was founded on and is mostly responsible for the fact that I can only get married in 10% of the country. Religion hasn’t affected me on a personal level; I’m out to my entire family, have been for years now, and no one has ever reacted negatively. I know I’m lucky in this regard. And if I have kids some day, I’m going to teach them values and morals, like my parents taught me, and they can figure out the rest for themselves. If they want to be a bad Jew like their Mom, that should be their decision.

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Natalie (No Religion For Her!):

“No religion for you!” my father asserted.

“But, Jorge! The children will grow to be heathens!” my mother quipped.

“NO! No religion. Such atrocities have been committed in the name of this god or that god. I do not want our children tainted with the weight of that history.”

This is how I imagine the conversation between my mother (pro-structured religion) and my father (anti-religion) went. My brother and I grew up in a rather secular household; while we “celebrated” Christmas and Easter, the religious undertones were not present. It was mainly about the presents. We were deep and substantive like that. It was things other than religion that shaped my fundamental beliefs.

“NO! No religion. Such atrocities have been committed in the name of this god or that god. I do not want our children tainted with the weight of that history.”

Do I believe in equal rights for LGBTQ individuals because of my lack of religious upbringing? I doubt it. I mean, sure, if I’d been raised with a religion that held a certain stance on equality or homophobia, it would’ve affected my views.

But I didn’t, and I I think I’m the way I am (believer in equality across the board) not because of any religion or lack thereof; I am who I am because of the people and the institutions (friends, strangers, my family, the schools I attended, the books I read, the programs I watched) that comprised my life.

To be sure, I think there is a relationship between religion and one’s world views, particularly on those “ morally tricky” topics like abortion, gay rights, sexuality and marriage. But, is it a straight-forward, easily traced connection? Absolutely not. Variables abound and entry points for change are numerous.

Moooo!

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Tinkerbell (Autostraddlism):

Hello Autostraddle this is Tinkerbell. I believe in Love of all religions. As you know I was born in Miami, land of heathens and old Jews. I only like beautiful things, but I do not like hotpants. I have constructed my own religion based upon the teachings of my boyfriend Littlefoot and Riese my Hero. I believe all gay people are good because gay men wear better jeans than straight men, and because of the lesbians who I know and love and who pet me. Here is what I believe is my religion called Autostraddleism:

1. “Just to be is a blessing. just to live is holy.” (Rabbi Abraham Heschel)

2. “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (Buddha)

3. “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.” (John Steinback)

4. ” But this is how the revolution begins: a few of us start chasing our dreams, breaking our old patterns, embracing what we love (and in the process discovering what we hate), daydreaming, questioning, acting outside the boundaries of routine and regularity. Others see us doing this, see people daring to be more creative and more adventurous, more generous and more ambitious than they had imagined possible, and join us one by one. Once enough people embrace this new way of living, a point of critical mass is finally reached, and society itself begins to change. From that moment, the world will start to undergo a transformation: from the frightening, alien place that it is, into a place ripe with possibility, where our lives are in our own hands and any dream can come true.” (Crimethinc)

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47 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness I have so many feelings about all of this. In fact, most of this made me cry. I could write my own lengthy essay on the subject, but I’ll refrain. But I will say this- I believe that God and I are ok with each other (now), it’s the organized church and I that don’t get along. And the conservative, hateful extremists are the reason why I’m not really out to my family, and that hurts, I think about it every day. Every day.

    • I forgot to add that I love Tinkerbell for the Buddha quote. I’ve had the same quote on my MySpace for a couple of years now. It’s something most people don’t do…

  2. Reading this makes me want to give every member of Team Autostraddle a hug, but then I’d just ruin your nice shirts what with all the tears.
    I can’t say much, because WOW…so much emotion.
    But I will say because of the religion forced upon me by people who were supposed to have my best interests at heart, it took me years to finally be ok with who I am. And I don’t think that is what Jesus or Mohammed or whatever imaginary figure had in mind.

  3. This is really amazing. You guys articulated everything so well. Defo need to read this again as got a tad emotional whilst reading. Too many feelings!
    My mum is a bit mental, but also a hardcore conservative (and homophobic)
    Catholic who already told me that I was going to go to hell when I refused to keep going to church when I was fifteen, so I’m less than stoked about the prospect of coming out to her. Luckily, her knowing isn’t important to me. I am totally fine with people believing in God, and respect peoples’ personal religions, but organised religion really makes me crazy! I just don’t understand all the hate.
    Sorry for the rant. And thank you guys so much for all that you’re doing on Autostraddle, its ace!

  4. Before I dive into reading this, I have to say that what I can see of the little pic you used next to the title of the post (someone help me out here, is it an avatar???), it looks like a place I visited in Tennessee? Am I right? Srsly, I have this pic on my hard drive from my trip cross country. My gf spotted the street signs. I will send it as soon as I’m at my computer!!!!!!!!!!

    • Leah, pretty sure that’s Nashville, TN in the pic. If I’m recalling correctly, that should be the intersection of Church & Gay St, because I think a building housing a bank and a law firm is on that corner. I remember giggling about it when I was on a trip with people who were interviewing at law firms in downtown Nashville. hehe

  5. i have many many things to say, and about 800 more questions. But for the sake of time and short attentions spans I’ll just say this, this is such a touchy subject and many people dive head first into it with the assumption that what they think is an absolute truth. But I am very impressed with the way team Autostraddle presented itself.

  6. “It was super confusing and frustrating and lonely.”

    That’s how I would describe growing up. A lot of you guys described yourselves as weirdos! Autostraddle is a place for weirdos, I love it.

    I still have a place in my heart for God (or whatever he represents), though not the institution. Faith is a personal thing.

  7. Wow- this is just great. So many different perspectives yet all so similar and well articulated. I especially connect Laneia (except Northern, not Southern) and find this such great timing as I simply have not been able to stop thinking about this lately- about religion and how it should be self-regarding, an individual comfort that need not be forced upon others! Especially with what is currently happening in NH (where I’m from) with the gay marriage bill battle and religious right switching sides. Why can’t we just coexist and let others be? Gah! Guess that’s the question of the century though. Also (side note), I have had “Only the Good Die Young” [Bill Joel=love] stuck in my head all day & have thought it to be especially relevant so when I read the post title thought it was quite the cool coincidence- thanks for that. okay, anyways, great entry. It’s so frustrating at times, but at least things are looking up! <3

  8. “I guess that’s part of why I want to do Autostraddle; ‘cause lessening that social pressure just a little bit might make the other stuff easier to handle.” – Riese (and generally the auto-verse)…you totally make my little gay heart giddy. It lessens the catholic guilt, it really does.

    • Lynne,

      *sigh* Catholic guilt… the Catholic guilt that reaches to every single aspect of my life, for me, is worse than just the Catholicism/sexuality connection. I mean, it’s been so bad at times that it can impact what I choose to wear, to eat, etc. And it’s been over 8 years since I considered myself Catholic!

      And, by the way, I’m not out to my family. They’ve not approved of many of my choices, but luckily it’s not too important to me for them to know. Fortunately, I was able to be strong enough to be open and out to friends and co-workers, so I actually do feel as though I’m living an “out lifestyle”.

  9. oh wow. you guys always managed to balance heavy stuff with humor like nobody else. where else would i find “bat mitzva theme was HORSES” and “the thing that kills me most is that religion allows people to remain stagnant” in the same article?

    my formerly superrepublican dad has gotten more liberal as he’s gotten more spiritual over the past five-ish years. when i came out to him–and he was the first person i told–i was crying harder than anything but he hugged me really hard and told me god made me just how i am. and what more can you want in a dad?

    • It’s so hard to know what to expect when coming out — rarely does someone expect a better reaction than what they receive, but every now and then there’s stories where someone expects the worst and gets a hug. I was really surprised to find out my grandma has known for a while and really doesn’t care, just wants me to be happy. Which makes me happy.

  10. Thank you for writing this. It’s so very true…

    I’m the product of Protestant evangelical charismatic born-again Christian parents (yes, they really do use each of those titles to describe themselves, though usually not all together!). Then I brilliantly headed off to Catholic university, which I am thankfully done with.

    But what I really want to share is the most insidious form of Christian intolerance I’ve run across (Catholics & Protestants have both used it): Homosexuals are born homosexual, but God gives us all a powerful tendency towards some sin (like alcoholic genes, etc.), so homosexuals must overcome the sin by living chastely.

    Makes me SO angry, but they say it believing that they’re being “loving”!

    • Liz,

      Your statement: “But what I really want to share is the most insidious form of Christian intolerance I’ve run across (Catholics & Protestants have both used it): Homosexuals are born homosexual, but God gives us all a powerful tendency towards some sin (like alcoholic genes, etc.), so homosexuals must overcome the sin by living chastely.”

      That is it exactly, and the thing that troubled me the most about Catholicism’s view on homosexuality! Catholicism widely teaches that tenet of the faith. Oh… just you mentioning it sent me on a roller-coaster of memory-laced emotions. *sigh* I remember the first time I heard the teaching was literally within a few days after my first experience with a woman (my mom was homophobic to the degree that she ensured I didn’t even learn about the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality until my teen years). I couldn’t begin to put into words the desperation I felt and the suffocating feeling that was closing in on me. Ow… just remembering how it felt is rough.

      • I was having a really hard time with it too, how I feel like all the rules and the details just weren’t jibing with the overall message of love and when I told my priest uncle/godfather about it all, he told me something that kind of soothed my distraught spirit (or something).

        Anyway, he said something about how the Church provides a foundation for most people to live a good, honest and holy life but sometimes there are people that don’t really fit that general profile and in those cases, you kind of have to establish for yourself what it is to be a good person and how to live a spiritual life.

        You know he said it way better than that but that was the general idea of it and it’s something I’ve kept in mind since.

  11. well done, grrls. this is SO important…you should definitely write much more on this, and perhaps a reader article about it? i have a feeling this is a big issue for everyone, across the board.

  12. SO glad you did a roundtable on this. Serious, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a super secular and liberal environment/choose what I wanted to believe in- my parents flipped for other than religious reasons. As such, I’ve always found the societal pressures harder to deal with than religious ones. Not everyone is so lucky, I think.
    Tinkerbell knows what’s up. Word.

  13. Wow, just wow, loved this.

    I have many friends on opposite ends of the religious spectrum and historically I hid my real opinions from the people who I’d considered the most religious. (and who I thought would be most judgmental) To my surprise and relief, as I’ve come out – they have been some of my biggest supporters.

    I’ve been lucky to have made good friends that see beyond labels and actually see me.

    I really, REALLY like what tinkerbell quoted from Crimethinc.

    Great post. Bravo everyone.

    • you know what i think’s great? you’re also the one who sees beyond labels and actually sees your friends — not just their religions. i don’t think we get enough credit for that.

  14. 1)When I read Carly’s “hebrew school dropout”, I sang it to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. Irrelevant but funny.

    2)I grew up in Kansas, home of Fred Phelps. Because I grew up in the land of Baptists, I am very afraid of organized religion even though I did not grow up in a religious family.

    3)I grew up working class and have long been interested in class and homophobia.

    4)I too went to a nerd magnet school. Autostraddle + magnet school queer nerds = awesome.

  15. I love that there are so many Hebrew School dropouts here. I finally convinced my parents to let me officially drop out this year (finally) after years of skipping pretty much every week for other random activities.

    My religious environment is pretty much the same as Carly’s in that my parents are totally supportive and don’t care that I’m gay. I also go to/went to a hippie temple where my Rabbi is a woman who has done commitment ceremonies (I totally just thought of the Julie Goldman song when I wrote that…) even though my state doesn’t have marriage equality or civil unions.

    I’m 16 now, and I’ve pretty much decided that I can’t bring myself to participate in organized religion, even if reform Judaism is pretty accepting.

    • I’m jealous of all these hebrew school dropouts. I wanted to play soccer but Mom made me go, which made me bitter towards religion. Kinda funny that now I’d love to go. I guess social pressures dominated my life absolutely back then, any way you look at it.

  16. I really appreciate the voices of each of you. It makes me sad to think about the internal conflict people face with religion and sexuality. Though religion can be an enriching thing, I find that it is too often used as justification for hate. I feel even more lucky to have grown up in a lax family and be part of a Quaker school. Though I do not quite practice in the “Society of Friends” I believe in the “SPICES” – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Service. I feel like such a fruit always saying this.. but.. I just want everyone to love each other! Hah. Sorry for the novel.

    • “I just want everyone to love each other!”
      me, too! i don’t know anything about Quaker school, but i love the idea of SPICES! i think i may look into this further. seriously.

  17. I loved this post. So great to hear everyone’s experiences with spirituality and how it shaped the way they feel about homosexuality. I’d love to see more posts like this that touch on issues i’m sure alot of your readers are dealing with. So many people have turned to the internet to get perspective on their before-after-and-during coming out process and this is the kind of thing that will really help them out in that regard.

    You’ve got a great balance of homo-news/ entertainment / fun / personal experiences and insight at A.S. and I’m so so impressed at what the team’s made here. On the realz.

    I was also very impressed / a little in love with this sentence from Robin:
    “This instinctual right to judge among religious people weakens the practice of loving.”

    • “You’ve got a great balance of homo-news/ entertainment / fun / personal experiences and insight at A.S. and I’m so so impressed at what the team’s made here. On the realz.”
      this is exactly what we hope we’re doing here. thank you! xxx

  18. Really excellent, guys. Thanks for addressing the issue in a thorough and respectful way. I really enjoyed the different perspectives. Hope to see more in the future on this topic or other equally compelling issues.

  19. I just wanted to take a second and thank you guys for everything you do and especially this post. I deeply appreciate having this site to go to when I’m feeling down. You all do a great job. Keep it up.

  20. This was great guys, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. You do a great job on this site.

    My upbringing was completely religion free and, while I’m interested in religion and completely respecting of those who wish to practice it, I have some huge problems with it that I can’t even begin to explain.

    I wanted to share a quote with you that I stumbled on the other day, which I quite liked. In fact, I think I was looking at your Actual Lesbians/Bisexuals gallery and saw the pic of Katharine Hepburn. I didn’t realise there had been so many rumours about her sexuality and I Wikipedia’d her ass and found this quote:

    “I’m an atheist and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people. And chicks are hot.”

    Okay, well I added that last sentence myself, but the rest is 100% authentic.

  21. This is def. one of the best things I’ve ever read on here-
    I have many thoughts- I gotta say I can relate most to a mix of Riese and Natalies though.
    My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic and we were raised neither. (Wanted to be both when Confirmations and Bat Mitzvahs happened) Both came from religious families though- my Catholic grandparents didn’t care less about the religion factor they loved us unconditionally. The Jewish grandma on the otherhand has always frowned upon my mother for not being Jewish and thinks every decision made for us children can be blamed on my Catholic mother. (She would flip a shit if she knew my youngest sister is baptized)– This prompted me to ask my father if he turned on his religion for love and he said “I can’t talk about this right now”.. lovely

    As far as sexuality goes- I have absolutely no memory of a homophobic phrase being used in my household my entire life– except by me in middle school. I even remember when I was like 12, and my mother said to me after watching some tv special on teens I am assuming “Nicole, if you are ever pregnant, or gay, or anything I want you to know to never be afraid to tell us” Surely, I rolled my eyes and years later tested this theory by buying pregnancy tests and leaving them in the car my father and I shared… anyways…

    Like Riese said it was def. the social pressures of middle school & high school that formed my opinion. I remember one of the “unpopular” girls freshman year literally coming out to me about her crush on my “popular” friend– which obviously lead to my friend making fun of her– I didn’t, but I have always felt bad about that- although according to facebook – this girl is doing just fine now and lives with her girlfriend in NH, and that former friends, well she has seen better days.. just saying. The End

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  23. I am tempted to send a link to this article to my mom, who thinks I’m going to die at Armageddon, and that this is a phase I can change my mind about if I focus hard enough.

  24. Oh my God, the Catholic guilt! I don’t think that will ever leave me no matter how much I distance myself from the Church.

    But anyways, in my own experience, growing up and coming out really changed the both way that I saw the faith I was raised in and the way I saw religion as a whole. I went from a confused kid looking for the faith my parents believed in so fervently to more of a deist-y why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along type.

    Being able to look at religion objectively is wonderful; I think it’s one of the more fascinating aspects of humanity. But I don’t think one can understand it when so biased towards one side.

  25. My mum believes in God, I don’t. She believes in a loving God and Jesus who don’t actually have a problem with homosexuals. I tried to convince her that Jesus actually DOES hate homosexuals by reading the entire New Testament. Apparently Jesus never said anything bad about gays-it was all that sonofabitch Paul. Also the Old Testament. (For a religion with a lot of hatred for Jews, they sure put a lot of emphasis on following ancient JEWISH laws.)

    My point is, I was shamed. And I love my mum, for following the idea and the spirit of Christianity-Jesus loves everyone, so should we-rather than the strict rules a two-thousand year old book lays down.

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