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By Saganist ~

I'm a senior citizen with still a lot to learn. I don't have a problem sharing my experiences with younger people, or with listening to theirs, or even asking for their advice. On this site we help each other. We all have some things in common, and if you're a regular visitor, particular problems. Many of those problems are ongoing. A lot of them are because, although we've resolved them or are working them out satisfactorily by ourselves, we love others who aren't even close to beginning to work theirs out. That’s sad, for both them and us.

"Extreme Unction", part of The Seven...
"Extreme Unction", part of The Seven Sacraments, by Rogier Van der Weyden (1445). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What disturbs me right now is not a personal problem with the "comfort" faith is supposed to endow on believers. It's in knowing just the opposite. So, let me get to the heart of this.

I've been married for over twenty years now. My wife has been a Christian all of that time, and I'm an atheist, as I found out. When we first dated, I told her I didn't share her faith, and she said not to worry about it. But I'm a passionate man and an honest one. When the b.s. keeps rising like water, up to my neck, I'll protest rather than drown in it.

It was my honesty she found so attractive when reading my "personal" in the newspaper, comparing mine to all the others there. (This was way before, etc.) Being a passionate man, I don’t confine my passions to the bedroom, but extend them to social justice, the search for truth, defense of reason, etc.

Sincerely, I'm incurably honest; it's no wonder that I become angry or ask questions about what people believe in for which they have no evidence, especially when their beliefs involve justifying the violent behaviors and decisions of their god. And nothing propels my passion like reason.

This is where the "problem" came up, I'd say, about seven years ago. My questions about this god and his immoral actions were right on target and straight out of bible-based dogmas. And it disturbed my wife, who had no answers for me. Note that these questions and my observations were not asked in anger or confrontation, but for communication.

She became so upset that she threatened to divorce me if I should ask more of those questions in the future. She said that she was warning me. But the threat isn't what got to me. It was the terror, the fear, I saw in her face that I never knew existed. And it all surfaced because I questioned her beliefs.

A couple of years later, she was in the hospital for an operation. I was with her in the recovery room when her pastor entered, unannounced. While he prayed over her, she was terrified, weeping and shaking. I should have thrown him out, but I was unprepared for any of this. Besides, he left immediately.

Thinking later about this traumatic event, I remembered that she was raised Catholic, and in that religion, a priest is called in to the hospital patient to administer the Extreme Unction rite. It’s called "extreme" because, in her childhood days, it was only practiced when the person is dying. Considering her confused semi-conscious state in the recovery room, it makes sense she would make that indoctrinated connection. Far from comforting, it seems to me this rite preceded the after-death expectations of the "Dies Irae" verses I heard in my youth (available on the internet), sung during Catholic funeral masses, for centuries.

My wife says she doesn't remember anything that happened then. But I can't forget, and I still wonder why that bastard pastor of hers didn't leave the room when she started shaking.

Philip Appleman wrote a poem titled "Martha," about a virtuous 84 yr. old woman torn by guilt. She felt she could never meet her God's criteria for morality, and so she feared for her future after death. From the poem: "I've done so many bad things, and now Jesus won't forgive me, the Lord won't let me rest." Please read it.

A while ago I read about beliefs and addictions. The author mentioned smoking and how, although smoking over time can become not very pleasurable, still it could be a very hard habit to leave. Not because it was so much physically addictive, but because the absence of smoking can be so emotionally disturbing. He said, "Perhaps religious beliefs persist, not because they provide comfort, but because, once acquired, discarding them produces acute discomfort."

I hate to think of what Martha suffered. I despise the religion which has the power to control my wife’s emotions to the point of terror. Thinking how she might suspect my feelings about these things might upset her even more, makes me feel like I'm standing on the edge of a precipice after almost going over it.

Where is the comfort? Do you have similar experiences?