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By Carl S ~

January of 2017 was one of those periods most of us would prefer to forget. My wife and I spent most of the month suffering from a viral siege most likely picked up from her congregation, since its entire membership came down with it at the same time. I count myself as “collateral damage.” To make matters worse, the 20th brought It's Mourning in America.

Illness puts one in what my ex called “a different world,” that healthy people can't approach. Well-meaning people will phone to ask you, “How are you doing?” while they really don't care to hear the details, and I don't blame them. And their prayers may make them feel they're helping, but prayers are the cheapest gift they can give. That's why some bring food, or offer to do errands for you. Feeling as rotten as I did, what was merely annoying became severely aggravating. Just leave me alone! For this reason, I tuned out the talking head opinions masking as news. With that sickness, I lived with the continuous nausea that comes and goes with varying degrees of intensity. Although, out of that war, other nausea continues.

Nausea: 1. “a feeling of sickness in the stomach marked by an urge to vomit.” 2. “strong aversion or disgust.” We've all experienced these. Here's my example of them occurring simultaneously. If I'm in the hospital and a clergy member shows up in my room. I might just be nauseated enough to vomit on him. As it is, the presence of a clergy member naturally inclines me that way. This reaction is involuntary.

Before internet dating sites, there were “personals.” I had one in the local paper. There were several responses on the call-in number, one of them beginning, “My name's … I'm a Christian woman.” After our first meeting, I told her I was not a believer, and she assured me this wouldn't be a problem for her. We married a few months later. I attended Sunday services with her. Because I'm hearing-impaired, I didn't hear the sermons, and the music was okay. There came a time when I just couldn’t handle that scene anymore. For weeks, I thought of how I would tell her, so that when I did, I figured on being carefully prepared. In spite of this, she said she thought I had been deceiving her by attending church. My explanation was that I went because I love her, but that lately, going to church services “make me physically sick.” She reluctantly accepted this. My non-attendance since then is permanent. We're still happy, and it's coming on to 22 years together.

At this point, you can imagine the believer saying, “You're a strange one, Mister Grinch. You've got it backwards. Everyone knows the polls show regular church attendees are emotionally healthier, happier, and more content with their lives than non-believers.” Well, I have to admit, if someone who claims to be a believer thinks he's expected to say these things to a pollster, he'd say those things. In a recent conversation, another non-believer pointed out the fact we are fortunate in not having the fears they do. That's a big plus.

Do believers accuse me of being bitter/angry at a God that I tell them doesn't exist to bother about? That really is their problem. If their god or his salesmen make me nauseous or want to vomit, why, that's a reaction to poisons and noxious atmospheres. I've wondered how people can go about living with poisons in their systems without being aware of them or not noticed by others. We get used to accepting things as we see them. This reminds me of an electrician I knew for many years. One day, he asked if I noticed he had lost a lot of weight. It was obvious. He had to have an operation. His “overweight” was a tumor.

Since I've been outside the confines of church, I've found myself disgusted with what goes on within them: the denials, lies and half-truths, the delusional thinking, hypocrisy, exploitation of emotions, constant requests for money. But most of all, I abhor the elevation of ignorance to sacredness. I've been un-Christianly healthy for decades. (In my first marriage, my then-wife thought I should be seeing a psychiatrist, I went to three of them over the years. Each concluded, in non-technical terms: “what the hell are you wasting my time for?” How many of my atheist friends have that w/o god experience?)

Why are there churches? I have a theory. Houses of worship have popularity in common with gambling casinos, game shows, and concert performances. They're isolated from the world outside and set up to be intensely focused on gaining specific rewards and responses. Those within are just as ready to give themselves up, let themselves go, as if they were mindlessly diving into sexual intercourse. What power can reason and truth have against such forces? A church environment adds to these factors an assumption that whatever happens in it speaks of unquestionable truth. Such sweet poison, this antifreeze of faith. Some vomit it up, and feel well. Unless they want to be like a dog returning to eat it.

Maybe there'll come a day when most people are made nauseous by religions. At the present time, I feel I'm far from being in the minority. Whatever. I live, love, laugh often, get pissed off, spread friendship and get out, and out of myself. Funny thing though: no pollster asks me about happiness.