July 28, 2002



Where's God?

  I was brought up as a Catholic: Baptism, First Communion, Confession, Confirmation... All the sacraments, all the trappings. And in my family we took it a step further -- my mom grew up in a very religious family and has counted priests and nuns among her personal friends all her life. Priests and nuns were regular visitors to the Atkins house, and Iíve been party to several Masses celebrated at home. Bottom line: God? In tha hay-ouse.

When I was a kid living in Florida, my mom worked for the local parish priest as his secretary, which for us kids meant spending all day Sunday at church (Mass, CCD, and then hanging out and playing hide-and-seek in the church and on the parish grounds until Mom was off), and then having Father Corrigan over for dinner. It was Catholicism from dawn to dusk. Me and my brothers were also altar boys to Father Corrigan (whose fondness, Iím thrilled to report, was for sacramental wine rather than for altar boys).

Later, when we moved to Los Angeles, my mother landed a job teaching at a Catholic school where all us kids were dragooned into attendance, and when it came time for high school my mom made sure we all attended Catholic schools, where my brothers were nearly molested by a priest who has since become a headline (which plays into the point of this entry) and where I managed to flunk out of a full-ride academic scholarship (96th percentile on the entrance exams, thankyewverymuch) in one semester due to my own issues of the day and the strenuous apathy of the counselors and school administrators, all of whom were priests (and who later covered up my brothersí allegations). My sister is the only one who came out of it clean, ending up doing the Catholic School Trifecta by finishing out her upper education at a Catholic university.

So my family has religion in its blood. Itís in our house and in our schools and in our paycheck. God has been a constant presence in my life, whether I wanted Him there or not -- and whether I believed or not.

Iíve drifted away from the church and from God over the years. It started, I think, with the apathy and uncaring I received from the priests around me when I was a confused young man crying out for some kind of guidance. The gulf has now widened to the point that I havenít been to church (absent an event such as a wedding or baptism) in years. I remember the last time I voluntarily went to Mass, feeling lost and alone and hoping to find some kind of meaning there, but I came away feeling empty and foolish for thinking it would be there. The Mass, the environment, the worship -- it was all empty symbolism and ritual. It was dead to me.

Intellectually, I left the Church and God a long time ago. Emotionally, though... Well, a lifetime of conditioning is not so easily erased. Even though Iíve not wanted to believe and have willfully turned away, always there has been a tiny, quiet voice saying "What if youíre wrong?" And with that voice has come guilt Ė and fear -- for rejecting God.

But lately... Oh, lately... Lately I am coming to hate that voice because lately I am coming to hate God, and that voice weakens my hate. Lately I am coming to think that there really is no God, or that if there is He is powerless or uncaring.

Look at history. Look at the newspapers. Look at the very first entry in this very journal. Look at September 11th. Look at the wave of priests abusing their charges. Look at Samantha Runnion. Consider that this organization even exists. Look at all the ways God either allows so much wrong to exist or is powerless to stop it. Why should we believe in that? Why should we worship a creator who can allow His children to be so abused?

Samantha Runnion is, for me, the last straw. She is Zoeís age -- was Zoeís age. And now she is gone, murdered in a horrible, evil, unforgiveable way, for a horrible, evil, unforgiveable purpose. I think of what her last hours must have been like, the terror she felt, the disgustingness she went through, the loneliness she felt. I think of her last words as she was snatched: screams and "Tell my grandma!" I think of how she died. I think of all this and I hate God.

And whenever I think of this, thereís a wild, angry, raging voice that surges up inside me, screaming "It happens every day! It happens every day! It happens EVERY DAY!!!!" and I hate Him more intensely than I ever did love Him.

Iíve debated this sort of thing with my mom before -- I honestly believe that she should have been a nun, she is such a strong and totally indoctrinated advocate for Him -- and I almost envy her her faith. She is serene in the face of such uncaring, such evil. She is utterly convinced that God has His Plan, that he gave us Free Will and that Him doing nothing is the highest form of love because it respects that free will.

I canít accept that. I canít know a little girl died in terror with an animal and tally that up in the "Signs That God Loves Us" column because He didnít interfere with the animalís free will. No, that is wrong, that is evil. If God is all-powerful, if He runs the show and makes the rules, why canít He save that little girl? Why canít he just sort of nudge the animalís thoughts toward a peanut butter sandwich, or maybe give him a momentary blind spot as he first glances over toward where a little girl is sitting? Why canít the one who makes the rules bend the rules for the good of His children?

A little girl dies rather than subvert a monsterís free will? This is the choice God makes? Fuck that.

For me, it comes down to a choice. It has to. God chooses not to help. Or canít help. And if He canít help, then why worship Him? I keep going back to Harlan Ellisonís short story "The Deathbird," where God is just an insane old man who got all the good PR and the Devil is really the good guy working in the background to protect the earth. Iím not going that far with this, Iím not saying their roles are reversed, but... Thereís an awful lot of evil in the world, and thereís more of it every day. Whereís the good?

Whereís God?