Monday, February 9, 2009

A Star is Born-Again

You know that Karl Marx quote "Religion is the opiate of the Masses?" That is so true. That's why born-agains always look they've been dosed. Seriously, next time one of them tries to save you, look at their eyes. I bet their pupils will be all pinpoint and the whites all bloodshot or at the very least glazed over. I know that look. I wore that look for 15 years.

My opinion on religion and the existence of god fluctuates like the light of a firefly on any given day. I'm confused as fuck. The logical, mathematical side of my brain can't accept any sort of creation story, especially one that involves the formation of a female out of a male rib. What the fuck, God? Why couldn't you just make Eve the same way you made Adam? Was the rib thing really all that necessary? I think it was just grandstanding. For whom? Like who the hell does God have to impress? And it really seems to me that in some of those bible stories God is always making everything harder on himself, and on everyone else. I wonder about how much power does God actually have. Can he control time? Can he cause people to disappear at will?
Can he make people do his bidding? Or are we real and actual beings of free will? When I think too long and hard from this angle, religion starts to look like the ridiculous babblings of ridiculous people. I suffered so much spiritual abuse from people that I trusted over the years that I just don't know if I could ever trust any type of organized religion ever again in my whole life. Which sort of makes me sad. I mean I do have this deep-seated spiritual side of me that wants to believe.

I want to believe in something so desperately. It's hard for me to accept that my sister's soul is really and truly gone, that she isn't a beautiful, winged angel dancing on clouds and shit up in the heavens. I realize how ludicrous that really does sound. But death is so final, so heartbreaking, is it any wonder that people cling to fanciful ideas about the after-life? And this is where I say Religion isn't like an opiate. Religion is an opiate. Nobody loves opiates more than I do. When I take a percocet, I feel happy. Mind-blowingly happy. Deep inside I know that the happiness is artificial. I know it's a lie. But i don't really care. That happiness is so delicious I just don't care about the source. And that's what religion is. Maybe it's a crock of shit, but if it can make a life of loss bearable, if it can make the act of living something more than a Stygian hell, then who really cares if it's real or not?

Like I said, I'm confused as fuck. I saw this documentary on the Science Channel that informed me about the Big Bang Theory and the formation of star systems. And you know what? We are all stars. Every single living creature breathing on this remarkable planet are the stuff of stars. We are the children of novas. We are creatures of solar systems and suns. We are babes born of bright, burning, stellar explosions. Isn't that fucking cool? So after I heard all about my star quality, I started to think, "What do I need God for?" And then something else happened. Something so phenomenal that it changed who I was on like a cellular level forever and ever. Sometimes things happen in your life that are so bizarre that you have to accept that we are all beasts of chance and random events. Yes, it took this strange miracle for me to give up God for good: Blair Warner from Facts of Life tried to save my soul from eternal damnation.

Let me explain by first telling you, I have one of those aunts. One of those aunts that are obsessed with diets and hairdos and Jesus. She, like so many of these aunts, attends a Cavalry church. These aunts credit Jesus with every event that transpires in their lives, no matter how minuscule. "The Rice-a-roni was on sale for 99 cents a box and I got the last one! Jesus was really looking out for me today!" Because Jesus concerns himself with those sorts of things when babies are starving somewhere. But yes, Jesus Loves You and Me and Criminals and
Cockroaches, but he hates the gays, apparently. There's just no arguing with people like that. I mean I grew up a Jehovah's Witness so I can tell you firsthand this information: Even Jehovah's Witnesses roll their eyes at born-agains. We used to knock on their doors sometime out in the "ministry" and after a 45 minute conversation, we would walk away exasperated saying, "Those born-agains are crazy!" I have a born-again aunt and since I lost my religion for a while there she was hell bent on me finding a new one.

So I would get invited to many a church function. And many a church function I would be too busy to attend. But you can only be too busy so many times. So Amy and I decided that we would do it together. We'd do the church function thing and get lulled into thinking it was a fun, laid back event until we got knocked over the head with some sort of creepiness. We were game. The event was a Christmas dinner with a keynote speaker: Lisa Welchel (aka Blair Warner). Apparently Ms. Welchel joined the ranks of Kirk Cameron in the whole ex-child star who becomes a Born Again Christian thing. She also wrote a book called "Creative Correction" whereby she recommends, among other disciplinary tactics, putting hot sauce on your child's tongue for disrespectful speech. I like her already.

After an awkward dinner of making polite conversation with strangers, my sister and I were anxious for them to get the show on the road. There was an excitement in the air. Blair Warner was about to give us instructions for life. And then there she was, at the podium, with that familiar lilting slightly Southern tone to her voice cracking jokes and pretending to be one of "the people". I got lulled into believing everything was okay. Nothing weird. Nothing weird to see here folks, move along. And then:

"I want everyone here to close your eyes and bow your head."

Oh, Lord. Literally. This is what was happening. This was the part where everything gets weird. So I closed my eyes and bowed my head, because, I mean, what does one do?

"Now if there is anyone here who would like to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior please raise your hand."

So I got curious. I wanted to see if anyone would do it. Because I have the mentality of a junior high school student. I sort of tilted my head up and opened one eye. And of course at that moment, Blair Warner is looking right at me. She had me in her sights, like I was the field mouse and she was a fucking hawk.

"Would you like to accept Jesus into your heart, young lady?" Blair Warner was looking at me. Like into my eye. Blair Warner had the most earnest, excited look on her face. She was going to bring me unto Jesus. She was about to give birth to me - a new Gwen, born again.

"No...thank you?" I whispered, barely audible. But she could tell before I even said the words. I already have a mother, Blair Warner, and she's a chain-smoker. Blair Warner's earnest expression turned a little bit sour and then she was off, on to find the next taker to swallow her bullshit. I wish I would have said, "I didn't like being born the first time, Blair, what makes you think I'd want to do it again?"

After Blair Warner tries to save your soul it's hard to believe in God anymore. It's hard for me to believe in a God that would let something like that happen to me. What's next? Is Nancy McKeon going to spearhead my intervention? That actually would be totally bitchin'. I'd quit doing drugs for Nancy McKeon. Wouldn't you?

Is there a heaven we go to when we die? Or are the people who believe that just dosing themselves with another pill laced with fantastical nonsense? Are all creatures great and small the offspring of those heavenly bodies that decorate our night sky? Or is that what we tell ourselves because we don't want to be accountable? If you think about it, either we are born of the ground and wind up in the heavens or we're born of the heavens and wind up in the ground. Either way, you and me and him and her, maybe we're all just a bunch of beautiful fucking stars, waiting to be born.


  1. I wish I would've written this!! Aside from being a great writer, you got to be almost-saved by Blair Warner!?!?! This is good shit. Very good. .... babspeapod

  2. OH.MY.GOD. Hysterical. I wish when I became "born again" Blair would have led me to Jesus. heh.

    I have a hard time with dogmatic principles acting as an ultimate truth. Seriously, the bible was a bunch of stories told 2000+ years ago to Jewish peasants- and we're still supposed to take them literally?

    Now I have an eclectic collection of spiritual beliefs. And I like the beautiful fucking star bit. I'm adopting it. :)

  3. That hot sauce thing never ceases to piss me off. I always preferred Tootie anyway. Her roller skates totally rocked.

  4. Jodi - you lie. You were obsessed with Nancy McKeon for like an entire year. Remember the Facts of Life marathons? Remember "A Cry for Help: The Tracy Thurman Story", playing on a loop in the VCR? ("I hope she dies! I hope she dies!)

    Lisa - I've come to terms with the randomness of the universe, sort of. I guess it is kind of cool that this happened to me. If I had to pick someone from Facts of Life to "save" me, I'd have gone with George Clooney. He can "save my soul" any day of the week. Maybe I do need Jesus.

    Mountain Lover - I'm like you with my eclectic collection of beliefs: sometimes they overlap and sometimes they contradict. I'm okay with that. I really do believe we are all stars, all manifestations of celestial beings. Maybe that makes me weird. I don't care.

  5. Gwen...This is a great post. As someone who's spent all her life in the Bible Belt, I've had my fair share of run-ins with born agains. I've been know to tell them I'm a Druid. They usually don't know what that is. In reality, I'm Episcopalian. (Did you ever read my post about Satan?'s a book you'd probably like...Salvation on the Small Screen. It's about a rebellious Lutheran priestess who watches 24 hours of Jesus tv--it's hysterical. I know what I beleive. My faith is strong. But it's not about telling anyone else what to do or what to believe. I think your imagery is great here and it reminds of Madeline L'engle's Wrinkle in Time.

  6. I'm spiritual rather than religious. If we were 'created' I figure we were made exactly the way we are suppossed to be. I've studied a lot of different religions hoping to find answers but I really think the more you know, the more you doubt because everyone thinks they're right. Then you look at science and recent brain illustrates the neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experience. Then there are the atheists and why are they so sure there is no god or creator?

  7. Great post. I love your honesty.

    I was a Christian most of my life but am now a spiritual agnostic. To get from one place to the other took years of agonizing study, but it was worth every soul-wringing moment.

  8. "Even Jehovah's Witnesses roll their eyes at born-agains. We used to knock on their doors sometime out in the "ministry" and after a 45 minute conversation, we would walk away exasperated saying, "Those born-agains are crazy!"

    That is officially my favorite paragraph.

  9. Hey Gwen, thanks for stopping by my other blog. If you want an invite to my private one, feel free to email me at

    I would have emailed this to you, but I couldn't find your email address anywhere!

  10. My faith is mostly based on gratitude. Sometimes I see or experience something that's so beautiful I just have to have something to thank. I'm not looking for bigger meaning because I'm satisfied with the nature I can see. A spiritual benefit of living by the mountains, I guess. I could care less about The Rules. Afterlife stuff doesn't really concern me either.

  11. God damn, Gwen. I am just blown away. As a former born-again, I can so totally relate to this.

  12. Gwen, this blog was fantastic. I'm so glad that you've come to terms with your spirituality (at least for this moment) and I'm even happier that your revelation is close to mine. When I discovered that everything, every single little thing in this big giant universe, is created from the same stuff my mind was blown wide open.

    I had a friend named Beth in Pensacola, FLA who went to one of these save your soul events at the local Assembly of God. They actually paid people to attend their mass. (It was rumored that they pumped in pure oxygen to their auditorium to give attendees a high.) She said that she actually wanted to be saved. She wanted to feel that bliss desperately. When the call came for saving she willing went up on the stage. She said that the preacher went down the line, placing his hand on each person's head and they'd fall back into the catchers' waiting arms. Some would convulse, some would speak in tongues or cry. When the preacher got to her she was prepared to feel something. He placed his hand on her head and pushed her a little. Nothing happened. He placed his hand on her forehead again and shoved her, hard. She still didn't fall. No bliss overcame her. The preacher went on, dejected and a little pissed, to the next victim. Beth was pretty disappointed in the experience, hypothesizing that this type of religious trance is merely a madness of the crowds.

    But if religion made me feel like I was on Percocet I would happily succumb.

  13. When I'm in the company of the born agains I'm sometime lulled into thinking they have it made, just to be that certain, you know? But then the crazy leaks out and I realize that certainty is overrated.

    Great post.

  14. As Crosby, Stills and Nash sang (and Joni Mitchell wrote), "We are star dust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon." You're right, the universe and life are incredible things independent of any diety some find it necessary to derive meaning from.

    Don't let Blair muddle things. Keep watching the science channel.

    You might be interested in some things the movie Zeitgeist has to say. Part of it presents an interesting take on the history of religion.

    Also, in a section from the book I Am A Strange Loop, the author describes what it was like to lose his wife and how he believes she lives on tangibly in his and others' heads (sounds strange, but he presents it with a level head and good science).

    Finally, and my apologies for nerding it up, the re-imagined Sci Fi channel series Battlestar Galactica depicts the struggles of two groups who can't reconcile their religions - monotheism/polytheism, respectively - with their lives.

    Sorry for the prolix comment. I'm stopping now.

  15. I'm backstalking you.

    My dad is of the highest level of ridiculous born againness. I hate it (read: him for it)

    His favorite thing in the world is when the JW's and Mormons come knocking. He will lock them in the house for DAYS, practically.