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Religious Attitdue, Part 2

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This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 14 - Challenges & Opportunities.

This is the second part of a two-part account. The author wishes to remain anonymous. You can read the first part of the account in the SSA eNews No. 13 - Odds & Ends.

So my previous encounter turned out less than great. However, not all bible studies encompass the glitz and glamour of Blimpie's sandwiches, false idols...I mean, promises…and two humorless Christians. In fact, my experience with a second bible exploration group was one of the most positive, uplifting experiences I have ever been part of.

Dressed in business attire under scrubs (I came from work) and arriving late to a place I had never been (someone's private residence, no less), I felt like an outsider from the beginning. However, I was greeted with open arms - literally - when I arrived, and was bombarded with questions as if I was a long-lost best friend recently reunited with civilization after a decade. I began to feel right at home as I was given a tour of the house (by a fellow student I had only met once before for about 2 minutes) and instructed to help myself to anything in the fridge. A few of the guys from the bible study were rebuilding the upstairs of the house on the weekends for other people to live and sleep in when they needed a place to stay. While I don't believe in altruism per se, this is about as close as I can imagine to it existing.

After a bit more shuffling and meet-and-greets and a lot of not talking to the girl I came to see (the main, but not only, reason I came and the same girl from the previous anecdote), the group finally took places around the room to start the week's discussion. Bibles were quickly in hand, as if drawn from holsters. Once again I felt like an emperor penguin in Papua New Guinea. As I shrank back into the corner of the room, bible-less, eyes wandering, I listened to people spout off references and passages as if it were kids play. The topic of the night, which I found quite interesting, was the Four Types of Love, which have been detailed out by C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves.

While I don't recall much from the discussion (admittedly, I was more interested in talking to the wonderful girl I had come to see), it was the feeling I received from the discussion that stuck with me. A great professor of mine once told me, "they'll never remember what you say, but they'll remember how you made them feel." Granted, he was speaking of business relationships, but it correlates perfectly to this religious experience. Which is where this exploration seems to sum up. Religion, for me, and I can extrapolate that it correlates the same to many others, is not about the words but the feelings; the warmth, not the written; the storyteller, not the author. I cared not about the four types of love, the teachings of Jesus or C.S., or the gilded pages of the Old Testament. I wanted to love the characters of the story and the storytellers themselves.

However, as the night wrapped up into a session of cleaning the house, post-discussion introductions, email lists, and game night setups, I still felt a sense of community, a belonging, even as much of an "outsider" as I felt I was. Unbeknown to me at the time, the majority of the participants in the group knew of my atheist stance, yet still welcomed and encouraged me to participate in their religious experience. I stayed for a full hour after the study, talking to people I had just met as if I had known them for years. I was privy to inside jokes and outside experiences, and was even offered an invite by the target of my interest to an Easter weekend road trip. I later told to her that despite my conflict in beliefs and skepticism of the sincerity of religious individuals, a tear was brought to my eye by the sense of community and true sincerity the members of her group paid to me and others.

To me, Karl Marx may have been right. Religion truly is the opiate of the masses...but perhaps because it encompasses one into the masses themselves. I could easily see how quickly someone without strong sense of direction could be assimilated into one of these groups, Christian or otherwise. Whether that is a positive or negative thing is something for another discussion. And while I haven't again since been to this particular bible study, I'd attend in a heartbeat if asked again. Maybe next time they'll have pastrami and ham on rye.

This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 14 - Challenges & Opportunities.

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