Ang Sakallariou Reflection Paper #2 Innocence of Religion I have little use for organized religion, in relation to confusion regarding

the hypocrisy and judgment that seem to go hand in hand with institutions and organizations that dictate “right” behavior. And I have walked through transformation from innocence to experience when it comes to dealing with organized religion Some of my earliest memories are of my semi-monthly trips with Grandmother. The things that stand out the most in my mind are the numerous ways in which my grandmother tried to make me act like a little lady and to “fit in”. Everything from forcing me to wear dresses, which I did not like at all, to learning the proper way to sit, kneel, stand, sit, kneel, stand while in mass. It was like trying to decipher some foreign unspoken language that everyone seemed to understand but me. My grandmother became very good at quickly pinching me just at the most inconvenient times. Just as I would get comfortable and slowly sink into my boredom, her hand would reach out and grab a bit of my skin and pinch me back into the proper church pew posture. She’d even chastise me for chewing my gum too loudly. The one I had trouble with; after all, Grandfather sat night after night at the dinner table slurping his peaches through his lips with the most obnoxious sound I’d ever heard and no one ever said a word to him! The part I had the most trouble with, was understanding why it was okay for adults to do the very things they gave hell to me for doing. One time I tried to make sense of it all and decided to try slurping my peaches at the dinner table. It did not go over well at all. Grandmother didn’t have to say a word. She simply sot me “the look”, and I knew immediately I had crossed the invisible line that distinguished the saints from the sinners. One day a woman came to the steps of the school and talk to me and my friend about religion. This woman discussed all of the potential punishment that could be in store for the soul who has not repented, I would wonder what it was that I would be punished for in the short seven years of a life of sin, Yet my grandfather could sin and never seem to be concerned about punishment, they seemed only concerned with mine. The woman would then illustrate her point about the importance of confession and communion by holding a candle up and telling me to put my finger over the flame. As the heat becomes too much for me to bare, she states, “All eternity!, Just think of it!, a whole lifetime goes by and its nothing, not even a drop in the of your sufferings”. I was immediately mortified and understood that this is serious business. The woman also tells me about a man who had made a “bad confession” by holding back on sin, for this, he was immediately burned. She backed her story up quickly by moving into the Ten Commandments and impressing upon me how important it was to live up to them. My fear increased as the woman spoke, for I knew I was doomed to burn in hell, I was only 7.

In my grandmother’s home those same commandments and threats of punishment were used as means of motivating me to do the “right” things. When I heard my grandmother say, “Did we take the name of the Lord, our God in vain? I knew I was had. It was difficult to understand just how the whole thing worked, however, because the word God was a common household name that people tossed around whenever they were angry. In fact, if you were really angry and very careful not to use the God-name at any other time, then it was perfectly acceptable to take the Lord’s name in vain…provided, of course that you were an adult. Then there was the commandment about “loving your neighbor as yourself.” I knew there was no way in heaven or hell that I could love Mrs. Ford who lived up the street and stood on her front porch yelling worse obscenities than I’d ever heard and only the bravest children who dared to walk on her lawn to retrieve a ball or a puppy gone astray. I never loved that woman and I knew it. And how about the commandment about coveting our neighbors goods?, there were numerous times I had taken raspberries or tomatoes from the neighbors yards either to enjoy myself or to sell for change to use at the corner store to buy candy. Mortified that I was going to burn up, like the man the woman talked of I went and told my grandmother everything and she laughed and assured me that I wasn’t going to burn. At that moment I learned about the invisible line between saints and sinners in that one interaction than in all seven previous years. I wanted nothing to do with it. Thru love of a family whom I met later in my life, I learned that judgment comes from within and that it really doesn’t matter what it is that other people dictate to be “right” behavior. What matters is what I think. When I am honest with myself and my God, whom I know loves and understands me, then I am reminded again and again that I am the only one who can punish me. And it is only in living and telling my own truth that I find my reward.