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  • Robin Kastengren

Religion: Ok, I'll deal with it.

I mentioned the tarot card ladies yesterday, so let's go.

I was raised Catholic and to believe all of it and do what they tell me. My mom was the spiritual leader of the house, and that's what she chose for us. CCD every Wednesday (spaghetti night!), Sunday church, complete all the sacraments and mean it, etc. My grandma prayed the rosary, and a crucifix necklace was a common gift, especially for your first communion or confirmation.

My family isn't like that anymore. The vibe is either New Age Christian or religion is for losers and I don't have a lot of love for any flavor of American Christianity.

I Paid Attention

I was always a good student, at least until high school, and CCD was no exception. I read, studied, did all the praying they said, pondered the holy spirit, and all that. The problem for me was that all that thinking and learning brought me more questions and never any answers.

I know how I get when I start asking questions about something. I can understand when I've worn out someone's patience with my relentlessness, but some people seem worn out from the start. When I ask a million questions about something, it's because I want to know everything about it. Something struck a chord in me and I'm ready to jump into special interest land.

The problem with Catholicism is that I wasn't allowed to ask questions. I had to read stories of heroes in the bible who asked questions, listen to stories of priests and nuns who questioned, and CCD teachers and Church Ladies who had their time of questioning. When I asked questions, I was told to "have faith," and that's just not how it works.

Not MY Rules

I was told all kinds of scary things about myself for asking questions, seeking clarification, and wanting to know how it all worked. Whenever someone told me to "have faith," I knew they weren't true believers in anything. People who genuinely believe in something want everyone to share their knowledge and aren't afraid of questions.

People who are scared and insecure in their own beliefs, in their belief in themselves, will tell you to have faith. Why? Because they can't answer the questions for themselves and are scared that questioners will make them stop believing. Why would anyone fear the truth ruining their stories unless they had something to gain from the lies?

The bible says that as long as you're asking in good faith, you're ok to keep asking. The Catholic Church says to stfu before you ruin the facade.

What Was My Persistent Question?

Jesus was a human, and people were falling all over him to follow him like a god long before he did the whole thing of becoming one with god. All the things we love about Jesus were from his human times, his time here on Earth.

Why are we praying TO him now? Why is everything "in Jesus's name," etc., when we're definitely not supposed to put anyone, ANYONE, before god? I understood the part about praying to saints, Mary, and all those guys. Those are dead people with a spirit in heaven who can still hear living people, and maybe they can help. Same with Jesus, I thought, but he was like an extra-good listener and god granted him special favors.

But they kept the focus on Jesus, which seemed like a bad no-no after reading the bible that they made me read and studying all the stuff they made me study. Sure, all the people say that Jesus became one with god, the holy trinity, etc., but we weren't praying to the holy trinity. They kept telling me to pray to and praise Jesus, a human, and to have faith about the part where he's also god, but not THE god, but god enough to be worshipped just like god.

I Never Got Past It

I made my first confession and made my first communion. I made my confirmation in 8th grade, right along with all the other good students. I tried to apologize to god for saying weird stuff out loud about Jesus so I wouldn't get in trouble with the CCD people. I talked to my godmother about all of it before I made my confirmation, and she said that god knows what's in my heart and that words don't matter because people mess those up all the time. Be good in your heart, and don't worry about the rest.

And that's precisely what I did. I went back and forth with various churches until I stepped away for good and forever around 2011. I will not follow people—human beings—any fucking where based on faith alone, and if your god has a problem with that, you're worshipping the wrong one and not reading your own religious texts that you call holy and sacred and full of truth.

Everyone Needs Something to Believe In

I think I heard that from my father-in-law talking about people who get a little too fanatical about their religion, and it becomes an addictive experience as bad as drugs or booze.

I believe in the universe. Have you looked at that thing? What is even going on out there? Why is all of that going on out there? Why are we so unbelievably small? Have you guys learned about quantum entanglement? About space-time being one thing and not two? I've read and watched countless hours of smart people talking about it, and it's insane stuff that scientists can demonstrate and repeat. Way more insane than anything I've read about anyone's gods.

Some people say that god is unknowable, and I find the universe to be unknowable, so same thing. We don't live long enough to get anywhere and have a look. We don't have sensory tools to perceive boring things like radio waves; imagine what else we can't see. We have not even the first clue why black holes seem to vacuum up matter, why it can take millions of years for the explosion of a star to finish exploding.

I'll spend the rest of my spiritual days thinking about all of that stuff that exists in my real life rather than pretending that the translation of a translation of a translation of human words is "holy" and contains all the instructions for life.

There was nothing about autism in the bible, for example, and that's the one thing I really needed to know about to exist peacefully on this planet. Why not share that with me from the jump? Because human beings don't know shit.

Enter the Tarot Ladies

If you want to read about how bad it was for me, how much I struggled with the truth, and what was real, the blog is still there as I wrote it in real time. I also live-streamed my Moment of Truth to my mother, insanity be damned, and how I was absolutely blown away to find out that the darkest thing in my heart was ME all along, crying to be alive and seen and not dark at all.

I mentioned on my sources page that the tarot card readers always seem to pop up for people who are scrolling TikTok for content on autism and neurodiversity. Other people talk about it in the comments, and I sure get enough of them. I skip past most, like ya do, but every now and then, one would catch my attention, and I'd watch. They would feel their vibes, flip their cards, and tell stories about people trying to find themselves and find their way in the world.

Their advice was always to stop seeking external validation and to believe in yourself. To look within for the answers and to believe that god/creator/spirit/source made you as a complete package from the start. You're not missing anything, and you're not broken. You have everything you need inside you to live this life, now go find THAT and forget what everyone else is telling you to believe.

Who doesn't need that cheering on during a mental health crisis? It was much kinder than the things most people in my life were saying about me and telling me to do.

I Believe in Me Now

Just like my godmother told me and just like I've told my kids: stop worrying about what actions people have prescribed to you for a good life or a ticket to heaven. You were given a head, a heart, and free will. Lead with love and believe in your ability to tell right from wrong because THAT was given to you on the day you were born.

Stop, think, and most importantly, FEEL in your human body what you think you should do. We were given a miraculous central nervous system to help us detect danger and relax when there is none. Stop ignoring that; stop ignoring your brain; stop ignoring your heart. Stop looking to other struggling people for answers.

Be relentlessly yourself until the fog clears. If you're a good person, you don't have to be afraid of doing that. I knew I couldn't ever hurt someone for real. I'd fuck up and hurt people all the time, but I've never made the choice to hurt anyone. I had no fear of relying on WWRD rather than trying to remember something Jesus did. He didn't even have a cell phone and that's what was plaguing me the worst at the beginning.

Do I Believe in God?

Not any of the gods I've heard about from people. Not the kind who look like people, mainly men, and sit up on their throne, looking down on their own creation and judging it harshly. That sounds more like a salty old man who got cut off from the grandkids for being scary, not an actual deity that loves me.

But I do believe in whatever it is that keeps me going. I've read my own stories, my own shit. I have no reason to be alive, happy, and hopeful for the future when I look at how black it gets for me sometimes. And yet, here I still stand. Ready to start over again—again—with nothing. Start from scratch to build myself a life I can keep living.

I'm not responsible for other people's feelings and can't make them learn, see, or do anything. It's their problem if they don't like what I'm doing. (And if you don't like what I'm doing, take a closer look.) You are responsible for yourself because you're the only one who can make yourself do anything. I'm responsible for myself and for my children. Everything after that is up to everyone else because that's how humans were made.

Don't walk blindly into your fears because you have faith in god, walk into your fears with confidence that you've been given everything you need to live this life on the day you were born. The point isn't whether a creator who needs worshipping gave that to us.

The fact is that we have it, and we're supposed to be using it instead of mindlessly following each other around like fools, making up the rules as we go along and punishing others for breaking these made-up rules like it fucking matters.

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