Sad suffering I knew him when Fairweather friend of mine Trying not to think I merely blink Hope to wish away the lines Can you protect Me when I'm wrecked I pretend you're still alive I choose the day Warm damp and gray Thick fog will hide our smiles Clear all your sins Get born again Just repeat a couple lines


-Charles 'Tex' Watson, to the Tate murder victims

Since time immortal religion has been the cause of a great many wars, political arguments, constitutional amendments. The Catholics set of a firestorm now referred to as the Spanish Inquisition. Millions of people have died in wars trying to convert so-called 'godless' cultures to Christianity. Anyone remember the Crusades?

When it all boils down, nearly 100% of faiths are centered around the same 'golden' rule. Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. Why, then, can't they all get along? Each one believes itself to be superior. They all claim to have seen God, Goddess, Bozo the Clown on Roller Skates, whatever you wish to call it. No one faith is better than the next, unless you're dealing with Satanism, which after causing a stir in the eighties, has faded into the background. It is, from what I have read, a religion based totally on gratifying one's own ego and indulging yourself in whatever you like. Don't more mainstream faiths do this, but just pray afterward?

I choose not to attend church not because I am wicked or evil or I don't believe in some higher entity. I stepped away from organized religion to see myself in my own light, and believe how I wished without being told it was wrong.

Why do so many convicted killers suddenly get 'jailhouse religion' after they are locked up? There are many reasons. It looks good to the parole board. They realized that they screwed up and genuinely want to find an inner peace, (minute percentage, I feel,) they feel they are a being sent from God, (Albert Fish, the elderly cannibal, said, after being sentenced to death, that God still had work for him to do.) Others use it as a guise to hide their true feelings, a trademark of sociopaths.

David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, is one of the many prison preachers. In the seventies, he was hell-bent that he was doing the devil's work and was very passionate about the whole thing. He was sure that he had been put here to carry out evil. Now, barely into his 365 year sentence, Berkowitz is calling himself the Son of Hope. His chubby, smiling face stares out from the articles he has written, detailing why he turned to Christ. However when you really read Berkowitz' writings, it is clear that he is as ferverent a soldier for Christ and he was for Satan. Now he is convinced that God sent him here to help people, to set an example. The effect is eerily redundant. He is on a mission, and he will not stop. Ever.

Whether you are agnostic or athiest, Christian or whatever, if you do not practice what you preach, you are simply sporting a title. A person who calls themself Muslim but who does not in any way involve themselves with the religion is not Muslim. They are simply calling themselves that. In the same light, so-called Christians who rape and murder are hardly Christians. (Nor do they follow any moral doctrines. An athiest can be just as good a person as someone who calls their self a Christian.) Are these killers sincere in their efforts to find some redemption? Are they masquerading under the 'norm' to gain sympathy? Most serial killers are so skilled at deceit that one could never know the truth.

Author's Note

I was raised Catholic by my mother, whose strong Irish/Italian heritage was heavily involved in the religion. For years I went to church on Sundays, (though I begged to stay home and watch cartoons,) went to Sunday school, and was baptized at the age of five or six.

As I grew older I began to disagree with the Catholic doctrines---no divorce, no birth control, etc. Now, at the age of twenty, I do not attend church or refer to myself as Christian.

I believe that the vast, vast majority of religions-all over the world-are based on the same beliefs. There are many beautifully spiritual religions out there, and Christianity itself has even taken a more 'spiritual' turn. The peaceful calm of Buddhism, the misunderstood, age-old religion of Wicca, where believers worship the Earth as their Mother, a religion where the higher beings are all around us, in the earth, air, water, fire.

It does not matter what we, as individuals, call our God. Yaweh, Buddha, Mohommed, the God and Goddess, Jesus Christ. To be a good person we do not have to attend church, confess our sins to a stranger, or even associate ourselves with any one religion. To be a good person is to have morals, dignity, and treat others as we would like to be treated. I do not hold with the doctrines that tell us to love our enemies, and I find hypocrisy in the religions that preach acceptance of others and then spend their time trying to convert others to their religion. Acceptance is to accept people for who they are, to judge them on character and not on where they go to church--or if they go to church at all.

In high school I dressed as a so-called Goth, with much black, lace, velvet, etc. Those who taught acceptance, including those who judged me by my appearance and not my inner beliefs, were driven into a frenzy. I was ridiculed, mocked, and had total strangers making completely false claims about me. I was dubbed a devil worshipper, a Satanist, a sinner who, on the basis of black clothing and heavy metal, was doomed to Hell.

I find it ridiculous that dressing flamboyantly automatically marks one for damnation. I find it absurd that these people, who caused my family and I much pain, did not take the time to listen to my views, to take the time to hear how I believed. In their church services, in their masses, they prayed for me. I consider myself a good person, and I think that whatever is out there, (for I do believe in a higher power,) would judge me on what was in my heart, and how I lived my life, not on my clothing or musical tastes.

When our time comes, we will not have to answer to those around us. Their cries of hellfire and brimstone will not matter. Whether you believe in Heaven, Hell, Nirvana, or that we become timeless, limitless energy, the being that will judge us if far more powerful-and undoubtedley far more wise-than a mob of frantic parishoners deep in the throes of 'Satanic Panic'. Rumors will not stand up. Black clothing does not make you evil. Even if you don't dress or believe or hold with what is considered 'normal', that will not matter. What will matter is how you lived your life, and what you did to warrant punishment or a place in some sort of afterlife.

I do not hold with Christianity. The hypocrises of it, and the people involved, soured me on it. There are many Christians I get along with just fine, many I am friends with, as with other beliefs. Those who are truly 'good' will accept you as you are, and judge you not on your religious beliefs, but what kind of person you are.

In school, it surprised people who didn't know me when I would talk to them. They would often say, "You're really nice" or something like that. I found allies-and enemies-in the most surprising places. One of my favorite teachers at school was a preacher's wife, and one of my favorite classmates was a preacher's daughter. To see past the rumors and lies is to show an amount of intelligence many do not possess-but claim to.

The next time you judge someone on their appearance, the next time you see a kid in black clothes, with rings in their face and tattoos on their body, think twice before judging them. What matters is not what is on the outside, but what is on the inside.

Perhaps the best thing I could say here would be the message on a bumper sticker I saw. It's words were brief, but they spoke worlds of wisdom.


Foundation For Religious Freedom

Religious Tolerance

Above Marquee: 'Get Born Again'/Alice in Chains/Nothing Safe/1999 Sony Music Entertainment