CHAPTER Twenty-two: RELIGION

   High pressure over southern Idaho had kept the Salt Lake City trip mostly dry, with temperatures only into the mid-80s. That pleasant weather continued into the weekend, as Greg and Vic found themselves back on his porch steps. Coffee and tea were acquired, and they settled down to silently enjoy the blue skies and each other’s company.

   Vic was the first to disturb the reverie. “I’ve been thinking...” she started.

   “When are you not thinking?” he interrupted.

   “True, I have an active mind, but I was thinking about something in particular – something important. Here it is. Now that we have slept together, it seems to me that we have committed ourselves to a long-term, close relationship.”

   “Let me stop you there, for clarification purposes. First, I thought we had established our commitment to a long-term relationship some time ago. Second, ‘sleeping together’ usually means...”

   “Oh, I’m not talking about ‘sleeping together’ in the colloquial sense...”

   “Colloquial sense?”

   “Or, do I mean ‘vernacular?’ Well, it doesn’t matter; you and I know that I’m talking about having sex together.”

   “You may be giving me too much credit, but I agree that few other people would know either of those words in this particular context.”

   “Yes, but you have to admit that when two people share a bed, cuddle close all night, and wake up in the same location in the morning, they have ‘slept together.’ Now, I know when we get to the next levels – marriage, having kids, etc. – then, we do get to the other definition, a.k.a., having sex.”

   He held up his hand, as if to stop her. “Before we get into that – either physically or rhetorically -  I think we need better definitions. I’m not an expert on the subject but, as I understand it, ‘having sex’ is what randy teenagers practice in the back seat of their parents’ cars.

   “Define randy, please.”

   “Well, randy means... randy means displaying a certain degree of randiness.”

   “Ah, I see. Thank you for the clarification.”

   “Any time. To go on, ‘sleeping together’ – whether vernacular, colloquial, or a.k.a. having sex – is what adults do who are lonely, bored, or adventurous, and would rather do that than play Monopoly or go for a hike. No, what we are planning to do is called – for want of a better term –making love. Clearly, it is not all that love is about, but I understand it is a nice part of the total package.”

   A pause; then Vic: “You said that we are planning...”

   “Well, as we have noted on previous occasions, it is a necessary element in reaching some of our other goals. In addition to that, I understand it is a very worthwhile something to plan for, in its own right.

   “Now, as interesting as this discussion has been, I don’t think it was what you were thinking about when we first sat down here.”

   “You’re right. What I was going to ask is, do you believe in God?”

   It was Greg’s turn to pause a moment. “Wow! When you switch gears, you really switch gears.”

   “But this is what I was trying to talk about all along. It was you who got us talking about sex.” Greg started to protest, but Vic kept going. “I was noting that we are talking – and acting – like we’re going to be together, forever. But, do we really know enough about each other? We know we like some of the same things – books, musicals, talking about almost anything, and kissing (now that I helped you begin). We know that you’re a scientist, and that I’m not really too interested in that. We know – by anybody’s standards – that you are a good man, and I am a good woman. But why are we that way, and how is it important to our future compatibility?”

   Vic stopped talking, but Greg took a minute or more before he began. “This kind of question is pretty scary for me. A talk with a friend – or even a stranger - about whether or not I believe in God can be fairly easy. I can be as honest as I want to be, and we can have a good discussion. There may be agreement or disagreement but, when the conversation is over, it’s over. If there are problems, we probably just agree to disagree.

   “Having the same conversation with the woman I care deeply about – someone that I can’t imagine living without – is a whole different proposition. This is the time I should be completely open and honest. But what if I am, and something I say or believe seems to have the potential to cancel out our compatibilities? Can I risk it possibly destroying our life plans before they’re hardly made? What if something similar happens when I ask you the same question?”

   “Maybe we don’t want to talk about this, after all?” she suggested, quietly.

   “No, I think we need to. I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m just saying that it’s scary. But, here goes. Question: do I believe in God? Answer: yes. Now, I have to warn you that this first part may come out sounding like a college professor lecturing to a woman who has told me more than once that she is not a ‘science girl.’”

   “I’ll try to stay awake.”

   “Thank you. Growing up, I hiked and watched birds in the California  hills, and was amazed by all the beauty and variety of everything around me. I wasn’t from a religious family, but I can remember thinking, on more than one occasion, that God had done quite a wonderful job with the world. It just seemed logical to me.

   “Later, I trained as a scientist, and learned that ‘Science’ doesn’t need God – in fact, would rather not have God in the picture, at all. ‘Science’ believes that there is nothing that can’t ultimately or eventually be explained by known scientific principles. In consequence, a lot of scientifically-trained people stop right there, no matter what the problem or question: ‘God’ isn’t rational, so there must be a rational explanation we haven’t discovered yet.

   “Are you staying awake?”

   “Yes. In fact, you’re making it quite interesting.”

   “Good. Well, I said ‘a lot of’ scientists think that way.  However, there are scientists like me who believe - like Shakespeare had Hamlet say –there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. In other words, we feel it is unscientific to rule out anything without carefully studying all the alternatives – even ‘non-scientific’ ones.

   “I have two principal concerns about leaving God out of the discussion. First, I’ve studied genetics and heredity, and I know that genes mutate, and are lost and gained in individuals and in populations. The principle of ‘natural selection’ says that the genes most important in keeping a species alive are the ones that survive over generations. That’s how species ‘evolve’ to look like they do – like we do. I believe all that, but I just can’t believe that all the marvelous colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes of animals and plants  - and the amazing complexity of the human body! - are merely the result of genetics. Our world is the work of an artist, not a series of random events!

   “The second concern is about how ‘Science’ currently believes that the universe, the earth – and us – came into existence.  Presumably, some cataclysmic event – popularly called ‘big bang,’ but apparently not a real explosion – caused the former universe to expand into the universe that we now have. All the things that happened after that – including us – are the result of further ‘accidents.’ I’ve made that sound kind of dumb, but there is a lot of scientific analysis that has been done to suggest it as a possibility.”

   Greg paused again, and smiled at her. “Sorry. I really am making this sound like a college lecture, and I suspect it isn’t what you had in mind when you asked me if I believe in God.”

   She touched his arm. “No, it’s not. But I’m following, and I like to hear you explain it.”

   “Okay, then I’ll say one more thing before we move on to current events. I don’t believe in the current ‘scientific’ theory because I don’t think it’s scientific. Every scientist knows – every human knows! – that you can’t create something out of nothing. If everything was created by some kind of ‘big bang,’ where did the ingredients come from that got together to form the bang? They had to come from somewhere! It reminds me of a myth or fable – supposedly Hindu, but I don’t really know – that says the world is held up by an elephant, that is standing on a tortoise. Nobody seems to ask what the tortoise is standing on, but it does seem kind of important, doesn’t it? Similarly, I have to ask, where did the ingredients come from that caused the ‘big bang?’ Didn’t they have to be created?

   “Okay, I’m done with that lecture. Do you want a break, or more tea, or a jacket, or a kiss...”

   “A kiss is always nice. I’m fine, otherwise.”

   He obliged her. “Ready for part two?”

   “Sure.”

   “So, I believe there is some force we don’t understand that made the universe, the world, and us. 'God’ is as good a term as any. But do I believe that there is a more personal God, who watches over the world and cares what is happening to us? I’d like to believe it, but sometimes I find it pretty hard.”

   “Why is it hard?”

   “Because every church seems to have its own ideas of what God is like, what God wants from us, and what God eventually plans for us. I don’t mean between Christians and Moslems, or Christians and Jews; I mean tremendous differences exist between the various churches and denominations that all consider themselves ‘Christian.’

   “During my college years, I sampled a number of churches. All seemed  to agree that creating us humans was God’s greatest experiment. But it seemed to me that some were seeing God as a mad scientist, ready to crush and discard some of us - maybe even send us to eternal Hell - because we didn’t turn out as imagined. Others pictured God as a benevolent creator who loves us despite any flaws in our performance. It can’t be both ways.

   “Then, there is the question of ‘getting into Heaven.’ Some churches pictured us working like mad to prove ourselves worthy of being ‘saved’ – including following all the extra rules and regulations they put on their own members.  Others seemed to think we just have to say that we believe in Jesus, and we’re okay – sort of like Dorothy, clicking her ruby slippers together, while repeating ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.’

   “If – as everybody says – God is love, can we really be condemned for things that were obviously flaws in God’s design? And if God made us – flaws and all – why do we need to prove ourselves in order to be ‘saved.’ Do you see what I’m saying?”

   “I do, although I never thought about it like that, before.”

   “Okay, now let’s get to the other half of this discussion. What do you believe about God and church?”

   She laughed, a little self-consciously. “This is the part that you said was scary, right? I see what you mean. Actually, I think you and I feel pretty much the same, although I’ve never tried to analyze my feelings, like you have. Like you, I didn’t grow up in a church family. I’m not sure why. I can see that, in this part of Idaho, there aren’t a lot of choices if you’re not Mormon. But I don’t think my folks went to church in North Dakota, either, at least not after Mandy and I came along. That’s a little surprising to me, as our North Dakota relatives are pretty religious – some of them almost militantly so. I’ve never talked to Mom or Daddy about it.

   “Anyway, I grew up like you did, always knowing there was God, going along with all the standard Christian rituals, and not questioning why. Even though I never went to church, I always liked the idea.” She stopped, and looked at him. “Feeling like you do, would you want to go to church with me? Would you want our kids to go to church?”

   Her hand was still on his arm. He captured it with his other hand, and pulled her a little closer. “I would love to go to church with you, any time, Although I was disappointed in some of the churches I went to, I met some awfully nice people who really seemed to love God and each other. I have questions about all the ‘salvation’ business, but I still find myself saying ‘thank you, God,’ and ‘thank you, Jesus’ pretty regularly. I wouldn’t want to go to a church that had a lot of strict rules and regulations – but you probably wouldn’t want to, either.”

   “No, I wouldn’t.”

   They didn’t talk for several minutes, as each pursued their own thoughts.

   “There’s one kind of church that I absolutely will not attend.” Greg sounded serious.

   “What kind?” she asked.

   “I will not attend any church that prohibits dancing.” Vic started to respond. “Wait. I mean I would not attend such a church until after we’ve finally had our dance. After that, I might reconsider if the dance turns out to be less incredible than I am picturing it.”

   She snuggled closer to him. “Then, I can guarantee you’ll never enter such a church.”

  

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