“Religion, Philanthropy, and Daredevil: A Conversation with Ann Nocenti- Part 2”

dd3AN:  “I guess I also have complicated feelings about religion.  In the history of the world, and now more than ever, religious wars are the cause of so much misery.  I’m not a big fan of institutional religion.  It’s a little bit like how when I said when Daredevil feels crushed he goes into a church and just sits there.  There’s these clichés that people roll around like, “God is only in the foxholes.”  Working in Haiti and working in the south, I’ve seen how faith can get someone through a life that’s difficult, but with all due respect to you, as a priest, I’m not a big fan of organized religion for sure.”

FN:  “You’re not alone.  And don’t worry, I’m not offended or anything.  I agree with you.  Religion- in the Middle East today most prominently, in its extreme forms… you’re absolutely right about that.  We should be careful about it.”

AN:  “Especially the manifestation today or the religious right claiming that homosexuality is a sin.  Even from literal interpretations from some passage in the Bible… it’s very similar to the Second Amendment and with gun issues right now.  People keep trying to retreat into these texts that were written within a different context of the time.  To me, the Second Amendment is talking about, you know, muskets!  It wasn’t talking about AK-47 repeat action or whatever!

Same thing with the Bible.  Even if you could find a passage in the Bible (and maybe you could quote it to me) that says homosexuality is a sin… obviously it isn’t a sin, otherwise we wouldn’t have it in nature and in animals, etc.  For me, the problem with religion has always been its inflexibility.  You return to your primary text when you’re a scholar, but you don’t necessarily live by the letter of the law of your primary text as things change.

My dad was a scientist and a very religious man.  My family was very religious.  But since he was a scientist and believed in Darwinism, we were raised with this kind of flexibility in religion.  Yes we went to catechism, yes we went to church every Sunday, yes we read the Bible, yes I had communion and confirmation.  But in my household there was always this very healthy like, ‘Yeah, there’s this creation myth but there’s also Darwinism, etc.’  Whereas I did not necessarily find that in the Catholic Church.  I found nuns and priests that were just like ‘This is a sin, this is how you atone, this is a black mark on your soul, you’ll go to hell if you do this…’ It’s so terrifying and Draconian and it turns kids off.  Kids flee from the church when they start saying these things to them.

A more flexible template for religion would make a lot more sense.  ‘Here’s a bunch of ideologies out here: some people believe in Buddha, some in Alah, some in Jesus Christ, some believe in Darwinism, some believe in nothing and this is the whole range of possible beliefs.  Rather than ‘My way’s the only way.’  To me I think all the religions of the world have to start being more flexible or otherwise we’re just going to kill each other.”

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FN:  “That’s obviously a big knock on religion.  We have to be very, very careful about all that stuff.  Saying ‘this is a sin, that is a sin, you’re going to hell,’ and all that kind of stuff.

Y’know, I didn’t call you to talk about me, but… you mention all this black and white stuff.  I didn’t realize that my Church, until I went to seminary, never had science vs. religion debates, never had forced conversions, never had inquisitions, things like that.  It never had church vs. state (but then again, it was all one empire back then).  I realized, after doing a little reading, that that is the truest way, as well, in terms of flexibility, allowing for disagreement… I look at truth, rather than as a line that you’re either on one side or the other… it’s more like a box to me.  There’s boundaries, and there’s room to roam within that box, and there’s lots of different interpretations and people may be different.  An acknowledgement of gray is extremely, extremely necessary.  And you’re right with kids getting turned off, that’s not what anybody wants, and I don’t think that’s what God wants.

AN:  “No, no, I don’t think so.  And especially today, there are people who are not that comfortable identifying with one gender or another, they’re not that comfortable identifying with one sexuality.  If the churches of the world don’t listen to their children, the up and coming, thinking, flexible minds of children, then they’re just going to become more and more marginalized and less relevant.  It’s a really sad statement on the religions of the world that at this point vulnerable, mentally ill people turn to religion to become fanatics in dangerous ways.  When religion comes up in the news, it’s because yet another fanatic who saw no way out of their life and had mental issues and didn’t find any help anywhere went to some fanatics group and did something terrible.  Religion is quickly becoming this pipeline to mania!  A cloak and a shield that will protect you as you flame your way out of the world and take others with you.

I think if the heads of churches don’t get a handle on this… like the Catholic Church allowing pedophile priests for years…these are things that are going on that are rotting the whole concept of faith and the whole concept of religion…”

FN:  “I think at the end of the day, ultimately it’s all about love.  I think whatever the topic is you just brought up, and you’re right that all those things are definitely out there, but I think that at the end of the day it’s all about love, and Jesus was about love.  That’s what we always have to throw our life preserver back to.  When it comes to homosexuality or whatever it may be, everyone has to know they’re loved and valued and special and beautiful the way they are and all that.  I think that’s what we need to do more of, that is, we who wear the collar, we who are participating in these ‘religious organizations,’ so to speak.  Love has to be the number one quality that people see when they walk into a church, whenever they think about religion, at least I believe.  And certainly I try to do that myself, even though I’m THE most imperfect person in the world.”

Part 3 next week!

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