Losing My Religion (Apologies to R.E.M.) Part 1
What Does ‘Having a Religion’ Really Mean?
The largest part of my family ‘have a religion’ or rather a religion has them. There, now you know a bit more about what I am going to write about here and how I am going to approach it. But first, a disclaimer. I am not ‘anti-religion’, ‘anti-Christian’ or prejudiced against people of any faith. I have some admiration for people who can stick with a belief system when there is no evidence (other than long tradition) to support it. I support anyone’s right to believe what they will, even wild and completely untrue conspiracy theories. With this caveat: you don’t get to force your faith or the result of your faith, i.e. behavioural norms on me, mine or anyone else. No, you don’t get to dictate to me about — well, anything.
However, this stance could be construed as counter-religion because control is what religion is for. Religion is a binding together of people in a system of behaviour, belief and lifestyle. The word ‘religion’ is from the same Latin root that gives us ‘ligament’ (the fibres that ‘tie’ muscles and organs to bones), ‘ligature’ (the item used to tie, tighten or strangle someone) and ‘ligation’ (the act of tying off with a ligature, i.e. someone’s windpipe, in the throat), amongst other such words. Since words are used by humans to convey thoughts, well, there you are.
Religion may have even superseded or at least accompanied the human march into ‘civilization’. Now that we have discovered Gobekli Tepe, the 10,000 plus year old temple on a hill in Turkey where no temple or temple-builders should ever have been, we can see that religion played a part in gathering a people together and thus seemed to provide a framework for living and behaving. Hunter/Gatherers who roamed in family groups came together in much larger groups to build the ‘T’ shaped monoliths at Gobekli Tepe, carving them into representative forms recognizably human-ish and provided them with animal ‘spirits’ on other nearby rocks. Yes, my friends. This is religion. They also had a bloody big barbecue as evidenced by all the charred aurochs, sheep, horse and antelope bones. They gathered large groups together to reaffirm their systems of belief and behaviour and have a party. Sounds like the local church on a much larger scale.
It can be said that religion or in particular, religiosity, the acceptance of and involvement with religion is ‘inheritable’. I put that in quotes because the genetic studies, primarily with monozygotic (single egg, sharing 100% DNA) twins compared to dizygotic (two egg, sharing 50% DNA) twins indicate that the MZ twins have a far greater self-reported and observed incidence of religiosity than do DZ twins. There are more studies to be done.
However, in my own family are twins. I think they may be DZ but my mother swore they were MZ. While they do lots of MZ type stuff (wearing the same clothes though unplanned, marrying similar heritage women, following the same sorts of careers, fully embracing and practicing religion) they don’t look exactly alike. That could be environmental factors though. I digress.
I didn’t inherit any religiosity gene or set of genes. I inherited the need to question everything, which leads to my next genetic supposition.
I have a half-brother (I have three but that’s another story), this one is the unlooked for son of my wayward and confused, biological father. This brother and I connected a few years ago. Dismay flooded my heart when I realized that he also had inherited the religiosity strain of DNA. Like my twin brothers, his twin brothers. As someone once said ‘I love that for him’ but it’s not for me. I’m sure he was disappointed too, that I wasn’t a true ‘sister in Christ’. Oh, well.
So, three brothers from the same father… Y chromosome of which I have none. Could the so-called ‘religiosity gene(s) live on the Y chromosome?
I don’t know if my father had the religiosity mind-set. I never knew him. From his behaviour during that time period, it doesn’t seem so. His family were Quakers going way back. My grandmother, his mother, was a Christian Scientist, which demands a bit of religiosity itself! So that complicates matters. This is worth exploring a bit in a later rumination, perhaps.
What does having a religion really mean then? That you are genetically disposed to it? That being human means being religious? That in order to have ‘society’ we must have religion? That without religion we have chaos or Vladimir Putin and his ilk? That religion draws us together? Or is shedding religion a little like leaving your parents’ home, shaking off the arbitrary restrictions and finding your own path? I’ve always liked finding my own way and trusting that other humans can find their own path too. My signposts are much like my other family members’ but without the overtones of god or gods. Next stop ‘heaven’? Well… that’s for next time.