No. Out.

Despite some effort from my mother in particular, I just never thought this was true. For a time, I was taken to Christ The King Lutheran Church, which we kids dubbed “The Broken-Down Spaceship” or “The Ski Slide” because of its unique curved roof, considered very modern architecture at the time. Some devilish and stupid soul did actually ski down it once, got injured and arrested. You can’t ask for better entertainment than that in a small Wisconsin town, dude skiing off the church roof. Jackass, 1960s style.

How I hated getting up on Sundays to go to church. Whether I was in Sunday school or sitting bored out of my skull in regular services, all I could think of was, “WHEN DOES IT END?” I can remember holding my mom’s hand walking into church and thinking, “All these people believe this is true.” I thought and I thought and I thought, and I came to my own conclusion: no proof, no good. Soon afterwards, I told my mom, no more. She and my dad were completely appalled, dismayed, shocked, but I would not back down. I didn’t believe what Pastor Johnson said, and I deserved to make my own choice. My mother looked hurt and my dad looked mad, but the outcome was that we stopped going to church, only attending a few more times over the years on holidays. I think they were afraid that I was going to stand up on a pew and start yelling, “NO GOD! NO GOD!” and embarrass everyone. I never would have done that, but I am glad they thought so. Sleeping in is wonderful, and I did still watch Davey and Goliath, primarily because that was the only kids’ show on TV on Sundays. Davey was a sap, but Goliath ruled.

Prior to this, it sure didn’t help the God cause with me when the evening news showed Bible-belters burning Beatle records after the whole John Lennon “we’re bigger than Jesus” statement. Even though I was very little, I felt the ignorance and the fear and the ugliness right through the television, from smiling gum-chewing hair-flipped teenagers joyfully ripping apart LP covers and tossing them in the flames. Way to underline the hypocrisy of religion, sheep.

All of this made an impact on me. No one I knew or saw was living like I thought God wanted them to, with mercy and kindness and tolerance and benevolence. Walter Cronkite gave the Vietnam body count every night, black people were getting water cannons turned on them, people who spoke up were assassinated, students shot to death at college, and as best I could determine, this was not a manifestation of the imperfection of man. It was that no one, at the core, really truly believed in God either. Lip service, hedging bets, insurance. Lies. Fear. Weakness.

Andy Partridge wrote a song that summed up my feelings: the anger, the ridiculousness of it, the terrible deep sadness of belief and hope in things that could never be known, and never would pay off.

Dear god,
Hope you got the letter
And I pray you can make it better down here.
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving on their feet
‘cause they don’t get enough to eat

From god
I can’t believe in you.

Dear god,
Sorry to disturb you
But I feel that I should be heard loud and clear
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
‘cause they can’t make opinions meet
About god
I can’t believe in you.

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god,
Don’t know if you noticed
But your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
Still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain’t and so do you
Dear god
I can’t believe in
I don’t believe in

I won’t believe in heaven and hell
No saints, no sinners
No devil as well
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You’re always letting us humans down
The wars you bring, the babes you drown
Those lost at sea and never found
And it’s the same the whole world round
The hurt I see helps to compound
That the father, son and holy ghost
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive
That my heart’s here upon my sleeve
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in...

It’s you
Dear god.

“Dear God” -- XTC