Monday, December 14, 2009

Disaster narrowly averted

I think I've mentioned before how religious my extended family is. Over the weekend, my grandmother was in the hospital awaiting surgery (it went well, and she's doing much better!). A bunch of us went to visit her, so it was almost like a family gathering. Normally at family gatherings, I just tune out the conversation and pretend to be fascinated by something on my phone, so despite the gulf between our opinions on things, we don't get into a lot of entanglements. But a hospital room provides much closer quarters, so I had to engage in more active lip-biting than I typically do.

During the afternoon, one of my aunts started singing the praises of Joel Osteen. Fine. Normally, this is where I start to tune out and find another conversation, but no such luck this time. Apparently, he had recently preached this sermon about how you should shout praises to God when you're feeling worried. Again, fine. I could see how that might have some psychological benefit. But what bothered me is how she kept talking about "the Christians" in Old Testament events like the battle of Jericho (Hint: there were no Christians in the Old Testament). It took all my self-restraint not to say, "Don't you mean the Jews?"

Later on, my stepmom wondered aloud why we have certain organs, even though we can live without them. This was relevant to the issue at hand, as Granny was having her gallbladder removed. Without even thinking about the implications of my statements, I rattled off the standard Biology 101 answer: "Well, these things were probably more useful at a previous stage in our development. I mean, look at the tailbone..."

We've never discussed the issue, but the look on my stepmom's face indicated I'd hit a nerve. Granny chimed in, "Well, nobody really knows about that stuff." I took that as my cue to bow out. It's things like this that make me think that even if it were a worthwhile goal to rid the world of religion (I'm not saying it is, or that it isn't), it would be impossible to achieve. We've still got flat-earthers, for dog's sake.

I did at least get in one positive point. We were discussing contentment and how important it was, and I said, "Every major religion teaches that in some form." That seemed to please everyone. Those who know me personally know how conflicted my relationship is with my extended family. Like all people, I'd prefer to get along with them. But it seems that to get along, I have to pretend to be someone I'm not.

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