(thanks to the great atheist George Carlin for the title)

God is love.

God is love.

God is love?

Not the god I know. The god I know is cruel, and punishing, and watches all the time, judging, always judging, and condemning. This is what was taught to me. This is what is still seared into my brain. This is what was nailed into my head from age 3 to 17, a dogma that was accompanied by hateful, cruel “women of the cloth” who would have died laughing if I had ever said “I thought god was love.”

I don’t blame my parents, you know, for sending me to Catholic school. They were Catholic, still are. They have some more progressive views (no hating on The Gays, plz, and abortion isn’t a one way ticket to the big fireball in the center of the earth) but they are still religious. I mean, my grandmother first told me I was going to hell when I was 12. (I said that I didn’t take the bible literally.) Charming thing to not only say to a kid, but your own flesh and blood, yes? So no, I never learned that god is love.

It’s strange, to say the least. I’m 33 bloody years old. My “Jesus Year” as friends have dubbed it. “Time to do something important!” Well, that sounds neat. And it’s a lovely sentiment for the year. Should be every year, but I digress. So I ponder Jesus, who I believe existed, as a man with a following of miscreants and misfits, who preached what he believed to be the teachings of his god. I have no problem believing that. But…”God is Love” still baffles me, and I blame that entirely on my schooling.

The day I changed from a terrified little schoolgirl into a, well, miscreant and misfit was the day I raised my hand in Theology class and asked “if the stories in the Old Testament are representational and symbolic, how do we know the New Testament is true? Where is the line drawn between symbolism and reality?” It was an honest question, something I wasn’t trying to ruffle feathers with, something I was genuinely curious about, as a logic question.

I was thrown out of class.

That was the day I decided this whole “religion” thing was bunk. Why on earth believe in one book and not the other? Why believe that Jesus, but not the Buddha, exists? I mean, the Bible’s an interesting book, but so is Harry Potter. What’s the difference?

Faith, I was told. And I realized then that no matter how many times I was scared into “believing” in the religion of my parents and peers, I never would. I was sick of being scared all the time, and I made it my mission to realize my own sense of spirituality. And that had nothing to do with kneeling at a pew reciting lines written by a man countless years ago.

I wish I could say that fear left me, but it hasn’t.