On God, Bigfoot and Lies
I used to have a terrible lying problem when I was a child. I would make up lies to get out of trouble. I would conjure up stories to impress my friends. Most of all, though, I would lie to myself. As I grew older, it got worse. I remember making up wild lies well into my twenties about achievements I claimed to be enjoying, about how I was spending my time and money and about some mystical (and non-existent) path to success I was always right smack dab in the middle of.
I’m pretty sure my friends knew I was talking out of my ass the entire time and the fact that they tolerated it without calling me on my bullshit will forever endear them to me. I’m happy to say that I don’t lie nearly as much today - maybe a few small fibs here and there, mostly in the pursuit of making others feel better or worry less about me. It took me until my late 20s to realize that, in the time I spent lying, I could actually do the things I was lying about doing.
As a child, I used to lie awake in bed at night worrying that my lies were going to get me in trouble. It wasn’t disappointing friends or my parents that I was most worried about. No, I feared that my lies would land me in Hell. Up until I was eight years old, I was convinced the devil lived in my walls and I would hear his whispers as I tried to sleep, telling me I was paving my road to damnation with my lies and misdeeds. I knew for a fact that the devil was waiting for me under my bed. Or in my wall. Or possessing the lamp (I watched Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes - a movie in which a demon possesses a lamp - as a child and it haunted me for years).
Now, if I had to label myself, I’d say I am agnostic. But that would be a lie too.
It has been close to fifteen years since I’ve gone to a church for a reason that didn’t involve a death, work or a wedding. When it comes down to it, religion just isn’t that big a part of my life at this point. I’m not sure it ever was, at least not organized religion.
My fear of Hell is 100 percent due to the fact that, growing up, I was raised Catholic. My family wasn’t particularly religious. We went to mass every Sunday, sometimes Saturday nights if we had made plans to to go see a movie on Sunday morning. I was baptized, went through first communion and was eventually confirmed. I have the fancy crucifix I was given as a Confirmation gift to prove it. Looking back, though, we were following the steps associated with a religious life but our heart was not in it. We did not pray before dinner nor were we particularly well involved in church functions beyond Scouts, Sunday school and the occasional pot luck dinner. As a young adult, church was more about volunteer hours to pad my college resume than anything else. My mother would sometimes threaten me with the devil snatching me away if I misbehaved as a child (thus, my fear that Satan was living in my walls) but that was the most we discussed religion at home.
I think I must have some faith in me. I don’t actively believe in God but I believe in Bigfoot. For real.
There’s something freeing about admitting that my ironic fascination with cryptozoology is much, much more sincere than I’ve been letting on over the years. I read stories about monster sightings and obsess over theories on interdimensional beings because, like childhood hero Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I have no problem with lying to myself in the pursuit of believing.
Even though I look back at a lifetime of lies with regret, I don’t think lies are inherently wrong. Is a children’s book author spinning a yarn about a talking cat that different from a child telling his teacher that the reason he does not have his homework is because his dog ate it? When I was in high school, I convinced a teacher that I was color blind and couldn’t see the color markers she used to present her lectures on the overhead projector. She, in turn, would make copies of her lectures for me and hand them to me every day as class began. What you call a lie, I call tricking a teacher into doing my work for me.
When does a lie become a bad lie? Is my barber telling me my hair isn’t thinning despite the fact that it clearly is a bad lie? How about a man dressed in black telling a room full of people that a giant lives in the sky and, when it thunders, that’s the sound of him bowling?
I believe that organized religion is a lie but I also believe that liars are an essential part of society. In fact, I smile whenever I hear my friends fib or exaggerate because, in doing so, they are transformed into larger than life characters. Big fish tales and other forms of hyperbole bring a sense of the unknown into my life. In a world ruled by logic and science, life can get pretty boring every now and then. When there are no unknowns, there are no surprises. And what's a party without a surprise or two. Life should be a party, not a routine. Or maybe I’m justifying all the times I made up stories about girlfriends who lived in other cities.
Wake, work, sleep, rinse and repeat. Schedules and wrist-watches only add to the increased monotony of living. I say this because I know. I'm a schedule freak – constantly judging life by its adherence to my planner. That being said, I welcome a break from the ordinary. I define the ordinary as only knowing and believing everything you can see. By adopting this mentality, you are forced to walk through life having your every expectation met. But with a lie, you don't know what to believe. This leads to a life where expectations are in constant flux.
If somebody told me with a straight face and the right amount of conviction that CNN had just reported that a scientist in France had discovered the existence of an alternate universe, I would be amazed. I would check CNN as soon as I could, but until I had proven the liar wrong, I would begin to question my current beliefs about the physical universe. My imagination would hold no bounds.
I'm not advocating random acts of gullibility. There’s too much of that in the world as is and the last thing the world needs now is for more people to believe everything they are told without question. That kind of mob mentality leads to bad things. I do wish, however, that there were fewer cynics out there in the world. If anything, more lies would lead to more people having to educate themselves — if only to learn how to separate fact from fiction.
Society's intolerance of liars has turned us all into a roaming pack of Doubting Debbies. Unwilling to believe anything, we scoff at the unexplained and rationalize the unknown. When a child creates a story about a monster under his bed, instead of rewarding the creativity, parents punish him for his fibs. I honestly believe life would be a better place if people made up more stories.
I'm only advocating a certain type of lie, though.
I want the lies that speak of men and women being capable of amazing feats or exaggerations about chance encounters with destiny. I desire fibs that fabricate world records or scientific facts. I want the crazy and I want the kooky because in a world of lies, the truth is that much sweeter.
Why, then, don’t I believe in God?
When I was young it was easy to believe in God. The idea that there was somebody upstairs omnipotent and benign watching over us as we went about our lives was appetizing for an attention-starved child. As I grew older, though, cynicism and doubt took over and faith became harder. As I became more socially-conscious, I began to encounter the hatred and bigotry of certain sects of Christianity - how could I believe in a God who counted these jerks as his booster club? I guess it’s easier to believe in monsters than saviors.
All that said, I believe in something bigger than myself. I am a strong believer in things happening for a reason and 100 percent believe in fate. I’m spiritual but I just don’t have the energy or the disposition to be an active believer. Just like I don’t go around participating in seances or Bigfoot hunts, I don’t make it a daily habit to pray.
When it comes down to it, I suspect I’m just not that grateful of a person. I don’t thank my parents nearly enough or consider the role my mentors have had in my life like I should. My gratitude is lacking towards people whose contributions to my life are as tangible and real as the college diploma that sits in a shoebox in my closet. Why, then, would it come as a surprise that I don’t show the non-corporeal entity who may or may not have had a hand in my creation his (or her) due respect?
I have lousy manners, it’s as simple as that.
Another aspect of it comes down to my grasshopper-like mentality. Unlike the busy ant - always preparing for winter - I often am concerned with the here and now, never giving enough due to what’s coming down the road. Right now I’m alive and my soul is doing just fine encased in its meat suit. Sure, in a few months/years/decades, I’ll drop dead and have to atone for my sins but that’s in the future and I can barely grasp my arms around what’s surrounding me in the now. Maybe if I put more thought and weight into what’s around the corner I’d be more concerned about the state of my eternal soul but I fear that’s just not in my personality.
I was once told by somebody I respect greatly that God demands constant thanks and prayer. I asked when that neediness would be satisfied. At what point would God be pleased with the amount of hymns I’ve sung in his name and let me get on with the rest of my life? Never, my friend replied. Even when I died I could look forward to an eternity of exaltation. Heaven may have roads paved with gold, hot tubs filled with wine and a buffet table laid out with a never-ending spread of hot wings but there would be no time to enjoy any of that. Heaven is an eternity spent thanking God for what he gave you on Earth - which was a lifetime spent thanking God for what he would eventually give you in heaven. That just didn’t sound any fun - but, like I said, I’m a terrible son.
While I may ask of God too much when it comes to a leniency towards my apathy, there has always been one area in which religion could always count on grabbing my attention - Hell. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been afraid of Satan. To this day, films that deal with demonic possession can always be counted on to give me bad dreams. The idea of eternal paradise spent giving thanks may seem boring but the idea of eternal damnation sounds like a much worse option. Even the devil can’t convince me to go to mass on a regular basis, though.
I’m not an atheist. I’m not even a real agnostic because if I was to really ask myself truthfully I’d probably admit that I believe in some kind of God - even if he’s not the white bearded grandfatherly type we were taught to picture in Sunday school. I believe in something - I’m just not sure what nor do I care enough to find out. I’m content with the idea that there’s something out there - like Bigfoot - waiting to be discovered by somebody with more tenacity than me.
When I was hired by the Boy Scouts, I was asked to sign a document stating that I was a religious man. I signed - because I needed a job and my lack of religion meant I had no problem lying about said religion to get a job. Maybe I wasn’t lying, though. I am a religious man in the same way I’m a Hispanic. It’s a part of my identity that I will never be able to shake - I just don’t make a big fuss about it unless I’m trying to play a race (or religion card) for my benefit. Maybe my religion is “Fear of Satan” - that seems like a perfectly valid denomination. Maybe if more religions spent more time fearing what could be coming to them rather than anticipating their heavenly rewards they’d be less inclined to start wars, murder innocents or be obnoxious about their beliefs.
When asked by people about my religion, I normally respond with a lyric from the song “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears. “I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell."