Are you fascinated with religion?

Several years ago, a young priest officiated my grandpa’s funeral mass. My grandpa was aware when he was dying and he specifically asked for this priest to do his funeral. My grandpa really liked him. He was from the area – his dad worked in the same factory as my grandpa. He seemed passionate and thoughtful but he was also just awkward and human. Simply put, he seemed like a normal guy and I found that really fascinating. The young priest mentioned he had a Twitter account and after the funeral, I decided to follow him. I thought he would tweet something interesting or thought-provoking but I waited and waited and all he tweeted about was baseball. My curiosity was squashed a bit.

I watch a lot of shows about religion – particularly the downfall of religion. I veg out on the couch and watch programs about cults, polygamy, the Amish, Catholic church scandals, the evils of megachurches, and televangelist conmen. There is no shortage of drama and I can’t look away from the train wreck. I shake my head in disbelief but I also have so many questions.

How do people get involved in these situations? How do people believe in things that are so obviously and completely false?

I’ve also noticed the leaders of these groups share a lot of the same personality traits, especially being charismatic and controlling. Do these leaders think, “I’m going to start a cult”, or does it just happen in a progression or maybe when things get out of hand? How do you convince people you’re a prophet? Do they truly believe they’re a prophet or is it all just an act?

The saddest part is the abuse – especially the sex abuse/crimes. So many of the programs I’ve watched have involved adultery, rape, child brides, and incest. Why is that? Does religion encourage that or is it just an easy excuse?

See! So many questions! I often find myself fascinated with the things that scare me such as boats and ships, trains, tornadoes, and ghosts. Is my fascination with religion along these lines? 

Do you share this interest or fascination?

On a somewhat unrelated note, I have a fantasy of seducing a Catholic priest — so much so that my husband has given me a hall pass for this one. What’s really funny about this is that my mom named me “Megan” after the main character in the Thornbirds. She read the book while she was pregnant with me. If you are unfamiliar with the book or film, it is about a young girl who falls in love with a much older priest. 

Is that weird?


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Do you share this interest or fascination?

    No. The nonsense other people believe is unbelievably boring to me. Oh there’s a daddy man in the sky who loves you? OK. And he’ll burn me in a lake of fire, but only after I’m dead? Whatever. Any even cursory thought about religion reveals it to be dull in the extreme. It’s like listening to people tell you about what they dreamed about last night.

    If you are unfamiliar with the book or film, it is about a young girl who falls in love with a much older priest.

    That’s one way of interpreting it. I watched the TV show when I was 14, and even then I’d have described it as “priest grooms child”, although perhaps not in those exact words. It certainly came across as extremely creepy even then.

    • ashes says

      OMG! I’ve never thought of it that way…priest grooms child…but I can totally see that now!

      Also, I guess it’s not so much the religion itself that’s fascinating but more why people believe in it.

  2. Allison says

    I was raised in a Protestant religion (Episcopalian), but people didn’t seem to make a huge fuss over whether you “believed” or not. A lot of people did all the churchy things because that was what you did, not because a belief in a God was all that important to them. It was more about the ritual (there was a huge stink when they proposed changing the wording of some prayers!) than about what any of it meant. I don’t think it occurred to me to ask whether God was real, any more than I ever asked whether Santa Claus was real. Nobody ever told me Santa Claus was real — or that he wasn’t, either; he just faded into being a cute fairy tale. My belief in God (such as it was) faded away pretty much the same way.

    So I am kind of interested in religion, but only as a collection of myths that are very meaningful to a lot of people. (That’s what myths are — stories which have a deeper meaning for the people who in some sense believe them.) I know people for whom God and/or religion is very meaningful and really helps them to deal with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” In fact, I kind of envy them. It’s just that there’s this little voice in the back of my mind that says, “but you know, it’s all stuff that someone made up,” which spoils it for me.

    Yes, there are people who use religion and/or belief in a God to be awful people, but then, there are folks who use their atheism as an excuse to be awful, too. I’m more interested in whether someone is a decent person or an awful one than in what myths they do or don’t believe in.

    I’ve had a little (very little) contact with cults, but from what I can see, they are most attractive to people who feel emotionally/spiritually lost, like they don’t know who they are or what they want do be, and a cult gives them an answer. They don’t mind getting told what to think or even getting exploited or abused, because at least they have a place and guide as to what to do to get pats on the head for being a good boy/girl. It’s like they’re orphans and are happy to have a family, even a pretty dysfunctional one.

    I don’t know how you’d raise a child who would be resistant to cults. They’d need a strong sense of who they are independent of what the people around them are like, and that’s not something you can give someone. They have to work that out for themselves, and it’s not easy. Helping them with it just inhibits the process.

  3. grahamjones says

    I am interested in the question of why some people are attracted to religion and other things that I regard as similar. There is an interesting series on BBC radio about internet gurus. The question I kept asking myself is “why do people fall for this?”
    “Everywhere you look on the internet, people are giving – and receiving – advice. Advice that promises to transform our lives. How to eat. How to think. How to get rich. How to manage our time.

    Across 8 episodes, Helen Lewis travels through the strange, powerful and sometimes hidden digital spaces created by these new gurus. Where did they come from? How much power do these charismatic individuals wield? And why are so many of us turning away from the mainstream – mainstream medicine, mainstream politics and the mainstream media – and embracing the power of charismatic individuals instead?”

  4. John Morales says

    I take a more anthropological approach, rather than a social one.
    I think it’s worth looking at the religious experience excluding the complications of formalised religion, and I recommend this book:
    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James


    Similarly, this book (oldie but a goodie, a bit out of date):
    The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion by James George Frazer


    Both available for free thanks to Project Gutenberg.

  5. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’d also recommend The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. Possibly nonsense, but more interesting than most blathering about ‘consciousness’, and suggesting an explanation for the human proclivity for religious beliefs.

  6. springa73 says

    I have an interest in religion, but since my favorite subject is history, my interest is mainly in religion as a historical and cultural force. I also have some interest in the actual content of religious belief, and how it evolves and changes over time. Rather than thinking of religion as irrelevant nonsense, I sometimes take a more positive view of it as a testament to human creativity.

  7. StevoR says

    PS. As for fascinated by religion – which one? Some have much better stories than others and many have stories I do not yet know..
    In the abstract sense of people actually believe that and think this and why its sometimes more a matter of being incredulous than fascinated but .. I guess sometimes .. depending .. yeah ..kinda?

  8. brightmoon says

    I’m currently fascinated with the JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses.) A cousin became one and as he was intelligent I wondered how he got suckered into that cult. About 30 years ago I moved to a neighborhood that was very far away from my family and I started a bible study with some as a means to get to know some nice people. Within a few days that sister started BOASTING about the fact that she’d “ never go to college and she didn’t even have a high school diploma” and I found out the the JWs are old earth creationists . I ended it right there as I didn’t want her talking to my young kids and encouraging any of that crap. I found out about the misogyny and severe almost abusive micromanaging of personal lives later. They won’t let people divorce abusers, have most hobbies or interact with normal people other than to preach to them and that includes elementary school children who rarely have friends. Toxic as hell! I feel I dodged a bullet ! My cousin had just lost his mother and the JWs don’t tell people about the severe restrictions, narcissistic behavior and infantilisation they do until after you’re a member.

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