Monday, December 30, 2013

A Secular Life

One of my favorite words is secular.

One dictionary I have defines it "of or pertaining to the temporal rather than to the spiritual." Google's definition: "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis."

I don't remember when I learned this word, but I do remember how it lodged into my mind: an episode of Sports Night, the television series by Aaron Sorkin. In one particular episode ("When Something Wicked This Way Comes"), Dan Rydell gets flustered when he thinks he's misused the word in a conversation. "Did I mean to say non-secular, when I should have secular?" I gave a lot of thought to that dialogue, having attended private non-secular schools until college.

I think about this word because the Catholic church I attended closed in 2004, and since then my church attendance has stopped. It didn't help that Boston's Catholic Church crisis (2002) was still a fresh memory. The news of the sexual abuse and the institutional coverups made me realize how religion and church are invented and governed by men. And as the punchline goes: "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out." I decided to take it out.

In 2010, at my youngest brother's wedding, my other brother and I had a conversation about the ceremony. Ron said he liked that there wasn't any religious connotation at all. I replied with a smile: "A secular ceremony then!" We both laughed. By then I had been without religion for six years, and I felt at peace with it. A secular life is all I have left.

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