Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Apocalypse Party! (And You're Invited)

For obvious reasons, I've devoted a bible's worth of thought to organized religion and those who choose to participate. My conclusion? It's like pledging a fraternity or sorority in college. Seems like a good way to navigate the inclement waters of college, right? Look! Likeminded folks socializing and having fun. A kegger! I'm there. A hot tub party! Count me in. Or you are Legacy, meaning you're Greek bound because your parents came before you, maybe even your grandparents.

On paper fraternities/sororities state their purposes as some variation on the theme of aiding college men/women in mental, moral and social development.. To create personal worth and character. These institutions urge you to listen to the voice of your "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" who is your God and your Redeemer in the Greek system, therefore you must obey. Cut to crazy jungle juice parties, alcohol poisoning and date rape.

That's not so very different from: A potluck! What should I bring? A church mixer! I'll be there with bells on! Or you're there because your parents came before you, maybe even your grandparents. Sounds like a good way to navigate the inclement waters of life.... Right?

On paper most churches state their purpose is some variation on standing for truth, righteousness and so forth ('Cept maybe them snake handler churchgoers.. and really, they're just redneck escapists from the mental hospital so we won't count them here) Other, only slightly more redeeming religions generally urge you to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. Cut to my bishop asking me inappropriate sexual questions whilst fondling himself beneath the desk, priests diddling altar boys and money laundering.

Religions and fraternities provide one with a community of people that share the same beliefs and ideologies.. Folks can meet & greet! Mingle! Have a dialogue and maybe meet a future spouse in the bargain. Hot diggity!

"Hey can I join?"
"Yeah, but you gotta memorize wacky Greek letters and participate in weird ceremonies and stuff. Then you'll be initiated in a formal ceremony."
"Sounds kind of strange."
"You may not fully understand right now, but all will be revealed to you after you're initiated. Besides, everybody's doing it. Trust us."

"Hey can I join?"
"Absolutely. But you gotta memorize wacky scriptures and participate in weird ceremonies and stuff. Then you'll be baptized in a formal ceremony."
"Sounds kind of strange."
"You may not fully understand now, but all will be revealed when you die. Besides, everybody does it. Have faith."

Best I can figure, it's sort of a lemming thing. You know about the lemmings don't you? That group of rodents known for periodic mass migrations that oftentimes end in drownings. Why do they drown? Contrary to popular belief, it isn't suicide. When food pickin's get slim, the group heads to greener pastures.. They fall off cliffs because they end up in unfamiliar territory.. don't know where they're going.. They're confused, scampering around, bumping into each other asking questions...
"Hey Earl! You know where we're going?"
"Have no idea Fred. I'm just following Lennie!"
"Hey man, I don't know either, I'm just following Debbie. She says her Ma and Pa told her this was the right way." Lennie shouts.
"Sounds good to me." Fred says.
"Me too." Earl agrees. "As long as there are refreshments when we get there."

At that moment Debbie's Ma and Pa lead the whole dadgummed group right off a 100 foot cliff.
"Shit!" Pa shouts on the way down. "We thought this was the right way."
"I followed you! I was doing what you told me to do!" Debbie screams.
"Turns out we was wrong." Ma manages to squeal before she hits water.
"But I wasted all this time following you!" Debbie whispers before she too, splashes into the water.

Pa and Ma thought they knew where they were going. Debbie, being an obedient little lemming, wasn't far behind. She convinced Lennie to come along.. and so on.. If enough people follow the folks that claim to know where they're going... potluck dinners will spring up faster than beer bongs at a kegger.. And well, we've all seen what happens when free food and beer is available..

Far be it from me to begrudge anyone from pledging a fraternity... Hey, I may even swing by for a party or two. I may not like some of the songs you play but I'm cool with your gig. Just don't make me pledge.

Reader Comments (38)

Zowie! What a great piece of writing, TGH.

Okay, gotta go drink some Kool Aid with the cul... ah, I mean, the neighbors from across the street. Then I'm off to the Amway... ah, I mean, Direct Marketing Association meeting!
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
well put, monica. nail on the head.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkasey
Although a bit younger, you are my new crush.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
I pledged a fraternity... then de-pledged about a week before joining the "brotherhood" when I figured out the reason my grades weren't so good was because of all the fun social activities.

I can, however, still recite the Greek alphabet three times before a match burns. This remains one of my proudest accomplishments.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer
This is a great post, I really can relate to exactly what you are saying. The analogy is so fitting.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMerteuil
Wow. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, and up until now, have enjoyed your insight on life and its many avenues. But this, this is the last straw for me.
Who are you to make me feel small for believing and having faith in God?
I think you are just a little too self righteous for your own good.
Good luck to you.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreek Girl
StFarmer <--- sits down with his bucket of popcorn and glances at Monica.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer
Alright Monica, way to weed out the believers. I think the Greek Girl may be thinking your lack of interest in organized religion makes her religious beliefs under attack. Thats all I am going to say about that because if She can't see what you were saying then there is no point arguing. I love when we talk about religion on your site, it warms my heart that every warm body on this planet isn't trying to kill each other over a belief. The only thing I might blow myself up over is the perfect steak with complimenting wine, but that is just a maybe. The only crusade I want to go on is to the local Starbucks, the sacrifice being the $1.90 I drop for 20 oz. of the mud 'o the day. The only secret handshake I want to know includes being naked and under some sheets, oh wait, I can still get that at the Mormon Temple....I guess I don't want any secret handshake....Maybe a nice, thick Milkshake :)


February 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercchild
Sorry Greek Girl - if you felt I was trying to make you feel small. I believe in and have faith in some sort of God.. It's the organized religions I have trouble with.. specifically the one I was raised in.. And in my humble experience, the analogy holds up.. Hope you keep reading...
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Just becuase someone's religious oppionion doesn't jive with your own doesn't mean you should write off all the other amazing things in this blog. I really thought this post was funny and sad because it's so true.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSunny
Woah woah woah. WHERE on the face of this planet can you get a 20oz cup of Starbucks coffee for 1.90?
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSicksadworld
Ah, such controversy. I think it's hard for some people who have honestly found great meaning in organized religion to see this perspective, because they don't separate the religion from the organization. I understood this post to be criticizing the institutionalization of religious beliefs, not the beliefs themselves. But people who identify so strongly with such institutions have a hard time swallowing such criticism because it feels like personal criticism. Social Identity Theory at its worst.

The only thing I personally might challenge here is the characterization of people who follow a church as lemmings. While I myself see the reality in the followers-as-lemmings analogy, I can see where a true religious follower might take offense.

Lemmings reference aside, I think the last paragraph of the post is the real take-home point. To each her own.

On a separate note, I have to wonder if Greek Girl is really offended by the perceived criticism of her religious beliefs or was she actually just pissed about the not-so-positive take on fraternities/sororities? Or both? Her name is GREEK Girl, after all. I first assumed that meant she was from Greece, but now I'm curious. Greek Girl? In which sense are you Greek? I'm honestly just curious, not trying to be a smart-ass in any way.

Sorry for the VLP (Very Long Post).
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
Great point Amanda.. being called a lemming is definitely offensive.. and again - I'm not calling everyone who follows an organized religion a lemming..If someone has thoroughly researched their religion, (as many of my acquaintances have done) instead of just growing up with the religion and going with the flow (as many of my acquaintances also have done) I got no problem with their chosen path... It's the lemmings that give me a rash.. the ones that choose not to empower themselves with knowledge and explain everything away with "we'll understand when we die, you just need to have faith.."
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
You are an intolerant, self righteous piece of work. I just read the article about you in the city weekly and came here to confirm my suspicions.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph
"God" or our living cosmos, was always there. Religion is simply a way of controlling people.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
Joseph Smith? Is that you?

Pot. Kettle. Black
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
What article? There is an article about you? Are you holding out on us?
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Joseph....Eat a post anal sex cock. Joe, eat post anal ass, too.

Here is Monica's SL blurb:

Sicksadworld, you may purchase a $1.90 cup of starbucks best in Orem, Utah. If you choose to visit I will personally splurge and buy us both a cup. I know, I know I have a good heart it is my weakness.

February 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercchild
"Joseph....Eat a post anal sex cock. Joe, eat post anal ass, too"

cchild - As Sally Field would say, I guess this means you like me, you really, really like me!
February 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
a post drawing a comparison between organized religion and fraternities (and, for that matter, lemmings) draws vitriol from those who disagree. i did NOT see that coming. i was completely blindsided, catamounts. if you read the post carefully, you'll see, as noted above, the criticism is aimed at those who blindly follow (hence the lemming reference) without first questioning or challenging. it's a shame that nearly every conversation about organized religion almost immediately deteriorates into an insult-hurling contest. wouldn't it be more interesting to have the difficult conversation? the conversation where somebody says, "look, this is what i know. this is how i was raised. am i terrified it might be wrong? yeah. does it help me sleep better at night to believe it's right? absolutely."
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkasey
Snap! You are one sharp, funny, fellow and methinks even Sam Lipsyte would agree.
February 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Isn't this about the time where that Chicago guy posts my favorite new phrase?

"aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh whorepipe!"

(Jeez, I'll feel stupid if I got that wrong.)
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
Kudos to you for a beautiful, edgy, sassy blog. I am amazed at the quality of your writing - and the subject matter is so varied and entertaining.

Well done. I will be back.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJeeves
I read this post earlier today and was sort of sitting back and waiting to see what the responses were going to be. As someone who was not raised in the Mormon church, this is really an interesting post (and replies). As discussed elsewhere on this site, I'm Catholic, and we have our share of public problems, angry former members, etc. But I sense something different coming from former Mormons than I've seen/read/discussed with former Catholics. What is it? Sorry to be dense, I grew up on the east coast and there's not a whole lot of Mormons in the NYC Metro area. In fact, the only Mormon I know is a guy from CA my friend is divorcing. His family seemed very nice at the wedding, and we got to drink all the booze since they didn't, but that's the extent of my personal Mormon contact. So what's the sense of being outside the Plato-esque cave? What's the sense of "I know the real deal now"? Is it that the religion is so confining? Or such a part of everyday life that not to believe is unthinkable? I'm curious.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
EDW - Did you read the article featuring Monica? It helps shed some light on Monica's feelings, at least. I've spent a fair amount of time checking out the ex-mormon website as well. It's fascinating.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
The Salt Lake City Weekly one on abortion? I did. I thought it was very good, and I'd also read that chapter on the site. I haven't checked out the ex mormon website yet. I think what interests me is how much a community the religion is. As a teen, my friends and I had the typical experiences, but never with a community like that. I went with my girl friend so she could get an abortion, but we went to the clinic in town (down the street from our Catholic high school). Her journey wasn't across state lines. She came back to school without comment - her pain was emotional, for many reasons, but not for those of religion.

I guess what I'm saying is I can't imagine people treating a 17 year kid that way in the name of God. Teens need compassion, and understanding, and birth control. And my question is, is that a choice of individuals, or a part of the religion?

i really hope I don't offend anyone with these questions - i'm just curious, i'm not making a judgment.
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
The best thing about Mormons is their sense of community.. Their willingness to help those in need.. Somebody in your family dies - eight Mormon women will show up on your front porch with dinner for a week.

The worst thing about Mormons is their racism, bigotry and homophobia.. How a religion can preach "do unto others as you would have done unto you" and then behave so reprehensibly toward African Americans and Gays (I know.. this isn't just the Mormons) is simply beyond me.

I've found that Mormons from states other than Utah are generally a more tolerant bunch, perhaps from being exposed to a more diverse group of people. Many Mormons I grew up with in Utah were self righteous, pompous, would sneer down their noses at anyone they didn't think was worthy (all the while keeping scandal in their own home firmly swept under rug)... A church should be a hospital for sinners, not a house for the holy - and that's something many Utah Mormons would do well to remember.. That said, some of the kindest, coolest people I've met are Mormon.. I'm trying not to generalize..

From what I've seen regarding Catholics.. they're more willing to accept the religious beliefs of others.. sort of an agree to disagree policy.. Mormons I grew up with tend to be pushy.. feel obligated to let you know their church is THE ONE true church... They want to impose their moral code on everyone and if you don't agree with them... you feel the sting.

I think the reason ex-Mormons seem so shell-shocked is that the faults in the Mormon religion are easily traceable.. It's so new. It's one of the only religions completely documented in recent history.. Catholicism is harder to disprove.. It's ancient.. So ex-Catholics seem to be more of a non practicing breed as opposed to your average ex-MO who has read up on things and feels utterly duped by the religion of their birth.... I'm obviously conjecturing here - and making generalizations based on my personal experience... But one of the most unsettling experiences of my life was realizing the church was bollocks... then looking back on all the trusted and admired adults and friends I grew up with, realizing they don't get it. And now - they look at me with the same feeling. They think I don't get it, that I've lost my way, lost my faith.. am certainly headed for a lesser kingdom. They really believe that. I could be the best wife, mother, all-around fantastic individual.. but because I deny the church is true - I am surely headed somewhere other than where they, the righteous are headed.

My mom gets upset when I talk this way.. thinks I got to far, am disrespectful.. But I am PISSED that I was raised to feel the way I do about sex, my body... the guilt, the shame.. They still have their church services, their scriptures.. and now, I have my words and I won't be shamed into not talking about it anymore for fear of "what will the neighbors think?"

Besides, the "Mormon" neighbors probably have a gimp locked in the basement that they take out only for their swinger parties the Saturday nights before Sunday services.
February 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
"A church should be a hospital for sinners, not a house for the holy"

Can I get an Amen!


Longtime Lurker
February 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBlair
i'm always surprised at how those who worship at the altar of religious freedom--mormons only being the most recent religion to do so--seem so poorly acquainted with the concept of religious tolerance.

and the catholic religion may indeed be an ancient one, but what with all that molestation--not to mention the nazi pope and the church's inability to recognize women as people--makes it rough to be a true believer.

maybe the church isn't the safest place for a person's soul after all.
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercarey
Very well put Carey. I was watching the news today. Religious people in New Jersey showed up to pray the supreme court judges would rule against gay marriage. Yet if you lambast their religion and they are the first ones to cry foul. It doesn't make sense.
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSunny
I have held her heart. In the middle of the worst nights, with tears streaming down, and no where to run....I have held that girl close to me and felt her shivers of hurt...her doubting quakes. I have listened closely in the middle of the night as she relived alot of pain in order that I might understand.

Her honesty and fear has floored me more than twice.

So tonight i must say this: as far as i am concearned....if there is a God.....he sides with women like Monica, women who spend their lives trying to connect with the ones they love....and make decisions completely on their own.

I would fight a Crusade for that girl if she needed me to.

But, in the end she doesn't. And that is why she is fucking amazing.

I love you Monica. I always will.

February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSurge
...and then her husband comes along and trumps us all.

a friend once told me, "i believe there's a god, and it ain't me." that' pretty much the theory i subscribe to.

and i don't know about reincarnation or possession, but my cat is imbued with the righteousness and wrath of that angry old testament god. but that could be because he's a mean dwarf with a weight problem.
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkasey
Can't we all just get along?
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGod
The best bumper sticker of all time:

"Jesus is coming. Look busy!"
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
I never thought of this analogy until reading this and realized how completely true it is. Including the part about the 'lemmings'. I don't understand just blindly following a group of people and you're correct that reserach is imperative. Most likely the group that you follow-fraternity or church-will take up a large part of your life, so wouldn't it make sense to know what you're really pledging your life to?
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
hey surge, get back to writing you some blogs of your own.
February 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBillyBob
Having left the mormon church behind myself, I know how difficult that can be. All at once, realizing that everything your parents and grandparents taught you is bullshit. You feel like you're turning against your ancestors, your friends, your family; and many of them turn against you. For a group of people who have been discriminated against because of their beliefs for so many years, you'd think they'd be a bit more tolerant now. Sadly, they've failed to learn from their own history.

At least I can have a drink without feeling guilty now.

Well said, Monica. I'm a lemming no longer.
February 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterUtahSpanky
Thanks man.. I think ex-mormons have a bond even stronger than the practicing mormons think they have... because when you're among family members that still "believe" you almost feel persectuted for not believing.. Weird - persecuted for a nonbelief..
February 17, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica

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