Daily Prompt: Sanctuary


Courtesy, rubylane.com

Sanctuary, for so many people, evokes a safe place. For me, though, sanctuary unnerves me.

The word’s meaning, according to Merriam-Webster, is

  • a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter

  • the protection that is provided by a safe place

  • the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanctuary

The word derives from the late Latin work, sanctuarium, which, according to http://www.latin-dictionary.org, means ,”place keeping holy things or private/confidential records.” So the word has pretty much not changed for at least 2,000 years.

I was brought up in an “evangelical” Methodist Church in Texas. Growing up, I had only seen this church and the church where my grandparents attended.
But within this very small, very isolated community, I was different from everyone around me. Two or three times a week, I had to file into the Sanctuary of this church and listen to the evangelical preacher. I saw everyone explode in unhinged emotion almost every time I stepped into that Sanctuary. Nothing made sense to me. The preacher spoke of miracles and a virgin birth. “He has risen, he has risen, indeed,” echoed from the pews of this Sanctuary constantly. You must have the faith of a mustard seed. You must believe. If you don’t, you will be condemned to hell.
But I did not feel safe in this place. It did not make me feel protected. With all of the commotion around me, it made me feel like everyone was in on this mythological game and I’m doomed to play it, day in and day out. Constantly. And stand to be ridiculed at the very least if I dare to blurt out that I think this is all ridiculous.
It was not a sanctuarium to me. Rather, it felt like a sanatorius, a sanatorium: “an establishment for the treatment of he chronically ill.” (Thanks again, Merriam-Webster.)
Now I know that people who are religious are not mentally ill. Religion and spirituality appear to be ingrained in our DNA. (Remember the “God Gene?”) While many of us are hard-wired to find “sanctuary” in religion, not all of us find comfort in its dogma, its stories, its beliefs, its overwhelming attempt to pull in everyone in its path. Question, but do not question too much. Don’t get wise-ass on Jesus.
So sometimes, a Sanctuary is not a sanctuary.

3 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Sanctuary”

  1. I feel your pain. I was lucky (although a majority of our fellow citizens would disagree) in that I was raised in a “free-thinker” environment. I characterize my father as a bitter atheist; he did not seem settled with his belief discipline, although he certainly wasn’t religious. His belief system was Puritan work ethic, graduate level, but “god” and church, no. My mom started attending a Presbyterian church later in her life, but what she believed, truly believed, will always be beyond me. She chose to be cryptic about this kind of stuff, although she was clear about all sorts of other matters, particularly getting things done.

    So I grew up with bible stories and a smattering of church attendance but was not held to these. My nose wasn’t pressed into the millstone of zealotry (I rather like that image, perhaps inspired by seeing your review of “Zealot” below). Fast forward to launching into a study of science after I had completed an undergraduate degree in chemistry. The more I thought about science, the more I came to a belief that my mind (and the minds of all humans) was too insignificant, however amazing, to be blathering on about creators. For there to be a creator, it would have to be a something so far beyond the ability of a human mind to comprehend that there was no point in us attempting to define “it.” It was better, as Alexander Pope said to concern ourselves with ourselves: ” Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man.” While he was a devout Christian (and while I would appreciate it if he had included the other 50% of our population in his musings), he admitted the futility of scanning “God.”

    We have a rich universe of things we fully and partially comprehend. To my mind, we should concern ourselves with those. I define myself as an agnostic, as I believe scientists should be. Scientists are constantly running up to the edge of what can be known, probing a bit further, and finding new stuff out. Scientists do not declare the answer upfront and then go home. That is what religion does, at least when it is not concerned with human behavior – and I can appreciate religion to the extent that its wiser bits focus on ethical issues. Otherwise, I’ll stick to science and the beauty of not knowing.

    Keep up your work – it is great work and will bring you happiness!

    MSOC (p.s. you can take this as a personal communication and delete it or let it ride – your choice).


    1. It is so very interesting to me that people who were brought up in very different environments sometimes get a glimpse of what reality really is and follow that same path. Being from Texas, it is my observation that in order to perpetuate the myth of religion, it must be taught to very young children so that they learn to question, but not really question. The whole idea of the Texas Board of Education bringing in such bogus ideas as intelligent design is to plant the seed of doubt in reality and keep them believing in the myth of miracles, virgin births and bodily ascension into heaven. Also, the religious try to support the religion vs. science meme, when they don’t even realize that religion and science are not even in the same realm, what Stephen Jay Gould called “non-overlapping magesterium in his book, “Rocks of Ages.” You were lucky in that your parents did not insist that you waste your time in church, not really planting that seed of myth that took me years to untangle. I, too, sought the sciences and earned a degree in engineering, which helped me to begin to unravel the fallacy of christianity, bit by bit. There is a reason why the Roman Catholic Church controlled learning in the Middle Ages–keep the population uneducated and thus control their every movement, every thought, every deed, with abject fear. Around here, too, the christians teach that they are the singular moral authority in the world. Morality and ethics began long before christianity, from the Code of Hammurabi to the Greek philosophers. Education is a dangerous thing to myth. Oh, yes, we want you to be educated, but once you begin questioning our tenants, then you are too educated. But is that not the point? Science is self-correcting in its inherent nature; religion is self-propagating in that whatever it takes to perpetuate the myth, we will believe and disseminate. Thank you for your sage words. SCH

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the wonderful response! I don’t intend to be attention-seeking here, but you may like my post called “Civility.” I think morals and ethics is an inherent part of our – and life’s – genetic coding. I think you’ll get how I mean this (I’m sure you already do) if you read that item.
        Kind Regards,


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