Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice’s fiction piece, Boys with Secrets
John: I love the way this piece blurs the line between what is traditionally considered sacred and profane. Why do you suppose people insist on dividing the world into these two realms?
Kaitlyn: Thank you! And good question! So much of religion already feels profane to me, which does make the divide seem especially arbitrary. I’m specifically thinking of the religion referenced in the story, which is loosely based on an experience I had at a church where women cover their heads and homosexuality is the worst of the sins. To me, love and joy and compassion are sacred. Friendship is sacred. What’s not sacred? Hate disguised as faith.
How good are you at seeing the joy in the mundane? Any hints for the rest of us?
Not very good! Actually, here’s what gives me joy: Coffee. Bagels. Yoga. My son laughing. In the right circumstances, these regular activities take on an almost meditative, religious quality. And I think there’s a particular kind of joy in being content with the boredom of daily life. Contentment is a religion I try to practice, though I often don’t succeed.
Is there a God, and does she/he/it have a sense of humor?
I don’t think so, but I wish I did think so. I was raised without religion in a town that was 99.9% Catholic. I always felt like an outsider. And even now as an adult, I wonder if I would be happier (and less anxious) with the assurances faith can provide. If God does exist, and maybe she does, she is most certainly a stand-up with an epic shoe collection. That much I know is true.
What would your ideal religion look like?
I think people’s need for faith revolves around a need to feel like the universe isn’t random, like terrible things happen for a reason. I get that. The alternative is too terrifying, but I also think there’s a certain freedom in realizing you can’t will or pray your life’s pieces into place. I suppose my religion would be the anti-religion, one where you let go and be kind and good and decent not because you’re worried about eternal damnation but because you want to be. A friend of mine (who is a believer) once asked how I could know right from wrong without the Bible, without some kind of higher being telling it to me. I said, “From my parents, of course,” and he said, “How did your parents know?” On and on this conversation went until we agreed to disagree. These aren’t arguments you can win or conversations you can finish. My religion would be one of no absolute truths. Also, there would be bagels. So many bagels.