This I Believe

Christoher - Burlington, North Carolina
Entered on December 28, 2007

This belief came to me after a lifetime of reflection on a 10th grade English assignment. I was studying the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe. I memorized it, performed it several times in many different capacities, and only now ten or twelve years later have I extracted the final strain of meaning. The poem tells of a woman, Annabel Lee (supposedly Mrs. Poe’s literary stand in) that is the speaker’s love. She has such surpassing beauty that she even makes angels jealous. In the course of the poem, she meets her demise when these rogue angels “shut her up in a sepulcher / in this kingdom by the sea.” But, as the poem instructs “…. neither the angels in heaven above, / Nor the demons down under the sea, / Can ever dissever my soul from the soul / Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.”

It is the structure of the verb in the last couplet that only now merits attention. I recall after I concluded my initial performance, in 10th grade, that my teacher asked me what “dissever” meant. I said that it meant to separate, or sever based on context clues. ‘Dis,’ meaning the oposite of; and ‘sever,’ meaning to separate combine wonderfully in the word ‘dissever’ to mean sever. Poe uses this to conserve the meter and provide alliteration, common vices of any poet. Another linguistic example can be found in the word ‘irregardless.’ Irregarless means regardless. Only now, though, does this construct trouble me. If the precise opposite of a word means the same word again, what does that mean for God? What about the word “omnipotent?” Does knowing everything equate with knowing nothing?

My other thought came to me in church as I pondered the fractioning of the Church by the Reformation. One of Luther’s main objections was over the established practice of endulgences. The idea of ‘paying’ the church in order for forgiveness was repulsive to the Monk, and as a confirmed Lutheran, I must concure. As I travelled down this road, the next turn led me to Heaven. “Everything will be alright in heaven” I can remember thinking. “Release me from my mortal coil” I can remember begging.

If heaven is complete happiness, then isn’t is also complete sadness? If Jesus paid for all our sins, then why not sin? Other than the associated moral delemma that comes with guilt, why be good? If the kingdom of heaven is already undeniably in all our futures, why sacrifice anything for it? If ‘everything’ will be alright in heaven, then will not also nothing be alright? If heaven equals nothingness, then I wish to remain in my mortal coil for as long as I can. However, if heaven equals nothingness, then it also equals everything. And so the mystery of faith remains mysterious.

What it all boils down to is a harsh scepticism of established religion. What I believe is that the true and very sinister purpose of the “Church” is to preserve social order by convincing poor farmers they need to throw in 10% every Sunday to get to heaven where they will be “happy” when they die. This isn’t any edictment on Joel Ostein, the Pope, or any of their minions. There can be little doubt that many of them use the money they steal for various good deeds, or social services. Yet, somehow the social order remains the same.