Saturday I had the honor to attend my uncle's funeral in Arizona, to remember his life and mourn his death. He was a good man: an artist, musician, corporate executive, father, husband, and so much more.
Uncle Ted was also a devout Christian, of the sort that I respect. His religion was personal and simple: When he needed help, he prayed for guidance, when things went well, he gave thanks. He didn't push his beliefs on others, but if you asked him about it, he'd tell you. I don't share his beliefs, but I respect Uncle Ted's honest, straight-ahead approach. Uncle Ted's religion was moral, honest, and light-years ahead of the destructive, dishonest, aggressive tactics of the evangelical ultra-conservative groups that dominate the news and politics.
His memorial service was conducted by a Christian minister, a very sweet woman and good friend of Uncle Ted. Listening to her prayers, at that emotional, sad time, I got a deep understanding of the appeal, of why religion makes so much sense to so many people. I wrote about this extensively in my book, in fact it's the core thesis: Religion is an evolving species that has had thousands of years to adapt to fit the human psyche perfectly, to be incredibly appealing (irrespective of whether it is true or made up).
Listening to The Lord's Prayer at Uncle Ted's memorial, I finally understood emotionally what I knew intellectually. We just don't want to say goodbye, forever, to Uncle Ted. The thought that his life, and everything he ever had, is gone, is sometimes too hard to bear. All those wonderful cowboy songs, his beautiful voice, the way he strummed his guitar, his talent with a paintbrush, his gentle but mischievous smile, his generosity (unless you were playing cards against him!), his charity work, his wise advice ... all gone forever. How can this be? Isn't there another answer, a way that, even though he is gone from us, that somehow he's not really gone? Can't we see Uncle Ted again someday?
Alas, no. He's really gone, and all that's left of him is the good memories, and the lessons he taught those of us who were lucky enough to have him in our lives.
And I now have a deeper understanding now of just how appealing religion is.