Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Religion

I rarely gave it much thought, this religion business. I believe in souls, life after death, in some other worldly essence beaming down on us. I believe in a higher purpose and I've wondered if I'd be happier if I possessed more spirituality. Yet I don't buy the Catholic faith I was raised under. I'd pretend to be asleep just so I could avoid going to mass on Sunday mornings and once I experienced several panic attacks while standing in a hot and crowded church for an hour, I stopped going altogether.

"Dad, why did Jesus get super powers and I didn't?" I'd ask, but no answer was ever to my satisfaction. I just couldn't wrap my mind around those stories. Reading the Bible is no easy task for a skeptic; it was an exercise in suspending reality and I quickly grew weary of questioning every line I read so I never got much farther than the point where everybody begot everyone else.

But I was baptized, I went to Catholic school and did my first communion because that's what you were supposed to do. Did I understand any of it? At 10 years old, not really, but I memorized the Our Father and Hail Mary and recited them mindlessly upon demand. As soon as I had a say, I stopped attending mass every week. I haven't done my confirmation and I haven't followed through on Lent traditions in years. Still, saying I don't believe in God outright seems too harsh, too final. What if there is one? So I've been hanging somewhere between belief and non-belief, not giving it much thought and hoping my own moral compass is enough to steer me through this life.

How ironic that now that I'm dating an atheist, religion is regularly a topic of conversation and I've had to question my own stance on the subject. A.'s position is crystal clear: he uses his understanding of the natural world to determine that there is no god or any supernatural being. Not an easy pill for everyone to swallow and I've wondered if our small differences would cause hurdles in the future. But it all comes down to this: at the end of the day there's just mutual love and respect. We listen to each other with open minds, accept the things we agree on and simply acknowledge the things we don't.

Any future children will choose their own paths once they're fully aware of their choices (so no infant circumcisions or baptisms) and if they do go the religious route, we will love and support them completely. Everyone should be free to live their lives as they see fit so long as they don't impose their beliefs on others or condemn those who reject those views.

But still, even though it shouldn't matter, a tiny part of me worries about what my family will think once they learn of the choices we'd make, the judgments that would be passed around dinner tables. Leave it to Catholicism and that ingrained guilt trip.

What's your stance on religion? Have you ever been in a relationship with someone whose views differed from yours?

Image: britannica.com

13 comments:

  1. I've had a similar experience as you, though in the Nazarene church, rather than Catholic. I went. I did what I was supposed to do. Then as I got older, I questioned more and more and felt a lot of what they were telling me was just crazy stories made up by some old man somewhere. I don't go to church now at all, but I do believe in some sort of higher power. Mother Nature, or The Universe, or something.

    Thankfully, my boyfriend feels pretty much the same way I do.

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  2. Well you know how I feel about it, I'm a huge believer. But at the same time I respect other people's beliefs and would never impose mine on anyone else. I would never expect people to pray as often as I do or to thank God for everything the way I do. But personally I believe that the word religion gets a negative connotation, religion seems very impersonal when all religion should be is the relationship you have with the higher power you believe in.

    Religion should not be about what others think you should believe in or do it should be about what's in your heart. Personally I can't imagine my life without God and I can't imagine not being thankful to him for the things in my life. But that's just me and I would never judge someone for not feeling the same way and I would never allow criticisms over my personal decision to be a believer.

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  3. While it may not be an issue now, it could be a huge issue later. Especially if children are involved. This is one of those "biggies" and it's always better to be on the same page with those. Otherwise you become "unequally yoked", one person going one way, the other going another.

    I was a skeptic for years. I also had the Catholic school upbringing, the memorized prayers, the unanswered questions. None of it made sense, and I wound up not believing in any of it. The way I saw it, either there was no God, or He didn't care about me. So nutz to Him!!!

    Many years later, growing up (mentally, physically, spiritually_, marrying and having children changed me. Made me figure out what's what for myself. Reading, questioning and coming to have a personal relationship with God. Not thru a church or a priest - but just me and Him. The way I believe it's supposed to be.

    It is my personal opinion that the Catholic church has done more to harm, discourage and disuade people from God than Satan has!!

    So if you're in the thinking mood - keep thinking. Keep questioning. And you will find YOUR path, and YOUR answers!

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  4. I believe in God, go to church and do my best to live by the Bible.

    I thought it was kind of funny (not in a laughing way) that your boyfriend looks at the natural world and doesn't believe in God. We Christians believe that the earth declares His glory. That the heavens and the earth, its creatures and human beings in their beautiful complexity all point to a Creator. :-)

    As for relationships, the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. So no, I've never dated anyone who didn't believe the way I did and the man I married believes as I do.

    When it comes to friendships, I will be friends with anyone who is kind and respectful, and I try to be the same way with others.

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  5. Like you I was raised Catholic. Over the years I have gone through every religion I can find and have come to the conclusion that I am more spiritual than religious. I don't believe that any one religion is better than another. They all have their faults. And no amount of money dropped into a collection plate on Sunday is going to buy you a seat in heaven.

    I question my faith every single day. I believe it is a duty of a person of faith to question it. After the questions when there are no solid answers, your faith in what is or isn't real is all that you have left.

    On a funny note: One of my first serious boyfriends took me to a vacation bible school at his Southern baptist church. The very first sermon that was preached was on the idol worshiping Catholics and their wine drinking in the church and how all of that was blasphemy. When they asked the guests to stand and introduce themselves I stood up and said, "Hi. I'm Stephanie. I'm Catholic." and then just sat back down.

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  6. :) You went to the virtual fair and had funnel cake and this pops out.

    This is so very nicely written - the writting I "signed up for" when I started following you. Thoughtful, provoking, and sensitive.

    I turned down a date in college with a girl that wasn't "in my religion" and have for years regretted my upbringing's "closed-mindedness"... she was and is a wonderful person and who's to say what might of been...

    After many detours along the way (I even neared A.'s ...point of view... I guess you have to call it that since it not believing is not a religion at one point...) I've come to the self understanding that I, my limited humanself, do not and will not, be able to preceive the huge "big picture" and have to be generally tolerant of those that "think" they know the Truth (with the capital "T").

    That said, I think even A. would agree some of the common (shared) guiding rules of most religions are universal truths or at least, ways to live by. And the awe within us when we see a full moon over the city, a rainbow, or a huge tall tree, can be numinous even if it isn't divine.

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  7. I can identify with your post here, and I love your take on your relationship and how you may raise future children. I think everyone needs to examine their spirituality for themselves (once they are old enough) and decide what they believe... without pressure from their parents or society. It's such a personal choice.

    I was raised as you were -- a Catholic -- and I was Confirmed. In college I dated a guy who was also raised Catholic but didn't buy any of it. So I drifted away. It wasn't until recently (the past year or so) that I've rediscovered my faith, and I'm now an active member of the Catholic Church. It's what I chose for myself after a long journey of investigation, questioning and reflection.

    Seems like a bad way to conclude this, but fitting too... I'm giving you an award on my blog tomorrow. Because of posts like this. I love reading your views!

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  8. I agree that in a relationship THIS is one of the "biggies" that you MUST agree on. And even not in a relationship, YOU must stand for something or you will fall for ANYTHING! I was raised in a home where my mother was Baptist and my Father was Methodist and all the children were baptized and raised Catholic. Do you notice the trend that our family reflected different "denominations" but worshipped and praised the SAME God. "Religion" and "Denomination" mean nothing if you don't have a true relationship AND fellowship with God. That means actively having a place for Him in your life. I am NOTHING without God (he is my strength, refuge, peace, etc.) I believe in the Bible and try to live my life accordingly. Never close your mind to differing opinions but STAND for something!!!
    Great post!

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  9. Interesting comments. Religion is such a touchy subject, dunno why.. maybe it's because I'm so relaxed about it and don't take it all so seriously. I don't sit around pondering whether He exists or not or analyze the bible to the T.... if I did, I'd probably go a little crazy, only because what's written in there (true or not)... it just all seems so far fetched. I know what I believe in (spiritual and what not), and I have accepted that I will never know for sure whether there is an after life until that time comes, so I am in NO rush to find out, lol. I still struggle with accepting the fact that one day I will no longer exist (in this world.. or at all), but I can't do anything to prevent that.

    With that said... do I think it's something two individuals in a relationship MUST agree on in order for the relationship to thrive? Psh, no. I do agree, however, that if it's something you feel strongly about and can't see yourself being with someone who doesn't stand where you do on this, then of course find someone who shares your views. But I do think it's very possible to share an entire life with someone and not stand where they do on religion and other subjects. What you do have to agree on is how you'll raise your children if and when they do come, because that's a joint effort, something that will require both of your input.

    Hmm.. does this mean I'm an "unbeliever"? lol... Why not just accept people for who they are...

    "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" Seriously... I don't know about all that.

    I love you Dorkys, even if you don't believe =)

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  10. Love you too, sis and thanks to everyone else who's commented :)

    I'm also very lax about the subject and I might not take a solid position on one side or the other, but I guess my middle-of-the-road stance is what's worked for me so far and I'm not about to let anyone sway me in any direction until I figure out what's best for me. It might shift somewhere down the line maybe after I have a family, children, some life-changing event occurs, but as of now I can say that straight-up religion is not for me.

    Although there are exceptions to this rule, I've always liked seeing before buying into anything. I prefer to see proof, hear, feel, touch, but I also accept that there are things that are still unexplainable and hope that one day we can reach a definite conclusion we can all agree upon- if that's possible.

    The supernatural things I do semi-subscribe to are not because I know with all my heart that they are true. It's not because I've witnessed ghosts or angels or received a message from the great beyond. In fact, thinking that we possess souls that transcend into another life is not even about my own salvation. I've never even pictured myself in a Heaven or Hell. I let my mind believe these stories because when my loved ones pass away, it will provide comfort. It makes me feel better to know that I could visit their graves, speak to them and that they will listen.

    If I put that aside though and just go with science and hard facts do I believe 100% that this will happen? No, not really, but death in that way seems final. A period at the end of the sentence rather than an ellipsis. I like letting my mind believe that our souls continue on. And if it doesn't happen, well then once my consciousness flickers out it won't matter much now will it?

    As for nature being a manifestation of God's power vs nature being a result of years of evolution and randomness, I look at it this way: is what we have here and now not enough to appreciate and marvel over that we must seek other things to attribute it to or live this awesome life as if it were just preparation for something else? What if this is all there is? So I want to live my life as if this is all I'm going to get...just in case this IS all I'll get.

    Til then I'm fact-checking and questioning what any authority tells me.

    And P.S. I'd never even heard the term "unequally yoked" til now, but perhaps I'm naive/idealistic to believe that two people in love can get through any differences as long as there's communication, respect and open-mindedness?

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  11. I am a Bible-believing Christian. I wasn't baptized as a baby or raised with any specific beliefs, other than being told there was a God. Then again, I was also told there was a Santa Claus.

    Becoming a Christian was a decision I made for myself at the age of 12. Eventually, I also chose to get baptized. It was actually because of me and my sister that my mother started going to church.

    Today I am married to a non-believer. He believes in the possibility of God but he's completely on the fence about the whole religion thing. I know this isn't something that would work for a lot of people, but it works for us. We're soul mates. I tell him, "How can you not believe in God? You were a gift to me from Him." He thinks that's sweet but that it was a "fortuitous accident" that we met.

    As for our children, there were no circumcisions or baptisms. (Although the anti-circumcision decision wasn't based on religious beliefs but rather a shift in the thinking that this is a necessary procedure for every single baby boy.) My husband and I share our beliefs with our children and know that when the time is right they will make the decision that is best for them.

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  12. When you don't have a clear idea where you stand, it makes it difficult to put into words how you feel. At least that's where I find myself in this religious discussion. Here's my take.

    Hubs believes - although formal, organized religion isn't his forte right now. He's very sure about his feelings on God and Jesus and the miracles and such.

    I am where you are, it sounds. I don't want to rule out the possibility, but having a sure sense that everything Biblical is SURE...I'm not so sure.

    I believe THIS ONE THING about people who DO believe in God - ( and in being watched over, that praying brings what you need when you need it (whether that's what you prayed for or not is no matter)...but that somehow, believing in Jesus and God will guide your life exactly where it's supposed to be and in the direction that God wants) - the believers HAVE A SENSE OF PEACE THAT I ENVY.

    People who truly believe, and not because it's the cool thing to do and force upon others, but those people who truly love the idea and SURENESS in their beliefs possess a certain ease. They have a sense of security because of this belief that helps them get through the day to day grind that is life.

    So regardless if they're right in their beliefs or if A is....why wouldn't I want to introduce my children to the idea of God and what that idea can bring your life? Why not teach them the biblical lessons that are important to life no matter if God exists or not in the form of the Biblical stories? If my children can find comfort and peace with life's trials by believing in a higher power, what harm can come?

    I want Hubs to teach the kids what he believes because I think it's a peaceful way to grow up. Overall however, it's the lessons about living right (wrapped in Biblical stories) that should be stressed, and that's what I want my kids to take away from it all. No matter what they end up believing in.

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  13. My hubby has the same basic beliefs as me, and we do have the same religion. I was with a guy who didn't though. He was fine, we just agreed to disagree. But his mother had issues with me when she discovered what myy beliefs were.

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