This blog post has been sitting in the back of my gullet for a while now (technically, it’s been in my drafts folder). It is tough for me to talk on this topic as so many of my friends and family are not only religious, but religion is the backbone of who they are as people. It is a cornerstone of their character. And I love my friends and family. Beyond words…
For me, it started at Confirmation Camp… Confirmation Camp is a place where faith should start to come into focus, but it’s where I first remembering having real questions. What happened in my small town the week of my confirmation camp is that a recent graduate of our high school committed suicide. The town was in shock and mourning, including us 12-13 year olds locked up in the church annex. The young man happened to be part of our congregation… and all of a sudden our pastor was put into a unique position. You see, our church at the time believed that no matter how good your life was, if you committed suicide, you went to hell. Maybe it still believes this, I don’t know. Ironically, we were delivered this lesson the night before the news broke. So here I am, 12 years old, learning that one of the kindest 18 year olds in my community was in hell.
Later in the week, the young man’s funeral was at the church and the story was much more uplifting and pleasant. And this was the second time I questioned my religion. So you can say one thing behind closed doors but another to a congregation? Where was the consistency? Either we believe he’s in hell or we don’t – it doesn’t go both ways.
I’ve questioned hell ever since. Are we really saying that a kind person – who gives of time and energy and love — over and over and over again — goes to hell if he/she does not believe Jesus was the son of G-d? Or that in the case above — someone who lived a beautiful life, but was overcome by personal pain, burns for eternity? That is about the cruelest G-d I can imagine, and not one I want to associate with… And so, I started to step away; subconsciously at first but deliberately now.
Since I’ve left – the church has changed in ways that have affirmed my decision. In many ways, it is unrecognizable to me. Yes, I know some church communities are amazing. For me – the gap created by leaving religion has just not been wide enough to waste energy trying to find those amazing communities.
I don’t check “atheist” when asked because I’d like to believe there is something bigger than humans. I check “none” instead. And it never feels quite right.
… and now I have children. On raising my kids sans religion:
- They are not baptized and I am 100% at peace with that – The offer stands for my (and Dave’s) immediate family: if squirting some water on their heads and saying a pray helps you sleep, then by all means – let’s baptize those kids. I am not daft enough to think a little water is going to harm them. It just doesn’t hold specific meaning for me.
- I want the values that I remember from church (being kind, having empathy, giving back, including the disadvantaged, loving the cast out…) to be center in their upbringing and I find ways to make that happen. I just do it on the backbone of being a good person — not as a ticket to heaven.
- As they get older, I’ll find avenues to teach them about all religions. Religion can be centered in love — but it can also drive disagreement, hate, and war.
- I respect the faith of others. You’ll notice I rarely send “thoughts and prayers” – I only send “thoughts.” I don’t pray often. I think I’ve prayed four times in the last year — I’m not sure to who — all out of some sort of feeling of desperation for someone I care about.
So — I said the unspoken. I admit to not being religious… And man, was it hard to hit publish on this post. Why does it feel so naughty?