Ah religion. That is a word I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. I specifically remember asking my mom about God, what He looked like, who He was, etc. when I was a child. I'm certain most children raised in religious families ask similar questions, but I wonder if they questioned the answers as much as I did--even at a young age.
Growing up in a Catholic (?) family (my mom & her family were, my dad wasn't), we went to mass regularly and then were involved in the religious ed classes during the week. I never enjoyed going-- I didn't mind seeing all the other kids but even then I had a hard time with the "lessons". In high school, I attended the CCD classes and even was part of the leadership group. Still, I hated going (except for the social part and the free pizza of course) and had more and more questions about God, Jesus, religion, etc. My questions were never answered, and I always felt a sense of annoyance from those to whom I was asking.
I remember my first communion, & the pretty dress I wore (I LOVED it!) but i also remember my first confession that went along with it. I specifically remember thinking it was so strange that I could go tell Fr. McClintok that I was sometimes mean to my little sister and said bad words and then God would forgive me if I said 10 Hail Mary's and 5 Our Fathers. Still I wonder where the lesson is in that? My first "stand" against religion was when I was a junior in high school and refused to be confirmed into a church that I didn't agree with. Looking back, I realize that I it probably hurt my parents and especially my grandparents, but I am so glad that I never took the plunge just "for show".
During my college years I was surrounded by good Christians of various denominations. Like many underclassmen, I was lured to attend the rocking energetic youth devotional service called, "BASIC" (brothers and sisters in Christ). I liked the music but glanced around and wondered if everyone was buying into this, and I tried! I wanted to believe all the Bible stories, wanting to jump on this exciting Christ bandwagon, I tried to just let myself believe. Afterall, isn't that what most people do? Their parents teach them that these stories are true and their children just believe? I tried to quit asking questions and just blindly accept these stories as truths. I attended conferences and supposedly "felt" Him and His presence. I read. I prayed. I think I might have been saved.
...But I still didn't really believe. I couldn't accept that Noah built a boat and every possible species was on it. I couldn't accept the story of Adam & Eve, and every other biblical fable. I still went to church sometimes (I LOVE church music!! and I LOVE Sunday mornings and sometimes I really love sermons). I sang, I prayed, I thought more and more. And more and more, I realized that Christianity just isn't for me.
This is where things get a little sticky. Don't get me wrong, I believe that a man named Jesus existed. I believe that he was a kind and generous man, and may have even capable of performing miracles and healing. I believe that he served others, didn't discriminate, and loved everyone equally. And I love the idea of living life like this man.
A lot of my frustration comes from living in rural Iowa, where (I feel) most people assume we all are Christians. I feel like I'm "in the closet" when it comes to religion. Every day, I want to let people know what I believe, yet I am so worried to do so. Many times, I have heard that it takes courage to be a Christian. While I'm sure this is true, I think it is much harder to let people know you respectfully disagree with Christianity. I don't want to push a different idea or belief, but I would like it if people knew my beliefs and simply accepted them--and me. And, (this is where the irony comes in) I truly believe that the most devout of my Christian friends would be the least empathetic. I know how difficult it would be for some people to even carry on a conversation with me if they knew "the truth". And I hate the idea of hurting people who love me (because they would be disappointed). But, I'm pretty sure their savior, king, and father named Jesus would still welcome me with open arms.
My point in writing this is not to offend anyone (which I'm afraid I have probably done) but mostly to sort out my feelings. I have so much Catholic guilt about even feeling this way (obviously--it's taken me 33 years to admit that I don't believe in God or Heaven or the Bible stories). There are so many beliefs and religions out there--only about 1/4 of the Earth's population is even Christian--so why am I so torn? Probably because I know how personal religion is to people, and how they might view my struggle. However, I'm really trying to overcome the guilt, and find peace with my beliefs. I'd love to find a community of support--where I can voice these thoughts with like minded individuals and feel a sense of belonging. I am painfully aware of those who praise, worship and shout God's name from the mountain tops-- I just wish they were as aware of those (like me) who think, ponder, reflect, and peacefully disagree.
And on that note, Happy Easter. :)