Thursday, December 13, 2018

Let's Dig In: Religion Part I

*Trigger Warning* We're going to talk about organized religion and why I don't like it.

I started going to church in utero.  The church I grew up in wasn't the strictest, but it wasn't the most open either. There were rules, and you were suppose to follow them. There were certain things you were suppose to do and certain things you were suppose to say and if you didn't do those things, you were told you were wrong, and you were living in sin and you were not going to heaven because of it unless you asked for forgiveness and changed and conformed. I never felt bullied. There was pressure, but I never felt threatened. I never felt comfortable though either. I never felt like I belonged there.

Being gay was wrong. Being transgender was wrong. Dating or marrying someone outside the faith was very frowned upon. A former pastor was kicked out and his license was taken away because he and his wife got divorced. So growing up in that environment was at times very confusing to me. My grandparents got divorced but my grandma was still a church member. At first, as a child, I just accepted what I was told and taught. But I was at odds with what I was told to believe and do and be and what I thought and felt I was and who I wanted to be. I can remember when I was very little, maybe 5 years old, and my mom or dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. A simple question asked to many a 5 year olds. I distinctly remember saying, "I want to be a boy when I grow up". I don't remember what my parents thought of my answer or what was even said but I vividly remember saying that. I was standing in the hallway at our old house outside my then bedroom. I meant it. And I remember feeling the peach fuzz on my upper lip and thinking when will this grow into a mustache? How old will I be when it starts to grow? (The answer is early 20's) Of course now when I see any random hair that isn't fuzz on my face I yank that sucker out. I also remember thinking when I was in my late teens and 20's, thinking that because I wasn't into dating or boys or having sex that I was maybe a lesbian. But then I thought, I'm not really into girls either. So what was wrong with me? I did figure that one out. I am heterosexual, but I'm also asexual and if you don't know what that is or means, you should go figure that out, go learn something and broaden your horizons on what the range of human sexualities and genders are (there are more than two). This was always a conflict within the religion I was brought up in. There were two genders, there were men and women and they had certain roles to play and if you deviated too much from those roles then you were deviant and sinning and hurting god. Well fuck that shit.

It was okay to be single... as long as you were still looking for your mate. "That poor lady. She must be really sad and lonely. She hasn't found her other half yet." So sorry, that you think I'm only half a person for not marrying.

I know that many of you who read this know me personally from the church, but you also then know that I swear a lot in this space and many of you also know I don't go to church now as an older adult. I finally stopped going every week by around 19-20, and completely stopped by age 21. I only go now for special occasions. When my mom was still alive, she wanted the family to all go to Christmas Eve service. So I went because she's my mom. But I wouldn't participate. I don't pray. But out of respect when my dad or other family or friends do, I bow my head.

I'm just uncomfortable there. I've tried other churches, other denominations, and other religions. I'm not at ease with any of them or within any of their walls. I feel like I'm being manipulated there. They use music, lighting, and the way the leader speaks to invoke certain emotions within me. I don't like that. But that's what they are suppose to do. It's suppose to be a "religious experience". How else are they to do it? I don't know, but I don't like it.

So now do I call myself a christian? No. Do I call myself an atheist? No. Do I call myself agnostic? No. I don't know what I believe. Do I think there is an afterlife? Usually no. But then I find myself in conversations with people and I say things like, "well my mom is happy now, she's with Jesus." When I die, will my soul/spirit go somewhere? I don't think so, but then I think that's kind of sad. Aren't we suppose to think about how great it will be to be reunited with all our loved ones again, like my mom? If there is an afterlife, will I go to the "good place" because as a child/young person I "accepted Jesus into my heart"? Well, that depends on which religion you believe.

I start to question myself and doubt myself and think there might be something wrong with me because I just don't feel or believe in it. And I see these amazing and brilliant people around me like my dad who is super smart and has a very emotional and analytical mind who whole heartedly believes in god and heaven and who knows with every fiber of his being that when he dies, he will see his wife again. How can I then, in my own mind believe that that is all bullshit? That religion is just man made stuff made up to make people feel better about those unanswerable existential questions? Does he feel like a failure because his children aren't necessarily religious? Do other's see him as a failure for it? You better not, because we're freaking awesome!

Then I think well I'm a good person. I try to make the world around me better than I found it. So then if I'm wrong and there is a god and the religion I was raised in is "the one correct" religion will I then go to hell? Because I chose not to believe or do I get to go to heaven because deep down, I'm a good person. Are all the other religions wrong? Because if you look at the majority of the earths religions, the big picture and over arching themes are all the same. It's only in the details where they differ. So then are all religions the correct religion? Or are all these people who believe such things stupid for believing? There are some very intelligent people out there who are religious. They can't all be wrong can they? Then I think well then why do I have such a hard time with the concept?

I was religious for half my life so far. I tried. I tried to fit in. I tried to conform. I was in the scouting program. I was in church musicals, youth group, bible studies, worship team member. Even went to church summer camps and conferences. Listened to christian music, went to christian concerts and festivals. I was never comfortable. I couldn't be who I wanted to be. I couldn't be my true self. I couldn't say what I wanted to say. I was never comfortable in my own skin there. Why would I continue to go to a place week after week, year after year, if I was uncomfortable? That's like a slow torture.

Again, this is mostly about organized religion and churches. I have a long list of issues I have with organized religious institutions. Which is why I won't go to church services. (and that goes for protestant, catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc.) Maybe at some point I will delve into some of them, but not now.

People always tell young people or anyone to "just be yourself". Well I can't do that with these walls and rules and judgement.

So am I a christian (religious in general)? No. Am I agnostic? No. Am I an atheist? No. So what am I then? You have to be something. Everyone has to be something. Well, if you have to have an answer now then, the best I can do is, I am human. You may think that's a cop out or lame or a way to avoid the question and answering it but that's all I got right now. I am human.

Is my dad wrong for believing in a higher power? No. Am I wrong for not believing? I hope not.  What you choose to believe is right for you. What my dad believes is right for him. Everyone's beliefs are individual and specific to each. No two people believe the exact same thing. So what I believe is very different than my dad and neither is incorrect. Both are valid. And belief and faith evolves. It grows and adapts and morphs just like we do. We as individuals grow, learn, forget, adapt, and morph our entire lives. My beliefs will change. And so should yours.

Let's Dig In Series links: Depression Part I      Obsession Part I

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