Monday, October 24, 2011
Untitled (the post I have been trying to write for years about religion)
I do not come from a religious family. I was not baptized, I was actually blessed by a pastor friend of my parents. We did not attend church, like some of my other friends. When asked what religion I was, I would always say "no religion."
Growing up I attended a private school where 2-3 times a week we attended Chapel. We sang hymns (I was even in the chapel choir for 2 years), one of the Reverends gave a mini sermon (during which I would sit there flipping through the hymnal most days), we said the Lord's Prayer, and sang more hymns. We had classes about religion where we were taught all the basics...God created the world, God created Man and Woman, Noah built an Ark, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph and performed miracles throughout his entire life, and eventually was crucified for our sins. I believed what I was taught, and never questioned it...what 10 year old does?
Then we moved to Florida and I became involved in a youth group at a local church. Most of my friends would go to these meetings during the week, and I heard about all the fun things they were doing, so I started to attend them myself. I fell in love with the youth leaders, and the sense of family between my friends and I during these gatherings. I started to attend the church on the weekends with my friends, and eventually went on religious retreats during the summer with this group. Yes, I went to church camp, but this was not your average church camp. And amidst all the activities and costume parties and cook outs, I became wrapped up in the spiritual teachings and "devoted myself to Christ."
I came back from the first trip "born again" if you will. I read my bible, attended church, and the following year even became a junior leader at one of these camp adventures. But while I was talking the talk, I was totally not walking the walk. I thought that I could do whatever I wanted to, as long as I confessed my sins and asked for forgiveness, because God forgives right? This didn't stop me from having sex with my boyfriend, or lying to my parents, or drinking at parties...I did what every normal high school girl did, but I carried around a bible and quoted bible versus in yearbook notes to my friends.
Then I went to college and quickly forgot about religion entirely...and I attended Boston College, a jesuit university, where 99% of my friends were Catholic! It was during this time that I came to the realization that my whole religious phase in high school was not really sincere at all. I was drinking the Kool-Aid if you will. My friends were into it, and yes I had fun and loved everyone that I experienced this with, but I don't feel like it was genuine at all. It was during college that I became the skeptic that I am today.
I have a hard time defining my religious views. I feel like Athiest is so harsh a word, but in reality that is probably what I am now. I don't practice religion, I don't believe that there is a God above us willing us to do what we do, or guiding us along the way. I have become a person that needs evidence to believe things. I don't believe we were created by God. I believe in evolution, in the Big Bang...I don't believe in the miracles of Jesus, for the same reason that I don't believe in ghosts...because there is no hard evidence.
I told this to my mother the other day and I think she might have had a minor heart attack. She asked me how I couldn't believe in the "miracles of God." I told her that I do believe that wonderful mystical things happen in life, but in no way that I believe they are the will of some mythical super human that lives in the clouds. I do believe that there is an energy connecting all of us, and with positive energy, and positive thoughts and feelings, positive things can happen (a miracle being the extreme of these things) but in no way do I believe that it is due to "prayer" and "God."
I am still surrounded today by nothing by Catholic friends, and I watch them all go through the motions of getting married in a church, and baptizing their babies. None of them attend church on a regular basis, but they all consider themselves Catholics as they were raised that way. I think because I wasn't really raised a religion I don't really understand going through all of these "motions." I am not judging them in any way, of course, and attend all of these lovely ceremonies and love their children to death, I just will never fully understand it all.
And now that we have an inquisitive child, who in a few years, I am sure will be asking us all of the religious questions that kids do, I wonder how I am going to answer them. M has not been baptized, nor will she ever be. She has the freedom to chose whatever religion she wants to be. I will not impart my views upon her, but I will be honest with her about the way my husband and I feel about religion in general: I have no problem with any of them, I just don't believe in them!
At what point in her life can I tell her that the Noah's Ark she plays with is actually designed after a story in the Bible about a man who builds a gigantic boat to save all of animal-kind from a disastrous flood. A boat on which he supposedly gathered two of each of the 6 million species of animals. That was quite a boat. And people actually believe this story...as well as burning bushes, and water being turned into wine, and seas being parted. Sounds like a Harry Potter book to me!
There are some things about religion that I do actually love. I love the sense of community and family that comes with going to church. My mother sings in the church choir, and each week my father goes and sits in the audience. They are friends with everyone there, and my dad is fishing buddies with the head Pastor. It is a huge part of their lives now (this is the same church I started going to in high school) and I love that. The only time I actually step foot in a church (despite the odd wedding or baptism) is with my parents at Christmas time, and I love singing the Christmas hyms, but get terribly uncomfortable listening to the pastor's sermons because I just don't buy into it all. (If my mother is reading this, she just had another heart attack.)
My mother also asked me yesterday "well then, who do you pray to?" And I told her "I don't pray to anyone." And that is the truth. I don't say prayers to Jesus or God. I actually don't say prayers at all. I tend to think good thoughts over and over in my head, but I am not asking someone to help me or answer my "prayers." It is more of a sending of good vibes and positive thoughts and energy. I guess one could call that a prayer, but I don't. I don't believe that there is someone listening inside my head, waiting to answer.
People might ask me how I can say all this, when I am going through all of this infertility stuff, because some consider M my little miracle. I consider her a gift from science. Thanks to science, not God, I was able to get pregnant. This doesn't mean I am not thankful for her every second of my life. She is a blessing to me, I know, but it is because of science that she was born, not prayers, not God.
Even as I write all this I realize that it sounds kind of shocking to put this all down on (e-) paper. This is really the first time I have gathered my thoughts about this all at once, and come to this conclusion. Am I an atheist? I guess I am after I re-read this post.
Now I have to struggle with how to let M choose her own beliefs in the future. Are there any non-religious moms out there with some advice? Would love to hear from all of you about how you are raising your children when it comes to religion.
I hope I did not offend anyone with my ramblings. Just because I don't follow or believe it, doesn't mean I have a problem with anyone else and their religion.