I’ve always grappled with religious belief systems. My brothers and I weren’t brought up in a house that followed a specific religion, as my parents wanted to give us the opportunity to believe what we chose to without internal or external influences.
My grandparents practiced Christianity and regularly went to church (two very different things, as you’ll see later), so it’s not as though I was never exposed to any religion. In fact, the very fact that they did the things they did and that my family did not intrigued me from day one. I remember voluntarily going with my grandparents to church or asking them all kinds of questions about their beliefs.
The seventh grade was my first substantially impacting encounter with religion; I went to a Bible Camp in the summer, where I voluntarily made the decision to be faithful to Christianity. I specifically remember promising myself that I would get baptized when I moved out for university.
Then, we moved to another town, and my parents sent my brothers and I to the Catholic school—only because it was a better school than the public that was in town. There, I felt Catholicism shoved down my throat, so I, slowly, and without noticing, distanced myself from religion. It was the middle of my first-year of university that I noticed how I had nothing to do with any religious belief system anymore.
One afternoon, a schoolmate asked me if I wanted to join them for a Youth Project that night. I had no reason to say no, so I went. During the service, I remember feeling a sense of longing and desire to be a bigger part of this community, so I started attending regularly and, eventually, increased my involvement in the rest of the church.
This past November, I made the decision to get baptized. I felt as though it was something that I had to do in order to be accepted by the church and by God. I don’t remember any sense of excitement about it but rather a feeling of apathy. Nonetheless, I went through with the celebration and continued to be involved in the church. It wasn’t until months later that I realized I was going to church, but I wasn’t practicing Christianity; in other words, I wasn’t taking time out of my day to “give thanks” to God or to have a conversation with Him. I looked Christian from the outside, but, inside, I felt nothing.
I also took a class that Fall semester called “The Bible as Literature”. In a lot of ways, that class opened up my eyes and showed me what I do and do not believe. We were required to write three papers by the end of the class, so, with each paper, I chose to delve deeper into my chosen topic. The further I went into the topic, the less I liked the results.
I was still volunteering in the church’s café at this point, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I gradually decreased the times per month I was in there, but I didn’t completely stop until I moved away from the city for my summer job. When I gave my notice of leave, I felt a sense of relief wash over me. And after my last shift, I was ecstatic to be done because I didn’t have to be tied to this church anymore. That was when I realized that, perhaps, devoting myself to a religion is not for me.
Naturally, I confided in one of my friends when I realized this, and they had a very interesting response. The general idea was:
How do we know what religion is the “right” religion? In the beginning, one massive church existed, and a small group disagreed with x belief, so they split from that church and created their own. Next, within that second church, another group disagreed with y belief, so they, too, separated and made a third church. The process repeats itself again and again. Therefore, if God doesn’t let us through the gates of Heaven because we didn’t live our lives with beliefs x, y, and z, the majority of people will go to Hell.
I strongly believe that I, at first, wished so deeply to be a part of this community because I wanted to feel a sense of belonging; I was in a new town, in a new school, and I was on my own for the first time in my life. This feeling is one that I feel as though many individuals—in any religious belief system—experience.
I won’t deny the importance of spiritual well-being, though. For some, that is through prayer. But for others, it could be yoga or reading a book. For me, it’s being outside and smelling the fresh air and flowers; “it’s one’s ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through a connectedness with self . . .” (Nursing Diagnosis).
Overall, I really do believe there is a greater existence. However, I disagree with a lot of the values and beliefs that the Christian churches have, so, for now, I can’t be a part of that. Perhaps my views will change in the future, but, for now, I’ve made peace with the fact that I believe in something greater than human existence but am unsure of what exactly that is. And, you know what, I’m proud of myself for reaching the level of confidence in which I can say who I am—right now—without fear.