Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Journal Day #8

Here's this week's prompt-

Would you consider yourself a religious person? Quite simply- what do you believe happens when you die? Have you always believed this? Do your current beliefs align with what you were taught as a child? And if not, what was the turning point? This week, talk about your religion or spiritual beliefs (or perhaps your lack of), and try to sum up, if you can, what you believe happens "next." via - Sometimes Sweet

I was raised Catholic. And when I say Catholic,  I mean Catholic-school-and-church-3-times-a-week Catholic. We had holy water at the front and back doors. There were dried palms peaking out from pictures of Jesus that hung in almost every room. I served at church, I sang hymns in the choir, I helped out at the church festivals, I went to Bible Study every Wednesday. I can pick out a few memories that tie closely in my choice to leave it all behind.
Growing up I thought all Christians were supposed to be nice and loving, like they teach us to be at school. They say we are all a big happy family under the same faith and beliefs. I never thought that I would be bullied by cliques of girls at a place I thought to be safe from all of that. The girls at Bible Study were snotty, rude and just plain mean. And I was apparently naive enough to think that Christians would never be like that. I started resisting going to Bible Study to save myself from being picked on. And on occasion even started fights with my mother so that she would be mad at me and make me stay home. The times I did still go I was uncomfortable, self conscious even (at 11), with the kids my age and repeatedly asked to stay with the adults who were partaking in the regular service. Eventually I just stopped going, much to my mother's disapproval. From there I slid farther and farther away from the church (though is till went to Catholic school) and religion as a whole. As did my mother, which is strange since she was fiercely raised a God-fearing Catholic. She slowly stopped going to church but still read the Bible at home on occasion. Sometimes I feel that she only went to church religiously (ha!) during my childhood for our benefit but when we were old enough to decided we didn't want to go, she backed off. 

During this same time I started to notice things that were done and said in the name of God. It was atrocious. War, bigotry, protesting abortion clinics (using children no less!), disparaging an entire type of people because they are "deemed unholy". Completely ridiculous to me. I washed my hands of all it and denounced not only Catholicism, but religion as a whole. Now don't get me wrong, I know the actions of few doesn't represent all Catholics (or all religious faiths) around the world, but it did apply to ones in my life and I therefore wanted nothing to do with any of it. 

A few years later when I was in my early 20s, my mother and I were at lunch. Our relationship was a ton better than it had been when I was a teenager (aided mostly by the fact that I had moved out of my parents' house) and we could converse like two adults. We would get together every few weeks for lunch and just talk. A couple had walked in and were being seated. I am kind of a creeper in public and like to people watch so I noticed they had ashes on their head. I remembered that it must be Ash Wednesday. My mother noticed also and said, "you should really go to church more." Now, me and my mother have never had the "religion talk" where I told her what I believed and she pretended to be ok with it. Without even thinking I replied, "why?" nonchalantly and with probably a little disdain. My mom looked at me and without blinking said, "I raised you better than that." I sat here dumbfounded for a moment and then I lost it. I told her that that was the problem with organized religion. If you don't think like us, you're crap. I then went on a rampage about how I don't lie, cheat, or steal. I hold the door for people and let people cut in front of me at the grocery store if they only have a few items. She raised me fine and I am a good person. And that just because I don't hold your religious beliefs doesn't make you better than me. She stared blankly at me and was absolutely speechless. I stormed out of the restaurant. Later that day we sat on the porch on my childhood home and actually had a real adult conversation with my mother about my beliefs.

I believe in faith and hope, in doing the right thing, in morals. I believe in the Ten Commandments, that Jesus, Mary Joseph, the Apostles and all the others were real people. But I also believe that the Bible is a book of stores put together by men to unite a people under one religion and has been (and is being) used to persecute people that don't fit into what is laid out within it's pages. This is never more true than today when homosexuals are being refused rights because of a misconstrued interpretation of the Bible or that women are denied access to safe means of birth control because of a company head's religious beliefs. I know these are both weighty issues and this post is not meant to be about them. But just these two issues alone verify a decision I made long ago, to steer clear of organized religion and think for myself. And as for what comes next (which was supposed to be the topic of this post), I don't know really. But then again, none of us do. Maybe there is a heaven and a hell. Or maybe we just perish and no longer exist. Then again I could be reincarnated into a tree. We won't know until it is our turn. 


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