Day Twenty-Six: Religion and/or Spirituality

I didn’t grow up going to church.  Both of my parents had done the organized religion thing growing up and both agreed it wasn’t for them.  But, they were open to letting us find our own truths.  I visited churches of all denominations through my friends. I attended a Catholic Church, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of God, and I’m sure there are a few other denominations I’m missing through playing gigs at churches on flute in college.

I always went with an open mind, listening, not knowing what to expect, but left feeling fake.  Feeling forced.  Feeling guilty that I wasn’t truly a good person if I didn’t follow their rules. But, I was a good person. I knew I was. My parents taught me to be kind to others, to help those in need, and I felt confident that anyone that followed those rules surely wouldn’t be punished to hell.  I didn’t feel that my soul needed saving.  It all seemed crazy.

I moved to Alabama when I was 10.  I remember spending the night at a girlfriend’s house on a Saturday and getting up early to go to her Baptist church with the whole family on Sunday morning.  I tried my best to look respectable and sit through youth group but, I never felt comfortable.  There was always an uneasy feeling that came over me when I engaged with the other youths and I never left feeling better about myself or enlightened which is what I thought church was for.  I thought I’d leave feeling like I’d just had a therapeutic hot yoga session, but for my heart and for my soul.  I felt worse and I questioned everything.  Should I be a phony or a failure?

In college, a lecture came to the philosophy department titled “Morality vs. Religion” and asked the question “Can you be a moral person without religion?”.  A professor from Harvard came to speak and I sat enthralled taking notes. The 18 year old me wasn’t the only one that had asked that question and each point that professor made brought me closer to what I already knew. I was moral. I was good.  I wasn’t crazy for questioning anything.  I CAN be a good person without religion in my life.

-Jackie

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I was made to go to church as a child by parents who didn’t attend church themselves.  I hid in the bathroom rather than go to Sunday School, but if I did go, I acted out. I hated it from the very beginning.  Our parents eventually allowed us stop going at all.  I actually joined a church as a young mother and enjoyed it.  Initially, I wanted to expose my children to religion this way, and we all went as a family.  It was a wonderful experience until it wasn’t.  I am convinced church provides a venue for people who want to be important and tell everyone else what to do and what to believe. I actually heard a church member say that everyone else, of different religions, was welcome to his church, as long as they all knew they were wrong in their beliefs.  UGH.  Really?  You think you are right and everyone else is wrong?  No thank you.  I don’t want to be a part of that.   ;

Strict rules.  Guilt.  Shame.  Punishment.  Expectations that you are to be like everyone else. Admonishment.  Exclusion.  Leaders are poor role models.  Judgment.  Intolerance.  Hate.  Some organized religions reek of this.  No wonder church attendance is down.  I don’t know anyone who wants to be a part of that, especially young people.    

For me, it is all about love, tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, and forgiveness.  Diversity.  Invitation.  Welcoming.  LOVE.  LOVE.  LOVE.  That’s what I want to be a part of.

Don’t.  Force. Your.  Beliefs.  On. Me.

-Wanda

{featured image:  jackask}

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