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Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Religious Journey

*Again, there is a high possibility that you may disagree with my opinions, and may take offense at my words. You have been politely warned, and I ask that you leave hurtful comments in your mind.*

There are a multitude of reasons behind my slight dislike toward questionnaires. They always want to put labels on who you are as a person.

_ Asian/ Asian American.
_ Native American
_ African/ African-American
_ Pacific Islander
_ Hispanic
_ Caucasian
_ Other

I end up selecting "Asian/ Asian American," "African/ African-American," and "Other." Or any variant. I adore how they sometimes avoid saying "White" in some cases. They use "Black" sometimes, but don't have the balls to put "White." I guess that would be offensive. And I'm not being sarcastic. I'm perfectly fine with the term "black." Jesus, people get really uptight about it. Of course, my opinion is skewered because I'm not even considered black enough to speak up for the people I represent. But let's pay closer attention to the interjection I used, which sets "Jesus" as a term to express annoyance.

I've offended several races and religions within the first few paragraphs. I do already regret this. We regret a lot of things. In my feeble attempts to be "real" with myself and the Internet, I sacrificed the cover up. That's why there is more dark humor and less fluffy stuff. I'm angry with the world and myself, but mostly myself. What's worse, the opinions expressed on this Internet corner may not even reach the eyes and minds of people who I direct this toward. Mainly those I haven't met yet, since they are the  people I try to keep in mind. I'm really grateful for free speech. And I will leave the stupidity alone for now.

_ Catholic
_ Christian
_ Protestant
_ Muslim
_ Other
_ Non-Denominational

That aside, I am trying to discuss a topic that many people hold dear to their hearts. Religion. It is on these beliefs that organizations are founded, wars are fought, and lives are lost and redeemed. And then you have the outliers who have chosen to either abandon or stay away from this defining lifestyle. Let me start off by saying that one's morality is not dependent on whether or not they partake in a string of beliefs. That came out wrong. I mean, you don't have to believe in a supreme being in order to be a good person. Many of the people closest to me have demonstrated this. I know there are some who believe such people are "sinners" for straying away, but, "to each his own." The only people, in my eyes, worthy of disapproval are the ignorant. Those who just automatically assume that the other side is wrong. There are a good number of those people in both theist and atheist groups. I don't care if you disagree with all of my other ideas, but you have to agree, to some extent, that ignorance is the root of discrimination.

On a side note, sort of, the God I see now is way too human. It's too "real." It makes more sense as a limitless abstract concept… to me. 

My first encounter with religion was at home. My father used to comfort my sister and I when we were afraid of the dark. We would hold our hands out and count, finger-by-finger, the words, "" It would silence the already silent darkness of our closet and make all of the evils in a 5 year old's eyes disappear. From then on, it became a chant to chase anything away.  It went from a metaphorical nightlight to a confidence-fueling cry. I would say it when I was about to take a test. I would say it when I just couldn't muster up enough mental strength to go into a room that hosted the murder of a particular insect. I hate roaches, by the way.

This phrase was comfort. Just the phrase. I had not fully understood the concept of the Man behind it all. I couldn't grasp God, yet that was what my dad was aiming for. For many, religion still serves as comfort. It was very  reassuring to be able to fall back on that in times of despair.

I went to an Episcopalian school for three years. And from those masses, I received nothing spiritually. I loved the songs, fell under the mesmerizing spell of the mosaics in the church windows, and knew all of the Bible stories. And I continue to melt whenever I hear an organ playing. But still, no real concept of God. If my dad knew about this, he would think that's where he went wrong. But no. It's all on me.

Still, he would reinforce this God-being in our minds daily. Yes, my sister and I would end each night with a prayer. And that usually meant going through a list of things to be thankful for, and going on with a list of things we wanted. Yeah, we always thanked first, and THEN asked… I guess it was to be polite. You can tell how "detached" we were. He put up signs on our refrigerator to motivate us. We would wake up to a prayer to, to thank God for letting us live. This continued through my later elementary school years, where I went to a school where for the first time in a while, prayer wasn't required or encouraged in the morning before classes. During that time, I forgot the "Our Father" prayer from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. There was always my beloved religious father to  drill it back into our heads at home.

To clear things up, he is a Baptist. To this day, he tries to get my sister and I to go to church. At first, we didn't go because we're lazy. Like, literally. And that, I admit, is a negative aspect of our personalities. Now you can cut in and say that laziness always leads to sin, blah, and that all atheists are just lazy people who don't want to haul ass to church, blah. Go 'head. But, and another insult is coming, he was taking us to Lakewood. Now, don't get me wrong. I just really opposed Joel Osteen. Every time we went, he said the same thing in a different way. I was tired. And to be honest, it got boring after the second time. Yes, church for me is always boring...and yes, this time, I beg you to blame my laziness and lack of spirituality for this. I'm sorry, once again, for coming across as sarcastic and flat-out rude.

Well, soon, we just stopped going to church. My dad still goes. But I don't. My sister doesn't, but that's just because she is lazy. She still believes in God.

Middle school, private school, prayer school. I relearned the "Our Father," but for the first two weeks, I mouthed the incorrect words to it under my breath. I still don't know the "Apostles' Creed." I'm going to admit on the most public place in the world the one thing I told myself I wouldn't tell the people I am closest to. I was baptized so my parents could get a lower rate on tuition. "YOU SINNER, SINNER, HEATHEN." Yeah, no. Really, my family was just not loaded with money at that time, and my parents valued education enough to cheat an honest institution. (Actually, no one can argue this, but the Church -yes, capitalized to indicate it as a whole- has not always been honest, because it is run by humans, but this particular parish was great. Food donations all week, every week. Jokes aside, it was really great.)

Looking back, we shouldn't have done that. Well, it made more sense at the time, because those years marked the peak of my religious understanding. I was firmly entrenched in the workings of God and biblical  teachings. I prayed and I meant it. Remember the "List Prayer" method I used? Well that became "Thank You Prayer" for a while. And then the cheerleading try-outs rolled around. It turned into "thank you for a, b, c, d, e, f, g (in order of importance, like life, family, friends, shelter… phone, so on) and I hope that I make cheerleading try-outs." It was still basically a wish list. I made it "intense." Man, like, every night, I'd start off with an "Our Father," then a "Hail Mary," and a "Guardian Angel." Those were followed by my actual words. Then another Guardian Angel prayer.

Every night for a month leading up to the try-out date. I made it, whoo, and it didn't stop. High school acceptance letters just took the place of try-outs. And I made it. So religion went from nightlight to genie in less than ten years. And no, Dad, you didn't go wrong there, it was inevitable.

So here I am in high school. We have Mass every now and then, on special occasions. I think the reason behind reaching my religious pinnacle in middle school was the constant reminder of religion. And honestly, the music. Religious music has and still does draw me to tears. Just yesterday, I was moved by Mr. Walther's music (an instructor at my high school) and considered returning to religion altogether. What is holding me back from doing so is simply my belief. My lack of belief, rather. I sort of sought to justify God and failed. I tried to prove religion. And that is why I "lost" it. I do this with friendships, too.

Gotta admit, life is so much harder without having that safety net to catch me at my low points. Back in middle school,  I would imagine myself being held in God's hands when I was feeling hopeless. And now, in high school, when I'm down, there's almost nothing. Not even music. I would turn to people for help, but I've realized that not all people care about me. The  ones that I thought I could go to fake it. But I know the genuine ones, and I really appreciate that. That is my biggest regret about drifting away from religion… I have nothing to thank now, nothing to hold me when I am down. My only source of relief comes from typing up short, seemingly cheerful Facebook statuses every now and then and writing blog posts that I delete before posting. I hope that someone will look past the fluffiness and like, physically hug me. I don't even like excessive physical contact, but random hugs really do make my day.

I bet God would make my day like he does with truly religious people. I just got tired of the bullshit surrounding Him.

1 comment:

  1. So I would just like to say that I had typed up a beautiful long message for this, during school. And then without thinking I click post comment and it went to the blocked page and I lost it all. So this won't be nearly as good, but here you go anyway.
    Religion has never been that big a deal in my life. My parents raised me Atheist (well sort of... more on that later). And I was (and am) a firm UU but I went through some times where I wasn't sure what I believed. (I was even Buddhist for a little while.. but I didn't really know what it was, I just thought reincarnation was cool.)
    I haven't been baptized, and I don't believe in God. When I was little I sort of believed in God, but my belief was like that of Santa Clause. If you do good then he'll bring you you'll get into heaven. Most of my knowledge of God came from books. I used to "pray" sometimes when I was falling asleep, because I saw it in books and movies. But my "praying" was pretty much just me asking for stuff. I didn't even to the thanking part. Whenever we visited my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas we would always say grace, and at my kindergarten we would sing this grace song before lunch. But that was about it. When I was in 4th grade, my parents separated, and I started "praying" even harder. Asking God to get my parents back together. It didn't work and God and I sort of had a falling out. I haven't spoken to him since. Not because of that, but because I turned to science. My brother was sort of the only person who helped guide my religious beliefs, and he's atheist as well. He used to always talk to me about religion and ask me why I believed stuff and if I ever didn't have a reason, he would say that I shouldn't believe it then.
    And that safety net you had from God? I never had that. I used to depend on people, they would catch me if I fell. But around 5th grade I started giving up my safety net of people, and now I don't have any safety net. I am completely dependent on myself. And I love it. I don't feel the need to do stuff for other people, and I know that if I fuck up it's on me, and if I do well it's all because of me. It's actually really liberating. I feel like I can do anything. And it will all be because of me. And when I do well on something it's all me, and if I do something badly it's all me as well. But I also have issues asking for help because of that. I've become so dependent on myself that I don't ask for help. I rarely even ask my parents for help. I only ever ask my brother for help, and he's at college now. So yeah. Did you know that not asking for help is a symptom of aspergers syndrome? Yup. Did you know I compulsively look up disorders because I think something's wrong with me?