I rarely talk about religion on here but in the last few days, as a result of a few conversations with friends, I've been thinking a lot about it.
When I was a kid, I wanted to believe in religion and God very badly. Possibly any religion, possibly any God. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because my parents weren't religious. Maybe it's because I had so many friends that were. Whatever the mysterious reason was behind it, I wanted there to be a God and I wanted to find a religion to be a part of.
There were times in my young life that I had taken part in religious festivities and rituals and I have great memories of this. Hebrew school with my neighbour, midnight mass with an aunt, the various churches of friends I had growing up. I loved the togetherness of the people, the fun activities, the closeness. Of course, tying the people and activities together was a common belief in God, Jesus, etc. Taking part in these activities was great but I felt like I wasn't truly a part of them unless I shared the same beliefs. I didn't want to be on the outside, I wanted to belong. So the solution seemed simple; I tried to believe.
When I was 16 years old, at a Christian Film Festival in Lowell Mass, I went up in front of the theatre with many others and I professed my belief in Jesus Christ. Looking back, I'm not sure if it truly counted. I'm not sure if wanting to believe counts, but if Jesus was handing out A's for effort, I'd have been give an A+.
From that point forward, I was a Christian. At least, sort of. I immediately attempted to become the best Baptist ever. I started a Christian Teens club. I went to church. I handed out Bible tracts. Oh, did I hand out tracts. Every day packages arrived at my door containing religious tracts that I left everywhere I went. On tanning beds, along with tips at restaurants, in bathroom stalls, EVERYWHERE. The focus of my life became trying to help people get saved. John 3:16 became my purpose.
In an effort to be the perfect Christian, I followed the "rules" to the absolute T, and I am not at all proud of the person that made me at the time, for I was TRULY everything people dislike in a Christian. For example, I was adamantly opposed to homosexuality and actively spoke out against it (seriously, you guys!) I mocked evolution. I spoke out against things not because I had given them any thought or consideration, or because they really threatened my own personal values, but because it was what I perceived to be the recipe of the perfect Christian. It seemed like I could just keep walking the walk and talking the talk, and someday God or Jesus would actually speak to me. I had to fake it to make it. I had to try to believe.
It was a very dark period in my life.
This kept up from when I was about 16 until I was 20; a good chunk of my life! Apologetics and evangelism became a huge focus for me. On the outside, I felt great; I was sharing the love of Jesus with everyone around me (right?). On the inside, I felt like a fraud. Sure, I wanted very badly to believe in God, Jesus, the Bible and that everything inside it was literal. But there was something telling me that none of it made sense... some small feeling inside me that slowly got stronger and stronger. For a long time I told myself it was Satan inside me, trying to lure me away from Jesus and God. I told myself he wanted me most of all because I was the one who was helping so many people find Jesus.
When I moved to Canada in 2001, I had an epiphany, and it came to me hard and fast. As hard as I was desperately trying to believe, I didn't actually believe in God. I wanted to, so badly, but I didn't. Instead of limiting myself to only Christian resources, I started to read other things... I started to look at both sides of the story. It became clear before long that as much as I wanted there to be a God, I just was simply unable to believe there was one. Worse yet, I had been hating on people and ideas without even thinking about them. I now felt more guilty than I ever had before.
Christians often talk of faith and say that looking for evidence of God is not the point, because with evidence there is no true faith. For whatever reason, my brain is wired to require solid, substantiated, scientific evidence to believe most things. For me, seeing is believing. For some reason I can believe in love, and even sometimes karma, but my brain seems completely unable to have faith in God. I've had the opportunity to speak with the most articulate and convincing Christians, evangelists who have turned thousands to Jesus, and even so, I've tried with all my heart (and soul?) to believe in Jesus and God, and no matter what I do, I just can't.
After I dropped Christianity, I was bitter for a while. Bitter at the years of my life gone, bitter that I had behaved in such a shameful and inhumane way toward people who deserved much better. Bitter that I did not get the fulfilment or answers I so wanted to have found. During this time I considered myself an atheist. I now consider myself agnostic.
Taking this all back to parenting, a part of me is very sad and mourns the fact that I do not seem to have the heart or mind that can accept the idea of a God. For me, there is no heaven after you die. There is no powerful being looking over myself and my family. For me, there is just randomness, humanity, nature. I wanted more than anything to believe there was more to life than this, something bigger than all of us. To me, this is truly a tragedy. After my grandfather died, I found myself again wishing that there was something I could believe in; anything to comfort me in an hour of loss. And yet, there was nothing.
It is for all these reasons that it has become very important for me to teach Aias to enjoy the simpler things in life. It sounds like a cliché, but really, it's all I have. I have to teach him to enjoy things like the precious moments he is able to share with a person, and to be able to look back fondly and happily at memories. Someday Aias will lose a family member, pet, or friend, and I won't be able to comfort him by saying "they are in a better place" or "they have gone to heaven" because I won't be able to feel good saying those things to him.
Maybe in time, I will find something to believe in. Maybe someday Aias will learn about religion and will be able to truly believe in something for himself. If he does, I will certainly support and love him through it, as my parents once did for me.
As for my life right now, I can honestly say I'm almost entirely fulfilled. While I've found no comforting thoughts with regard to human mortality, whatever it was about the religious gatherings and rituals I craved I have now found in other areas of my life. We attend the local neighbourhood house, for example, and I find that the activities we do and the people we've met absolutely enrich our lives in the way church attendance had in the past. In fact, it's even better than I remember church to be. Best of all, I'm able to be myself, without feeling like I have to force myself to believe anything that doesn't come naturally to me. I can only hope this experience will be enough to offer my child.
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