I was reading this article earlier today, and although at the time I didn’t give it too much thought, it’s been slipping into my mind for the past few hours.
I’m so incredibly glad that I live in a society where I don’t have to “come out” about my religion – or, indeed, my lack thereof.
In fact, I’m fairly sure that the vast majority of people I know, and indeed the vast majority of people in this world, simply don’t give a shit about my religious persuasion.
It’s a peculiar thing, that one person’s beliefs should be of enough concern to those around them that they have to justify them, and risk persecution from their own family members for going against the grain. I suppose that could be said for anything, though. It’s absurd that a person risks persecution over their sexual preference. Or gender identification. Or choice of profession. Or the way they dress.
Although I attended a Catholic high school (after going to a public primary school), I don’t come from a religious family. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve attended church in my 28 years for reasons other than a] school or b] official ceremony (wedding, funeral, confirmation/first communion of a family member). I am baptised Catholic but have never taken any other sacraments, and don’t identify as a Catholic, or indeed as a Christian at all.
In fact, I don’t identify as anything, including Atheist or Agnostic.
For me, religion is such a non-part of my life that it seems pointless to put a label on my lack of religious faith.
As a child I believed in god to the same extent that I believed in Santa Claus: I was taught about god in fleeting terms and assumed it was all as people said and that religion was a thing and then never really gave it any more thought. I never prayed, and to this day still don’t feel as though some element of my life is missing.
I can remember two distinct points in my life when I began to consider the notion that religion – or at least Christianity – was not for me.
The first came when I attended a school holiday day camp as a child with my younger sister. This camp, as it turned out, was run by some local Christian group. I couldn’t have been much older than 10, and here I was being told that if I didn’t confess my sins, my heart would dry up and turn black. My heart? But I need my heart to live!
It was terrifying, but not in an “I should confess my sins!” kind of way. More so it was terrifying in a “how could someone say my heart will turn black and dry up?” kind of way.
The second point came when I was in year 8, my first year of Catholic school, and I was in a religious education class where I was told (after much questioning on my part) that if a 12 year old girl, a girl my age, was raped, fell pregnant, and had an abortion, she would go to hell. For me, that was it. Christianity was no longer going to play a role in my life.
I’m not at all bitter about religion. I don’t feel as though I have been lied to, or misled, or that I have missed out on anything, because the teachings of the Christian religion just don’t make sense to me. At this point I cannot foresee that I will ever have a place in my life for religion.
I am moved by the beauty of religion and I am troubled by the hatred that is possessed by those who consider themselves most devout. If someone interprets coincidence as a sign from god and that gives them the faith they need to move on in life, then I am okay with that.
Perhaps at some point in my life, I will need religion.
Perhaps, more likely, I won’t. I find my faith in other things. I have immense faith in the power of people. I have faith in the good of others, and that everyone will get what’s theirs. I have faith in myself to sort out my problems and achieve my dreams. I know that the universe is a mysterious place of which we know only the most minuscule fraction, and I know that that’s a good thing because there are things that just shouldn’t be explained.
Maybe that’s my religion. I don’t need to put a label on what I believe, or don’t believe, and I don’t need anyone else to understand why I feel what I do, or do not.
I do need people to understand that great responsibility comes with being religious, though. It’s a powerful thing, faith, largely because it is so intangible and so irresolute. Like superheroes, the religious must promise to use their power only for good.
If only, in an ideal world.