I don’t talk about religion or politics much, because let’s face it – it’s an uphill battle and you will never ever persuade the person on the other side to join you in how you feel or what you believe.
However, I guess this would be me officially being an open book regarding my experiences and thoughts on the subject of religion. Now let me be clear about something from the beginning: I have a very strong relationship with God. I always have. This is the one thing I have never veered away from. It is also the reason I am grateful to have been raised in such a strict religious home. It set my foundation for my relationship with God.
I am not here to attempt to change anyone’s personal belief system. You do you, boo.
These are just my personal experiences.
As a child, whether or not I attended church was never an option that was given to me, and at that time, it made me bitter. I ran far away from religion at 18, the second I left home and had the option. At that time in my life and for many years after I was like a caged dog that finally got set free. I ran wild. I made bad decisions, and I partied like a total idiot.
I found my way back to religion after my divorce, also hitting a rock bottom point in my life where I realized the way I was living my life wasn’t making me happy. I was also desperately looking for a way to heal from everything I had been through. I felt fairy good about the way things were going at that time. It wasn’t until I moved back to Utah that all of the same vibes and feelings I had experienced as a child came flooding back. Regardless of your geographical location, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced some of the same things I have.
I have struggled with religion for the following reasons:
If I only believe in about 10% of what is being taught, am I really a true member of this church?
It seems like questioning things just wasn’t acceptable. When I asked questions, I would get the same repeat answers: “Just have faith.” and, “Pray about it.” I’ve heard this since I was a child. As if there was something wrong with me because I should just automatically believe everything I had ever been taught. Or if I simply prayed, God would tell me every single aspect of the church was true. Well, it simply didn’t work like that for me. There were too many things that I questioned and I never felt quite settled about any of it.
Keeping up with the Joneses
From what I’ve seen, this is your stereotypical, run of the mill, standard across the religion board, problem. Everyone putting on appearances that their life is perfect. Families with expensive homes, cars, etc., trying to keep up with Joe Shmo and their family across the street. Meanwhile, they are 100’s of thousands of dollars in debt, popping anti-depressants, trying to keep up face-value appearances for the world to see. Couples fighting like a bunch of rabid raccoons behind closed doors, meanwhile smiling from ear to ear when they see you at church or out watering their rose bushes, and posting about how perfect their life is on social media. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Stop trying to keep up appearances. Most things aren’t what they seem.
An Unrealistic Expectation of Perfection
This is one of those that I really struggle with the most. CHURCH SHOULD BE A REHAB FOR SINNERS, NOT A MUSEUM OF SAINTS. I cannot tell you how many times I have felt judged for something I did by a church member. This dates back to when I was a child. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone’s business. This meant if I had done anything stupid the prior week (I was not the best teenager) the moment I stepped into church I could feel all the beady, judgmental eyes burning into my soul. And it definitely didn’t improve as I got older. I remember stepping foot back into church after I had gotten tattoos. The way people stared at me. While I’m sure they said plenty of things behind my back, those looks said it all. Or when I got married, not only once, but twice, having a standard marriage ceremony instead of the religious one that I wasn’t “worthy” enough to experience. I would look at all of these people and realize that I was never going to measure up. I was never going to fit into this unrealistic bubble and expectation of perfection.
I don’t fit in
I never have. I’ve never felt part of a religion the way I feel I should have, the way other people seemed to fit in with such surety. I always felt out of place. Like something was wrong with me because I didn’t feel or act the way everyone else was. The more people tried to conform me to their thoughts and beliefs the more alienated I felt.
It’s okay to love someone exactly the way they are
Read that again. EXACTLY the way they are. With no intention of trying to “fix them” like a broken doll. I remember growing up there were some very strict religious people that wouldn’t even allow their child to play with another child that wasn’t a member of the same church. Not only is that absolutely horrible and a terrible way of parenting, it’s also setting a ridiculous message to your child about how to judge other people at face value without getting to know them first. You should love and care for people because everyone deserves it, not because you have the underlining hope that they will join or come back to church, only to realize that they are a “lost cause” and drop them like they never mattered.
Fun fact: going to church makes you a christian just as much as standing in a garage makes you a car.
You can go to church every single Sunday and still be an absolutely terrible excuse for a human. I don’t care what religion you were raised in, God would NEVER condone judging other people, talking badly about them to others, and alienating them because they didn’t share your same beliefs. That doesn’t just make you an ass hole, that makes you a terrible human being. If you’re offended by any of those statements, that means it applies to you.
People leave religions every single day due to other people
I’ve heard things like “It’s a perfect church ran by imperfect people.” This statement does not excuse the behavior of a member and It does NOT give anyone the right to treat people like trash. WORDS HURT. I don’t care how old you are. I’ve seen people be a strong member of a religion their entire lives and fully leave the church when they are in their 40’s or older. Bullying is alive and well my friends and it exists in your very congregation.
I feel the closest to God when I am outside
Nature is my religion. I feel the closest to God when I am outside enjoying the beauty that he created. I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen a beautiful landscape that literally took my breath away and made me teary eyed. The way this makes me feel compared to sitting in a church pew is beyond anything I can even explain. I make it a point to get outside on Sundays where I can live in a state of complete and utter gratitude for the world God has created and be thankful for the body he gave me, along with my health and strength that allows me to experience it.
I love you
You reading this. Yes, you. I don’t care what religion you’re a part of. I don’t care if you don’t believe in God. I don’t care if you have made horrible mistakes. I don’t care about your sexual orientation, your political views, what you identify as, if you’re anti-abortion or pro-choice, or anything in between. You are loved. Plain and simple. You are beautiful in all your imperfection. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes ever by Trent Shelton: