Religion. It’s a subject that brings out the best and worst in people. I find myself pondering this controversial subject as I wade through my grief. Let me explain.
I was raised Catholic. Spent 12 years in Catholic schools. By the time I was finished at the age of 18, I knew I wasn’t Catholic any more. I think I knew by the time I was 16. Hell, maybe it was 14. But, I think I still considered myself Christian. That fell by the wayside through college. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I still believed in God (as a big G), but wasn’t sure exactly how I saw God. I felt it was unfair that so many religions referred to God as HE. I suppose as a woman I was very offended by most religions and their emphasis on men. When I entered my early 30’s, I began to question the existence of God. I just couldn’t wrap my head around this concept. I generally began to think in a more logical and scientific way that lead me away from believing in something greater than us. In the past 15 to 20 years I’ve called myself agnostic and atheistic and thrown in the occasional “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”.
Now I call myself a “confusionist” borrowing the term from writer Eric Weiner who wrote Man Seeks God. I guess when it comes down to it I’m not 100% sure what I believe in. But I do know what I don’t believe. I know I’ll never be a Christian again. That’s not going to change.
And, this is incredibly difficult for a woman who is surrounded by a family of Christians. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part, my family is Catholic with some falling into the “other” Christian category. People don’t understand.
So, I often feel disrespected as a result. Ever feel this way? I do. Not by other “non-believers”, but by those who “believe”. Of course, I have a hard time with these terms. Really, we all believe in something, even if we don’t believe in God or Allah or whatever you might call your god. I think each person has her own belief system and that is what she believes in so, in turn, she is a believer. I had a couple of relatives say to me after a comment I made concerning the yellow butterflies I see when I run – that it’s Mom giving me signs, “Oh, you’re a believer now?!” Because we were at a party with other folks, I didn’t say anything. But I was pretty pissed off by this remark. I believe. I just don’t believe in the same things you do. I’m still a believer…in my own beliefs. And stop trying to label me! Why is it that people want to pigeonhole you into a specific category? I’m just me…believing in what I believe in.
In my opinion, what it comes down to is simple respect. Look, I don’t understand most religions. But, I’m curious enough to learn a little bit about them, even just a few rituals or holy days. I personally don’t care if you’re a Sunni Muslim, a Lutheran, a Tibetan Buddhist, an Orthodox Jew or a Shakta Hindu. As the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” So, as long as you are a good person, I don’t care what god or gods you pray to, what building you go to or what holy book you read. I think religion is intensely personal which is funny since I’m writing about it on a public blog. But, I do. I think we all have our own personal belief system that guides us through the moral complexity of life. The big problem I see is lack of respect.
For example, when I was in my mid-20’s my then boyfriend called me a druid. “What’s a druid?” I asked him the first time he called me this. “Someone who worships trees.” Not quite the precise definition, but it gave me the idea of what he meant by it. I had told him I felt close to God when I was in nature. So, he in turn decided to call me a druid. It was said in a teasing manner. I felt disrespected. So, I dumped his ass.
And here I am now generally feeling disrespected again. You see, there is a mass in honor of my mom this weekend. She was a devout Catholic. I admire folks, and, most importantly, respect them for their strong faith. I am, of course, expected to go to this mass. And, I will. But, I feel forced to go in many ways. It’s not what I believe. It’s what they believe. I go to keep the peace. I go to make my dad happy. I’ll find my own way during the service, meditating. But, let’s face it, I’d rather be outside in the natural world where I feel that strong spiritual presence and where I feel closest to Mom.
Look I don’t expect folks to understand my belief system. It’s not always clear to me. It has evolved over time and it will continue to evolve. I may not understand your beliefs. I may not like pieces of it. But, I will always respect it. And I’ll respect you. In turn, I’m asking the same. I’m simply asking for respect. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Note from author: It is not my intention to disrespect anyone or their religion or their spiritual beliefs in any way. So, if I have offended anyone, please accept my apologies.