It has been a struggle. I have attempted (and failed) to assimilate into Christianity. I have tried to be “Spiritual, not religious,” and I have often considered myself agnostic. All of these have left me with a huge void in my life. I do not get the same peace others speak about. All I am left with is more questions than answers.
I try not to judge. If your religion works for you, I respect that. I respect it works for you. I no longer try to kid myself into believing it will work for me. I am no longer wandering down that lonely street.
The terminology applied to those who do not believe seems to be shrouded in negativity. I do not like the term atheist. That seems to imply I have missed something, or I am living without a moral compass.
For me, the opposite is true. I have a strong moral and ethical viewpoint of the world. I believe in attempting to be useful. I believe in mankind. I believe we should help our fellow man. I believe we should care about our communities. This does not make me a bad person.
I have sought religious comfort and conversion on many levels. I have “prayed” for God to “enter my heart” and show me the path to righteous salvation. I have been “saved” and I have been baptized. I wanted to belong to this community so badly. I found fear and isolation instead. I felt alienated from the group. I must be broken or faulty since I cannot find faith. This has been a struggle. The isolation I experienced trying to find God was painful. God would heal me. He didn’t. It wounded me in way I did not think I would ever repair. I did not deserve to live a good life. God did not want me.
My profession has granted me so many gifts. I finally found a way to serve other people, and I did not have to pray or turn my will over to a doctrine I did not understand. I am able to help by caring about other people. I can give my time. I can spend my energy learning and improving my skills. I have dedicated my life to being better. More importantly, I have dedicated my life to being of service.
Through my reading and research on my inability to form religious roots, I have found I am not unique. There is a whole school of thought centered in my beliefs. I am relieved to know I am not broken. I can find a segment of society where I am not an outcast. I do not have to go to church to meet a nice boy. (Funny: one of my patients this week is praying for me to find a good, godly man.)
I get it. For some people religion fills a void. Unfortunately for me, religion is too exclusive. I have been told to believe or leave. My doubts were viewed as an attack on their culture. I felt horrible. I was obviously a horrible person. Thanks for that. Your religion told me I was worthless as a child because I had questions. My attempts to understand “The word of God,” and what it meant in relationship to humanity as a whole, left me out in the cold.
I needed support and encouragement. I needed to be told it was okay to not believe. I did NOT need to be judged and damned to “hell” for not blindly following you. By the way, you all believe different things. You take what you want literally, and if it does not advance your agenda, you disregard it. I was trying to understand the rules. I wanted to be a good person. I did not want to lump everyone who had different ideas into a camp of morally bankrupt, evil people. I wanted to understand.
I have had people walk up to me, and say things like “Aren’t you Christian?” If you could just hear their tone of voice. It is offensive. I finally stopped pretending. I just said no. They quietly backed away waiting for lightening to strike.
Some people may be upset I am writing this. I am sorry to disappoint you. I wanted to believe. I just don’t. It does not seem rational to me. I can no longer pretend to believe in this supernatural omnipotent being who likes to meddle in the lives of human beings. Oh! He only gets credit for the good stuff though. All the bad stuff is either Satan, or attributed to free will. Sigh.
When my son was young, he had a stutter. (It was fixed with speech therapy. You know, science.) Anyway, his well-meaning grandfather prayed for Satan to leave his body. (Not on my side of the family, I assure you.) I have never been more angry. Don’t tell my child he has a demon inside him! What the actual fuck is wrong with you? No. That is not okay. That will never be okay.
There are so many bad things in the world I attribute to religion. War, terrorism, bullying… It is not this grand loving scenario. To me, it is just another way to exclude people. No, thank you. I am good without all that.
This is not about religion bashing. This is about me. I have many people in my life who are devoutly religious. I actually respect it from them. I believe they believe it wholeheartedly. I believe them when they say they are praying for someone. I do not expect people to hide their religious views.
All I ask is please, don’t try to force me into agreeing with you. That makes me a liar. Please don’t demand my soul. I will continue to try to help society and to serve my fellow man. Just don’t paint me into a corner and tell me I am going to hell. That is cruel. I am not possessed by demon spirits. I am not a secret devil worshipper. I am not amoral. I have a strong ethical base. I know the difference between right and wrong. I respect your freedom from religious persecution. Please respect mine.
PS: I do not have a problem with you expressing your views. I am not going to go around and tell you you are wrong. I am going to respect you, and know that it is your truth. That is okay. Right?