Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gotta have Faith

Thanks to Lindsay's Crawford House for her post about faith. It finally gave me the courage to publish this post that I wrote 4 months ago.

This is a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately and there have been numerous occasions where I have contemplated blogging about it but since it is a touchy subject usually avoided in diverse arenas such as this, I have up until this point not talked about it. However, in the end I must remember that first and foremost this blog is for my children and I would want them to know exactly where I was at this point in my life and theirs. I also have faith that even though the subject is sensitive and people who read this will have a multitude of views regarding it, that in the end we can have a civil and respectful discussion about it without judging or critcizing others beliefs. The subject I am speaking of is religion. Now I am sure at some point or another during this post I will probably inadvertantly manage to offend each and every one of you and please do not try and take it personally. I don't mean to and you can chalk it up to my general ignorance from a lack of true personal experience with religion. That's right folks. You heard me correctly. I am not a religious person.

My Mom comes from a Luthern home, although I do not believe she grew up going to church every Sunday. My Dad comes from a Catholic home and although I do not know for certain how often he went to church, I do know that my Grandmother attends service regularly and always has as far as I can remember. That said, as a family we never attended church. Growing up I would go to catholic serve with my Grandmother and I loved it. I had a children's bible she gave me as a gift and I read the stories from there on a regular basis. As I got to be a pre-teen, the need for religion in my life waned until in junior high school I began attending a youth group and Sunday service at a Baptist church on my own, but to be honest my main motivation was to get closer to a boy I liked whose house was right next store to the church. That is not to say however, that I didn't take anything away from the time I spent at that church and to be honest what I remember most was how judgemental they were of people who did not beleive exactly the way they did. They carried an air about them that they were better than people of other relgiious beliefs and while I certainly understand that it very well may have been that particular church and NOT the Baptist denomination, it has definitely stuck with me.

Once I got my driver's license, I decided to try out a couple churches on my own, namely luthern since I was familiar with the catholic faith my father had been raised into, I felt it only fair to give my Mom's family religion a fair chance but I never really felt comfortable at any of the services I attended. In college I took a world religion course as well as a followup course focusing on Western religions. I found the study of religion academically to be fascinating and philisophically speaking I felt most comfortable with the Buddhist religion but I still never found a religion that fit with what I already believed nor did I find anything compelling enough to make me want to change those beliefs. I also studied atheism and found that just like I was not willing to take that leap of faith with any of the religions I studied, I was also not willing to believe with any certainity that God did not exist because that is exactly what atheists do. I therefore labeled myself agnostic, which is what I have considered myself from the time I was 21. I do not know if God exists and question whether or not there is any way to ever truly know. There, I said it. The one thing I am most afraid to tell people and now here it is on blog for friends, family and strangers alike to read. Makes me feel pretty vulnerable honestly because for those who hold so dearly to their faith, I honestly am afraid of how they will think of me now. Then again it is also pretty liberating to just come out and say it because this is who I am. Amongst my good friends I count a studying Jehovah's Witness, Mormons, Catholics and Non-Denominational Christians. I respect their beliefs and I would hope that others would not think less of me for what I believe.

Just because I am not religious does not make me a bad person. One of the most powerful statements the pastor made at my Dad's funeral was about the fact that he did not regularly attend church. He said, to paraphrase, that some people can attend church on Sunday and then think nothing of stabbing a co-worker on the back Monday morning. Going to church does not automatically make you a better or more religious (spiritual) person. And that is how I feel about my life. Even though I don't know what I believe, I still try to lead a moral and just life. I still make mistakes and I still fall but I also think if there is a God, would he approve of this or that. If there is a heaven, I want to know I led a life deserving of being there and also believe that God would not hold it against me that I may not have gone to church on Sundays or even that I questioned his existence. Because I try every day to be a good person. And just for clarification, I want to add that most of the family and friends I know take their religion very seriously and they carry it with them beyond Sunday service into their everyday life. The above example was speaking about someone who thinks that they can just do whatever they want with their lives and that attending a church service once a week makes it all okay.

Joe, who was also raised Catholic but did not attend church regularly as a teen or young adult, believes similarly to me but we also knew when we had kids that the subject would have to be reevaluated because we both want to expose our children to religion. And that brings me to the reason why the subject has been on my mind lately, because we are at that point in the children's lives were we think they are ready for that exposure. Not only that, they are craving it and starting to ask questions. Most notably, Jake had been taught to say a prayer before snack time at his public preschool. I have no qualms about this. In fact, I rather like that he was taught to be respectful, take pause and be thankful for all that he has. Well, about 3 or 4 months ago, he started wanting to say the prayer before dinner and before you know it, we as a family are all now praying before dinnertime. Again, this is not anything I am opposed to but it is obviously time to start making some decisions about exactly what religion/denomination we want to expose the children to, to what extent and what it means for our personal beliefs. This is a big decision with a lot of implications and I don't want to make a mistake.

And so I have been doing a lot of reading and talking to all of my friends about their various beliefs and I am about to start "church shopping" based on all of my research. My goal is to find a something that is a good match for our family. I need to feel completely comfortable with what I am going to expose my kids to with the understanding that they will be able to make up their own minds when they get older. Ultimately, it would be great if I found something that changed my mind, something that spoke to me in such a way that I was willing to give up my undecided and "we have no way of knowing" label but so far that search has honestly been disheartening and disappointing. I am trying with every fiber of my being to be open-minded.

And so in the end I have to have faith. Faith that that the right decision will make its way to me, no matter what that decision may entail - a life change? Maybe. Taking the road less traveled? Possibly.

You just never know. Spoken like a true agnostic.


LauraC said...

Hey this topic is about to blow up huge on my blog. I was raised Catholic and stopped practicing when I was 16. Very long story involved but I do not agree with many of the Catholic church's tenants, particularly that you can break the rules and confess and everything is forgiven. But I could go on and on with the list.

Being in the south, we absolutely feel we need to educate our kids on religion or else they will get an education from other parents, friends and teachers. At my 35th birthday party, my friend's friend was there and we hit it off completely. She and I went for coffee later and we learned we have a lot in common - including our Catholic upbringing and rejection of the church.

Turns out she goes to a church, called Unitarian Universalist. She told me more, I read more (those were the two secret books I mentioned) and it sounds like a perfect fit for our family. I'm going to check out services on my own a few times before taking the whole family.

Here's what I like:
* they have a set of morals and beliefs in which I believe
* they believe that each person needs to find their own truth about their beliefs - you can be jewish, catholic, agnostic, atheist - but you need to figure it out on your own
* they truly support educating people in every religion so you can make an educated choice

Anyway this comment is super long but I've found most christian religions to be fairly strict in that you must believe what they believe to be a member. My beliefs don't fit into a particular church but I am still moral and still want to my kids to feel free to explore their beliefs without judgement.

Feel free to email me if you want to chat more. I found out that Beth grew up UU and loved it!

*Kc* said...

Good for you for being honest and liberating yourself.

I do not judge you or hold it against you. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I'm glad you are having faith through your journey to find a church home.

My husband wasn't raised in church either and he believes about the same as you. He believes in a God, but he doesn't know how or why etc.. We do go to church and we talk about it a lot. I am very strong in my beliefs and he knew that from the beginning. I told him when we had Cami that she was going to be raised in church and he understood.

I completely agree with you about the hypocrite Christians. It's very disheartening because it scares non Christians away when they see people like that. (for husband) He talks about that all the time! "Well.. so many people think you can just go to church, then turn around and lie, shoot, and steal" and they're a Christian??"

Anyway, that was long. I just wanted to say I admire you for your honesty. I hope yall find a good church home that will fit with your family!

Joanna said...

LOL, I was going to say you should shoot Laura an email, but it looks like she got here first.

DesiDVM said...

Very interesting topic...we are definitely a "religious" family i.e. we go to church as often as we can, we pray together, we read bible stories, etc. However we haven't had any major discussions with J about religion, and we try not to force anything on him. I like the tradition of going to church and the community feeling we get there, but it took going to a couple of churches before we found the "right" one. I don't want my kids to feel like church is a burdensome thing that they HAVE to do, rather I want them to feel like it's something they enjoy and that adds to their life, and the choice of church is so important for that. Anyway great post!

Julie said...

This is a really great post Jenn and I think that there are many readers who can relate to parts or all of it.

We have a complicated religion issue as well b/c I was raised very loosely Lutheran (we went to church only on holidays really) and my husband is Buddhist. My father passed away last month and Lana has a LOT of questions. A lot. Religion and how we explain and teach our girls is becoming an issue. We plan to expose them to both of our belief systems and let them decide when they are older which is appropriate for them (or something else altogether). The problem for me is that like you, I will need to church shop to find the one that aligns the best with my beliefs.

Incidentally, we got married in a Unitarian church--it was a great supportive environment, particularly b/c Bill was Buddhist and few other denominations were okay with marrying a Christian and a non-Christian.

You are brave to explore these topics in such a public spot. I am glad you have received such supportive comments.