“There is no tenderness or humanity in fanaticism.” – J. Strummer
My dad was raised Mormon but I always knew him as an Atheist. My mother was raised Catholic but now believes in the Sacred Feminine. In an effort not to screw me up any more than necessary, my parents chose to raise me without any religious affiliation.
In place of religion, I was taught “The Golden Rule:” To always treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Being raised without Christianity had a unique set of obstacles. I remember being asked to leave my friend’s slumber party at eight years old because I had told the other kids that “God didn’t write the Bible.”
During adolescence, I learned about different religions from friends and extended family. I attended different types of Christian services: Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran.
When I was nineteen I had what I thought was an existential crisis (turns out it was just being nineteen). I was captivated by the idea of having a mystical experience and became obsessed with learning more about religion. I took every Religious Studies course that I could find. I attended a variety of different churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. I soaked all of it up like a sponge.
I learned a lot, including that people don’t like it when you ask too many questions about their religion. Every religion has a doctrine. I wanted to know who wrote them and when. I wanted to know how many times they’d been translated. I wanted to build my Faith on an understanding of where these words came from that I was supposed to swear allegiance to.
I learned something beautiful and valuable from each and every religion I studied but, ultimately, I never found one that was the perfect fit for me.
I know in my heart that there is something bigger than us in this universe. I’ve seen miracles happen and had prayers answered. I am one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason and that all of this is not by chance.
But belief structures are kind of like fingerprints – they are unique to each person. Even people in the same church, in the same pew, listening to the same sermon will all take away different things. Like the majority of our perceptions, much of our spirituality is based on personal experience.
Religion is deeply personal, but it should never be an excuse to exclude anyone.
People have asked me what religion I will raise my kids with and honestly I hope they begin their own:
– A religion that embraces everyone, regardless of race/gender/sexual orientation.
– A religion that promotes kindness, balance, gratitude, and humility.
– A religion where all questions are welcome.
– A religion open to new ideas and philosophies.
I will support them no matter which religion they choose or don’t choose. What’s most important to me is that they live with open minds and open hearts and believe, above all, in love and kindness.
At the very least, I hope they choose not to be assholes.