Religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship – I saw this on someone’s FaceBook profile the other day and felt it was so appropriate. It said exactly what I feel and believe.
The topic for this week’s Spin Cycle is religion. This is a topic that is very hard for me to write about. I even contemplated skipping this week but that would be taking the coward’s way out. I think the point of writing a blog is to “put yourself out there” and sometimes that means talking about things that aren’t easy to talk about. For lots of people this might be an easy subject to talk about but it’s not for me.
I would first like to preface this by saying that I am NOT picking on any one religion or bashing anyone. This is solely my personal belief and experience. I consider myself a tolerant person and to bash another person or religion would be intolerant. And that would make me hypocritical which is one thing I do not want to be. That is probably my biggest “beef” with religions, in general, is the hypocrisy. I am not talking about any one religion because I have friends of all faiths and religions and in my quest for my truth and faith I have visited untold number of churches and gatherings and have seen it in some form in EVERY one of them. I have come to the conclusion that it is NOT the church or religion itself that is hypocritical, it’s the people who make it up and not all of them but sometimes a few rotten apples will spoil the whole bunch.
And let me also state upfront that I am grateful to my family for the upbringing that I did have, especially my aunt and grandmother because without the two of them, I fear I would have had no religious foundation whatsoever. But, therein lies my problem.
When I was growing up, my parents did not belong to a church (or any organized religion for that matter) and never took us to church. My aunt and grandmother were devout Christians (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and wonderful women. They were kind and loving and tolerant. My mother had “dabbled” in going to occasional meetings and at one point I even remember the weekly bible studies being held in our home but my dad, at that point in his life, was very intolerant of religion ….PERIOD. Since my dad felt such disdain for religion, especially his mother’s (he felt she shoved it on him so he resisted with all his might) my mother decided she would rather side with my father. I believe her exact words were : “If he’s not gonna make it into the new world then I don’t want to either!” It was all very confusing to me.
To further the confusion, my mother sent us (the children) to services with my aunt and grandmother. I have to give my aunt props. It could not have been easy to weekly take six kids that weren’t even yours, in addition to your own 4 kids, to weekly services. I do remember times of stopping by the store on the way home for ice cream and having fun with my cousins. But, the fact that the nearest hall was a good 30 miles away and I believe at the time my aunt drove a VW beetle so we were crammed in their like cigars in a cigar box. I know I didn’t pay near the attention I should have but enough sunk in that I think it gave me a foundation to build on and an appreciation of God and faith.
The hardest and most confusing times for me personally were always the holidays. Every holiday, including birthdays, but especially Christmas, was torture for me. Here we were every week attending these meetings with my aunt, being told that celebrating holidays was wrong and then we’d come home and celebrate the holidays with our family. I always felt like such a hypocrite and a phony and I hated it. I was embarrassed to let my “church friends” know we celebrated holidays. I always felt like I had to “hide” part of myself. I couldn’t be either one truly without hurting the other part of my family. There goes that whole part of not feeling like I fit in, AGAIN.
I have always been a “people pleaser” and always worried about offending others and wanting others to like me. I know, it’s a character flaw, but I can’t help it. Having that trait of always wanting to please others led to a lot of guilt that I actually had no control over. I felt guilty for celebrating the holidays with my family because I went against what my “religion” told me was right but then again, I would have felt even worse going against my parents. That was unheard of! But as I neared my teens, an incident within our family kind of cleared that up because I was no longer “made” to go with my aunt. I still occasionally went but by the time I finished high school, I had stopped going altogether. BUT… since I had that foundation there of going all those years, I had always associated myself as being “one of them” so to speak, even though I wasn’t formally a member.
After I graduated from high school and left home I started on a search for what I felt was “the true religion”. I honestly have to say, that of all the “churches” I have attended (and I went to a LOT of different ones, different faiths, trust me) they did come the closest I have ever felt to truly following the bible strictly. But again, that’s all in interpretation and is strictly my personal opinion. After we had children, I felt I needed to give them a better foundation than I had, but alas, I feel I probably did as poorly in that department as my parents. Maybe even worse. I went to the hall and took the children but in my quest to “give them a mind of their own” I tried to let them make some of their own decisions. I personally did not celebrate holidays or birthdays and tried to let them make their own decisions but I fear I failed miserably. And my husband did not share my faith which led to a lot of conflict within our household. Hopefully I didn’t cause the same turmoil and confusion for them that I had felt in my own life growing up.
Through the years of dealing with different personalities and people I decided that I was better off serving GOD in my own heart. I have heard it said by many people of many religions that we don’t serve man, we serve God. And that is so true. But I don’t care what religion it is, it’s still going to have some influence of the men that run that organization. It’s human nature. They can’t help but put their own influence on it. I decided several years ago to stop going to any organized religious services. I do not want to be a hypocrite. There are teachings in almost every organization that I don’t agree with. Some have certain beliefs but their actions don’t substantiate those beliefs.
I happen to think that any loving God would not limit the number of people saved to a certain number or religious belief. I want to try to live my life being the best person I can be. I want to treat others fairly. I don’t want to think that because you are a certain religion, or color, or ethnicity, or sexual preference that you can’t have a relationship with God and that he’d turn His back on you. I also don’t believe that alienating people because they might make a mistake (even though you might think you are doing the best for that person) is a loving way to be. I can’t imagine that God would turn his back on someone when they need him the most, when they might be at their lowest. How is that loving? I would want to believe that God is forgiving and loving and as long as you live your life in a fashion that you try to help others and leave the world a better place than what you found it, He accepts and loves you back.
I could go into details about all different faiths and religions and bash all kinds of people but that wouldn’t be loving either and I’m not even going to go there. Suffice it to say that in my heart, I feel I know God and I’m not going to try to force my beliefs on someone else. I feel my shortcomings and “sins” are between me and God. I don’t need to have someone else to tell me when I’ve done wrong… I know it myself. I don’t need to publicly or privately confess that to any man. That is between me and my God and I feel He is the only one that has the right to decide my punishment (unless I have broken some law).
Now to lighten the mood and for your listening pleasure please enjoy a little REM: