What Does Religion Mean to Me?
I have no idea why I decided to dive into the topic of religion. I know it can be controversial, and I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial. Maybe it’s my more atypical approach to religion that makes me want to write on the subject?
I was baptized and confirmed into the United Church of Canada. My view of the United Church is that it is one of the most, if not the most, liberal church. For example, we were one of the first churches to accept homosexual relationships. Growing up, I didn’t love going to church, but really, what kid loved being forced to wake up early on Sunday? Anyways, once at church I always had a good time and the lessons I learned were to love one another, god is forgiving, god is caring, god loves everyone, help others, accept others, don’t judge others, etc. The messages were all positive. I have no recollection of learning about the impending doom of the world, or severe punishment for sins, or suffering in hell. Our minister was amazing, he knew the entire large congregation by name and made everyone feel great about themselves. I simply remember the positive messages and the happiness that went along with going to that church.
So, then at the age of 14 or 15, my Dad stopped going to the United Church and started going to an Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada with my now step-mom and her kids. I didn’t have much choice, so I also changed churches. At the same time, I had also started to question a lot in my life. I just experienced the death of my mom and my sister. My Dad was moving on in only a few months. And I never had the personality to just stand by and take things for granted, so I started to question religion. I quickly determined that the Lutheran Church does not share the same liberal values as the United Church. We sat through sermons which focused on death and hell. How we would all go to hell for our sins no matter how good we were. How we would all be judged when the time came. After over a year of attending the small church of only about 50 people, nearly every single Sunday, I was approached by the minister and asked if I was home from university for the weekend. I was confused, I had been sitting in the same pew for nearly 52 weeks and the guy had no idea who I was. He made no attempt to know me, or to connect with me. This only fueled my distaste for this church and helped my adolescent mind determine that this was a horrible, mean, judgemental church who didn’t even know I existed.
I was so confused!! One church said that we were loved and encouraged love. The other seemed to focus on scaring people into being good and how we would all go to hell regardless of how good we were. (At least this was my interpretation).
My confusion only grew stronger when I was told by my Dad, that it doesn’t matter which church you actually go to because it’s all the same god. I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend this. How could it be the same god? The god I grew up with was loving, caring and kind. This new god sure didn’t seem to be loving and caring. This new god seemed more obsessed with punishment and hatred.
As mentioned at the same time as changing churches, I was also dealing with the loss of my mom and sister. Presumably to help me cope with their deaths, people were saying things like, God needed them; God had other plans for them; they are needed more in heaven they are on earth; you’ll see them again one day; they are now angels looking over you; they are in heaven and happy. None of this made sense to me – what greater purpose could god have for them than allowing my mom to be my mom and my sister to be my sister and contribute to the world? What good does it do to have them in heaven looking over me? How could they be looking over me and happy, while I am suffering so much? And where is personal choice and freedom in all of this? A guy made a choice to not pay enough attention while he drove through a stop sign and he killed them. I couldn’t understand how this was a loving god’s doing. Why would god literally take away 2 lives and forever alter many more in the process? At least it wasn’t the actions of the loving god that I knew and believed in. It just didn’t make sense then, and now with 4 miscarriages, I’m hearing the same type of rhetoric and it still doesn’t make any more sense to me now, then it did as a teenager.
So, what have these religious turning points actually meant to me? How have they helped shape me into the adult I am today? Where am I today?
I am still confused, but I am at a place of acceptance with my confusion. At best you could say I’m happily confused. Realistically, you could say I’m non-religious.
I would desperately like to believe that when I do eventually die (hopefully at the ripe old age of at least 90, with all my mental and physical faculties still intact and surrounded by love), that I will see my mom and sister waiting for me. And maybe even my grandparents and my husband’s grandparents, and others that I may lose between now and then. But, this doesn’t mean it will actually happen, and I’m definitely not convinced that it will.
As soon as I was able to make the decision, I decided not to attend any form of church at this point in my life, and not to participate in organized religion. But to keep my heart open to spirituality. And, more importantly, to live the values and morals that I was taught as a child, most of which were reinforced while attending the United Church. To be a good person. To be honest. To support those in need. To love. To care.
I don’t need a conversion to any sort of religion to make me a good person, and at the end of the day, isn’t life about being a good person who exemplifies kindness, caring and love? And if religion is going to argue that this type of life isn’t good enough, as was the message I heard at the Lutheran Church, then I don’t want to be part of that religion.
And, even if others don’t agree, I’m okay with my decisions.