Jess & Religion (part 1)

I am that I am

An Open Letter To God From an Atheist” was the title of a slam poem I just listened to. It reminded me of all the unfinished letters and unanswered prayers directed towards the divine being from me.

My religious journey and spiritual awakening began when I was very young. I can remember the resentment for my dad’s church occupying my mind rather than the priest’s homily. And I can remember the emptiness I felt reading the Bible and the guilt of praying without fully meaning it at my mom’s church. For the next couple of years I would continue attending both churches and each time I left church I would still remain void of trust and love in a supernatural being.

Each Sunday I would be woken up, along with my sister and older brother, at 7:15 am with “Mass is in 45 minutes, get dressed” in my father’s half-asleep, but still intimidating voice. The only time we missed church was when we were on vacation; we even managed to attend church during a blizzard with only 4 other people were in attendance. After church the three of us would have to recite the homily and readings back to my father, since I was younger this task was left up to my siblings. Church became routine, I knew when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel, when to get communion, when to pray, etc. yet I never knew when I was going to have my spiritual awakening. A fact often overlooked by my father was that he was alienating us from his religion by forcing us to attend church. Mass still sends a quick jolt of panic down my spine as bad memories resurface.

At 9:30 each Sunday, after pancakes or waffles and “Breakfast with the Beatles”, the three of us would then get in my mom’s car and leave for her church. Her church was more exciting because the kids attended Sunday School with our close family friends. Yet, the disappointment was still there, following me out the door at 11 am after I had another unsuccessful chance with God. I didn’t know how to pray and I felt no connection to God.

I began attending a religious summer in Maine in 2012. We have a daily morning meeting which included reading from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (my mom is a Christian Scientist), praying, singing, and testimonies from fellow campers. On Sunday we have church and on Wednesday we have Wednesday Night Testimonies. Yet God is always incorporated somehow, whether it be Bible quotes taped to the mirrors in the bathroom or prayers before meals. Again, I felt nothing every time I prayed, and morning meetings were my least favorite part of the day. The empty feeling filled my stomach once again.

In 2015 I had a religious awakening so to speak, I came to the conclusion that I would no longer be forced into a religion. I firmly believe that everyone has their own interpretation of a god or gods and therefore no one religion is right. I don’t think faith is an evil word, but I don’t agree with religion at all. I respect the comfort others find in attending church, but becoming aware of the injustice perpetuated by religion (this includes all of them) has thrown me off the path of god. My faith has been slowly deteriorating and only fully disappeared when I realized I was afraid of not having anything to believe in. I didn’t need a god, I needed something as a backup when all else failed. The realization was liberating. I am no longer chained to rules and regulations and I’m not defined by my religion.

I was fully liberated when I talked to the local Catholic priest about having to attend confirmation classes. My dad told me that ultimately I could decide whether or not I became Catholic, but I still had to attend religious ed. I was fully against this as the original plan was to attend the first half of the final conformation class and if I wanted to stop after that, I could. So I emailed the priest and asked to meet. We met and I explained my beliefs, leaving out my declaration as an atheist, and he tried to convince me by showing me miracles. Finally he asked to meet with my father. My father met with him and after their meeting he came to me and told me that I didn’t have to take the class and I didn’t have to attend church every Sunday any more.

In hopes of still finding a god, I attend my mother’s church occasionally. Yet I always leave unfulfilled. When the teacher calls on me in class I say what I know will sound right without actually believing it. But I will continue to work on my faith and understanding of other religions and faiths. I’d rather find god on my own than blindly follow a religion and convince myself I’m religious. Don’t be a #fakefan.

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