Friday, November 26, 2010

Let's talk about faith?

I was always afraid that if I questioned my belief in God, I would go to hell, so I never did.

I went to Catholic school for the first nine years of my literate life. Nuns who wear habits and live in a house on the school ground, statues of saints next to the playground, crucifixes over the chalk boards in every room, and Hail Mary every morning before the Pledge of Allegiance...who would think to question it? I was the best guilty Catholic, the best grace-saying, Jesus-loving, hell-fearing child that Sr. Ann and Sr. Mary Theresa could have hoped to have in their religion class. I learned that all I had to do to go to heaven was believe in Jesus.

It took a while to adjust to non-sectarian high school. No Bible readings, no Thursday mass, and the teachers don't start each class with a prayer. Strange. I met atheists for the first time. Stranger. Atheists have no problem talking about God as a belief instead of a divine entity, something I was never comfortable with. I would push those thoughts from my mind for fear of going to hell, but as I became more comfortable thinking about it, I realized my religion was a matter of tradition, not faith.

Why am I Catholic? I don't agree with the Bible. I don't agree with the Church. I definitely believe there is a higher power, but how do I know it's the God I learned about in school all those years, exactly the way they taught Him in the Bible? Do I even believe in Heaven? I don't know. I don't know what I believe anymore. Without someone to tell me what to believe, I can't decide for myself. There are too many options.

I want my religion back. I want to be a good Catholic girl again because I want to believe in something again. I want to believe in Heaven, but to believe in Heaven, I have to also believe in Hell. Instead of Heaven or Hell, is it better just to believe that when you die, your life ends? You won't know you're dead. Logically, it's better to believe in Heaven because, if you're right, you will go to Heaven for believing in it. If you're wrong, you will never find out. That thought doesn't comfort me. I had to write an essay in sixth grade about what I thought Heaven would be like. My description did not include the possibility of knocking on the door and no one answering.

Even writing this, I'm afraid. I'm so paranoid that I heard my mom calling for my dad down the hall, but he wasn't answering, and I thought of the possibility of something bad happening to someone I love just because I'm thinking about this. The strongest part of my faith that remains is my fear. Even at times when I think that God was made up by people looking for answers and guidance in their lives, writing the Bible to give others the same sense of direction and purpose, I walk carefully down the stairs in fear of my punishment.

Believing in God just makes sense, more sense than anything actually. Without God, there would be no absolute truth and nothing to rely on to always be there. God is the answer to everything, giving guidance, direction, purpose, meaning, hope, and simplicity to a complicated world. Maybe God doesn't do those things, but maybe those things are God. Maybe God is just the presence of all those things in the lives of people who believe it. We can never prove God exists just as the religion believe, but in the end, does it matter? What if God is a myth? That doesn't make Him any less real to those who believe.

I could go on with this train of thought. I need to go to sleep now, but unlike I did when I was little, I can't just recite my little prayer before bed and feel assured that everything will be okay.

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. May angels watch me through the night and wake me with the morning light."



  1. I went to a Christian school for 6 years and when I went there, I was told what to believe and obviously I did, but now that I don't go there anymore I don't know what to do because now I’m at the age where I can think for myself and come up with these questions. I never really was very religious and I’m still not, but my grandparents are. I'd like to believe that there is a God but there are so many possibilities of who He could be. That's why there are so many religions. This is actually one of the reasons I like watching House so much. They question religion a lot: last week's episode was a really devout Christian who went through the crucifixion to show his loyalty because he believed that his daughter (who had cancer) was cured by God. House went through the entire episode trying to prove that God didn't care about him and that there is no God, but no matter what he did, the guy stayed with his beliefs. And there are a lot of episodes like that.

    And then there's the whole thing of: what if you aren't a strong believer and instead you waver on your religion. I admit that I'm really on and off about praying and those types of things and in that sense I'm like the Christians Shakespeare tries to portray in his plays. I want to believe in God, but there's no way of knowing my version of God is the 'correct' one but that's just something you have to deal with. And how do we know that there isn’t more than one God? We can’t. It’s something that’s always in your mind and it’s not something someone else can decide what you should believe even though you want them to tell you what to do.

  2. I never really believed in God. At least not the God they taught us about in Bible class. I used to argue with people and challenge the motives and reasoning of the God I thought I believed in. It didn't make sense to me that bad people could be forgiven just for believing in a God and a freaking Buddhist Monk who spent their life saving children from angry wilder-beasts and curing cancer in his spare time would go to hell for not believing in God.

    I don't believe in a higher power, but I think religions are incredibly important. Sometimes I wish I was religious, just so I could take comfort in the fact that I knew there was someone always there for me and things like that.

    As for the fear thing... I hate that about religions. It's sad that an institution so beautiful focuses so much on scaring people into it. I know that isn't a universal thing with all religions and all teachings, but it kind of befuddles me that people thought to associate such great and powerful emotions and stories and morals and whatnot with the constant shadow of Big Brother looming over them. I think the only thing that truly matters is intent. It should be about morals and beliefs and rewards, not punishments. When I stopped believing in a God, I decided that if He existed, then it was humans that made him into a spiteful prick. The God in my mind doesn't hold grudges over something that has such little effect on the way a person acts. What matters is the material taught, not the teacher. Who cares if I learned Particle Physics from Princeton, MIT, or CalTech? It's all quality stuff, and what matters is what you do with what you've learned. The name of the institution fades away, but actions are forever. (Yes, Hallmark, if you read this, feel free to contact me and we can work out some kind of copywrite agreement.)

    It's just...I can't see a being that's supposed to have such grace and elegance smite others just for being whatever He created them to be. If God really gave a damn about being acknowledged before every meal, sleep, classroom lesson, or whatever, I'd like to think he'd do something to ensure we believed. If God exists, I think the option to believe is open ended because there are more good people in the world than bad, and God is satisfied with the way things are. Or something.

    I figure that if I die tomorrow and face judgment, God will chuckle at my incorrect fumblings of Hail Marys and stuttered Our Fathers, pat me on the back and say something like "Glad you can make it, come on in. And stop with the poems, I appreciate the sentiment, but you suck at it. Go get some pancakes."

    Who is God to deny a good person for something as harmless as not believing in him? I'd like to think the creator of everything was a bit more open minded and a bit less superficial, you know?

    I love religion and everything it stands for, but for something that's meant to give such comfort and reassurance, I see a lot of anxiety in the maintenance.