When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. – Abraham Lincoln
I was raised in a passive-aggressive Roman Catholic household. While I was never forced to attend church every weekend, religion played a big part in my upbringing. I understood the importance of all the religious (Catholic) holidays. I was taught to fear God but not the people who worshiped him -or her. I grew up loving Jesus even though I had no idea why. At the root, I was raised with a Catholic conscience yet I never deeply understood it. As I grew older, the concept of directing my life around the teachings of a book written by fallible human beings nearly 3,000 years ago plunged me into confusion. Many worldly conflicts have been rooted by the religious division; this “fighting for peace” mentality simply blows my mind. I am a peaceful soul, so I have no grasp of fighting another human being over a higher power or even worse, the interpretation of how to meet said higher power. Somehow, somewhere, my moral compass sided to be more on “inclusion” rather than “exclusion” when it comes to the treatment of others and our differences. With most religions solely focused on being “right one”, how would I ever commit to knowing that I chose it? Just because my family told me? Naaa, I’m not buying it.
As I became more aware of the do’s and don’ts of a Catholic lifestyle, my spiritual beliefs began to erode quickly. I was taught to treat women with respect and to treat them as equals and to which I am grateful. Yet here was my religion excluding women from any position of power within the church. More confusion about my religion arose when it is clear that being gay is a general no-no. I was sexually abused by another man, does that make me gay? Even if it did, what is so bad about being gay? The ironic part was that I was abused by the man who was teaching me most of my religious lessons. My confusion lies within the hypocrisy of it all. I don’t even want to get started about priests who molest children. I understand that people can screw up in life, but when the church generally just pays off it’s victims, sweeps the allegations under the rug and makes no noticeable change within it’s policies; I have lost all hope of ever following the Catholic lifestyle.
During my mid to late 20’s I had gone through a period of religious renewal. Being a child who wanted to please his parents, I believed that I could give religion another chance. I began to attend services at the local Wesleyan church. I still had deep difficulties loving and believing in Jesus, but I gave it my best shot. While I was trying my best to follow the word of another about someone I could never know, I did appreciate the Wesleyan way of caring for one other. Ultimately, we ended up getting our son christened at this church -more to please my family instead of following any real devout ritual. While I didn’t attend services regularly, I still kept in touch with the church by attending services on the major holidays. Then I got the bill in the mail. At the time I had worked directly across the street of the Wesleyan church that I was attending. I got to see all of the upgrades, renovations and upkeep that the church was doling out on a regular basis. When I saw a very intricate fountain-pond being installed, I began to question what it was that this church stood for. When I got that plea in the mail to donate more money to the church, I quickly realized that my ticket to heaven was paved by the amount of money I brought to the table. I instantly soured on that church and I have never been back.
So here I am, in my late 30’s. While I do have hope that there is a great afterlife and a God somewhere awaiting my arrival. I believe that there is no definitive way to prove the existence of a God during our lifetime. Some will point out that all of the inexplicable great things that occur are a direct result of our faith. I respectfully disagree. It is my fate and not my faith that guides me through my life. When I am good to others, good things will happen to me. When I do bad, bad things will happen. It is the give and take, yin and yang cycle of our lives. Do onto others and forgive, be patient and believe in the goodness in everyone. Live with good purpose and die with great dignity.
I know this blog post may disappoint some of you and I make no apology for that. What I am trying to convey is that life is not about whose religion is more superior than another. Life it comes down to how we treat one another despite our differences. It is not about condemning those who believe or those who do not. If you love Jesus, I am truly happy for you. I make no judgement but I will hold you accountable to your actions. I have lived my life being color blind and I cannot distinguish between two shades of blue. Does that make me blind? No, I have 20/20 vision. Would you judge me based on my color palette? Probably not. Then don’t judge me based on my reluctance to accept religion. My color blindness is simply my brains interpretation of color. Likewise, my agnostic lifestyle is simply my mind’s interpretation of my afterlife -not yours. It is not a definition of who I am or the basis of how I act. I simply seek to treat others as they treat me.