Culture, Family, Gender & Identity, Life

As I grew up, I became less religious

Did you have sex outside of marriage? That’s shameful. Homosexuality? You're a sinner.

Throughout my life, up until I left for college, I always had a lot of religion in my life. I went to a religious school at a young age, and even when I switched schools at several points, I was always enrolled in religious classes. This lasted up until I was 18, in which by that time I had left for college, and had pretty much entered a religion-free zone, where you could choose to seek out members of your respective faith community and take part if you wanted to. I, however, opted out of that.

I’ll make a point to say that I am not an atheist. Nor do I have an issue with anyone who is. I do still, till this day, have a very deep-seated faith and trust in God despite the many setbacks I’ve had in life. However, there isn’t just one definite answer to why I became less religious as I became older – is there ever really one?

I also won’t reveal my faith to you, because I’m convinced that it’s not important. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, Baha’i, or Jewish. What matters is that I am a living human being, with my own unique thoughts, feelings and emotions. I believe religion means something different to all of us, uniquely and individually. Everyone is on their own path when it comes to their faith, and I strongly feel that no one should try and interfere negatively with that.

We may come from various religious faith communities, speak other languages, and hold different citizenships, but ultimately, our human experiences are the same.

I wasn’t very observant when it came to faith to begin with. Though I may have had a lot of religion growing up, it was mainly due to the educational systems that I was enrolled in. But at home, religion wasn’t really pressed or forced upon me.

It was really only during certain times of the year, such as religious or cultural occasions, that I would take part with my family. But I was always aware, and would at times read our scriptures and pray when I was feeling low or during exam time.

Somehow, I felt like I was going through a minor crisis of faith all the time.

At my school, I had been taught a very one sided, narrow-minded view of my faith. You do this or eat that, and you end up in hell. Did you have sex outside of marriage? That’s shameful. Homosexuality? You’re a sinner. Yet as an open-minded, liberal, educated, 21st century woman, I found myself disagreeing with my teachers.

I had, and still have, my own personal views about such matters and other topics. By the time I was in college as a full-time student, and surrounded by the fertile grounds of academia, I knew I needed something more than just spiritual nourishment to sustain me.

I needed to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually challenged, which is exactly what I got while I was a student. Books and articles on Greek philosophy, French literature, politics, and Middle East history came my way as I worked tirelessly toward my degree. Soon, my mind and world had opened up. As much as the religious school systems I had been through tried, my mind could never be closed off again.

Every class I was in and paper I wrote required effort, and left me burning the desire to always learn more. Still, I did not seek out or join the local club of my faith community. I felt with my own open-minded views – namely, that I am not a sexist, racist, or a homophobe – I would not be welcome. Till this day, I still feel like that. I’ve excluded myself to protect myself.

Have I made the right choice? I wonder sometimes.

But for now, I feel sustained and nourished on a number of levels. The inspiration and hope I get from the numerous writers, artists, musicians, and philosophers whose works I have read and seen have all influenced me and filled a void. Before them…well, there must have been a deep emptiness, I suppose. In writing these very words, I speak from a part of my soul that only happens when I put pen to paper, or my fingers to my keyboard.

I still believe in my faith, my religion, and always will. Perhaps one day I will be more practicing or will need it to play a greater role in my life on a number of level. Yet for now, I am content.