I’m not a religious person, as such. In fact, religion, and devoutly religious people, often take me by surprise.
It’s not that I don’t believe. In fact, when asked to clarify my religious status, I often state ‘Believer’ and leave it at that. I believe in a Higher Something. It’s just that religion in it’s organised formats irritates me, scares me and intimidates me.
I wasn’t bought up religious, did you guess that? My father and both grandmothers are varying shades of apathetic, agnostic and atheistic. The most devoutly religious person in my family would be my aunt, who has been a practicing Wiccan for thirty years.
My mother currently attends a Catholic parish with her devoutly Catholic partner who is separated, but of course not divorced, from his wife; but she does not take Communion. I think, from memory, she was Christened as a child. My best guess is to say that she, like me, is a ‘believer’ in some inception.
Despite not growing up with religion, I know the basics. Occasionally I attended youth fellowship, and I remember once going to a service, with friends of mine. The thing that stands out the most about that service is that I was wearing a skirt- not a regular occurrence for me, then or now- and I emerged from the bathrooms at one point with my skirt tucked into my undies. A good ten minutes later, someone pulled me aside to let me know. That was as close to a religious epiphany as it got.
The only regular secular influence in my life was Sunday School, which was actually not held on a Sunday but once a fortnight on a Thursday, as part of our regular school class times. Incredible, in the literal sense of the word, that this was par for course- all students at my non-denominational public school attended Christian Sunday School, unless their parents specifically opted them out of it.
My husband family are Catholic. Their Catholicism insisted my son be baptised, and they don’t eat red meat on Good Friday. In the time I’ve known my husband, his Catholic family have attended church twice- once for my son’s baptism, and once prior to that to organise my son’s baptism. And I do believe on the second occasion my mother-in-law took the Lord’s name in vain in front of the priest.
The last time I attended church was only a few weeks ago. I performed a magic show for the congregation of a church that runs the playgroup myself and my children attend every week. It was a blissful, uplifting experience. To hear people speak of love and acceptance, and to feel the evidence of that not only in that room, but in the kinship between the parents I see every week at playgroup; well, that’s a beautiful thing. To hear people raise their voices together in joy, sweet and harmonious, to sing praise; the sound of it buoys my heart. My frustration at not being able to join in, knowing not the tune nor the words, is tempered with the pleasure of closing my eyes and listening to the rapture of others.
And that is what I find to be redeeming, concerning religion, the element that sits with me comfortably and speaks to my soul. The love. The faith. The light it brings to people. I remember a conversation with a close friend of mine, confiding in her that my greatest fear is what would happen to my child if I were to pass away. She, being a devout and practicing Christian, replied that she didn’t worry so much about that because she knew Jesus loved her child even more than she did, and He would always take care of her.
How extremely comforting. What relief, to give yourself to a higher power like that, to truly put your existence in the hands of the Creator. What a sweet balm for the horrible pain of life.
Faith such as that, I am envious of. But I am also far too cynical to relinquish the illusion of control that I prefer to maintain over my own reality.
Sometimes I feel both hypocritical and blasphemous, because, in my own belief, I have picked and selected parts of different faiths that sit well with me. The concept of a Creator, of Something Higher and Mightier than us, I have to believe in that. I look around at our planet, the people on it, the tiny miracles that knit together people’s existences every day; and I can only conclude it is arrogant, ignorant, to not believe that there is Something beyond us.
I believe- I must believe- that everything happens for a reason. That every event has a ulterior consequence it is clicking and tumbling toward. Easy for me, who has lived a life of relatively petty pain and minimal loss, to say; but it breaks my heart to think otherwise. To consider the idea that we are all just floating in some kind existential mess, a serendipic creation of chemicals, catalysts and sheer luck- I can’t bear it. There must be a purpose for suffering. For no other reason that I cannot stand it, if there were not.
And, if I believe this, must I not also believe that our trails are set for us, our fate entwined, entangles and defined from the very second we crown into the world? Yes, I must. That is the way with theology and philosophy- belief to assumption to belief, a domino effect untempered by selfish reason.
The very essence of faith.
I believe in karma, that what you give is what you get returned. I believe there is a connection between people and people; between people and the Earth; and that some people are more in tune with that phenomena than others.
I believe you should be kind, without being overly righteous, because what you do comes back to you, three fold. I believe there is a Plan, and everything is a part of it, though you may never know the reason behind it.
Simple truths. The things I must believe, to make sense of the confounding puzzle of a world, and the occupants within it.
I feel selfish, for cross-stitching the less intricate elements of religions I know little about, in a clunky mish mash of my own belief system.
But I also don’t think I’m doing anyone any harm, believing the way I do. It causes me to be a better, stronger, person, rich with a patience I don’t always possess and an appreciation for the things that bless me. And while it does not bring the level of comforting submission that I imagine comes with a full sacrifice to a deity, with a complete immersion into a formal religion, I take solace from what I believe.
Surely whatever God there is, would be OK with that.
Inspired by a question from the FormSpring.