Losing My Religion
Updated: Apr 21, 2018
My mother is a devote God-fearing Christian. She has been my whole life. She believes that God is the answer to every question, that through him all things are possible, that He can get you through the darkest times with prayer and devotion. My mother gives 1/10th of her pay cheque, every pay cheque to the collection basket because to give tithe is to receive your blessings and want for nothing. When I was a child Sunday was considered the Lord’s day and I had to observe all the traditions that went with it. I would get up at the crack of dawn and begin to prepare for a day filled with church and God.
I would put on my Sunday bests which could take time because I was never a still child. After I got ready and right before we would depart for our walk to Assemblies of God Church I had my own pre-game ritual: I would go into the front yard of our little village in Georgetown my Gran Gran and all my aunties, uncles and cousins would come out onto their verandas and watch me strut down the boardwalk leading out to the dirt road on Albert St., the host and star of my own fashion show, twirling my dress and flipping my bobble-filled hair as my family cheered in utter amusement.
On the long walk to church my mom would warn me about behaving in Sunday school and how “listening is important,” one of her favourite mantras. Even back home I was more of a religious rogue than a good Christian girl. I only listened to the lessons taught long enough to get the jest and fill in the blanks for myself. The rest of the time was spent making the other kids laugh with my own tales. I would report to my mom on the way home what I had learned and somehow the story I would tell would be an odd combination of the Bible and the fantasies of a child.
For example: Adam and Eve didn’t bite into an apple, it was a mango because that is obviously a sweeter more tempting fruit so it makes more sense that they would disobey God for a mango because I would disobey God for a mango!
I was always getting caught up in tall tales and half-truths, always asking questions that were too complex for my age so no one wanted to answer them.
How could Adam and Eve not realize they were naked until they told a lie? I always know when I’m naked whether I am telling a lie or the truth.
Why is the devil a snake? Why not an alligator or a cockroach? Note: both animals I was terrified of as a child and still am.
Exactly how big was Noah’s Ark? How long did he take to make it? Finally, if there were two of every animal in the world how many animals were there? Note: the last one was more of a mathematical inquiry.
How did Jonah survive being swallowed by a killer whale whose name by its very nature means certain death?
Parting an entire sea with a stick seems kind of impossible and completely unpractical. Why didn’t anyone plan ahead. I realize they left in a hurry but I am sure everyone knew the sea was there so parting it with a staff instead of having boats on hand seems like a pretty simplistic solution to a complex problem.
I always thought Able was the favourite and Cain got a raw deal. If it were to happen in modern times I believe he would get off on self defense plea because it was clearly justifiable homicide. (I watched a lot of Law and Order with my father when I was a kid)
Why are the 10 Commandments so strict? Do you have to follow them to the letter or is there a grey area? Finally, why can’t they be updated to reflect the time we live in now instead of an ancient time that no one can relate to.
These were only a few of the Bible stories that seemed suspicious to me, that I was expected to take on faith. By the time I turned 12 I had had enough. The Sunday school lessons had gone from childhood parables to complex issues that were meant to indoctrinate young minds into conforming to certain Christian values. I began to challenge my teachers. Like a rebel I began to challenge the establishment with my provocative questions.
Why is the Catholic Bible considered unholy because there are an extra 2 books at the end of the new testament? Why does that make them all hell bound?
Why is lust such a bad thing? Shouldn’t you be physically drawn to someone first? No one looks at a person and thinks “Hey they look like they have a winning personality I think I like them.” Physical attraction to another human being is as natural as breathing especially during adolescence. Making young people feel wrong for something they hormonally have no control over is just unfair.
There is nothing wrong with being gay. God doesn’t hate or condemn gay people, people hate and condemn them. God is love and if you can teach us that we were created in his image and likeness then you have to accept that God is a little gay too.
That final rebel rousing speech about my gay God finally got me booted out of Sunday school. The official line was that I was being disruptive and I was old enough to sit in service with my grandmother for adult worship. They wanted me to be a sponge, just soaking up every tale they told, every verse, every gospel without question and I learned early on I am just not built that way.
I went straight home after church that Sunday and announced to my mom that I was not going back. If they didn’t want me, if they refused to answer simple questions then I wanted no part of their gossipy, hypocritical, self-righteous congregation. The following Sunday my mom started taking me to Catholic church with her. It wasn’t as long, it wasn’t as loud, there was no question or answer portion and the songs sounded sad. Note: My mom is an equal opportunity God-lover as long as you believe in him in any form you were good with her, that said she was actually Catholic before she eventually was baptized Christian.
Although, I am technically baptised Catholic, I went to all Catholic schools, I have even gone through the rituals of 1st Communion and Confirmation I consider myself a fraud. I have only ever been to confession once and it was a total disaster. I told my elementary school priest father Canon that I thought confessing your sins to a total stranger was silly, that the worse thing I did in a day was yell at my baby sister and that fighting with her can’t be a bigger sin than him sneaking beer when he is posted outside on the parish porch doing his off duty surveillance of all the school kids. He gave me a 20 Our Father-20 Hail Mary sentence for my belligerence and I did it but I never went to confession again. I really only appreciated the service because it was to the point, lasted exactly an hour and was on a 3 years repeat cycle for the literature so you never really missed anything and you always knew what to expect. There was no loud off key singing from a colourful choir of young and old, men and women. There was no social hour in the parking lot where the women of the congregation used the opportunity to talk about other women of the congregation.
At Catholic service you did your time, got your holy wafer at the end and only waited long enough to maneuver your car out of the packed parking lot. As church experiences went this was not so bad. I wasn’t there long enough to get restless but I didn’t feel connected to the parish priest so I still didn’t get any of the answers I was looking for.
Eventually, I grew up and mom couldn’t force me to go to church at all. She could guilt, she could cajole but ultimately the decision was mine. By the time I reached my 20’s I usually only went on special occasions like Easter or Mother’s Day service. Now that I am in my 30’s I have stopped going and I will tell you why…
The last time I went to a church service a visiting pastor saw fit to put his hand on the top my head to give me a “blessing.” I found this completely inappropriate and invasive. I did not ask to be touch especially by a strange man I didn’t know. I did not ask to be blessed by him because if I need my blessings I go to the Big Guy in the Sky directly. I quietly and humbly ask him for help and say thank you when he gives it to me just like I would a member of my family or my best friend. No fuss, no muss, no hollering at the top of my lungs of falling in the isle because I have caught the spirit.
My religious experience has gone through many extremes and I finally had to look inside myself and ask “What do you believe really Onika?” When I really reflected on it I realized that I was a believer and I needed to be authentic in my relationship with the Devine power that had been walking with me my entire life. I did not believe in worshiping the way my mother did, I could not commit to a participating every Sunday, I did not want to read the Bible every day.
All I wanted to do was have an honest open conversation with God showing Him or Her (I’m ambivalent about God’s gender) the same reverence and respect that my grandmothers had when they were alive. When my grandmother Alvira died my mind started associating the image of God with her. When I pray I know she is listening. When I fall I can feel her picking me up, protecting me. I know she is not the God my family worships but my relationship with her when she was on earth and the one I have continued with her since she passed on my 22nd birthday, is as close to God as I have ever gotten.
I am never going to follow every rule or every commandment without question because I am simply not made that way. I have studied different religions over the years from my native Christianity and Catholicism to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism even Confucianism. What I have discovered is I find love and comfort in all of them. I find God in all of them because God is love. So I decided not to identify with any of them instead giving pieces of reverent devotion to the ideals of all of them. I think society would call me an Agnostic but I prefer to call myself a human being who has to believe that there is something greater than myself that I can turn to for guidance on my journey through this life and the next.
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