December 17, 2013

A Personal Reflection on Religion

We were never part of one denomination.  My dad was raised catholic, but isn't religious as far as I know.  We moved a lot and went to mainline protestant churches.  I don't ever really remember believing, but that may just be looking back and creating new memories. 

I do remember sitting and church, and being young, and during silent prayer, thinking how absurd it was that I was silently talking into my hands.  That may have been first or second grade.  The last time I can remember even praying was about 4th grade, hoping to win a football game.

In late middle school, I was taken on an ice skating trip with a friend's church.  i was angry that no one told me that there was a religious ceremony beforehand.  I was "Saved" that day, but looking back, I think the lightness I felt was one more of relief, when your anxiety is proven to be baseless -- or resolved (I felt the same way as if I had received punishment, I knew the answer).  That led me to read the whole of the bible, in a modern translation.  I was trying to recapture that feeling, the affect of the whole thing but it was gone.  I started to recognize religion as much as a cultural thing as a spiritual thing.   I continued going to church, thought I hated it, mainly because my friends went there.  I stopped going once I left the house.

That emotion I felt I have replicated in a way.  In college, I was taught Buddhist meditation.  Later i was a teacher at a Catholic school, and we said the rosary once a month for about an hour with my home room.  There's a lot to be said for that mindset.  It focuses you and takes you away from the  mundane.  But for me, it was more about the process.  It feels good, but not good enough that I have sought it out in the last five years.  It is comparable to some drugs.  Sometimes, with the right people, and the right mood, and the right substances you can capture that.  I understand seeking that feeling of lightness, but it's not the supernatural.

I was never a strong believer, so I don't feel like I left anything.  The only thing I feel I lose without a church of some type is the sense of community.  Learning about the world, through science or the arts widens your view and makes accepting the culture you were raised in more difficult to do without thinking critically about it -- the standard religion is just one aspect of it. 

On a more personal level, I have never been able to resolve the theodicy argument.  Why is there bad and evil in the world.  I lost two close friends when I was young.  Allison was 12 when she was hit by lightning at a church softball game.  Tamra was the most pious woman I have ever met, and she was struck down at 20 with leukemia that came back.  If that was the work of God, I wanted no part of his world. 

I try to be moral in my everyday life.  I feel I am not as vocal as some atheists I know, but I think a lot of people are reactionary.  There was no big turning away for me.  Religion is not a part of my life, but I recognize that it is a part of the culture I live in.