losing (not)my religion

Let me be perfectly clear: I do believe in a Higher Power.  I say this because so many people assume that if you’re not Christian, you’re either atheist or Satanic.  I am neither, and vehemently.

I’ve always teetered back and forth on exactly how Christian I was (or wasn’t).  At 13, in the middle of first-year confirmation classes at the local Lutheran church (not my idea), I proclaimed that I wasn’t so sure about whether or not I should go through with an official, public, vocal affirmation that I was Lutheran–or Catholic, for that matter (I was raised both, with less emphasis on the latter until later adolescent years–as in, after the flopped Lutheran indoctrination).  Inside, I was secretly timid about the whole venture, and the fact that I dared doubt the church’s teachings.  It was blasphemy, after all, to consider multiple deities, or to put a face to the idea of God.  It was certainly not permissible to practice astrology, and the ideas of reincarnation and karma were completely out of the question.

As far as the Catholics were concerned, every human being on the planet had screwed up just by having been born, and we had to beg forgiveness by paying off the church to get on the guest list in heaven.

Lutherans were less hardcore, but every church benefits heavily through the practice of tithing–giving a portion of your income to the church, usually 10% per year.  They claim that God likes it when we do this.  My question is, does God care?  I would think that with God being God, material goods are insignificant, especially when it comes to paper with numbers and Presidents’ faces printed on it that is only worth squat because the recipient also thinks so.

So many aspects of Christianity seemed hokey to me; not the basic premise, not the big idea, but the details–although those details were rather significant.  However littered with eggshells the floor was, I gingerly stepped forward and considered alternatives.

First, I explored Judaism, primarily because in our area, it was a visible and sizeable alternative.  Many of the people I went to school with were Jewish, so it readily came to mind.  I liked the idea that they acknowledged Jesus the Prophet but not necessarily his divinity.  Hanukkah was also easy to swallow, being around Christmastime.  It was cool because it lasted 8 days, not just 1-2.  I made a Star of David in art class and put a small chain on it, wearing it daily as a pendant.

It wasn’t long before that wore off, though.  I didn’t have any real Comparative Religion information readily at my disposal, and without being able to do any research, it’s hard to participate.  As I drifted into clinical depression, I became a darker person in general and thus my faith also diminished.  I became more adamantly rebellious and started to ask the tough, pointed questions, dissatisfied with the lame-duck company line answers.  I began to deny the existence of any God.

That didn’t last long, either.  If you possess capabilities of higher reasoning, it doesn’t take long to simply look at the world around you or to reflect upon your life thus far and realize that the Higher Power (whatever you want to call it) is simply self-evident.

My belief re-awakened, but it was different this time.  Stronger.  Deeper.  More mature and genuine.  It had evolved and ripened.  It was mine.  I knew something was there, and this time I knew it for myself, not because the Bible tells me so.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was, but I figured that since I was now a believer again and I had no knowledge of any other alternatives, I was Christian.

Ten years later, in a Comparative Religion class, my jaw dropped open sometime during the first day.  I stared at the sheet of Hindu characteristics/basic beliefs in front of me and turned to my now-partner: “dude.  We’re basically Hindu!”  Although we weren’t from India and we didn’t wear turbans or saris and we didn’t have our noses pierced, we shared the same beliefs and outlook on life.

I got excited.

I felt like I found my home.

The class covered the other 4 major world religions (Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).  Buddhism was nice too, but it just wasn’t the same.  I had been lost from the git-go, having been spoiled at the beginning.

There are about as many opinions and viewpoints on different aspects of Hinduism as there are Hindus, and much of the real deal information is written in languages I’ll never understand, so getting information was tough.  The people themselves tend to live out of the way and not go out in public much, at least in our area, and I had no Hindu friends or nearby temples, so it was tough to get into a community.  Sure, there were Indian grocery stores, but they tended not to open up to Westerners much.  I later learned that the further removed Indian/Hindu generations in the west become from their mother country, the less accepted they are by their own people as genuine Hindus.  They are seen as too “Americanized” or “westernized”.  Thus, as an English-only-speaking white girl who hadn’t even the roundabout inlet of having married an Indian, I hadn’t a prayer of actually getting accepted in the mainstream.

I still consider myself Hindu and I probably always will, but I began to seek out other alternatives as well, if for no other reason but to add.  I felt like something was missing.  Lack of community support was one reason, but not the only one.  I felt like the faith was rather inaccessible, and that the only information readily available to whites was made such by people looking to capitalize on those in my situation.  I have my doubts as to how trustworthy the information is and how genuine the messengers are.  I don’t think the spiritual supermarket professes outright lies, per se, but I’m fairly certain they’re spinning the truth in their own ways.

Something inside me told me to revisit Buddhism.  After having been enthralled with Hinduism, when nothing else could measure up, I hadn’t been in a position to give Buddhism a fair shake.  This time, I researched it more thoroughly and evaluated it for itself alone, without comparing it to anything else.

I found that I liked it.  I admired how it had spread, and though there were missionaries, there was no record of any wars breaking out over conversion or the refusal to do so.  I also admired how as it spread to each area, each culture embraced the basic teachings and adapted them, melding them in with their own already-established customs, thus creating a unique hybrid brand of Buddhism.

There are about as many ways to practice Buddhism as there are Buddhists, and none of them get all uppity about who is and who isn’t a “real” Buddhist, no matter what race you are, what country you’re from or what language you speak.

Another aspect that really attracted me was that Buddhism is not exclusive; it’s inclusive.  This means that you don’t have to give up any pre-existing religion in order to be a Buddhist.  You can if you like, or you can overlay Buddhism and intertwine it with another faith.

It wasn’t until we got more heavily involved in our wedding planning that the idea of Wicca became viable.  Sure, it had crossed my mind before.  My interest in witches had been piqued in high school, and it was early in my college career (ten years ago) that I took up reading on the subject, borrowing a book from my younger sister, who was a new Wiccan at that time.

I really liked what it had to say.  It was tough to wrap my head around the idea of twin Higher Powers, a Goddess and a God, but everything else was intriguing and very compatible with my own essence and the beliefs I held.

Why I had not adopted the faith then I’ll never know.  Most likely, it just wasn’t time yet.  I had some interest in European culture, history, and religion, but not much.  The whole Celt thing and Renaissance lore was my mother’s territory, not mine.  I was fond of it, but it wasn’t as kindred to me…

…Until a few months ago.  My partner had mentioned an interest in Celtic traditions.  He wasn’t raised with any particular religion other than celebrating Christmas as a folk holiday with the ideas of presents and Santa Claus, and here I was a member of two Eastern religions already.  Wedding plan input felt lopsided to me; I felt like I dominated all the ideas, so I really tried to incorporate the spirit of what he was drawn to into the ceremony alongside my own contributions.

The combination turned out really nice.  Much nicer than I expected.  Nobody really understood what we envisioned for our ceremony, but we could each see it clear as day.  Everything became evident during the wedding and everything unknown resolved in peoples’ minds.

But something different had happened inside me; something had been stirred.  By the time the wedding had passed, it was clinched: I would become a Wiccan apprentice.

I’m sure my family wonders why I so intensely sought a path outside of Christianity.  My sister and I are the first ones to do this, and our extended family is rather large.  I left Christianity because although I believe in Jesus and his teachings, I don’t believe in his divinity or that his conception was immaculate, or that he was a child of God any more than the rest of us are, or that he was the savior. I don’t believe in the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost.  I don’t believe that religion needs to revolve around attending a building every week or that doing so makes you a practitioner of that religion or a better person.  I don’t believe that the world is coming to an end or that God judges people or that only Christians will be saved while the rest of us roast in hell.  I believe that there are negative predatory spirits or forces, but I don’t believe in the Christian devil, per se.  I don’t believe that creation occurred 6000 years ago or that it happened in 7 days.  I don’t believe God is a bearded man in the sky, or even male in the first place.  I don’t believe you have to give a certain portion of your income to an organization to be a better person.  I don’t believe you sin the moment you’re born, and I don’t believe you have to be baptized in order for your presence or your life to be legit.  I don’t believe that every child you have is a “star in your crown”.  I believe in reincarnation and that there are other lifetimes besides this one.  I don’t believe that people who swore to be celibate for the rest of their lives and forgo some of the deepest, most fulfilling relationships known to humankind are fully qualified to tell me how I should live.  I don’t think any other person is fully qualified to tell me how I should live.

I’ll make those decisions myself.  🙂


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