When I was young my favorite place in the world was church. I loved the joy, the music, and the teachings given there about God. Being Baptist was all I knew. I did as I was taught and embraced the faith fully. As children we know to believe what our parents teach us without question. As any parent will tell you, however, that very rarely lasts.
Once my teen years arrived, I began feeling like I didn’t belong. This was due mostly to having my eyes opened to the reality that not everyone in church was kind and loving. During those years we switched churches several times. The main underlying reason most of the time, regardless of the details, was almost always an attempt to escape from the corruption of church leaders. It was then I learned my first lesson in regards to religion:
Religious people are not immune to evil and corruption.
Suddenly everyone seemed fake. I didn’t like feeling like I had to act happy all the time when I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just be honest about our emotions. I felt confused and lost for awhile and only found comfort when alone in prayer.
Sophomore year of college I began dating my husband. He had been raised Catholic. I knew my Bible. But I was no match for my new love interest. We debated often. I began studying Catholicism to try to refute against it. Instead, I began feeling it made a lot more sense than I ever thought possible. We began going to Mass together. For the first time in a long time I began feeling comfort and worship in church again. I decided to convert and signed up for RCIA.
I tried to join the Catholic Church three times. The first parish the RCIA director was not teaching according to the Catechism, so we sought out a place more traditional. The second parish made attending all social events mandatory and refused to confirm me if I was unable to attend. I was unable to for various reasons and found it unfair of them to dictate in the first place. Third time I never even made it to the parish, the RCIA director responded to my inquiry email and told me not to bother showing up. She didn’t like that I lived farther away than everyone else and didn’t believe I would actually attend the classes regularly. My second lesson about religion had been learned:
Belief and knowledge isn’t always enough to be accepted.
I no longer knew what to believe or where to go. My faith wavered. I began studying religion with new eyes, ones not blinded by any certain doctrine of beliefs. This helped me to become knowledgeable about various beliefs and a more loving and accepting person of everyone who lived and thought differently than I did. It also produced more questions than answers when it came to figuring out my place in the religious spectrum. It’s a continuous journey of learning and self discovery that I am still traveling on. I suppose if I have converted to anything, I am a seeker of knowledge and of whatever my own opinion of truth may be.
The ups and downs have taught me much about myself and my own way of thinking. Despite not currently belonging anywhere specific at the moment, I have found three beliefs I do have for certain.
There’s no such thing as anyone being right or wrong. No one believes exactly the same or worships their God/Gods in exactly the same way. Religion is all about personal preference.
Religion should never be used as an excuse or reason to spread hatred.
Stay true to your own personal beliefs, stay knowledgeable on your beliefs and what others believe, and your faith will be stronger for it.
Regardless of our various religious beliefs, we are all humans on this rock in space trying to make sense of the world around us. There’s no way to know who has the answers. However, there is a way to respect and learn from each other as we all try to figure out the great questions of life and spirituality.