In my past entry titled, “Persecuting Eachother” (April 27, 2009) I claimed to have explored religions to find the one that was closest to my beliefs, so that I would have something to respond when asked what my religious beliefs were. I also feel that I left out some areas in the entry about my development and background. So this is somewhat of a revision to that entry and an addition to it.
My mother was the product of an interreligious marriage. My grandfather was Catholic and had been raised so. He currently does not believe all of the teachings. He once told me that he believed the true reason behind Catholics not eating meat on Friday was that the fishermen were experiencing rough times as people turned to other meat products. Thus, to help the fishermen the Church imposed a regulatory observance of Christ’s exercises to help the fishermen. While this seems laughable, it also seems quite plausible.
My late grandmother was Baptist, if I remember the story correctly. She met my grandfather in Alabama. They were both in the United States Air Force. My grandmother was stationed in Alabama and my grandfather in Florida. My grandfather was visiting his girlfriend who was in an Alabama hospital. My grandmother was also visiting the woman, as they were friends. My grandfather met his girlfriend’s friend, who later became my grandmother. My grandfather, originally from Massachusetts, wanted his new girlfriend to meet his parents, who still lived up north. She refused to meet my grandfather’s parents, because the trip would require them to spend a night together.
She was holding true to her beliefs and her parents’. My grandfather suggested they get married, and then meet his parents, which they later did. My grandfather’s mother couldn’t believe he married a woman without her present nor could she believe he would marry a woman from the south. Back then, like still today, there is quite a difference and almost a prejudice between northerners and southerners. This is possibly because the North won the Civil War, or because the South almost won.
As they were married, my grandmother had to sign a document that required her to raise any children she gave birth to Catholic. My mother would later tell me that my grandmother did so, however, probably not the way the Catholic Church was wanting. My mother was sent to a Catholic school, said her rosary, and attended services. I was told that my grandmother believed that you did not have to go to church every Sunday to believe in God and that the worst word she ever said was “Sugar.” I never had the chance to meet my mother’s mother as she passed away a few years before my birth due to breast cancer, which spread throughout her body.
But, that’s not what this entry is about and I don’t feel like going too much further into it this close to Mother’s Day.
My mother’s parents’ retired to Alabama, where my grandmother was from, after serving in the military. Here my mother, a Catholic, met my father, a Pseudo-Christian Scientist – I believe. I say pseudo, because I don’t think he believed in most of the teachings. Even then my father was more interested in science than Christian Scientists ever have been. When the question of marriage was posed, my mother only had a few requirements. The most important one that my family always jokes about is the requirement for my father to join the Air Force, which would surely remove her from her current location.
This is not to say that my mother entirely disliked Alabama, but, I assume, it was quite difficult to be content in living in the southern state after experiencing life in other states and overseas. My father agreed to the requirements, joined the Air Force, and entered into an interreligious marriage with my mother. She hated leaving her parents, as all of us do when we realize that we’re on our own – especially when you move half the world away.
My father doesn’t speak much of his family or his heritage. I only know a few stories and can only track the lineage a couple of generations. Most everything is lost to the past, lost to the farming life. I don’t know what religious affiliation my father’s father was; as he died shortly after my birth in a boating accident, and I can only assume my grandmother has always been a member of the Church of Christ (Christian Scientists).
The story of my third grade brush with religion is all true and nothing needs to be corrected. In the fourth grade there was another instance of my unfamiliarity with my own religion. I was in the Talented and Gifted Program (TAG) at my elementary school and on this particular day the teacher was opening us up to new experiences. On that day we were to experience the consumption of a cow’s brain. One student voiced that he could not eat the brain as it was meat and he was Catholic and this was a particular Friday. I then said that I was Catholic, to which a majority of the class did not believe. This teacher knew my mother as well and sent me to ask my mother if it would be okay for me to eat the meat.
Upon entering my mother’s room she was caught off guard by the question of me eating meat. I had to qualify the question by saying something along the lines of, “…because we’re Catholic.” My mother replied with something like, “I think it would be okay, since it’s something special.” I ate the brain and got a hard piece of nerve. Other than that, I remember it tasting a lot like some sort of pasta and beef mix that you get in a box (the name escapes me).
It wasn’t until my parents moved the family to Leander, Texas (near Austin, Texas) when others faced me with the question of my religion and beliefs. My mother continually wanted us to go to church, but didn’t know where to go.
My brother entered the Air Force and began reading the Bible during his down time. I recall a letter he wrote me saying, and I apologize if I misquote, “You should read the Bible, there’s some good stuff in there.”
A friend invited my to a Vacation Bible School (VBS) that their church was holding that summer. I went. I thought it was entertaining, so we continued to go. As I entered the sixth grade, I began reading the Bible. I finished reading the Bible, but I can’t recall all the information. I remember thinking that, if nothing else, the author was a great fictional writer. And that’s not to be disrespectful either. It was just a lot to take all at once and believe everything with only faith. I later attended the Church’s youth retreat twice.
My mom talked the entire family into going to the church. My parents had apparently decided to get baptized at the church, which caught me off guard, as they never mentioned doing so. I decided to go ahead and do so as well. Eventually the congregation began to dislike my brother, for reasons I won’t mention here. It’s not my place. This continued, other things were said about my family, behind our backs of course, which eventually led to the discontinuation of our attendance.
Later, my parents and I agreed that we had not been baptized. I think there’s a biblical story somewhere of a man being baptized, but not feeling as though be was. Or I could be wrong. I know there’s some dispute over whether or not John the Baptist was actually baptized, so I may just be getting this confused. Nonetheless, none of us felt that we were baptized by this Church of Christ.
In school and in life, I continued to say that I was Catholic. While I am no fan of organized religion, I have to say that I admire the hierarchal organization of the Catholic Church and their steadfast practices.
In high school I began to search for my religion. I understood that I didn’t believe in all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but felt more connected to the Catholic Church than any of the other churches I had heard of or attended. Students would walk into class and in the halls and I would see them wearing the t-shirts I previously mentioned.
In a ninth grade World Geography course a girl affiliated with the Lutheran church looked me straight in the eye and quite loudly asked me, “Why do you pray to Saints, you don’t think you’re good enough to pray to God?” It actually wasn’t really a question. The tone of her voice and the inflection of the voice made the phrase more like degradation than a question. At that I had pretty much sworn off Lutherans. Which is wrong to do, but I was at a point in my life that where swearing off religions seemed appropriate. Of course, it is stereotyping a religion based on one representative, but, like I said, it seemed appropriate. And we all do it at one point or another.
I would take internet surveys that claimed to give you results of where your beliefs fell in the spectrum of religions. Upon reading more and more about religions and taking these surveys I found that a lot of my beliefs were aligning me with Pantheism, Deism, Buddhism, and other religions and philosophies like these. I was once told that if I believed in Pantheism, then I essentially believed that “the cereal I eat in the morning is God.” I forget who said this to me, and have probably misquoted, but that was the gist of it. I also read that the founding fathers’ of America had many beliefs that would align them with Deism as well. So, I felt that this was fitting.
I found out pretty quickly that people didn’t know what Pantheism or Deism was and that there wasn’t really a place for me to practice, as the religions don’t require an organized or structural area for prayer.
The conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq (Iraq War, Second Gulf War, Occupation of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the War on Terrorism) continued. I decided to become acquainted with eastern philosophy and religion. I read the English translation of the Qur’an (Quran, Koran, Alcoran, or Al-Qur’an), Arabic for “the recitation.” I found that it was a lot like the Bible with only a few differences, but didn’t entirely feel that I was part of that religion. I’ve been molded by the western world too much. I then read the Torah (The Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch). Again, it was just more of the same. I began to believe that what I had been told of other religions and how awful they were was all just egotism or some sort of creation of an “us versus them” mentality.
Judaism was the first religion since Catholicism that I felt some sort of connection to. Their teachings of Hell seemed more in line with what I thought. So I continued to read about the religion. I eventually felt that it was too difficult or something. Apparently most of those following Judaism in America are Reformists, which seems sort of like a cop-out to me. Again, not to be disrespectful, but it just seems like you should follow the Orthodox view.
Throughout high school friends would ask me my view on certain aspects of religion. I would answer these as best I could, always stating that I didn’t think that there was a real way to believe any of it without faith and that I am looking for more tangible evidence than just the trees and the birds. Continually, I was told to work on my relationship with God. I usually felt like I was the one working on the relationship and that it was God who needed to do a little more. I mean, I’m the one reading the texts, searching for Him, and the only things I’ve found were dead ends.
I was once asked what I wanted to find in life. I assume this question was supposed to lead me to a religion. My response to this question was, “Love.” The person asking me the question made it quite evident that they believed that this was bullshit. They didn’t say bullshit, they may have said “BS,” I do know that they said something to the effect of that though.
I eventually decided to end, or, at least, place on hold, my search for religion. I would recreationally read about religions when others or I had questions. I read about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), Scientology, and a bit about Kabbalah when it became a fad.
I enrolled at St. Edward’s University. There was a required reading over the summer for entering freshmen, which freshmen courses were to build from or include in the course lectures – this was seldom done. The book was Feisal Abdul Rauf’s What’s Right With Islam: Is What’s Right With America. I recommend others read it.
I started searching for religion again in college, which I’ve already written about previously. I’ve once again come to the point where I’ve decided to stop. So, why am I not more religious?
Is it at all possible that it is because every time I’ve encountered the religious among us I’ve been persecuted or opressed by those who were supposed to be good, pious, religious people?
I’ve decided to try and live a good life, try to help others when I can. I try to not persecute and watch what I say, but some will still be offended, I’m sure. And, it’s not that I mean to offend or disrespect them, it’s merely my opinion and view. I’m not saying that I’m right in any of my beliefs. Nor am I trying to say that you are wrong. Like I said before, if you’ve found your religion, if you’re happy, if you are content, if you’re comfortable, then I am happy for you and would not want to keep you from that. I just ask the same respect in return. Sometimes I don’t always do what’s right, and I feel horrible for those things that I’ve done and wish I could go back, but I can’t and neither can you.
All we can do is try to be good people, because the fact of it is none of us truly know. All we have is faith.
So, I’ll end this entry with one of my favorite phrases:
Image citation: Booyabazooka. “File:P religion world.svg.” Religions of the world. File:P religion world.svg 5 Aug. 2006. 5 May 2009 Wikimedia Commons .