Someone asked me the other day if I was glad the holidays were over. No, in fact, I’m always a little sad when the holiday season ends. “But you are not a Christian” she said. Oh? By whose definition? How do you know I’m not a Christian? (The reason this came up at all is because she does not approve of my particular religious upbringing.) I got a bit snippy and asked if her preacher had bought the rights to Christianity lately because the last I heard, lots of denominations claim to be Christian and they don’t require membership in HER church to claim so. She explained that her preacher told her that So and So church believes ____________ and Such and Such Church believes ___________ so neither one of them, regardless of what they “claim” are REALLY Christian. I see. At the risk of sounding exceptionally irritated, I told her that the next time I wanted to know about Catholics I’d be sure to ask a Baptist. And when I wanted to know about Baptists, I’d be sure to ask a Jehovah’s Witness and when I wanted to know about HER church, I’d ask a Mormon. I explained that she seemed to think asking people who were not of a particular faith was a reliable source of information so I’d give it a try. She asked me why I wouldn’t just ask her if I wanted to know about her church and I told her I was just following her example. Now, I’m not trying to start a war here. I am not looking to be convinced nor do I seek answers to where this woman is right or wrong. Frankly, while I find her a bit closed minded and ridiculous, I don’t really care. But it put me to thinking…yes, that’s smoke you smell.
I am a lover of history. I have studied the culture, history and religion of this country and many others. I have done in depth study of not just the Judeo Christian variety but of many others as well. My parents raised me in a religious, if not particularly spiritual home. It may surprise some to know that I raised my kids in church. And I did everything I was supposed to do. If I didn’t feel the spirit it was because I was unclean. I walked the path of righteousness. For you non-believers out there that means I walked the walk and talked the talk. If I didn’t hear the still small voice, it was because I didn’t stop to listen. So I spent time daily in quiet and solitary repose. If I did not feel the burning in bosom when the truth was revealed to me it was because I had not asked the holy spirit to come into my heart and witness to me. So I prayed, fasted, tithed, served, prayed, sought counsel, and prayed some more. I studied my scriptures, I quoted my scriptures. I applied my scriptures. I even had a favorite scripture. It’s still my favorite scripture. Matt 6: 19-21. Look it up. You see, I WANTED to believe. I wanted my eyes to well up with tears of joy at the sound of my favorite hymn; I wanted to feel the joy and peace of KNOWING that there is something more. That this life is not the end; that there really is something on the other side of the veil. I am, I believe, a spiritual person. I’m just not a believer.
I cannot say that I have not had prayers answered. I have. To that all I can say is that the universe is a mysterious thing. I raised my children in church because I thought the positive, goal oriented, virtuous path was a good place to learn how to survive in the jungle of modern society. I was right. You may be wondering how a non-believer managed to spend that much time in church and tell my kids things were true and right when I didn’t believe necessarily that they were. The answer is simple. I didn’t. I never claimed to be a believer and they were always encouraged to seek answers for themselves. When they asked me questions of a spiritual or religious nature, I answered them the same way I answered their questions about school work. “Look it up.” Nah, I’m just kidding about that. I would ask them questions. “Well, what do you think? How could we find out? Let’s research it and see what we find.” Then I let them make their own decisions. I did not tell them what I thought because I didn’t want to influence the outcome of their studies. It helped me too. All three of us came up with our own, very different conclusions.
I am not going to go into my reasoning for not buying into the God, Jesus, Mary, bible thing here. I am not going to try to sway anyone to my way of thinking. I do not want anyone to try to “save” me. I spent the first 35 years of my life walking a path chosen for me just because my parents happened to be born in this country. I strongly suspect that had I been born in India I would have had the same struggles with Hinduism. Had I been born in Israel, I’d be struggling with Judaism. But just because I do not subscribe to the societal confines of religion in the U.S. does not mean that I abhor it. On the contrary, I embrace religion in general as an integral part of our culture and history. We are who we are because of where and who we have been. I admire people who cleave to and rejoice in something bigger than themselves and if it makes them better, stronger or gives them a clear path, all the better. And yes, even though I do not subscribe to a particular religion my self, I do have cause to be a good person, to make good choices. When I was trying to find my own personal spiritual path, I did not try to be a good citizen, parent, spouse, friend employee, because “God” wanted or dictated it. I did not try to be a good and positive person because I was afraid of burning in hell. While I am hesitant to go the distance and call myself an Atheist because of my genuine desire to believe, I am not a believer. That does not make me a bad person. And when I hear people carry on relentlessly about their belief and faith, I do not automatically assume them to be good.
What I will say with all certainty is this; If there is a God, he has some explaining to do.