*Thoughts I wrote previously (while still in my 30’s) (lol), but I feel are worth sharing:
I’ve been reluctant to talk about my beliefs for several reasons, but mostly because I have dear friends and family members I do not wish to offend who are devout in various religions ranging from Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims. And, within the Christian community itself, I have dear friends who are Catholics and some who are members of various popular Protestant sects and some who are members of not-so popular-groups such as the Mormons and the Seventh-Day-Adventists. I have little desire to convert anyone to my beliefs, nor do I want to cause hurt or fear to my believing friends who might worry about our “salvation,” or maybe even their own. In addition, this was a very arduous journey out of religion for me, and one I’d recommend only if you are unsatisfied with what you find in your system of faith, holy book, and or god(s). I share Thomas Jefferson’s view in which he stated, “I never considered a difference in opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.” With that said, I am going to share what I currently believe, with the hope you will not take it at all personally, and with the knowledge that my ideas will likely continue to morph with time as I continue to learn and discuss ideas with friends. As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” 🙂
Religions, as a rule, try to gain converts and as a result can cause painful rifts among friends and family. I know every religion sincerely believes it has the “truth” and that the end justifies the means; however, as I approach 40, I see clearly the brevity of life and for my own benefit and my family’s I need to speak openly and honestly. Maybe my “coming out” so to speak will spark an honest discussion and more unearthing of truths. The more I learn, the more I realize how desperately ignorant I am, and this ignorance frightens me. What else do I not know that could possibly help me live a better life? A healthier life? A happier life–one with knowledge that will benefit our precious posterity? So, I keep studying and talking and thinking and writing. I want to unearth as much knowledge as possible to share with my family before I die, so they can pass the torch on to the next generation, and to generations after that as we all keep learning and attempting to make this world a better place. Because really, isn’t that what life is all about–sharing love and knowledge that benefits our world?
What I have observed is that in general religious communities tend toward selfishness while promoting inclusiveness and group-think. When I would question the core doctrines of our church, or contradictions I found in the Bible, I would often receive hostility and rejection in response–not from our pastoral friends, but from lay people. The ones who have studied the Bible in great depth, along with its history and textual criticism tend to know that it’s not holy script sent from the hand of god, and therefore I have found them to be much more tolerant and reasonable. I believe most clergy do not hold their doctrines tightly. I, personally, could not stay bound to the Bible–especially as a mother of two daughters. The holy books are filled with sexism, violence, racism, and are overtly ignorant in science and history. I do understand the cultural pull of Christianity and the comfort it brings to think that we won’t truly die, and that there is a mansion waiting in heaven where we can live in a blissful state forever with our loved ones, but what I don’t understand is why we cannot live a loving, happy life here on earth with the knowledge that it will simply end someday? Doesn’t the brevity make it all the sweeter and more precious? It’s the temporariness of things that make them exciting and pleasurable — dessert, travel, roller-coasters, love-making, concerts, reading a good book, movies, etc. I think all of the longing for a better place “somewhere beyond the blue” causes extreme cruelties and unkindness’s here on the only planet we know–the only life we know we have for certain. If we keep hoping for something better we sacrifice the here and now, and may miss out on the only heaven we may ever have.
For years I felt rejected by God when reading the Bible. Women were missing, and if they were there, their names were often not included. They were raped, mis-used, murdered, etc. It was horrifying. Every morning, I’d start the girls’ day with singing Christian songs and reading from the old and new testaments. I often found myself, explaining to the girls “that our God does not feel this way toward women/girls–that it was the male author’s opinions and culture of the ancient text” while at the same time teaching them that “anything is possible with God” which led me to wonder, if God is “all-powerful,” why did he not intervene on behalf of women, and why did he not defend them in his holy book? My heart broke when I realized that misogyny began with god.
When the girls were the ages five and eight, for our devotions one cozy morning I read out of the book of Esther. My memories of Esther at that time were from church teachings in which Esther was presented as a beautiful, strong, young woman who stood for God in the face of eminent danger. However, by the end of our reading I found myself enraged at the grotesque control of women it displayed, and wondered how that story could have reached such monumental heights in our church teachings. In reality, Esther was a gorgeous unlucky kid who was used for the King’s pleasure after his wife, the Queen Vashti, refused to come before him and is drunken cronies to display her beauty. The story is about men not getting their way, and in a temper tantrum deciding to make a public display of what happens to women who do not perform on command. Poor Esther was caught in the middle of a misogynistic power play only to find her young self queen (but, only after a year of royal beauty treatments). Esther is famous for saving the Jews through her submission to God by talking to her husband, the king, and informing him of a plot to kill the Jews (her people) but, the real hero in the story, is not the submissive, Esther, I told my girls, but Queen Vashti who stood up to all of the cruel, lustful men, and said “no, this is my body, and I will not dance for you.”
I myself have lost much due to religion, but I did not realize how much I had lost until I removed myself from it. I mourn all of the wasted time and energy and feel terrible about indoctrinating my vulnerable children. It was not fair to them–not fair to be taught “the truth.” I heard a great thought by a fellow free-thinker, paraphrased here: “if you want to indoctrinate your children, teach them one religion, if you want to inoculate your children–teach them all religions.”
Take care of you.