Monday, November 15, 2010

Ooh, boy.

Here's today NaBloPoMo topic:

Are you spiritual, religious, agnostic, or atheist? Do you think there is one path to God, or many?

It's really hard for me to label myself as any of the above. I think I'm somewhere in the middle, but it takes a bit of explanation to make my beliefs make sense. I also think that I'm in the same place spiritually speaking as a lot of people, and that I'm part of a group that is not well represented by organized religion. I don't even know if we COULD be.

I was raised Christian. Originally we went to a Methodist church; when I was in high school I started going to youth group with my friends at an Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) church and we eventually joined. Those two churches are nothing alike, and I will admit that my reasons for changing churches were purely social. And then I became completely disillusioned with the social structure of churches in general. At the Methodist church, my brother and I never really made friends. We weren't originally from Gastonia, and that kept us on the outside even though we'd lived there and gone to that church from the time I was 3. At the ARP church, it wasn't about WHERE you were from, but WHOM: there were several established families whose parents and great-grandparents had been church folk, and they ran it. Apart from that hierarchy, there was a lot of catty gossiping and alliances made and broken and so on that created a social structure that would rival that of any school. I may have just been at the wrong churches, but that was my experience.

I stopped going to church when I came home and went to, I think it was an Easter service at the ARP church. The pastor actually used the morning prayer to ask God to guide the hearts of Congress to strike down a gay marriage bill. I disagree with that mentality and I disagree with using public prayer as an avenue for political opinion. My parents had never been that into the ARP church anyway, and my brother had started going to church with his girlfriend when he went. I never found a church in college or when we lived in Raleigh because I knew that my situation was temporary in both places. Now that we're kind of settled and have a child, I want to find a church, not least because I promised my grandfather before he married us that I would raise our children in a Christian household. Can I do that if I don't go to church? I don't know.

I am definitely not an atheist. I can't possibly discount a higher power, because there are things I can't explain and that kind of give weight to the argument. It's also a comfort to believe in something bigger than yourself, and it seems really narcissistic to think that we're all there is. But at the same time, I've become extremely distrustful of organized religion and what it stands for. Religious zealotry scares the crap out of me. As much as I believe that there is a God, I believe that it's insane to use him/her/it to justify whatever you want to do. That's not how it should work.

That said, I believe there are many paths to God. That goes against the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but I never could buy that. God shouldn't be exclusionary. Exclusion leads to hate, and that leads to all kinds of horrible actions. The things that result from exclusionary religion are things that I can't believe that God would condone, because if he/she/it would, that's not a God I could get behind.

I hope I can find a church that fits me well enough to make me happy, or at least comfortable. I really want Calvin to grow up with some kind of religion because I think it can be really helpful in a lot of ways. We're going to start looking soon, and probably check a few out in the coming weeks. It's just one more day of the week that Brandon will have to suck it up and wear long pants.

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