I have wanted to write this post for a while but I know it’s a controversial topic that a lot of people skim over or don’t care about or dislike people talking about but it is something that makes me fulfilled, different and happy and maybe if one person reads it and understands me a little better, it’s worth writing.
I’ve always gone to church. My grandfathers are both church of scotland ministers and I was brought up in a church-y family. This has led a lot of people to roll their eyes at me and tell me how ‘indoctrinated’ I am but that’s not true. It hasn’t been forced on any of us to the point that I am now the only adult grandchild who still regularly attends church and has faith. If I hadn’t believed, it would have been easy for me to walk away.
There is also the aspect of ‘tradition’ but that doesn’t really apply either. I’m not traditional in any of my other life choices. I never followed my parents footsteps to law school, I always went my own way, I always chose my own friends and boyfriends. I don’t really aspire to have the family that my parents would expect and I don’t think I will stay in the same town or even country as my large, north-east family.
I’ve never been brainwashed. I’ve never gone to a God camp. I was never beaten with a Bible. Noone died and caused a search for magical otherworldly answers. I’m not stupid. I appreciate science.
So those cover all the cliche reasons why people blunder blindly into faith in the same way as others find themselves in alcoholism or drug addiction.
My journey to faith was much happier and much more freeing.
When I had started secondary school, I realised that when I was at church, people were a family. I was funny when I was there and I was confident. People were interested in me and I suddenly had a group of friends who all believed in each other, respected each other and valued each other’s opinions.
I was in home economics at the start of second year when the guy who always had a go at me started trying to take the piss out of me in front of the class. I remember vividly standing there and thinking ‘Every time I am in that building, people care about me and think I’m hilarious. What is so different about that girl and the person who stands cowering in front of some kid?’.
So I turned around and looked him in the eyes and said 'You have no idea who I am outside of this school. You don't know the friends I have and you don't know what I'm really like when I'm not shy and quiet. You will never get to know that person.'
I don’t know if it’s because I stood up to him or because I had created an air of mystery about myself, but he shut up. He didn’t always shut up but he did back down a little. To be completely honest, I think it has more to do with the fact I was talking back to him at all and he wasn’t used to that…
I don’t like the phrase ‘saved’. It implies I wasn’t safe before and I would have been absolutely fine. Most of my friends aren’t at all religious and they definitely do not need saving. They are top notch, good people.
However, I do think, at that point, I realised that I am at my best when I feel completely loved. I thought of all the people who loved me at church. All the kids loved me, the little ones thought I was hilarious and even the old people knew I was a good kid. Everyone there believed in me and it was a family.
There was more to it than that though. Even when I am in that building completely alone I feel full up. There is something about the idea of an entity which loves you unconditionally which is gorgeous. It gives you something to confide in, share in, unload upon, draw inspiration from and gain love from.
I don’t think the world was created in a week. I believe in dinosaurs and evolution and science. I love the gays. I believe a woman’s body is her own and I believe in the right to choose. I don’t believe in Noah’s ark and I think the majority of the old testament is tremendously outdated.
But I do believe in God because having something which makes me confident and try to be good and try to love others can only be a good thing to have in my life.
Other people say that it means I am weak if I require religion in order to be a good person.
To that I say, ‘fair enough’. If you are strong enough to stand on your own two feet with no belief at all, good on you. I believe in you too if you are that brave. But I’m not. I need to believe that there is something there watching over me, loving me and giving me courage.
Once in my life, I think God gave me courage to stand my ground and learn who I was. He moved through the people from church who surrounded and loved me and he moved through me. They made me strong and he makes me strong.
These are the shortlist of things I believe:
-God has given me gifts and it’s my job to nurture those and use them.
-God makes me love more and try to be a good person.
-God loves me exactly as I am, unconditionally.
-God blessed me with free will in the hope that I would choose to put my faith in him and act in his name.
-God does not control the things which happen in this world but he provides us with the strength to get through adversity and the brains to take the things which happen to us and weave them together into an understanding of why we are on earth. This gives us an idea of what our purpose is.
-God does not test us. Would you throw cancer at your kid to ‘test it’.
-God loves me more than I could ever love back. I still love God most. More than any family member, friend, boyfriend or inspirational human.
-God doesn’t care if I make mistakes because I am human.
-God wants me to lead by example. I wasn’t born with the gift of being able to preach.
-When I die I will go to heaven and a fear of death is pointless because heaven is relief to even the happiest life.
-God wants me to be happy and to make others happy.
-I celebrate Christmas because that is when the living representation of God was brought into the world.
-I celebrate and mourn at Easter because that is when God sacrificed his son to save my sins.
-I don’t believe Jesus was some kind of magic man but I do believe he was a good man with many skills, a great message of love and forgiveness and a big heart. He inspired many people to be better and to love more and to enjoy life. Then he willingly died because he believed that that would save the souls of mankind. The whole story is unbelievable but pretty beautiful and I choose to believe that someone that magnificent existed and loved me that much. He tried to make people better and I think that’s a pretty good figure to invest myself in.
-I don’t believe my personal brand of religion is the only way to heaven. I have an especial affinity with the Jews and Muslims as we are all brothers of Abraham and our shared history is woven through our different paths of religion. However, I also see benefit in some of the traditional Buddhist teachings and I find Hinduism fascinating.
If you have read this, good on you, cracking effort. If noone has, at least it’s all written down somewhere.
I don’t think this makes me better than anyone else. It’s just how I personally choose to live my life. Obviously, in future times, I would love it if my children found the same joy from religion as I do but that pressure will never be there. It is our individual choice to make.
That’s all folks.