Firming up my belief system

Today we did something that we don’t usually do in this family: we went to church.

Yup, the ridgy didge Jesus is my saviour church thang.

Our neighbours, who are also our very good friends, are religious folk and they go to a non denominational church locally. They are pretty active members and I know they have very firm beliefs but it doesn’t really bother me. I like them and I guess one of the reasons for that is that they are not preachy at all. They aren’t constantly saying “Praise the lord” to me or telling me to “ask God” about something. We have often had conversations about our differing beliefs but always in an intellectual way as opposed to a conversion way so really, it isn’t a big deal.

They often invite us along to the service when they have big events on and usually I just say no but this Easter there was talk of an easter egg hunt and Monkey begged me to go. To be fair he didn’t really know what he was asking to go to. We don’t talk about church or Jesus or God or religion in this house just yet, mainly because there isn’t much for me to say about it.  We talk a lot about ideas that are often linked to faith but to me that aren’t faith based – ie treating others the way we would like to be treated. To me that’s just being human.

So, we went to church.

Well as soon as we got there and checked the kids into the kid’s play area (which was really great by the way) I got the vibe that I was expected to go into the auditorium with my friend and “enjoy” the service. Right away I said I just wanted to stay and observe the kids. My reasons were two fold:

1/ I wanted to see exactly what I my kid was experiencing at “kids’ church”, and

2/ I wanted to make it clear (even though I thought I already had) that was I there for my kid to share an experience with his friend/neighbour as opposed to me suddenly being saved and joining the flock.

The whole kiddie church thing was pretty innocuous. It was mostly face painting and games that had no religious significance whatsoever. There was one bit though where we all went into a room and had what could only be termed as the kiddie church service. Today they did a kid friendly version of the meaning of Easter and really, I have to say it was very well done. But it involved my kid putting his hand up (as they were all encouraged to) to say yes he wanted to pray and accept Jesus into his heart and at that point I started to get really mad at myself for introducing him into an environment of indoctrination. My kid wasn’t praying because he understood what was going on, he was praying because everyone else was doing it and that was what was encouraged.

Prior to today I have honestly  struggled a bit with whether or not I am doing the right thing by not exposing Monkey to religion.  I can say that I 100% put those fears to rest today. If he wants to learn about religion then he can learn about it in an intellectual sense. We can talk about the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, Buddhism, Pagan rituals, whatever. Then if he wants to explore those religions on a more personal individual level then he can choose to do so when he is good and ready. I’m not looking to push my beliefs onto him. He is free to choose whatever path feels right for him and if he wants to be religious then I will support his choice. My brother converted to Catholicism as an adult, my parents sometimes go to a non denominational church similar to the one I went to today and I have many religious friends and I support their right to their beliefs and to practice and celebrate them as they see fit. But they truly aren’t for me.

I felt really angry after we got home today for quite some time. While at the church I was “welcomed” by so many people and asked what I thought of the service, given a free coffee (they have a coffee machine and sell them to the congregation), stopped by the pastor for a welcome chat, asked to complete a form about whether or not I was looking for a new church to call my home and all that jazz and the more it happened the more pissed off I became. While I recognise these things as totally nice behaviours (and the people there really were lovely, if I was looking to join a church this place would totally be an option) and I was warm to everyone in response I felt totally hoodwinked by my friend. Like she has been waiting to slowly convert me and coerce me into “joining the flock” all this time. Like I don’t really know what I believe and that I’ll “come round”. Like I need saving. Fuck I hate that term.

I realise some of this might be a little to do with misplaced anger about my dad so I’ve mostly let it go but I had to sit down and write this post and get it all out of me once and for all as it was going around and around in my brain tonight. The really great thing about it though is that I have really defined my thoughts and beliefs on this subject now. Where I was fence sitting a little before today, I am not anymore.

I don’t believe in organised religion. I don’t believe in a church who sent a petition to the government against marriage between same sex couples (the church I went to today did this and it makes my fucking blood boil). I have my own relationship between the universe and what may or may not be my God (a term I use only as I have no other way to define it) and it has nothing to do with what some people wrote in a book thousands of years ago. These are not my stories.

My son won’t go to a Catholic primary school as they are hard core religious and friends or not at the local church, we won’t be going to a service there again. That is their story and they have the right to teach it to their kids if that’s what they believe. But I also have the right to teach my kids my story and let them choose a path of their own to follow.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

*********

A little note to any of my blog readers who are religious: this is not a personal attack on religion or your beliefs so I hope it doesn’t come across in that way. This is simply me working out and articulating exactly what my beliefs are and how things will work for MY family. I am never offended if people talk religion in the comments on my blog and am quite honestly honoured when people say they have prayed for me. For someone to take time out of their day and spare a moment in their thoughts for me and/or my family, well that is just so touching and truly does move me. That is a gift and I always appreciate it. 

 

 

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33 thoughts on “Firming up my belief system

  1. Wow, I’m so with you on this. One of the things I’ve been thinking of writing a post about was my own non religion but I thought on balance it would probably be a bit too shouty. I mean, seriously. (I have LOTS of experience of Christianity of multiple types – I was brought up very religious and my mother still is, and I went to a religious school and then after I left I even dabbled in the happy clappy type, just to see.)

    I envy people who have an idea of a deity that they can hang everything off. I cannot. The bad things and the good things that have happened to me have been just that – bad and good. Not God deciding I should be separated from my first family, just so I can be a daughter to an infertile couple (WTF), and not God deciding it would be a lovely life lesson for me to be infertile… Or any of that stuff. I find it pretty hard to hold my tongue when I see all the religious posts… I just want to shake them and say that’s not the way the world is. But I don’t, because I’m sure it’s a comfort and people are free to make up their own minds.

    I’ve always thought if I had a kid I would teach tolerance but I would also explain that it’s a belief system. And the logical fallacy that they can’t all be right. I’d let them go to church / synagogue / mosque if they wanted to, but I really don’t think most kids would want to unless they’re sold on it in another way. (I can’t believe Monkey was! I’d be angry too!)

    I can’t believe in something that causes so much suffering and tells people who they are supposed to love and hate.

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    • Yeah that is my bug with religion too – so judgemental when it should be free from judgement! I envy believers too. It must be a great comfort as you say and research certainly suggests that (live longer as somewhere to place your worries) but my logical brain won’t allow me to do that. I also think it allows people to step away from personal responsibility with all the “God did it” and that pisses me off no end. Even with God your life is still a series of choices and opportunities. God des not have time to be dabbling in every single thing you do even if he does exist. I think it is almost egotistical to think otherwise!!!

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  2. I absolutely respect your perspective and feel very similarity to you. Our son will be brought up knowing about compassion, honour, love, etc. And at the same time he will also be brought up knowing about all religions so that he can make a choice one day should he want to.

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  3. I once was invited to a Christmas extravaganza by a student and her mother. I went to be polite but during the intermission we were asked to speak to some parishioners about joining the church. We pretended we needed to go to the restroom and ran out to the car and left!!! It was scary. It was a mega church! Those scare me the most! I grew up going to a tiny and very liberal church. Big religious churches are way out of my comfort zones

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  4. It’s like I could have written this myself!! (Well, maybe not the anger parts, but the rest of it.) We have friends that we used to be close to, and I went to church with them a few times, and brought B along for an Easter service once as well. It was a non-denominational church and everyone there was really nice. My family has never been religious, so really I was just curious. B was brought up Catholic, and he was just kinda along for the ride that day. But ultimately, I feel the same way you do about religion. I believe there is SOMETHING bigger than us all out there, but I don’t know what it is, and I don’t think I want to know, really. I have no problem with others going to church (unless they’re trying to shove it down my throat) or believing in whatever they wish to…I just don’t agree with organized religion myself. We’ll teach our kids about things, B will probably be able to teach them a bit more than I will, and they will be allowed to choose whatever they want to believe in. We’ll support them in whatever they want to do. But I can’t bring myself to go to church regularly…I don’t want to be forced to think like everyone else and do what everyone else is made to do. It’s just not me. BUT…like you, I’m also thankful for those who say they will pray for me/us, for the same reason. For some, that is the ultimate gift that they can give. And it can’t hurt to ask whatever powers-that-be for help! 🙂

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  5. It sure is a tricky one. Faith is such a personal decision and one that should enhance your life, not make you feel uncomfortable.
    In our house, I am Anglican and my husband is indifferent. He got married in my church and both kids have been baptized Anglican. I go to church occasionally as our crazy schedule allows and to work with their choir their from time to time. The kids haven’t gone to Sunday School yet because they are a bit young.
    And as much as I am convinced in my faith, I understand what you are saying about some of the non-denominational churches. They tend to beat you over the head with a Bible and drag you in so to speak.
    I want to expose my kids to Bible stories and a loving community of people that influence them in a positive way and then they will make their choices as they grow. You can’t force anyone to have faith…..you can expose them and then allow it to grow, or allow them to make their own choices.
    But Bible thumping? No thank you.

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    • Yeah I think that is why I have been so confused about what to do. The bible stories are valuable and the sense of community you get with religion is wonderful and those things made me feel like I should provide some exposure. But asking my kid to accept Jesus into his heart when he doesn’t even know what that means? That felt like one step too far and definitely more along the lines of bible thumping. I think how you are raised also does contribute. I was raised Anglican and I guess because of that I feel more comfortable in a more laid back church environment. If I took Monkey to a small church service I probably wouldn’t respond quite so violently I suspect. Anyway not likely to happen as it is just not me. Oh and I really do agree that faith is such a personal thing. I think that is what bothers me about those big churches. They seem to be trying to make it less personal and more public perhaps? And that just isn’t cool with me.

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  6. I am Catholic, but I also share similar beliefs to you. I hate the conversion pressure (and don’t believe people need it), believe in all people getting to choose their own religion and spouse regardless of sex, etc. Sometimes I don’t want to say I am Christian because I am very liberal and accepting compared to many Christians or even Catholics. I cringe when I go to those churches with friends that want me to convert or shame me for being open minded and accepting of minority lifestyles. Also, I believe the bible is a book of stories written by people to help us learn lessons…definitely not that the bible should be taken literally. People flat out miss the point when trying to read it without the context of history, Jewish law, etc. Anyway, I can totally understand why you feel the way you do and just wanted to say a lot of Christians do too! Xx

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    • Yes I think if I was going to be a Christian then I would need to find a group of people just like you! This is the sort of faith that makes the most sense to me. I actually saw a brilliant clip of a pastor supporting the LGBT community the other day and I was all YES, this is what it is all about. It was so refreshing.

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  7. My dear, I thought I couldn’t possibly adore you more than I already did, but then you go and write this. Kindred spirits. 🙂

    I used it self-identify as agnostic, but eventually realized it’s all religion that gives me hives. I read the book The God Delusion several years ago, and suddenly felt less crazy about why I has so many questions when others seemed so rooted and sure in their answers. After reading that book I can unapologetically say that not only is religion not for me, but that I don’t believe in one almighty “being” who masterminded it all. Like you, I refer to the goodness of the universe – something I feel very connected to, particularly when I’m out climbing mountains – and I try to live my life based on core “human” principles. I don’t need a book to tell me not to be an asshole. How about just not being an asshole because it’s a shitty way to be?

    Anyway, brava sister!

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    • Haha totally! I should read that book one day. At the time it came out it felt so extreme but maybe now I’ve firmed up my beliefs it will resonate with me more. Love ya lady. We are kindred spirits for sure xx

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      • That’s the thing – it’s only extreme if you believe science is extreme. 🙂 It’s written by a renowned scientist, Richard Dawkins, and is all rooted in empirical evidence. I had to read it in chunks to really absorb how much finally answered so many questions I had.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I’m out in nature, scaling my mountains, I’m convinced of a greater “thing” and I feel an interconnectedness to the universe in a way that fills me with hope. I have no time for religion though. 🙂

        Love ya back! xoxo

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        • Yeah I will probably find it to already align with what a think. It is the science that steered me away from religion in the first place. It just didn’t make any sense!!! And I am a big science believer 🙂 I sometimes think the greater thing is simply that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is an energy about that which is impossible to define and I like it that way 🙂 X

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  8. I have very similar feelings to you towards religion. I think it’s great that you tried it for Monkey’s sake. I would have felt the same as you when they asked who wants to pray and accept Jesus. I think at Monkey’s age they are far more likely to copy and not really understand why they are doing it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a church that has been like that with children, it would definitely make me feel uncomfortable…I’m more used to children’s clubs that simply play and educate them on good human values that may use stories from the bible and everything is very much voluntary in participation. However, since moving to the US I realised that churches here are very different and I wouldn’t want to take my child to church here until they were much older and could demonstrate some kind of ability for a vague logical reasoning to me!!! Of course, I don’t actually know how I will be with my child until I actually get there…but I do admire and relate to your attitude in handling religion with Monkey 🙂

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    • Yeah it is all trial and error I think. One you have kids you do trial and error a lot 🙂 lol I am glad we went as now I know how I feel and clarity of thought is good. I am one step closer to knowing what I am doing LOL

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  9. I’m pretty much with you on this. I’m all for a higher power or greater energy in the universe or whatever, but I’m not much into church. However, I do go to church with friends every once in a blue moon. When I go I try to think of it like this: I’m on their turf, and all of these things that we see as odd or preachy, they see as completely normal. I try to think about how when I’m really passionate about something I like to talk excitedly about it to anyone who will listen. And to these people, they are excited about God and Jesus. I dunno, it helps me to feel more at ease if I just think about it like they are sharing something they’re excited about. And honestly, sometimes I’m kind of jealous of super religious people–they have their faith and they’re unwavering in that faith, and it brings them so much comfort. Life is hard, it must be nice to have that comfort. I also agree that I am honored when people say they are praying for me!

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    • You raise a really great point here and one I am going to try to remember if ever in that situation again. My friend almost seemed energised to have me there and perhaps if I didn’t take it all so personally as a recruitment drive I would have been able to see her excitement for the pure joy she had in sharing this experience with me. But I’m still not going again LOL I agree that religious folk are lucky I that their faith brings so much comfort. Research supports it too. I think passionately religious folk live longer and that has to be due to reduced stress as they can just pass it all over to God!

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  10. The attempted indoctrination aspect of this experience does sound creepy. I totally agree with you about the importance of supporting the rights of others to practice any religion they choose – particularly in a climate where anti-religion is often veiled racism. But I think it’s really clear that you are not anti-religious. Just clear on your own beliefs. I really like your approach of allowing your child to choose his own beliefs. I heard a parent making a similar comment about their child and political ideas over the weekend. I hope things are going okay with the situation with your dad.

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    • Ah yes political ideas is another great one! I am a swinging voter and it astounds me to see people who have a party affiliation because their parents did. The whole “my family only votes labour” thing. How is that a family choice? So odd to me. When Monkey is old enough we will talk about policy and understanding how the system works and then he can toddle off and make choices for himself. I want him to be a critical thinker in life! I think that is the greatest gift I can give him. 🙂

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  11. Dear Em, First off, love you! Second off, I have been churched since day one. I’ve always taken the opposite stance of you. Better to give my child a religion, then allow them to reform it as they grow and mature. But I take that stance because I’ve so enjoyed it for my life. I was “indoctrinated” and then later used my own studies and intuition to bring my faith more into alignment with what I think is closer to reality. For example, when I read the red letters (the words of Christ placed in red), He NEVER ostracizes or belittles women (or disgustingly sick people or disgustingly selfish/greedy tax people or different denominations). In fact, as I’ve read about many religions/philosophies, His is about the only one which puts women on equal playing field. However, His disciples who had to carry on His work were not so divine and had to somehow rectify these beliefs separated by a huge chasm (circumcision, beliefs on foods, beliefs on women, beliefs on the Sabbath, etc.); so now I accept they did the best they could—but it isn’t anywhere near how Jesus could have done it (but isn’t that the whole point of religion–we’re human and a real mess, God is not). Well, I could go on and on. My own belief is that God’s Spirit is reaching out to you, me, Monkey, man, woman, and we’ll find and accept it and internalize it better and more as our hearts are ready, sometimes in little bits and sometimes in massive lumps. Okay. I’m done. I just hope Monkey had fun at the Easter egg hunt! At least they weren’t trying to tell him that he would go to hell for believing in the Easter bunny (that would be the kind of folks I run with…the indoctrination I’m lucky enough to have my kids encounter with me around to guide them…as if God criticizes a happy, joyful Easter bunny). Well, all love and peace and joy and contentment to you and the baby within you. May your “I am” (your being) be connected to the Great I am with a stronger cord each day. 🙂 Love, Terri

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    • Yes I think whatever we grow up with plays a big part in what we are comfortable with for our own families.

      That is crazy about the Easter Bunny being evil. I think some faiths are certainly very purist in their approach. I am glad you were able to look about and find the bits that work for you as an individual as that is what really matters at the end of the day. Lotsa love right back to you xxxx

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  12. I struggle with this issue and have no clue what I’m going to do with my girls. I grew up with a father who is a pastor at a small, conservative Baptist/bible church. I always had lots of questions, and while my dad is unwavering in his beliefs, he always listened to my theological questions and responded with intelligent, logical responses. And sometimes with something like, “well, I really don’t know the answer, and none of us will until we die and enter the spiritual realm.” I always felt like I was encouraged to question and think for myself. I never answered the call to baptism, because I felt an innate pressure to do so because my father is the pastor. Not pressure from him or my family, but from the church – more like a conflict of interest. At the end of the day, I never had a choice on what church I attended and just didn’t want to join the church, but I did enjoy attending and participating for the most part. At one point in my mid-twenties, I accepted the Bahai faith as my own and loved the community I was a part of. Then I moved, and the Bahai community elsewhere didn’t feel the same. And now I feel like I don’t fit into any one religious community, because I definitely believe in the tenants of the Bahai faith but still cherish my Christian upbringing. Yet I can’t stand the way some judgmental Christians behave and treat others. But at the end of the day, I think I want my girls to be exposed to religion somehow with my guidance to promote them thinking for themselves and exploring their belief system. But really, I just want them to become genuinely kind and compassionate human beings. I think I definitely need to firm up my belief system in the next couple of years. 🙂

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    • You will know soon enough what you want to do probably in the same way I am learning – by trying things out and going with how those things make you feel. I think your story with your dad is really interesting and I am so pleased that even though he was very devout that he allowed you to ask questions and make your own decisions. Not all fiercely religious folk can manage to do that so it is a real testament to your dad that he did. 🙂 x

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      • Definitely. I totally understand your feelings about going to church with Monkey. I think “children’s church” should teach virtues and even tell stories from the bible in a way the kids can understand them, but I definitely think anything beyond that is crossing the line, especially for a child’s first visit.

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  13. I agree with you exactly on this. I have a sense of spirituality but it is nothing to do with organised religion and we do not partake in any of it. My sons do attend a church affiliated school, so we’ve had some interesting discussions about jesus and god, especially around the festival times. However, I tend to let this go. I was exposed to religion at school but because it was never talked about at home it was never a central part of my life or belief system. I too would hate to see my boys holding uo their hands to say they wanted to pray etc., because to me it seems wrong! Ahh, it’s not easy is it? I respect some aspects of religion like the community building and moral standing, but why should we need a god to bring us together? Difficult. On the plus side it has helped you define what is and isn’t acceptable, so every cloud and all that 😉 x

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