I grew up Catholic. I even went to Catholic school and everything. Whenever I used to meet others who’d been subjected to the same fate, I’d give them a knowing look, followed by “Ah, so you know my suffering…” I couldn’t discuss religion in general without adopting a heavy, sarcastic tone. Religion, to me, was a crutch which weak people used to abdicate responsibility. Since almost all world religions teach that God is a power separate from and outside ourselves, it’s easy to see their appeal for those who aren’t yet ready to own their own power. It took me a long time to make my peace with religion in general, but I believe I finally did. Here’s what I’ve come to know.
I’m not sorry (anymore) that I grew up in the confines of a religion. If nothing else, it gave me something to push against – a jumping off point, if you will. I wasn’t very popular with the nuns and priests. I’ve been a radical question asker pretty much since I could form words, and dissected anything that didn’t make sense to me. As guardians of the church, I expected the nuns and priests to be able to answer my questions. But instead of seeing my inquiries as honest attempts at understanding their doctrine (I wasn’t pushing against anything at this time, I was just trying to make sense of things), they figured I was just being a smart-ass and dealt with me accordingly. Looking back, my questions must have been incredibly uncomfortable. Many of the nuns of that generation never chose to enter the church – they were forced into it. They never felt any calling to support the church or resonance with the teachings. They truly could not answer questions such as “If God is really all loving, why would he ever condemn us to suffering? Why would he set us up for failure?” So yeah, I must have been a bit of a thorn in their side. But this situation did start me on a path of looking for the truth and gave me an opportunity to flex my intuitive muscles. It would’ve been easier to just agree, but my gut told me to keep looking. I listened, and haven’t stopped doing so since.
In my teens, I began to focus on all the suffering the church had brought to people around the world. I was still focused heavily on Christianity at this point, but was beginning to study other religions as well. From the crusades and Salem witch trials to present day missionaries telling African tribes that condoms cause AIDS, I saw the church’s efforts as misguided at best, and cruel, selfish and downright evil at worst. I simply could not condone this kind of behavior.
It was during this time that I got my first taste of the Mormon religion. I went to High School in Idaho, which has a large Mormon population, and I had frequent conversations with young women my age, who were faced with the dilemma of wanting a career, but knowing that they’d have to give it all up in a few years to marry and have children. It was their sacred duty. Then, there were the Christian teens, who wore small lapel pins shaped like little baby feet, to bring awareness to all the fetuses who had been aborted. Nice. To me, it was clear that these religions were brainwashing their congregation, starting with the children. Get them while they’re young…
Religion and God still seemed intertwined to me, so when I rejected the church in all its forms, I rejected God as well and became an atheist. I was angry with God. If he existed, how could he possibly condone all of this suffering, including my own? But that didn’t last long. Somewhere, deep inside me, I knew that there was more. And I began searching, reading everything I could get my hands on. I explored Wicca and paganism, with their nature-based rituals. Buddhism also resonated with me. I was drawn to any philosophy which wasn’t based on fear. I’d never really believed in the devil, and did not understand why an all-powerful God would need to govern his people through fear. Even at a young age, I recognized that this is the style of a weak, insecure ruler. Surely, God was better than that.
I was drawn to authors that wrote about unity, that we are all connected, and that our power is not outside of ourselves. It’s within each of us. Religions had it all wrong, that much was clear. And people were suffering because of it. If only these sheeple would wake up and realize all the damage the church was doing to them!
I stayed in that condescending mindset for years. My solution was simply to stay as far away as I could from religious folks. I couldn’t talk to them or relate to them. I couldn’t understand them, and I no longer wanted to. I thought I’d made my peace with it to an extent. But if the subject of religion came up, the sarcasm and sneers would come right out. Avoiding the subject hadn’t diffused it.
It was only fairly recently that I finally had some insights and revelations that allowed me shift my perspective. The first two I’d discovered years ago, and even if they didn’t really bring me much peace, they were an important part of my journey. But the third really brought it all home for me.
First, the churches themselves are not spiritual organizations, but political ones. If you look at their history and operations through the perspective of a government agency, their actions make sense. They are profit and power motivated, and their treatment of individuals only seems cruel and evil if you expect them to truly care about their parishioners. They don’t care any more than an oil company cares about the people who pump its gas into their cars. It’s a business. This point is important because I pushed against the church for many years because they were supposed to do good – they were supposed to be better. I believed the marketing spin, and it made me angry that they didn’t live up to it. Once I saw that they were basically corruptable corporations, it made it easier to let go of the fairy tale notion of any organization swooping in and saving the world. This was a huge step for me in terms of realizing that we cannot abdicate responsibility for our reality to anyone, and by holding on to my anger at religions, I was, in fact, still holding them responsible in a way.
Second, religious organizations have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality. But, religious people can be spiritual. The two are not mutually exclusive. There are a ton of people who are devoutly religious that are also incredibly spiritual. Sure, there are those who go to church on Sunday to be seen by their friends, only to go to brunch right afterwards where they treat the waitress like dirt (I waitressed in a Diner when I was 17 and got my share of rude and downright nasty after church brunchers…) But this has nothing to do with the church they attend. They’d be douchebags* even if they weren’t religious. Also, there are a lot of individual churches and priests that do a great deal of good. There are open minded priests that support gay marriage and female priests, against the church’s doctrine. They teach kindness and acceptance and build a sense of community. The insight here was that I realized that I couldn’t use religiousness to classify anyone. Being religious isn’t a character trait, and certainly not a character flaw. There are kind people and there are douchebags, and they are both abundantly present on both sides of the fence. I saw that I was being judgmental on a huge scale. Although I didn’t yet drop all of my critical tendencies, I at least became willing to judge each person individually, instead of condemning them as a group.
Finally, the third insight: Religion can help people become more connected. There are a lot of behaviors, rituals and perspectives taught by religions that actually help people to raise their vibration and connect with higher frequencies. When a Muslim kneels five times a day and recites his prayers, he is connecting. It’s no mistake that it gives him a great sense of peace. When a Christian goes to church, a building with a permanently higher frequency created by years of repeated rituals and prayers, and feels a sense of calmness, feels the stress of everyday life melting away, she is actually aligning with a higher, better-feeling frequency. When a priest asks you to focus on gratitude and love during his sermon, and you do it, he is guiding you to a higher vibration.
It makes perfect sense to me now why people who “find God” want to yell it from the rooftops. People who find enlightenment, even for just a moment, do the same thing. If feels amazing. They’re filled with love and they can’t wait to share that feeling. They want everyone to feel that way. Of course, we have no responsibility to share our enlightenment with others, nor can we. Each of us has to experience it for him or herself. It’s not something you can be talked into. People find their way when they’re ready. And if someone isn’t ready, you can proselytize all day long, and they won’t be able to hear you. But again, religions have nothing to do with this. Even non-religious people will fall prey to this urge.
There’s no doubt in my mind that churches and religious texts of all persuasions have helped people to reach a higher vibration. The Law of Attraction is always at work, even at church. When searching for spiritual knowledge, we will always hear precisely what we’re ready to. Some of us will read the Bible and resonate with the vengeance and hatred. Some will find relief in judgment of condemnation of others. Yet others will learn about love and acceptance, no matter what the text or the priest or the evangelist says. We will always hear exactly what we resonate with. Everything else will be invisible. This is why people can read the same scriptures and so vehemently disagree with each other.
So, I no longer push against religions. I truly see that they are just another tool that the Universe can use to bring people together with their vibrational matches – be it other individuals, knowledge or opportunities for experiences. And it’s always been that way. Religions aren’t a disease (if you want to think of this way). They are and always have been a symptom – a reflection of the vibration of a large part of the human population. And yes, that reflection has been a pretty nasty one at times. But right now, in this time, what I see is hope. Even the churches are having to admit that things are changing, becoming more tolerant. People are waking up to their power and are less willing to be kept on a need-to-know basis. Things have to make sense. Like any bureaucracy, they are struggling to keep up, but they must if they are to continue to be our mirror.
I no longer look down upon people who want to tell me about “the Lord” (which used to make me cringe and run away. Literally. I would just get up and walk out). They have found their truth, and that makes me happy for them. It may not be my truth, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be. We’re each entitled to our own. The wonderful thing is, that since I’ve adopted this newfound attitude, NO ONE has tried to convert me. Everything I used to push against has simply disappeared. But this makes perfect sense, of course. I changed my filter, and now the Law of Attraction can’t bring me together with people or circumstances that push my buttons. I simply cannot perceive them anymore. God, how cool is that?
* It still kind of makes me all giggly that I was able to use the word “douchebags” in a post about religion. Twice.
Are you still pushing against Religion or have you made your peace with it? Share your experiences in the comments!