I have been pessimistic towards a relationship with God for as long as I can remember. I remember not wanting to say The Pledge of Allegiance in 5th grade because it felt like a prayer. I have memories of praying at dinner as a child with my grandparents & feeling uncomfortable from how forced into it I felt simply by being there. Christianity is a large part of my family and their lives, both sides, but I felt like no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force myself to believe. My parents always raised my younger sister and I to be critical thinkers, to challenge what we are told and to observe the world and question what is around us. I knew very young when I looked up at the large portrait of Jesus hanging in my room that I didn’t believe that any of this was possible, realistically. I will never forget the feeling of sitting in my room, staring up at this painting, feeling guilty about wanting to take it down because my maternal grandmother painted it and passed away right before I was born.
The day that I asked my mom if I could take it down, I saw it click with her what was happening. But she never tried to change me. She continually encouraged me to keep my eyes open, even if my view was different from hers. My dad has not practiced since he lived at home, hasn’t stepped foot into a church besides the occasional wedding or funeral since before he joined the Navy at 17. Since I am older and now more open with my views, we have had multiple discussions on the topic of religion. His take is, in a nutshell – “Whatever makes you a good person. Whatever gives you a moral compass and guides you through life doing right by yourself and others; let it guide you.” My mom is a bit more sensitive, we know how we feel but we don’t discuss it too often. We’ll joke around every now and then, being an extremely open and radically inappropriate family, but it gives her comfort to know that she will see her mom and family again one day so I don’t see a reason to make a constant attempt to deflate her hope.
I don’t look to a man in the sky for direction or let him limit me & what I am seeking. If I don’t accomplish a goal, I don’t say “Must not be what God wanted for me!” I evaluate what I could have done differently & learn from it. We are who we are by the choices we make, just as we are here today because of the choices made by others who came before us.
I don’t think that we go anywhere when we die. No pearly gates, no reunions with loved ones, no eternal bliss or youth, and no fiery hell as punishment for your behavior in this life. I believe in science and in the wonder that is the human body and all that surrounds us. Death is a part of the cycle of life, but when we do leave our physical bodies, we become apart of the Earth more permanently that any mark we could hope to make in our everyday lives. We become part of Earth’s body, it’s make-up, what lives in it, and what it produces.
The pessimist in me sees religion as a divider among the human race. But I know that it comes from the inability to differentiate in some individuals that religion is a personal way to walk through life. There are so many beliefs, cultures, and ways of living that thinking that your hypothesis is right simply because it’s yours and you believe it with all your heart and soul, is a true example of ignorance. When you completely ignore the idea that no one knows for sure, we’re all just flying blind, lead by our own consciences, you are missing out the experience of pure individuality. It not only keeps neighbors and community members apart but the different countries and regions of our world, on a grander scale.
I have been called a Socialist, a Communist, a Heathen, a Satanic worshiper based on others’ perceptions of my views. Labels are a way of categorizing, understanding, and belonging to the world around us so I understand it and don’t get offended, even if it is ill intended. I prefer the label “Humanist,” simply because I am a promoter and a believer in life.
Whatever gives you hope. Regardless of whether you believe that your God single-handedly gave you another day or if chalk it up to statistical probability that you just haven’t died yet; you are alive. You will never get yesterday back, there is only today and using what you’ve learned today to help you tomorrow, until you are out of tomorrows.
We have to stop using differences as an excuse to separate us and look at everything that makes us the same.