I guess you could call this my “coming-out” blog post, although it’s not quite the conventional form of coming-out that most of you are probably thinking. Outing myself as non-religious was almost as hard for me personally as it is for many people who reveal their sexualities. Most of my friends and family know this already–I’m not religious; most people have known this for a long time, in fact. I am finally unveiling myself to everyone today. Here’s my story.
I was raised Methodist. I didn’t start attending church regularly, however, until I was about 7 when my mom remarried. We participated in events and went to church on as many Sundays as possible. I was an Acolyte and performed in the kids’ programs and was a member of the youth group. I even helped with the crafts at our Vacation Bible School after moving.
The majority of my close family, though, was largely liberal when it came to religion (meaning they didn’t hold too conservative of religious values). In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever personally seen my father in a church pew (except for a funeral or two) and my grandparents quit going to church about ten years ago due to corruptions in the system.
I do have family (and friends) that are rather conservative when it comes to religion, so that’s why it makes this harder. I am very lucky, though, to have supportive parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who understand my choices.
I can’t really pin-point the time when I began questioning religion. I do believe I was around 12. I began questioning the values and teachings and noticed the hypocrisy abundant within many churches, including my own. What was the point?
Then I became friends with someone who I considered my best friend for many years to come and he introduced a new term to me: Atheism. He was Atheist–he lacked a belief in a god–and I liked this idea, though not enough to call myself one. I guess I was still trying to find my place.
It was a very confusing stage. Every night, for probably around five years, I would pray for five minutes before going to sleep. From a young age, I knew my dad wasn’t religious; I would pray to God asking him not to send Daddy to Hell. I would tell God to send my love to my deceased grandmother, Nanny. I would also ask God to make sure I didn’t pee my pants during the night.
You see, I went from this…to a lack in beliefs. It was a major transition for such a young little girl.
I began researching more into it once I moved in with my father at the age of 13. There, I felt more at home and at peace with my beliefs and was able to truly express myself for who I was for the first time in years. Before, I had felt very trapped socially and, now, starting over in a new place, I was free.
This is about the same time that I discovered another term: Agnostic. I read about Agnosticism and it appealed to me on many levels: it was a lack in belief of a higher deity (a god), but it could still hold certain (personal) beliefs that could be considered “spiritual.” I believe in an afterlife, karma, reincarnation, spirits…I just don’t believe a god controls all of these things, or anything else that happens in the world. I believe that we, as humans, are responsible for everything we do. I believe in science and evolution. I believe that nature holds a certain power that we–as humans–cannot simply understand.
However, I don’t believe in a god.
Now, some people think that this means that I’m Atheist. Though I am not offended by being called Atheist, my actual identification is Agnostic. (I was actually named as “Atheist of the Week” on a cool podcast I was featured on a year ago.) The difference in Atheism and Agnosticism is simple: Atheists have a lack of belief in anything truly spiritual–they don’t believe in a Hell or Heaven or afterlife of any sorts–while Agnostics do tend to integrate religious beliefs and values into their personal lives. Both Atheists and Agnostics, however, don’t believe in a god.
It would kinda be like calling me Baptist when I’m, in fact, Methodist. See the difference now?
“So, Mia,” you may ask, “What does this mean for you?”
Being Agnostic means many things for me:
I believe that nothing “happens for a reason.” I believe it simply happens.
I don’t rely on a higher deity to solve my problems or the world’s problems.
I don’t bow my head or close my eyes to pray, but I am respectful when my family prays.
I don’t attend church for my own sake.
“How has being Agnostic affected your life, Mia?”
I’ll answer it this way:
I am no longer scared of death. I used to be absolutely terrified of going to Hell and, as a little girl, that was very disturbing for me. I am confident that I am doing good for the world and those around me, so I shouldn’t be worried about what happens to me after this life.
I am able to go with the flow. “Que sera sera” is the phrase, I believe, or for my French folks: “c’est la vie.” I am less worried about what I do and what happens to me.
I no longer feel guilty about trivial things. Now I’ve found that most of my feelings and reactions to things are okay and nothing to be guilty about.
I am more curious about the world and more accepting of new ideas. Whereas before I found myself almost bound to a set of classic stories of how the world began, I can now open my eyes to new findings and beliefs regarding science. I am able to look at things with a more open mind.
I am more loving of other people. I have found that, not surrounding myself with people who judge others based on their religion or sexuality, I have been able to show a form of love much greater than that preached by the church. I am able to accept everyone for who they are and, coming from the view of the minority, understand how it feels to be looked down upon.
Overall, I am more understanding, more free, more confident and just happier.
But this isn’t for everyone, and I’m definitely not trying to preach to anyone right now. I’m just giving my confession.
Some people need a higher deity to believe in and a book to set out their life rules, and that’s okay. I just don’t. And that doesn’t make me any better–or worse–than them.
I am still respectful to everyone in regards to their beliefs, even Westboro Baptist (sometimes). I still attend church a couple times of year out of respect for my mother or support of my family and friends. I have helped at events hosted by the church I grew up in and have assisted my friends occasionally at their church events if they ask. It’s not like I begin to burn if I walk into a church.
I like Christian hymns and I love singing them when I do go to church. I own a copy of the Bible and can tell you my favorite verse. I find all religion very fascinating and hope to study more of it while at college. I just don’t believe in it.
That doesn’t mean that I look at religion as a bunch of “fairy tales” or “hocus pocus.” No. I believe in Jesus Christ, just like I believe in Buddha and Muhammad, as prophets to a particular religion. I believe they were all real people. Do I believe Jesus healed the sick and Buddha reached Nirvana? Maybe. There’s a lot that we still don’t understand; I just don’t accept it as something I should dedicate my whole being to.
I have found peace and a sense of being by just believing in myself and the people around me, and that’s all I need to be happy.
That’s my story.
Image Courtesy of: moisom.com