Devout to Doubtful

By the time I was old enough to know a little about what religion meant, we were attending church regularly.

I remember being there when my dad and sister were baptized, in the little pool at our church. I knelt on the shaggy orange carpet in front of the pool’s glass in my nice church dress, seeing their smiles as they had the cloth placed over their faces and dipped in the water, one at a time. Not long after, my mom was baptized at a seminar, in a larger one. And not long after that, due to my urging and a lot of convincing, I went through Bible studies and was baptized myself, at six years old, younger than most people in our church had been (or had been allowed to).

In my nearly fifteen years afterward, I remember watching the baptismal vows become more strict and more detailed, including things that I never thought were wrong, such as playing board games (of all things). I remember being berated by one of the visiting pastors during his sermon because me and one of my fellow ushers were going in and out of the church (which we were supposed to, because we were ushers). I remember this same pastor being rude to my mother because she asked why we were not allowed to wear jewelry when people in the Bible did.

As I got older, I began to question the beliefs our church held that I had never found any reason to understand from a Biblical perspective. I caught up on secular music, all of the music I’d missed that I hadn’t listened to when I was younger. I wrote a paper in high school (with Biblical references) about why wearing jewelry wasn’t wrong (or even something God cares about), despite what the church taught us. I struggled with issues that should never have had a place in my home church. In college, I pierced my ears for the first time, and watched as my dad at first asked me “you did what?!” in horror but later said, “You know, those look really nice.” I wore the largest earrings I could find and what I wanted to church when I was forced to go, defiantly daring anyone to tell me not to.

Church had been something that was part of my routine, every Saturday, for fifteen years of my life, but I eventually stopped going in college. I refused to go when I was home, not wanting to visit with people who either had views that angered me to listen to, or didn’t quite accept me because of my light skin. For awhile, I only would go willingly when our pastor was speaking, the one we had who inspired me that organized religion could get better, that actually read the Bible open face on the pulpit, not picking and choosing what verses suited his own agenda.

Over my junior year of college, my parents experienced their own realization, where my dad was home all day recovering from surgery and opened the new “archaeological” Bible that my mom had given him, and read it entire chapters, entire books, and became confused and angry at the church’s teachings. Here was the book we were supposedly living from, and it disagreed with everything we’d been taught. He and my mom read through, and by the time I’d finished my junior year and I was riding home with my mom with all of my belongings in the back, she told me that they, along with my cousins, were going to leave the church for good. They had been involved more than anyone else, had given whole parts of themselves to it, and despite my own trepidations and anger, I knew I needed to be there for them on their last Sabbath there.

Over the past four years since then, I’ve felt a complete disconnect from my religious roots. I have no desire to attend church at all. I haven’t lost my faith in God – I’ve always believed in His existence and that He loves us…and that a lot of Christians don’t reflect His character at all. I find the church’s fear of doubt and questioning to be deterrent. I think all of us need to question and search and doubt to find our way to what the truth is, not by listening blindly to how others interpret teachings, the Bible, and other religious books that are sometimes given more credit than they’re due.

Could my relationship with God be better now? Of course it could. None of us are perfect. I’ve found that I find it important to love those around me despite their faults, and to fight for the people that religion tends to knock down while using the Bible as their reasoning. Loving others isn’t about judging them, or loving the sin, not the sinner. It’s about caring for and doing what’s best for them, which does not include trying to change them. If God could love us through all of the stuff we do, surely we could do even a quarter of that for those around us.

I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to honestly dive into what I believe about the church and about faith throughout the last few years of my life, to be able to freely question and doubt the details while still holding the most important belief, and to discuss with others what those things mean.

I’d like to hear what you think: Did you grow up religious or not? What did you believe when you were younger that ended up being challenged? Do you prefer where you are now or where you were at past times in your life? Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear it. 

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9 thoughts on “Devout to Doubtful

  1. I wasn’t brought up religious. There have been times that I wish I was, but ultimately I think I still would have ended up where I am now, which is somewhere between agnostic and monotheistic (but not necessarily Christian). I don’t think there are any organized religions that I’d feel comfortable in. But I do love the ritual and tradition found in a lot of them, and I’m envious of the comfort and peace people can get from it. I just don’t have that kind of absolute faith.

    1. It’s funny, I used to wish the opposite, that I hadn’t been brought up religious. I saw a lot of people find God from whatever means and be genuinely happy that their lives took that direction, instead of having an apathetic “this is how it’s always been” attitude that I felt like I had. It’s interesting how the things you’re told as you grow up shape how you think later on, but I think it’s up to anyone to look for or not look for faith, if that makes sense. I’m glad it’s that way, because whatever conclusion you come to is much stronger for it.

      1. It definitely makes sense. I think growing up with it from a young age can only do so much. If you just never question it, that seems to me like a hollow sort of faith. Similarly, if you’re brought up in a non-religious home and never question that, then you’re blind to the possibilities that are out there.

  2. My family was very Southern Baptist, but not necessarily in a take-scripture-out-of-context sort of way… our church/community just had all these sort of cultural norms that they’d created as a supplement. Like… women got married in college, single women were supposed to value baking and watching children and single men were supposed to mow our lawns for us. How awkward. Women were most definitely not allowed to have jobs after they had children (which was ASAP after marriage).

    I was definitely disillusioned and left that church after witnessing a pretty awkward power struggle. It became obvious that their aim was in glorifying themselves only. I’ve finally found a church where the people don’t seem judgey, they don’t seem inclusive, and the people who attend are pretty diverse in their mindset and lifestyles. It’s refreshing.

    1. That sounds very refreshing. I’m glad you’ve found that. I feel like they’re sadly very few and far between.

      The religion I was in is very exclusive, and they also had some cultural norms that were presented as “you’re going to hell if” type of ultimatums (like not wearing jewelry, not eating meat, etc.). It also tends to be a cultural thing to get married right after college, even if you don’t necessarily have kids right away (but it does usually happen).

  3. This is such an honest and candid piece.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences Samantha.

    I grew up in church, but I never fully understood what it meant to live in accordance with God’s will and purpose for my life.

    To be honest, I didn’t truly begin to gain a better understanding until about a year ago. It’s been such an amazing journey and I’ve learned so many things.

    It truly makes a difference when we discover God and His Kingdom for ourselves, rather than having religion and different ideologies forced upon us.

    I definitely prefer where I am now. I finally have peace in my life. That in an of itself has made the journey I’m on totally worth it.

    Thank you again for taking the time out to share what you experienced with us Samantha.

    God bless you!

    1. It’s definitely been better for me to discover things on my own, especially that the world is not as black and white as we’d like it to be. There are so many things we don’t understand about ourselves, about God, and about the universe to be sure of anything. Having faith in God just means things will work themselves out. :)

      Thanks for coming and leaving your thoughtful comment here. I’m happy to hear you’ve found peace in your life and a fulfilling journey.

      1. Yes, there are a lot of amazing things for us to discover. That’s one of the beautiful things about our journey through life.

        Having faith in God definitely adds a substantial benefit to life. However, it can be challenging to develop our faith, especially with all of the many distractions we encounter throughout our lives.

        You are very welcome. I appreciate you allowing me to share my thoughts and for taking the time out to reply to comment. That really means a lot to me.

        If you’re interested, feel free to swing by my site. I’d value your feedback and thoughts too.

        Thanks and have a very blessed day Samantha!

  4. I’ve enjoyed the topic and discussions. Having grown up in an abusive and neglected home environment we definitely were not church goers. But meeting and marrying my husband of 44 years changed my life. After our two children were born we started attending Church. It was very intimidating. But soon afterwards we were both baptized and went into the ministry. Tony as Pastor and I worked with young and women. I had the honor of helping teenage girls who became pregnant. Sitting up all night with a young woman coming off drugs and talking with a woman who had been sexual abused as I had. Those experience s taught me god has given each one of us a purpose even if it’s meeting a prostitute at the Church door and asking her to sit with you. Church isn’t as much about what you can get but what you can do to help others which in turn gives you great joy. God wants to Bless us so we can be His blessing to others.

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