03 February 2013

Daily Challenge - My Beliefs

It may seem unusual, but I'm actually posting two daily challenges today.  The one I posted earlier was the write up about playing on the Wii with my boys last night.  This one is actually today's challenge and in it, I'll be

Talking About Being a Non-Christian Blogger

As I mentioned before, it seems like most of the bloggers I come across are quite strong in their Christian faith.  Many of their posts talk about God and Jesus and their relationship with them.  I have absolutely no problem with it at all.  It's their blog and their beliefs, and I'm glad to see that they are comfortable posting that.  Everyone should be comfortable posting what they believe.  Which is why it's slightly ironic that I've been nervous about posting my own beliefs for fear of losing readers.

I grew up Catholic.  And for much of my youth, I was a pretty good Catholic.  I was baptized, had my first communion, went to church every Sunday and sang in the (very small) church choir.  I was even working toward being confirmed, before I moved from New York to Florida.  Once I was in Florida, however, my involvement in the church became non-existent.  My dad thought I'd been confirmed already, so he didn't press.  Most of my friends weren't Catholic, so there wasn't that pressure to go to church.  Instead, I went with them to the Assemblies of God church that they attended.  They had a youth group, so it was a great chance for me to get to know God along with more kids my own age.

That was the start of some of my problems, though.  I still remember talking about abortion during one night of youth group and being told that it was always, without question, a sin.  And I didn't believe it.  I couldn't believe it.  Sometimes a mother's life was in danger.  Sometimes pregnancy came about because of rape.  In those cases, I couldn't imagine that abortion shouldn't be considered.  But I was being told that no, it should never happen, ever, and that if you even considered it, you were going to hell.  It started me questioning what I believed.

It wasn't until several years later that I started questioning even more.  By that point, I had gone to college at a Methodist affiliated college.  I participated in the Sunday services somewhat regularly, more because it gave me a chance to sing than because of any deeply held beliefs.  I'd gone back to a AoG church, this time with a different friend, and thought I'd found religion.  But the questions were still there.  Homosexuality was a sin, yet God made everyone.  So why would He make sinners?  People that didn't believe in God were going to go to hell, but why?  Just because they had been taught a different way than others, because they refused to lose their faith in what they'd been brought up to believe?  I just couldn't understand it.

I started to craft my own belief system.  I wanted to believe in a loving God rather than a vengeful one, so I couldn't accept a God that would send everyone that refused to believe in him to hell.  I couldn't believe in a God that would count every infraction against us so strongly.  If He gave us free will to make mistakes, why would He expect us to be perfect?  From there, I started thinking about other religions.  How do I know that my long-held Christian God was any more real than the concept of the Goddess?  Or the Jewish belief that Jesus was not the savior?  Or the Muslim belief in Mohammed the Prophet?  Or the Buddha?  Or the Universe?  Or even the conviction of Atheists that there is nothing more power than self?  And when reading Neil Gaiman's The Sandman compilation Seasons of Mist, I was really taken with the concept that Hell existed for those who believed it was where they belonged.  It went hand in hand with my belief that Heaven shouldn't be the same for everyone.  What makes the idea of sitting on clouds and playing harps with your loved ones any more important than the idea of coming back to have another chance?  I just couldn't get behind a "one size fits all" philosophy.

So my ideas changed.  My beliefs changed.  And they're still changing as I see the world around me.  I'm not Christian.  I'm agnostic.  I do firmly believe that there's a higher power out there.  I've seen too many things happen that I wouldn't have otherwise expected to to believe that we're wholly alone and unguided.  But I refuse to name what that higher power might be.  Because I don't believe that anyone knows for sure, that anyone CAN know for sure.  People can have faith in whatever higher power they accept into their lives, and I sometimes envy them that faith.  But my own mind, my own heart, won't let me accept that I'm following a One True Way.

Sometimes I go out of my way to pretend that I'm still Christian.  I was married in the Catholic church, at the alter, because it was important enough to my husband that we have our vows there.  I was, my the view of the church, allowed to be there on that day.  And sometimes, when there's something special happening, I'll go to church with Rich and the boys.  But I don't go up for Communion any longer.  I gave that up when I changed my beliefs.

So how does this tie into me being a blogger?  In part, it's what I chose to post.  Most of my posts, and most of my comments, try to be accepting of all views.  They aren't filled with religion, beyond talking about the fact that my husband and kids have gone to church and I haven't.  But it also means that there are posts from bloggers that I read that I won't reply to.  I don't feel comfortable replying to strongly Christian posts because it doesn't fit in my belief system.  And I don't want to start anything in someone else's blog.  That's their place to feel comfortable talking about whatever they want to talk about and, unless they specifically ask for my opinion, it's not my place to come in and push my own views all over them. If someone comes in to my blog and mentions God (such as "May God Bless You" or something of that nature), I thank them because I accept it in the spirit in which it was intended rather than the thought that someone is trying to shove their own beliefs down my throat.  But I probably won't return that exact thought back to them.  Instead, I'll tell them that my thoughts are with them.

I am who I am.  I believe what I believe.  And I hope that I won't lose readers because of it.  Because, at core, I am the same person I've always been.  I believe in kindness to those around me.  I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.  I believe that you should think before you reply and think before you post because words can hurt or heal.  I believe that it's important to be yourself.  I try to put thoughts for my fellow man near the forefront of what I do.  I just don't put God into that mix because I'm not sure who God is yet.

For those who have taken the time to read this, thank you.  I hope I haven't offended anyone with my beliefs, because that wasn't my intention.  But these thoughts are something that I've wanted to get out for awhile as I've come across more and more bloggers who identify themselves as Christian while I realize that I don't.  And, as those who have read me for awhile may have realized, it's important for me to show who I really am here in the wider, smaller world of the internet.

Tomorrow, I'll be back with a new challenge.  Tomorrow, I'll be 

Starting a Grateful Journal

It's another busy day ahead, so it's something that (hopefully) won't take me too long to get off the ground.

Thanks again for reading.