To begin to understand my personal dilemma, you have to understand how I was raised.
As a kid, I literally grew up in church. My family hardly missed a Sunday (morning or night) or Wednesday night at our tiny, rural Baptist church until football practices caused me to miss on Wednesdays.
I never thought that what was being taught to me was not true, but I also never took it too seriously. If anything, church was a nice community where I learned, at the least, how to be a decent human being.
As I got older, though, I began to realize that the small congregation seemed to be much more about gossiping than practicing their faith. And the more I met other Christians, the more I realized nobody was what they preached.
That’s when I slowly quit going to church in high school. I told myself it was because of the people in my church, but since then I’ve realized it was because of myself.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I took a few religious studies courses did I really truly begin questioning the faith that I was raised on. Blend that with a healthy dose of school shootings, terrorist attacks and unfortunate personal situations, I just couldn’t imagine a world where things like this happened “for a reason.”
Logic, I thought, trumped the teachings of Sunday school and Christianity in general. I didn’t want to be part of a group that brought others down because they were different.
Then, I began to think a lot about the life I wanted to live and the person I wanted to be. I had ceased being the person I was brought up to be, but I didn’t run back to church. In fact, I still haven’t been in more than five years.
My opinion on religion has changed over that time. I’ve become much more accepting of religion and what it does for people and comfortable enough to live with the fact that I, along with every other Christian, am not perfect.
I also realized, with anything else, there are a lot of great Christians out there who are more like the people the Bible told me to be rather than those in the congregation of that tiny, rural church.
I also realized that spirituality isn’t about picking one religion and one set of beliefs. That, to me, is the beauty of religion and the world we live in. Nobody knows the answers to what we’re doing here and what it’s all about.
Believe what you want to and don’t discourage others if they don’t share that same belief. Most importantly, take the ride. Explore your faith or lack thereof and see if you’re truly happy.
And if you happen to decide against religion, at least take away what I believe is the most important thing I learned: be nice and show compassion.
Shannon Stowers can be contacted at [email protected]