Finding Peace

As the good people of the world are in church this morning, I’m writing about why I’m not there. And why I am at peace with that decision.

I don’t begrudge anyone their faith. If it works for them, that’s brilliant. But the more I asked questions, the more I read, the more I could no longer reconcile my beliefs with religion.  I don’t want to argue theological points here- many authors have already done that, and quite well.  Suffice it to say that the discrepancies in the bible, the arguments over its authors, and some of the basic teachings within made it impossible for me to believe in the same Christianity I had grown up in.   So I resigned my membership in the church.  I stopped praying, finally being honest with myself that I was pretty sure no one was really listening anyway. 

I still couldn’t walk away from the idea of religion right away.  I explored some the old pagan traditions.  I felt like Sue Monk Kidd’s “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” was written for me.  But when I was completely honest with myself, I realized I’m a free thinker.  That’s the label I’m most comfortable with now.

You know what’s scary?  Telling people you don’t believe in god any more.  That has to sound odd to people in many parts of the rest of the world, even in many other parts of the States. But in the South, so much of life is defined around the church. The church is the earliest social network many people have.  And there’s a lot of good to it. Like-minded people gathering together to fellowship and learn ways to hopefully be better people.  Among certain groups, it is simply unheard of to not go to church, or not believe in god.

I’ve still not said the words out loud to most of my family.  My best friend has a hard time understanding it, but she accepts it.  And I say I’m a freethinker.  I’m open to new ideas.  If something happens that proves the existence to me of a supernatural being , then my mind could be changed.

But with the few people I’ve talked with about walking away from religion, what I’ve tried to convey to them is that the same sense of peace they feel with their religion, I feel without mine.

I sleep fine at night.  It is much more comforting to me to believe that sometimes bad things happen for no good reason and we work through them and move on. I have more peace with that belief than with ones where I felt that maybe if I’d prayed just a little harder, an outcome would have been different. Because with the belief that “if you have faith, you’ll get what you want according to god’s plan” I felt perpetually as if I had failed in my faith.  Feeling guilty over every little thing, or feeling as if you don’t quite measure up is no way to live.

I have people now who are worried for my soul.   I try to explain to them that I’m ok with where I am.  If they want to pray for me, that’s fine.  I think good thoughts for people all the time.  But mostly, my beliefs are something I don’t talk about. It makes people uncomfortable that I don’t think like they do.  

Sometimes, I miss the idea of belief.  It made it easier for me to not be accountable to myself.  This didn’t work out the way I wanted it to?  Well, must be god’s will. Not the fact that I sat around and waited for something to happen rather than going out to make it happen.  A friend of mine, facing her second bout with cancer in her mid-thirties, said the other day that she doesn’t know how someone could make it through what she’s going through without faith.  If that gives her peace, more power to her.  I’m impressed that she can keep her faith through it.

 Another friend said recently she doesn’t want to ask the questions, because she’s afraid of the answers.  I told her I understood. You ask the questions, and either your faith is deepened or it is eroded. And if erosion is theway you go, it can be scary and painful.  Don’t start that journey if you aren’t ready.   It’s a hard journey. I’m happier now than I’ve been in a long time. Finding my way to my authentic self, no matter the consequences, has been good for me.