Saturday, July 30, 2011

Re-Thinking Christianity Part 1

Part 1

Growing up I was loosely Catholic. When other kids would ask me about religion I would say Catholic. But I wasn't really. My mom grew up in a very Catholic household and had five siblings. My grandma and most of my aunts and uncles on that side of the family still faithfully attend Mass every Sunday. When I was little my mom would take me to church maybe a couple of times a month, maybe less. We might go to church on Christmas and Easter. When I was in second grade I begged to go to CCD, but after that session of CCD ended I never went back. When I was in third grade we stopped going to church altogether. I think the church issue was difficult for my mom because my dad was a fallen-away Baptist and would never go to church at all ever, much less attend Catholic church with her and help her wrangle three kids.  My parents didn't even get married in a church, they hopped straight over to the Justice of the Peace.

As a young teen I felt extremely alienated from the Catholic church. All of my cousins had gone through first communion, so even if I went to church I was denied communion while my cousins got to partake. I wasn't baptized, so I didn't have any godparents like all my cousins did. I did not receive an extra gift at Christmas like everyone else, which made me feel less important or worthy than the other kids. By the time I was a young teen I was hungry for God, but I still had only an elementary understanding of the most basic principles of Christianity. In my mind it was too simplistic and actually didn't make a lick of sense logically. I was coming up with difficult questions and Christianity seemed to have no answers. It was just a bunch of superstition.

I was reading lots of fantasy and Anne Rice, attracted to stories about vampires and witchcraft. My reading of  Rice's Memnoch the Devil truly sent my sentiments far away from Christianity. In this book the devil is extremely sympathetic to humans and works in strained partnership with God to actually rehabilitate souls so they can reach heaven. Hell as we knew it was a fantasy just created to scare people into being good. I thought Anne Rice's explanation made a heck of a lot more sense than the Christianity I had been taught as a kid, I kept asking myself, "would a loving god really send people to hell for eternity as punishment for a few sins in their short lives?" I was sure the answer was no.

I turned to Paganism and Wicca, because it seemed to have better, kinder answers. I researched and practiced witchcraft, divination, astral projection, religious rites to celebrate the Goddess and God. I was sure that all paths led to the same god, no matter what one called this god. This god didn't really care the particulars of what you did in your life, so long as you didn't hurt other people. And if you did hurt other people, the only punishment you would receive was some kind of karmic payback in the present life. When you died you would be born again in a different body. You should never be afraid to have sex because it is natural. This religion was easy to get into, you didn't have to learn much. There was no strict morality, everything was subjective. It made me feel like I was more open-minded and even smarter than all my peers who were Christians.

All through high school I considered myself Pagan or Wiccan, but eventually I lost all the fervor I had at the beginning. In college I still held a Pagan worldview, but stopped practicing altogether. I went back to seeking. I started to consider myself a Deist and believed in one god who created the universe and then stepped back to separate himself from human affairs. Deism felt logical, but not fulfilling. I would still pray sometimes. Despite the claims of deism I still felt that God could hear me and answer prayers. For many years I floated on this river of nothingness. These religions could provide no answers when all morality was relative and unimportant.

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