Ah, this one is tough. Not that I shy away from difficult conversations, but religion is… a minefield, to say the least. It touches to our histories, our families, our traditions, our personal experiences – good and bad – and just talking about it can change the sweetest person you know into a rabid dog. Like politics, it’s often painted in black and white. You’re either with us or against us and there’s no inbetween.
Individual faith is rarely separated from religious institutions, and it leads to a lot of shortcuts from some atheists. On the flip side of the coin, religious institutions rarely encourage open, honest discussions in their midsts, whether it is about dogmatic matters or, let’s say, their history of abuse. Someone once told me that while faith is often a welcome comfort to individuals, most of the time organized religion is not a good thing for society as a whole. I tend to agree with that statement, though I do not think it has to be so.
My own history with faith is a rocky one. I grew up Catholic, in a family that was not religious. We went to Church for weddings, baptisms and funerals, and that was pretty much it. My family was what I heard a priest call ‘Christians on wheels’: baby carriage, wedding car and hearse. I went to church school because my dad – otherwise a rather vocal atheist – thought it was culturally important. And during my teenage years, I became very involved with my youth group, and very devout, although always in my own, not really conventional way. It lasted until my mid-twenties, where a series of events and my own personnal growth made me switch to a rather unflexible atheism.
The following years were full of life-altering events for me and my loved ones, weddings and births and illnesses and deaths alike. Life doesn’t let you rest. I wavered, I doubted. I didn’t know. I read a lot – I still do. Starhawk, Rob Bell, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, C.J. Lewis, the brothers of Taizé, to name a few. Christians and pagans alike. I didn’t find any definitive answer to my questions. My own spiritual life is now made of pagan rituals that mark the year and place the Earth at the center, and something of a Christianity that’s probably heretic to most. I detest labels, I always have, and I don’t have one for myself. I believe I remain agnostic, because I don’t know, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I don’t know. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, I can see that now. As a beloved priest from my childhood said, “forget certitudes and dogma. What matters is love, always”. And that, I believe to be true.
That’s all for today, my friends. As always, be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time.