This is My Faith.

Today concludes the Easter long weekend, and though I’m tired after having done so much in so short a span of time, it’s a good sort of fatigue. Because this year, I realized something that took me several years to understand.

Easter is the most faithful time of year for Christians. It’s the day that created the religion–yes, more important than Christmas, because even though Christmas is when Jesus was born, this is when Jesus died to save humankind from its sins and open the gates to heaven. Easter made Christianity as powerful as it is, by testing the faith not only of the earliest disciples, but also of Jesus himself. It teaches that one must maintain faith and hope even through the grief of pain and death.

Faith means a lot to me. The word itself, faith, is perhaps my favourite word for all that it represents, and it’s how I try to live my life–on the wings of faith. So you can imagine that a faith-based holiday such as Easter would be extremely important to me.

I was born and raised a Catholic, going through the rituals and sacraments of the church and spending many many hours learning about the Bible and its holy teachings. For several years, this was my faith. I believed in God and Jesus and prayed every night. My religion moved me, comforted me, empowered me.

But as too often happens, I reached a point in my life when my faith was seriously tested. It seemed like I had different ears when I attended mass, or different eyes when I read Bible passages. I suddenly found myself disagreeing with the Catholic doctrine. What the Bible was saying and what I had come to understand in my life were two very different things, and it got to the point where I realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore.

It wasn’t an easy realization. I tried to believe again, but to no avail. I simply do not believe in the Christian God or Jesus, no matter how hard I try to do so.

That shook me up. I’d lived so many years believing in Catholicism, that to realize I didn’t have anything to believe in anymore was a frightening notion. I thought perhaps there was another religion that would suit me, or even another Christian denomination, but it wasn’t until I took a World Religions course* my third year of high school that it clicked: I simply didn’t believe in doctrine. It had nothing to do with the religion or the deity, I just couldn’t believe in something I was told. I could only believe what I had experienced and what I had felt.

I believe in emotions, and magic, and kinship. I believe in friendship, and beauty, and love. I believe in strength, and courage, and selflessness. I also believe in gods, but none that belong to any religion but my own. There is no book that dictates my belief, only my own feelings. My own soul.

So now I come to Easter, a Christian holiday. For a while, I had no idea what to make of it, since I didn’t believe in Jesus. I just tried to enjoy the weekend, spending it with family, laughter, and of course chocolate. Though it had perhaps lost some significance, I was still happy.

But then, when I went to my grandparents’ farm on Saturday, my younger cousin had put a sign on the door. It welcomed everyone to the gathering, and at the end she wrote something along these lines:

“Most importantly, when you leave know that you are loved.”

It resonated with me. Easter was no longer about Jesus for me, but it was still about family. In fact, it was all about family. Being with the people I love, celebrating a time of year when faith is strongest. When I left, I really did know that I was loved. I am loved. I have faith in my family, and that brings me peace. This is my faith.

It was a journey and a struggle, to reach this point of understanding, of solace, but there are things in our lives that are worth fighting for. I believe faith is one of them. So keep on fighting.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

What does Easter mean to you?

May your faith not be dictated, but be true in your heart.

-Alex


 

*If there’s one important thing I learned in that class, it’s this: all the religions are reflections of one another. At their hearts, they represent the same core qualities–solace, peace, forgiveness–but simply put different names and faces to them. So while I may not be Christian anymore, I could never deny the power and truth of Christianity, or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism–any religion. I don’t think the name of the god or the holy book defines anything, I think it’s the power of the faith, which is something we can only feel for ourselves. Just as one disbeliever doesn’t make a religion false, neither does isolation in one’s beliefs make their faith untrue.

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13 thoughts on “This is My Faith.

  1. What an honest post, and therefore a very heartfelt one.

    It’s not exactly a disclosure to say that I’m a Christian myself, and so knowing you now feel this way saddens me, but I am not going to sit here and tell you what you should and should not believe. So don’t panic (; But you said it right: ‘May your faith not be dictated, but be true in your heart.’
    I met up with a Christian friend on mine the other day, and we were actually talking about Catholicism. Controversial as it may be, he said (and bearing in mind he’s doing a degree in Theology), “Catholicism isn’t Christianity. Catholicism is too wrapped up in obeying rules and traditions to focus on what’s really important: the simplicity of it all.” The simplicity being what you mentioned above. Love, kindness, solace, forgiveness etc. But of course you don’t have to be religious to be a good person, to live a life of morals and values; if all that is in your heart anyway, and you are merely being true to it, then no one on this earth has the right to tell you what you should believe in – if anything at all. Though, I want to harmlessly raise something: many people who ‘lose’ their religion are often the ones who came from a family of it. I think that is interesting, for lack of a better word. Tired of having it rammed down their throats, perhaps? Fed up of being told what they HAVE to believe? Are they given a choice? Perhaps not. And that’s when inner conflict and doubt creeps in. Again, Catholics are the worst for this, since they are so set on ‘rules’, and for someone like you – someone who wants to fly free and follow their heart – being TOLD to follow rules makes you want to run the other way, so I’m not surprised that Christianity left you. And I know, ’cause I’m exactly the same: if someone TELLS me I have to do something, my back instantly goes up. But it’s not about rules, at the end of the day. It’s about your heart. Even so, I find it sad when people say it’s all a load of brainwashing if you grew up in a family of it. It’s all about how it’s taught, and even then, should it be ‘taught’ at all? I’m not so sure. The Bible is not a ‘set of rules’ that must be followed – it is a guide – and the problems originate from those who take it word-for-word literalllyyyyyy.

    I’m glad you can still get something out of Easter, though, for it would be a shame to lose love for the day completely. I sincerely hope nothing I have said has offended you in any way, for that was far from my intention. Maybe in time you might feel differently again, you never know, but even so: Jesus loves you, all the same ;) As do I, for you are a dear friend, though you may be thousands of miles from me away across the sea. Stay true to your heart, my friend of valour, wherever that may take you, for inner happiness will forever be more important than any label of religion.

    • No, not at all–none of what you said was offensive in the least :) You’ve said all the right things, you truly have.

      But don’t be sad! I don’t feel I’ve stopped believing in anything, I just understand it better now and have happened to find a different name for it. Although I do understand where you’re coming from. It’s kind of sad when someone can’t find the same solace in something that has brought you so much peace.

      It’s really interesting, what he said about Catholicism not being Christianity. For me, Catholicism is all that Christianity has ever been in my life, and I wonder if I would feel differently now if I’d been raised in a different denomination. Perhaps not, but I don’t suppose there’s much point pondering it now :) I’ve found happiness, and for me that’s really all I need.

      I completely believe that, that those raised in a certain religion often lose it. I have a couple friends who are that way–one who says it does feel like so many rules were shoved down her throat, she just couldn’t take it. But being scolded for saying church is boring, or being forced to tell your sins to a stranger, or having to pray the rosary (in those awful droning voices that a large group of kids always gets when they have to pray extensively)–I feel like those things can turn religion into an unpleasant experience. Actually, an older friend of mine was telling me not too long ago how her son was anxious and stressed about his upcoming First Reconciliation because of all the things he had to remember, and I agree with her that it’s a shame that something that’s supposed to be liberating for him is causing him so much angst. I think when we’re allowed to learn about something on our own terms, to discover it and interpret it our own way, we’re able to bring it closer to our hearts. I don’t feel like school teachings allow for this to happen as much as they should, and the feeling of being crammed into a devout mould makes a lot of people resistant.

      I’m actually happy that you said that, that Jesus loves me, because it’s so important to me that everyone feels comfortable expressing their own religions. That’s why it drives me nuts that some stores don’t want their employees to say Merry Christmas, in case it’s offensive to someone. I don’t care if someone says “Happy Hanukkah” to me, or that they’re praying for me to a god I don’t believe in. I’m quite happy being told to have a good day, or to be blessed through prayer. It doesn’t matter to me what holiday or god is being used, as long as the words are kind and sincere. As you say, happiness will forever be more important than any label of religion.

      Thank you a thousand times for your kind words, my dear friend, and I pray that you find none but love and light and happiness in your life. You are a beautiful soul and never let anyone tell you otherwise :)

      • Well hey, as long as you feel better, that’s all that matters. After all, you’re the one who’s living your life, and therefore you should be happy and comfortable with every aspect of it! You said it right though, that’s probably exactly what it is: someone not finding solace in something that brings you that inner peace and happiness.

        Anything someone’s always known is bound to be what they perceive as ‘right’ or ‘normal’ – Catholicism is just what it is for you. It’s hard to say with all the ifs and buts, but as you say, it’s better not to think about it too much sometimes. For me, Anglicanism is all I’ve ever known (at least IN a church) – which, funnily enough, is often described as the middle ground between Catholic and Protestant. I don’t know how much you know about the Anglican church, but although it is technically Protestant, there are many Catholic traditions and beliefs, but because it IS Protestant, it is far more liberal than Catholicism. I really do think it is that incessant forcing of rules that can dissuade someone from the Love of Christ and/or the Word of God.

        That’s exactly it, that’s what I think the problem is. As I said: the incessant rules. And I really do think it’s a shame, for religion shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a love and a way of life! Or not even a way of life; it should be a part of you. Again, you’re right. They should loosen the lead a bit, and let children find their own way in the religion, for then they will always hold it close to their hearts.

        Oohhhh man, don’t even talk about that whole not saying “Merry Christmas” thing :| It’s SO. BAD. here in the UK, which is the most ridiculous thing ever because it is a CHRISTIAN country. I’m sorry, but it really does wind me up. There is very bad tension in our country between Christianity and Islam, because it is nearly always the Muslims who moan about, for one example, a Christian news reader wearing a cross necklace…. And it’s awful to be this way, but that makes a lot of people here go.. “Well, why come to a Christian country then? Seriously.” I know some lovely Muslims, and Islam is a lovely religion, but you’ve got to respect the religion of the country you’re in, surely?! But you are right though, it doesn’t matter what is said, it’s the thought and sentiment behind why it was said in the first place. That’s what matters. People shouldn’t be offended. Live and let live!
        I have said before though, years ago now, that I honestly would not be surprised if there was a civil war between Christians (or English people) and Muslims in this country one day. It’s that bad. But the thing is, it’s not even just regarding Christianity. We get complaints about having the English flag out (although, that might be because it is a cross – who knows?). Every year at Christmas, I see more and more generic cards that say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’, and one year there was a news article thing saying that Christmas cards with the Nativity on are offensive… -_-

        But anyway, moving on… Inner happiness is the most important thing in life, and whatever makes a person happy should be respected. By everyone. You may not agree, but it can still be respected. Can you imagine what a lovely world we would live in if everyone thought that way?

        Thank you, Alex, you’re so incredibly kind. You deserve every happiness. Someone once said to me, “May happiness follow you” (a Catholic, actually! Small world ;) ), and I thought those words so beautifully profound that I often say it to others myself now. And I say that now: may happiness follow you, always, because you are a beautiful person, and beautiful people shine inside and out for others and for the world. Which is why they so deserve to be happy. And so I am deeply glad to hear you say that you are in fact happy. Always smile :)
        Thank you again. I’ll keep your words close to me indefinitely.

        • I really can’t fathom what it is that drove people to make such rules like that in the first place. Such grim rules, too! I remember once my best friend got in trouble for dancing in church while we were on our way out the door. I found it strange that she wasn’t allowed to be happy in church. I always thought that if God gave us the ability to dance, then surely he wouldn’t mind us using it at every opportunity.

          It’s a shame that such a division between faiths should exist. It’s completely true–if it’s a Christian country, then Christianity has every right to be practised, just as Muslims coming into the country have every right to practise their own religion. We can’t accommodate everyone by excluding someone–that doesn’t make any sense.

          The Nativity is offensive? I couldn’t begin to imagine how. It really baffles me how people can find something like religion offensive. It’s identity, a part of a human being. It’s no more offensive than someone’s nose or hair colour.

          It would be a wonderful world indeed :) We can only hope society will one day reach such a point, and that it isn’t too far in the future.

          I really love that small phrase: May happiness follow you. I feel like it does follow us, if we let it, always dogging along on our heels so that if we turn around and look for it, it’s there. I sincerely hope this is the case, anyways, so that everyone may have a chance at finding it. So may your shadow always be full to bursting with the happiness that tails you :)

          • Dancing in church is something an Anglican would get told off for doing, too – or at least in the more traditional Anglican churches. You raise a good point, though! Strange indeed, now you mention it. But, I think it is more that church is regarded as a place for worship and respect to God officially, and so, traditionally, dancing is not part of that worship and respect. Of course, this depends on the church! There are churches in America that stand up and clap and everything.. hahaha, if you did that in this country, I think the congregation would have a meltdown. I mean, you aren’t even allowed to talk inside and Anglican church. Tradition is a funny old thing, and the UK is bound by it…

            It’s such a shame divides exist. Really, really heartbreaking. ‘We can’t accommodate everyone by excluding someone’ – well said! I just struggle to understand how you can go to a different country and just expect it to change to your every whim..? I think that’s a little bit selfish, actually. I mean, the UK was kind enough to let you in… show it some respect. I, and many other Britons, often feel like the entire world spits on us. But that’s a whole different kettle of fish ;)

            Respect, from everyone, can go a long way. Indeed we can only hope the world changes for the better sooner than later.

            It’s lovely, isn’t it? ^^ And that is a beautiful interpretation. I am certain happiness is in our shadows for anyone to turn around and see :) Happiness is always there to find. A nice thought, too, really, because with this image, happiness is waiting in the shadow, in darkness, which means that it is everywhere, and it will always outweigh the bad :)

            Thanks Alex, I wish the same for you!

          • Mm, yeah, I guess there are vastly different ideas of what is respectful and what is not. Hehe–“the congregation would have a meltdown”. I could imagine why! The closest I’ve come to being in a church like that is a nearby Temple Baptist one, where they sing more upbeat songs and clap to the beat and stuff. But whoa…you can’t talk inside the church? Tradition is a funny old thing indeed!

            It is selfish! It’s a difficult issue since it’s had such a troubling past but with any luck, people will hopefully gradually see more clearly what a blessing it is to be able to freely express religion in the first place, without needing all that “extra accommodation”.

            It always will outweigh the bad, won’t it? It seems such a difficult thing to hold but it is a force unconquerable, if you give it enough hope :)

          • And it is those vastly different ideas as to what is respectful which causes such conflict in the same religion, which is so ridiculous. But what can you do?

            Haha, nope! No talking. I mean, you can discreetly whisper if it is necessary, but the consensus is you are just as quiet as physically possible inside a church/cathedral, and any talking whatsoever is at the ABSOLUTE minimum. Quiet as a churchmouse ;) It’s sooo quiet – so much so that if someone coughs it sounds like an explosion in your ears or something, but you know, it is what it is. Some people might hate that, but I find the (possibly eerie) quiet a great comfort. Besides, I’ve never known any different :P And besides besides, I think it’s quite synonymous with English/British mannerisms in that you try not to make much noise and are reserved.

            Hope is a funny old thing to hold onto sometimes. It’s like dancing with a ghost.

          • Man, I think I would be intimidated, walking into a silent church… “If someone coughs it sounds like an explosion in your ears”–yeah, see, I would be the person who’s just looking around and happens to see something I find funny, and I’d try to hold my laughter in, but then it would erupt in a big, explosive snort and people would think they’re getting bombed. I do enjoy the comfort and peace of silence, but when there are people around… I find it unnerving, to be honest. It’s a good thing I wasn’t raised in a British church, I think ;)

            “Dancing with a ghost”–that is a stunningly accurate description!

          • Yeah, I’m not too surprised to hear you say that ^^ Truth be told, I have actually been sat in church desperately trying to hold in laughter before. Not good. You try to disguise it by very delicately clearing your throat. And, obviously, keep your head down. It an awful scenario to find yourself in. But yes, just as well you weren’t raised in an Anglican church ;)

            After I had written ‘dancing with a ghost’, I inspired myself with my own words, and ended up writing a poem about the very thing: dancing with a ghost. Ha.

          • Haha I expect it must be an art, to hold in laughter during church! Sometimes I like to think though that God would look down in the church during those moments and have his own little snicker at such a delicate situation :P

            It’s lovely, how inspiration can carry us forwards like that :)

          • Ha, an art indeed. Though, to be fair, I’m used to holding in laughter at inappropriate times anyway, since British school assemblies are very much like church: no noise, silence, DON’T DO ANYTHING. The amounts of times when I was at school and I had to hold back laughter in assembly. My goodness. I literally had tears streaming down my face, my shoulders jigging up and down. Priceless. Always my friend’s fault, too. It often became too much for me, though, and I’d end up being sent out or sent to the back. Not advised in schools here, just so you know ;) Gosh, what days they were. In some very strange way, I miss those times, but then I don’t because it was all so awful for me. Maybe I miss the people, or the laughter. Who knows.

            Yep! Inspiration can just hit– BAM! That kind of inspiration is often the best, though. Ilimoskus came from a BAM! situation ;)

  2. Hello Alex,
    Bless you in your journey of faith. It takes a true leap to leave the tribe and follow your deeper feelings.
    I know and understand your steps in new directions, the search of the soul, the spirit longing for more.
    This is the journey of life, to see, to feel, to be moved by many things, to find spirit in good places and to truly have faith in knowing how truly small we are & that no matter what your belief–you are never alone and so very loved.
    Peace to you. -Heather

    • Thank you :) Your words are so beautiful and they so masterfully capture what I am experiencing now. It has been quite a journey to find a faith I am comfortable with and have wholly accepted and it allows me to open my eyes and heart to the other lights around me. It has also made me ever more aware of the friends and family I so dearly love, which is only a good thing :)
      Thank you again!

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