You didn't raise me with religion. Or so we think.
Growing up in a small, overly caucasian and religious northern town, I knew I was different from most of my peers. Occasionally they'd talk about Sunday School or "catty kizm"? A foreign word to me. And talk of getting ready for their "First Holy Communion" and "Confirmation". In a way, at the time, I would get the feeling that I was incomplete in a way. Why wasn't I a part of this thing that everyone else seemed to be a part of? Were we such rebels? I remember getting some pressure from another part of my family about it as well. "We can get you into summer class and you can have your communion and your confirmation! Won't that be great!? Do...do you want to?" and even when presented with the option... I didn't want it. It felt fake and weird and unnatural. Why do it? Because you want me to? I don't even know what this thing IS that I'm supposed to be doing to make me a good and whole person.
I believe I asked you to take me to church. It was probably during the time of kids doing their "holy communion" and I thought that it would make us a good, well-rounded family who is adjusted to society or some crap. Or it was a fitting-in thing. I have no idea. But I remember you took me. You took me and Bree to two different churches. One was more of a large and formal Stand Up Sit Down Kneel Sit Stand Sing Sit Repeat After Me Thanks Be To God Church that bored us to tears and one was some sort of small town back woods Jesus Praisin' Foot Stompin' Hand Wavin' Talkin' In Tongues Church. That one showed me the way. The way that is not going to church! I remember I got a stomach ache and we left right away. Good choice on my part.
After that phase, I had one more run-in with religion before taking a break from it for years. In 8th grade, during the summer, Dad brought Bree and I to a youth group so we could "make friends". It kinda backfired. The evening went fine at first. We played games and did fun activities with hula hoops and water balloons and foot races. Then, 10 minutes before the parents came to pick us up, we huddled around the group leader to have "god talk". They didn't call it that, but I don't know what else to call it except "child brainwashing session". The guy was probably about 18-22 years old. He had a group of 20 small open minds gathered around him, ready to be molded. He dives into a speech that I still vividly remember...
"How many of you believe in God? How many of you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? If you don't believe, you're going to Hell. Your friends that don't believe, your family, your neighbors, your teachers, Jews... they need to be SAVED! We have to save their souls and show them the way to God! Anyone who does not believe in the word of our God - we need to save them. Or they'll go to Hell!"
I looked at my 9 year old brother and said, "Ohhhkay Bri come on let's go." We jumped in Dad's van and told him it was a sex cult. Or, close enough. We told him they told us we were going to Hell with The Jews. We didn't have to go back.
After this experience, I knew I'd made the right choice to stand "alone" and believe nothing. I didn't decide to get back into thinking about anything greater than ourselves until probably Junior or even Senior year of High School. And by then, for me, it was okay to believe more independent ideas and concepts. We had a discussion that changed my life. You started telling me all sorts of things that I FELT THE SAME WAY ABOUT. I realized how smart you were and how insightful. It all came together for me that you didn't take me to church because you'd BEEN there and DONE that and you wanted me to learn to be my own person that wasn't governed by rules created by people who died hundreds or more years ago. Those people don't even know how to use Facebook. They're totally irrelevant.
I kid, I kid. History has it's place. It is also best, though, to choose wisely what you believe and know why you believe it. Don't refuse meat on Friday but opt for fish because an old book says so. Find out WHY. And if you still agree, then do it.
I'm happy with what we believe. I'm happy that we feel the same way about things and that we in fact are not rebels, just evolved thinkers. We just already know what's up because we are old souls. That's sweet, right? We don't need to follow a pre-determined set of rules and guidelines to know how to be good people that live with purpose and passions and do good to others. That comes naturally from within us.
We aren't being watched or judged or governed by a big dude in the sky. We will not be judged upon our death and will not exit this world and enter some magical land or fiery pit. We do not need to ask for forgiveness or worry about "Sin" or needlessly apologize for things that don't matter. How liberating! We won't be sent to heaven or to hell unless this is what we consciously choose. Heaven and hell are more real on Earth and in our minds than anywhere else. We're all a bit of the "god" we speak of because that is the life within us. We're all connected and here to experience being alive. And apparently, here to experience working constantly though the entirety of our lives and living for the weekends. Riiiight?? Ha.
Even though I don't go to church every Sunday (or...ANY Sunday, to be specific), doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a good jump in front of one every now and again!