I grew up in a religiously ambiguous household. As the product of a minister’s daughter and an atheist, I didn’t have the same religious upbringing that my friends did.
Because neither of my parents ever forced anything on me, which now I see is probably a good thing, it’s always been a matter of deciding for myself what I wanted to believe in.
In elementary school the other kids would talk about their communions and their church experiences while I stood on the sidelines nodding as if I understood any of it. I explicitly remember being interrogated as to why my parents didn’t have me baptized, as if this meant they didn’t care about me.
Kids say the darndest things.
You wouldn’t think that an eight-year-old would reflect upon their religious beliefs as much as I did. Something more suiting to worry about would have been if my best friend Jacob was going to come over on Monday, like he did every week. Instead I found myself praying with no intended listener, or pretending to say grace when I was someone’s dinner guest—peeking at the rest of the table with their heads bowed in silence. It was less real than a game of make-believe for me, because I didn’t know the rules. I just wanted to know why everyone was so faithful in something I had only heard bits and pieces of.
Flash forward through new friends, puberty, prom and every other trope that high school had to offer, I still didn’t know where I stood. By the time I got to Queen’s I thought I would finally have the opportunity to start over. I would be able to figure out what I thought was going on out there.
Funnily enough you can’t just ask people why they believe what they do. It’s not that simple. I quickly realised I wasn’t going to get anywhere with asking timid questions to people I wasn’t close enough with. A Google search here and there was only going to give me a list of beliefs, not a list of reasons or the list of proof that I wanted.
In a recent lecture, my professor made a note that “citizenship comes with religion”. This was historical justification for my feelings of being left out. People seem to reach for any sense of belonging they can, and in turn a division stands. It’s no surprise to any of us that at least half of the world’s conflicts have been because of this taboo subject.
With history scaring me and the fear of offending someone standing in my way, I’m still stuck.
I think I believe in past lives, I think I believe in ghosts and I think there could be at least one god. At the same time though, I believe in evolution. I confuse myself every time I think about it.
I’m lucky to be in an environment where I’m allowed to have these thoughts. At university, the subject is becoming less and less of an issue for me. No one shoots me down when I talk about my friend’s haunted apartment, or the fact that I can only equate some events in my life to divine intervention. No one knew, or was even concerned with the week I practiced different religions, trying to get a feel of what was so important to each one.
I clearly haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m on my way. It may be strange that I cleansed my room with sage while wearing a cross and chain from my mother. It may be strange that when my dad was sick I prayed to literally anyone who would listen. It may be strange that writing this has only brought more about questions for me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The freedom I had growing up was certainly confusing for a child who was only exposed to a community with one consistent religion. Now, on the other hand, I’m in a rare place where I’m able to take elements of whatever I want, and no one will stop me.
For now, I can only continue this spiritual journey, or whatever you might call it, in hopes of finding something that answers all of my inner child’s burning questions. It’ll probably take a lifetime but at least she’s satisfied at the moment.
In the meantime, pray for me?