Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sundays at Grandma's: Part 1 of Grieving without God: Spiritual Evolution

Written by Awesome Aunt Kristi

Please note: I am writing this to be true to myself. To share my thoughts and opinions, knowing full well that not everyone will agree. I don't expect, nor would I want, you to. Some of what I say may upset you, and if that is the case, I apologize for how you feel. My intentions are pure, with love and honesty behind them. That being said, I will not apologize for my beliefs, just as I would not expect you to apologize for yours. The beautiful thing about being human is the fact that we get to choose how we live our life.


We grew up Catholic, from baptism to confirmation, weekly catechism classes were part of our routine. We even attended church and participated in some church activities. To an outsider we were full Catholics, indoctrinated with the body, blood, and Holy ghost.  

But to our family, it was a different story. Initially, when we were very young, our parents tried to get us up to go to 10 o'clock mass (the latest mass that exists for Catholics), but the lure of sleep and a childhood security blanket often kept me in the comfy confines of my room. On the occasions where parental persistance won out, I often found myself counting down the minutes to when we got to leave. Eventually my parents stopped trying and they stopped attending church. It would appear that, over time, all of our religious beliefs would evolve and take us different places.

As a child my boredom in church started out from a lack of understanding and interest in the biblical lesson of the week. As I grew older, my rational and reasoning brain inherently kept me from fully accepting what was being taught every week from the pulpit. I tried to believe, to find faith, to find God in anything and everything; believe me, I did. I would pray for God to show himself to me, for Jesus to light that fire of faith in my heart. I said my nightly prayers, even after I gave up trying to find faith in God, or any deity for that matter.

But nothing happened. No spark of faith ignited. No unconditional love from a deity poured through my soul.  I felt...well, initially I felt angry because I couldn't believe like others believed. Often I thought something was wrong with me because I could see that faith ignited in others, but eventually I grew cynical, thinking religion was for people without rationality. I believe college had an important role to play in this cynicism. I learned more, but with more learning initially came more resentment. The world was a scary place and people were doing horrible things in the name of God or some omnipotent deity. It made me sad, angry, confused...and cynical. Don't get me wrong, I respect people's choice to believe in whatever they want, I always have. But organized religion always seemed so exclusive to me. As a child/teenager this confused me since we were being taught to be tolerant and inclusive; "loving thy neighbor" and all that jazz.

As I learned more about the world, I learned that in reality a lot of religions are telling the same story with different characters. I studied mythology of different ancient religions and cultures, and I realized that we are just trying to make sense of the phenomena occurring around us. No one way is right. Nor is any one way wrong. It's all just pieces of the same cosmic puzzle, put together however it fits one person's beliefs.

Even during this cynicism, I grappled with the concept of God. I wouldn't say I believe in only what I see, but I believe that we are capable of utilizing science and technology to explain so much of what happens in this universe. Are there things we still don't know or can't explain? Yes. And most likely there will always be things we don't know or can't explain, because the universe is a vast, infinite place and we are but mere minuscule, finite creatures. A grain of sand in the grand scheme of things.

Am I ruling out the existence of God? No. I would say that, sure, maybe the possibility exists, but I choose to not believe in a God or to follow any sort of organized religion. The funny thing is, I figured I would spend my entire life wrestling with this concept of God, choosing to believe in him and lead a good life just for that "what if" factor. What if he really does exist, and when I die I must stand before him and be judged? I might as well believe for that sake, right?

Wrong. Why should I use a belief in a deity and the idea of getting to go some place nice, like heaven, as a reason for acting the way I should act anyway? I should be good, lead an honest life, and love others, not because God ordains it, but because it is the right thing to do. I don't really understand the idea of doing things well in this life just for the reward we "might" get in the next life, because what if this is the reward? This one life I am living right now? What if that is it? Do I want to live my life hoping for something better, when in reality I could make this life the best damn experience around?

I believe that with trying to make sense of God and force myself to submit to a belief system that didn't fit with my own reasoning and understanding of the world/universe, I was creating this unjust negativity toward all religions. If that makes sense.

So one day I gave God up. I gave up the fight, and you know what...I found peace. Before, it seemed like an exhausting tug-o-war with my heart, mind, soul.

Now I would say that my beliefs are spiritual. I don't believe in a deity, but I believe in a connectedness that we all have, just by being here and experiencing this world together. I believe in love, and that we are all creatures of love. I believe if we carried the idea that we are all beings of love then the world would be a much happier, peaceful place. I believe that this life is enough and I am happy to be able to experience it. I believe in being good to others and myself for the sake of being good, in this time, in this second, in this very moment that I am alive. Does this mean I carry this with me everywhere? No, I make mistakes, such is the nature of all species. If I make a wrong choice, I am not letting God down, but myself, because only I am in control of my choices and only I can create my reality and future. At the end of the day, I have to be okay with who I am in this life, not who I might get to be in the next.

I believe this concept of being responsible only to yourself is incredibly frightening to some people. Think about it, to be fully responsible for your actions and the time you have on this world is an incredible load to bare. If this is it, truly the one chance you have, and you are beholden to yourself and you alone...that's a lot of pressure for one human. Especially when it is so easy for us to make mistakes. We could easily mess it up and often do. Then, when you take into account all the other humans that are responsible for their own actions, and if we're all doing this without the direction of a deity...well I can see how religion came about. Rules need to exist for peace to exist on this earth, but I feel like that is a cop out (and clearly it isn't working). We should be able to control our actions and make the right decisions because it is what is best for everyone, not because we want to make an invisible being happy.

So those are my beliefs...for now.  I suspect that they will change as I change.  What I love about not having "structure" to my beliefs is that there are no confines, no rules that I am breaking.  As long as I am good, love others, and do my best to make the world a better place while I am on it, then I am reaching the ultimate goal of the beliefs I have set before me.  This is what a lot of religions set down anyway, but I am not doing it for a deity, I am doing it for me and for the rest of humanity.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I have yet to be this brave. Grieving without a religion can be very lonely since everyone seems to have one - and offers you the "comfort" that accompanies it during a loss. It's hard to find support that isn't going to throw scripture at you. Thanks for showing me I'm not alone in this.

  2. Thank you. I too have given up believing. A good friend who was a devout catholic passed away alone from a flu. Then my baby Carter died at only 7 months, while my cousin who has done heavy drugs the whole pregnancy gets to have a healthy baby. I don't believe that i was punished for not believing. I thank you for sharing this with my whole heart.


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