Growing up, I struggled with depression and never got to the root cause.
It was always important, back then, for me to know why, and I believe that even though I don’t know the answer right now, there is a definite one out there to be found. I don’t subscribe to the medical model for emotional issues so I sought to find an answer to my depression more existentially, or behaviorally.
I was raised in a stable household and, 34 years later, is still together and happy. Every Sunday, my family attended a non-denominational church. I didn’t have any ill experiences there, but I struggled with questions internally as I became a teenager. I pushed myself to live by the values I learned in church, and I identified myself as Christian. Words, whether voiced or not, were very significant to me and it was important to me not to be a hypocrite. Talk the talk and walk the walk, right?
Somewhere around my high school years, though, I found it harder and harder not to see myself as a hypocrite. In action I was among the more righteous people I knew, following the rules and being “good”, but I was carrying a lot of guilt about who I was because my thoughts didn’t always align with my religion. I was questioning the fundamentals of what I had come to believe my whole life. The divide between what made sense and what didn’t, was making it hard for me to reconcile the difference between what I knew and what I believed.
The idea that my suffering was a “test” didn’t make sense to me because I was indoctrinated from birth and believed all that I was taught already. Why would a benevolent god who loved his creations put someone to the test who, if left on their original path, would continue to live as he was “supposed” to? It seemed more like meddling to me than guidance.
The idea that bad things happen to good people but god works in mysterious ways sounds more like a child burning ants with a magnifying glass than an omnipotent creator with a grand plan that we just can’t see all of yet. If I was available to hear god’s voice, why were the questions coming into my head leading me away from the path instead of reinforcing my views?
I considered myself extremely intelligent when I was a child, but I knew my emotional issues – my depression – were hindering me reaching my full potential. I thought my religion was my guidebook to self-actualization. If god isn’t a physical person here to hold our hand and tell us the way, then his word, his creation, and my intelligence are the paths to communication with this creator. Being “led away” by my questions was a failure of my religion. I was open. I was available to be convinced. I heard no voice. I heard no arguments leading me back to something I thought was my best hope to answer my ailments. So I had to look elsewhere.
I was still attached to Christianity, and didn’t want to leave it lightly.
As I sought for reconciliation – something to unify my new thoughts and my old beliefs – I questioned the basis of all religion; where it began and how it has progressed in society, shifting over the years to accommodate changes in paradigm and inconsistency. I started thinking about how god isn’t a physical being, but “speaks” through people. I believed prophecy as untrustworthy because humans are fallible. Even the most righteous among us is going to hear what we want to hear when god “speaks” through someone else. I thought heaven and hell were good motivators if we could get everyone on board. In creating heaven and hell, we are united in karma because it is a personal incentive. Our faith and our “works” are something we now have to answer for; there is a consequence to what we believe and what we do. Religion originally made people agree on the rules, “Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shall not covet another man’s wife, etc.” But people don’t care about society succeeding until they have their individual needs met. And some of our individual needs mean breaking the rules.
I think religion had a place in the beginning; to bring people together for the advancement of the species. I don’t know the whole history of religion and I’m not a historical scholar, but I don’t believe I’ll ever make up my mind about what I believe. For the guy who always needed to know why it’s strange to feel content in the unknown. What I believe will constantly shift based on new information. If there is a god, I believe we have two sources for his communication: 1) the books religious scholars and prophets write and, 2) nature, her creation. I’m more a fan of the latter.
When I gave up organized religion and Christianity, I gave up faith at the same time because spirituality felt hokey. As I get older, I’m realizing there is a place for faith, and it is very important. You just have to be careful and conscious of where you put it, and why. And you have to be okay saying you don’t know.
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