A Letter to my Formerly Religious Self

Originally posted here.

Dear Formerly Religious Self,

At first you will not understand why your doubts and disaffection about your faith came when they did. Your life was just starting to look up. You had been steady on a good job, just nabbed your first apartment, and were doing well in school. Life had its challenges, but you could honestly say that you were happy and that things were going well.

You were not “angry at God.” On the contrary, in many ways you were certain that you’d been blessed with good fortune, and you could acknowledge that there is something higher than you that maybe you didn’t understand.

I think in the end, that’s the main key- your religion just wasn’t making sense. Partings of the Red Sea, water being turned into wine, walking on water, resurrection of the dead; if these things really happened, why did they suddenly cease? Why did God decide to stop making his powers evidently seen in the world?

Oh, by this point you’d heard all about how God still does miracles today, but there are far more tales of people “losing their healing”, or dying without seeing the miracle, with a myriad of unsatisfactory excuses made to explain these phenomena.

As you continued your investigations, you would see that the Church in many ways stood in the way of social justice around the world. Christianity and the other two monotheistic religions have been used as excuses to commit genocide, promote racism and slavery, and deny women the right to vote, stand up for themselves in domestic disputes, and earn as much as their male counterparts. The Catholic church in recent times has also been responsible for such atrocities as hiding Nazi war criminals and sweeping sexual abuse of children by its priests under the rug.

You will struggle with the idea of whether or not to simply attribute these things to human error and decide that God is still absolute and infallible, or decide that the Judeo-Christian God is not the one you wish to worship at all.

You will tell few people of the things that you struggle with, especially careful to mask your rising discontent from family and friends. Secretly, however, you will act as a woman obsessed and soak up whatever material you can about God, religion, spirituality, and feminism.

At first, you will feel guilty for all of this. You will feel ashamed, and you will long for the comforting familiarity of the faith. You will be told by some of those few that you have chosen to confide in that you are simply going through a phase and that you will come through it. Soon, you will realize that it is not a phase.

You will realize that you may be comfortable with choosing to maintain some elements of Christian morality, but you will also find a new freedom to explore things that you’ve long repressed, such as your sexuality.

Gradually, you will start opening up about your opinions on various matters, even if it’s only online at first. You’ll learn to be proud of who you are and not feel like you’re betraying someone by living out your own dream.

It’s not going to be easy for you, but, you’ll eventually get to that place of comfort in your own identity. It’s an identity that you’ve been denied the right to express for most of your early life.

Keep your head up. You’re strong. It may be confusing, but you’re going to make it. Changing doesn’t have to mean losing everything or everyone you care about, but more or less like gaining new acquaintances and friends and a fresh world outlook.

Sincerely,

A Woman Apart

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