This I Believe

Edward - Greensboro, North Carolina
Entered on November 15, 2006

I DON’T GO TO CHURCH

I don’t go to church.

I used to go to church. But during college I stopped. Strange behavior for a man who was once an altar boy with thoughts of being a priest one day. I’ve never really announced to my parents or siblings that I stopped attending church. In some twisted part of my psyche it feels the equivalent of an admission of murder or an announcement that I am joining a terrorist organization. I avoid the topic as I would any subject that would make them uncomfortable.

Since I spring from generations of devout Roman Catholics not going to church is something unheard of in my family. And since I was raised with the unconscious belief that going to church is a prerequisite for any decent human being, I just went. How could I not. For few things in my community indicated someone’s moral erosion more than their sudden lapse in church attendance. Regardless, one Sunday I decided I would skip church. I’d had enough of sitting and waiting for the end to arrive. I waited for signs of divine wrath for days afterward. But to my surprise nothing happened.

Since that time I have become very open minded about religion. And I have often wondered why people insist on democracy in their government, but when it comes to religion, democracy is tantamount to heresy. I love and cherish many different aspects of many different religions. So much so that I refuse to plant the flag of ultimate truth in any one of them. I believe in and love them all as I would love my own kids, and I believe God does too. They are all manifestations of the divine and their differences only serve to make them all the more beautiful, even as they sometimes let those same differences tear them apart.

I find it hard to believe that God expects us to spend our precious little time on earth telling him repeatedly how awesome he is. I have had teachers and bosses like this, but I expect a little more out of my God. And perhaps I am odd but I do not feel God nearly as much in the presence of large groups as I do all alone. I know people are more likely to reveal their true nature in a one on one setting, and I believe God is the same way. It is in an empty church or a simple walk that I most feel the presence of a beautiful something which I know I am a part of but which I also know I can never fully understand. If I am in a crowd it all somehow disappears.

So it is I don’t go to church. And if I die knowing that not going to church is the worst thing I’ve ever done, well – and please excuse the pun – I can live with that.