I have spent the last three years of my life running scared from organized religion, and three years is quite a long time when you’re only twenty one years old. I wasn’t raised to be afraid of religion or to avoid it in fact it was quite the opposite. For the first eighteen years of my life I spent an hour and a half every Sunday in Catholic Mass. For my entire time in high school I preformed with a band playing Christian Rock songs at a special teen mass that my church held. I loved God and Jesus and thought they would be apart of my life forever. Then something happened, I don’t know what it was or why it happened but all of a sudden during my freshman year at college I became completely repulsed by the idea of religion. I hated what I had been a part of for almost my entire life, and I had absolutely no explanation for it. I turned my back on God and said “I don’t want any part of you anymore”. I declared myself an agnostic at first, and a few months later felt ready to declare myself a full atheist, ready to denounce god and any sense of religion.
I think it was a case of teenage extremism that made me do this at first, my beliefs had changed and I felt there was no in between my previous Catholic beliefs and my newfound contempt for religion. The first year was spent in a continual battle with my extremely Catholic mother who had spent the past four years watching her son grow to be a young leader in her church. After my mother drudgingly accepted my new found atheistic beliefs, believing that they were just a phase, there was a new sense of peace between us. It was after the constant battles of extremism that I began to take a look at what it was I professed I believed. A few months ago I came to the realization that it wasn’t god or Jesus that I hated; in fact I still believed many of the teachings found in the bible. I was more disgusted with the idea of organized religion; I think that each person’s faith is a private matter that should be between them and whatever they believe. I think its better to form your own ideas based on what you think is right, rather than take a set of pre-established ideas and make them your own. Furthermore I believe that beliefs are wrong, I feel that religion is about question and wonder and sometimes the answer to the question might not go along with your belief. This is why it is better to have ideas then beliefs, it’s easy to change an idea; beliefs are rooted very strongly in the individual and are much harder to change.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.