This I Believe

Ashley - Irmo, South Carolina
Entered on February 4, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Foreign Pews And Pretty Ideas

Clenching my eyes tightly shut in the pew of a foreign church, I desperately hoped to understand what the rest of the congregation felt. As we swayed in time to songs filled with love and powerful conviction, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through everyone else’s heads. This has happened more times than I can count while visiting various churches with friends.

Although I yearned for the normalcy that attending church seemed to provide for others when I was younger, I’ve come to realize that by not regularly attending the same church, I have gained the unique advantage of developing my own views on religion. Over the years, I have picked up different beliefs from multiple religious denominations and had the opportunity to really evaluate what I define as right and wrong. For example, I am a firm believer in the ideology that if you treat life well, it will treat you well in return – karma, if you will. I always make sure to leave an extra quarter in the parking meters when I go downtown; I believe that no act is too small to be insignificant.

While I respect and appreciate the necessity of documents and literature to outline a religion’s customs and beliefs, I’ve never quite understood their positions regarding other religions. How could religions based on love and tolerance completely condemn people who don’t share their beliefs? I don’t believe that one individual or group of people can hold the answers to this immense and mysterious world. Maybe my questioning of this belief comes from not growing up in a household where I was told that I should think a certain way, but even if I did I might still have a hard time grasping that concept.

I can’t say that I ever truly believed in heaven or an afterlife in any form. I always thought it was a pretty idea, loved ones watching down on you, faces glowing, arms outstretched, but I believed that it was created as a way to euphemize death. I find a lot of peace with the thought of decomposing deep inside the earth after I die, no matter how morbid or creepy it sounds. While we are alive, the earth provides us with so much, and by becoming part of the earth that sustains us, it is as if we help the circle of life continue through future generations.

My beliefs regarding religion might seem strange or foreign, but so do many of the church services I attend. Religious beliefs are very personal and diverse, but I find great tranquility in what I believe.