Monday, July 13, 2009

On Religion and Controversy

There are a variety of subjects that I avoid in my little corner of the bloggiverse simply because I'm not interested in being controversial. Some people may view this as a bit of a cowardly, mousey way to be - but for the most part, it seems to be the best idea, as honestly- I don't want to be one of those people who brings up something potentially inflammatory and then gets all hurt when people argue with my views.

Ideas I have strong feelings on, but avoid blogging about:

Michael Jackson
Aboriginal Rights
The Military
Big Business/Little Business- consumerism
Misogyny - patriarchal institutions and organizations.

One topic though that I've also gone out of my way to avoid is something that I think I might actually tackle today: religion.

I was raised Anglican, and for my first five years of elementary I went to Catholic school.

Catholic school was beautiful. In grade 2 I was introduced to the concept of confession. "Religion" was a subject taught daily. We said the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary each morning. We would go to mass regularly where I would see alter boys in flowing robes and hear bells chiming like music. We wore uniforms and behaved way more appropriately than any child who went to public school ever did.

I left after grade four because I found the girls there to be snobby and cliquish and I longed to have friends who lived within walking distance. But still, forever afterward I was the good student. The one who made the sign of the cross for the few remaining years we said the Lord's prayer in class and got funny looks for it. The one who dressed up for school. The one who was silently appalled at how shockingly inappropriately both the boys and the girls acted in class.

I still went to church with my father. He insisted that I go at least once a month with him. It seemed a fair trade off as I really didn't mind going too much. There was something kind of soothing and magical about church.

I enjoyed the predictability and the ceremony of it all. My church was more strict than many others in that we did communion every Sunday. I learned the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. I would stare at all the people around me during the infinitely long homilies and try my best not to fidget.

As I got older, long past the time when my father insisted I accompany him, I would still go occasionally. I found church to be a nice slap in the conscience. It reminded me of the kind of person that I wanted to be.

As time progressed, and I moved out of the nest I rarely went. Although occasionally I would find the need to go to a different service with friends. Friends getting baptized or married. Funerals. Or simply very devout friends that I would accompany when visiting them from out of town.

I always found it profoundly uncomfortable. Something about these ceremonies were just...wrong. In some cases I found them to be too laid-back and informal. In others it was indefinable. There was simply some quality missing that I associated with church. Which was silly, since I didn't even go anymore.

I very strongly believe that a person shouldn't simply carry on with the religion that they grew up with. There are infinite varities of denominations out there, and I think that we are obligated to take the time to actually think about what each one means and represents and decide which is best for your own set of values.

I am still on that journey. I confess, it's not something that I actively research- but I am open to other possibilities. But there's just something about the church that I grew up with that cannot be replaced. A sense of comfort and home.

Perhaps it's God?


Jess said...

This is so interesting. And I think you're right. We owe it to ourselves to not just blindly follow a faith but to really think about and attempt to understand our religion (or lack thereof).

Sheila (Charm School Reject) said...

A lot of people think I go to my church and believe what I believe simply because it is what I was raised with. And, to a certain extent, this is true. Sometimes I think of trying a new church - not a new religion, just the place I go to. But when push comes to shove, this is where I want to be.

Religion is something I have thought about, prayed about, wished about, worried about. But for me, it's so much more than just a religion or a frame of mind. It's an internal piece of me - my entire life is built around it. I may not always be the best Christian - in fact, I down right suck at it most days.

But then I pick myself back up, I dust myself off, have a little talk with Jesus and I feel better. I go to church twice on Sundays. I go almost every Wednesday for bible study and the children's program. There are days that I dread going to church, for whatever reason. And these are the days that I find that I needed that sermon the most for whatever reason.

Dave2 said...

It took me many, many years (and a trip to Thailand) before I found a belief structure that "fit" how I see the world. Where I ended up was 180-degrees from where I started, but this isn't true for everybody. More than one person I know rejected the faith of their upbringing... but eventually came back to it. In the end, I think (hope?) that everybody ends up where they're supposed to be. But sometimes the journey to finding that place is the most interesting part... no matter where it leads.

MonsteRawr said...

I'm glad to see that you're really thinking about your faith, and how it fits into your life. Too many people blindly continue along the paths they were started on without any deep examination of their belief system. I wish you luck in your journey.

Rock Chef said...

I have faith, but don't go to church of follow any particular strand of christianity. I have found church people where I live to be very unchristian outside the church. If I was to join a church it would be the Jehovah's Witnesses, but I don't like some of their views, eg the blood thing and pacifism.

I tread my own path and have cultivated my own take on things, based on the basic principles laid down in the bible. Works for me!

Kyla Roma said...

I've heard a lot of talk about this in blogs recently, about trying to find a church that's like the church of your childhood- I hope you find it soon.

I wasn't raised in the church or with religion, but I see how a strong sense of faith can effect people so positively - it seems like having a strong sense of self, coupled with a sense that you're not alone. I can't imagine having that feeling and then losing it- good luck in pursuing it! <3

Becky said...

I wrote about this recently. I feel as if a part of me is missing. I have been to several different churches, and researched different religions. I keep waiting for my "ah-ha" moment and find the right one. I know its out there and I will find it. Its just a question of when.

Good luck on your journey.

Faiqa said...

I completely understand why you don't discuss religion on your blog. Honestly, it comes down to the fact that people just don't know how to voice dissension or disagreement in diplomatic and kind ways. Why open yourself up to that, right?

Growing up, we always talked about religion in my home, and we associated with people of an astounding variety of faiths. For example, even though I'm not Christian, I attended a Baptist school.

As a result, I like to think that my brother and I are well versed in how to discuss religion in a sensitive and appropriate way. IOW, we can express our opinions and faith without making someone else feel "wrong" about their personal choices regarding these matters. I think we're that way because we had *practice* discussing these matters.

I think one of the reasons people shy away from discussing politics and religion is because they aren't taught at a young age to discuss these matters with any real degree of civility and sensitivity.

Furthermore, I think avoiding these discussions promotes the xenophobia that makes people want to kill each other over their differences instead of love each other because of what they have in common.

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