how i left religion and found god

ok ever since i started this blog i've been reluctant on putting my thoughts on this cause i was worried i'd offend or people would leave or i'd make enemies. in the end this post is for me though, please don't take it personally or feel like i'm having pot shots at particular religions. i value people's rights to worship or believe how they feel and these are just my feelings.

so here's the very long story.....i was born in utah. went to church every sunday, youth group every wednesday night, paid my church contributions as requested, prayed at every meal, etc. etc and dotingly listened to my church leaders. as i started getting older i found it difficult to fit in with the image that was expected of me particularly trying to tick off all the requirements set out for god to 'love' me enough and consider me 'obedient' enough to live in heaven with him.

in college it got to be too much for me. i was struggling quite a bit just to pass classes but yet i was being called into leaders offices saying that i was not fulfilling my spiritual potential just because i wasn't making it to the activities held three nights a week. i explained that i had to work and i was doing the best i could, but still i was given a grilling for not being good enough. my doubts about the religion had been for some time before this (doctrine, etc) but i couldn't deal with the pressure to leave my responsibilities with my studies just so they could fill seats every sunday.

i began to feel incredibly depressed at school. it wasn't just because of the expectations but many things including having to find ways to pay for my own education by myself (i ended up declaring bankruptcy at the end of my time there), unsupportive family and lacking friendships. i felt incredibly ignored not only by God but by the church. i went to them for help several times--they did not listen and went the other way and continued to tell me i wasn't filling my 'spiritual' potential. so, i stopped going and almost 9 years now have only set foot into a church house 'once'.

things got pretty icky before they got better. i tried to commit suicide several times unsuccessfully and failed several classes. it wasn't until an unlikely correspondence with the real patch adams happened that i began to pull myself out of a very very deep hole. he encouraged me to volunteer my time, to read poetry and to get on the path to loving myself (its a loooooooong path). i had some very special experiences with sick children at the seattle children's hospital---life changing i tell ya. so--the random act of kindness from a complete stranger saved me and i was able to finish school and two weeks later i was in london.

london opened my eyes. there were people here that spoke every language in the world, all backgrounds. i started travelling and seeing the most beautiful places you could imagine including the alps in austria, the rose windows of notre dame, venice, tuscany and the beaches of thailand. don't get me wrong i had my ups and downs and it hasn't all been peachy here--but the experiences have changed me.

i discovered yoga and a spiritual connectedness very very deep. i started reading books on spirituality: A new earth, books by deepak chopra and wayne dyer. i started eating organic food and living a healthier life, having gratitude and doing long walks in greenwich park--noticing the deer and the birds and the baby ducks that have just come with the start of spring.

i then began to realize: spirituality cannot be found in a building for three hours. true spiritual growth can only be found from questioning and challenging your own beliefs. spirituality/god is everywhere---in the oceans, in the smiles of your children, in the flowers and in the blue skies. constantly worrying about being ready for when/if christ comes again prevent you from fully living in 'this' moment of time because you are worrying so much about the future that you aren't living 'now' which is all there ever is. i feel like christ was here to teach us more about conscious living than to focus on his death and when he'll come again.

i've studied many religions and the stories of their particular 'saviour' are all similar. to me i feel like scriptures throughout time are man's interpretation of god. the god of religions seem to make him into a vengeful, wrathful, angry god which are all signs of imperfection. to me god is a lot more loving than we make him out to be--he loves us all no matter whether we're a democrat or even gay. the idea of heaven to me is a lot more welcoming too---we wont need handshakes or passwords to get in--everyone who has done their best in this life will get to live with god again.

i feel like religions use the fear of god to control the masses. i don't like what some religions have done with wars and discrimination against others or as an excuse to spread bigotry, hate or violence. it seems ironic to me that for some who say they are christian actually live lives far from these values.

all the religions say they are the one true church as well. i read somewhere a story where an indian guru was asked why she hadn't started a religion yet and she answered, "religions are like rivers--many have their different paths, but they all lead to the great ocean that is god".

i feel closer to god now than i ever did being stuck in a church. i feel connected to the rest of the world, to nature and anytime that i want to feel the 'spirit'---i go for a walk and look at the birds or do a glorious yoga session.

as human beings we all have the desire for something more and for some 'religion' is their way of realizing this. for me spirituality is different, for me god is much bigger, grander and loving than any religion could describe him, for me kindness is my religion (gandhi said this once) and spirituality is very much a personal journey of awareness and connectedness.

so anyway---this is how i left religion and found god.

{i think i'll go for a walk now---the sun is shining}


sherrie said...

your experiences have made you into the wonderful person you are today. i'm glad that you have found God in your own way and are in tune with what you believe.

i love the quote from the movie the count of monte cristo when mercedes replies to the saying that God has nothing to do with life. she says, "God has everything to do with it, He is in everything and everywhere" i especially feel this when i see a sunset on top of a mountain, my baby smile at me, or see people reach out and be truly loving to each other. He is in all things that are beautiful =) thanks for sharing your personal and private experiences with us, i think you are brave to do it!

Nita said...

I was raised in a less pressured, but equally authoritarian protestant church. It wasn't until I started doing yoga, meditating, and reading Eastern teachers that I truly *felt* God inside me. Bravo for speaking out that spirituality is not the power-domination-speak found in institutions, but inside/outside the Self, contacting this one moment.

Anonymous said...

You are brave and wonderful for being so honest. I, too, found that my received religion cramped my spiritual growth. I left in the '70's over the Equal Rights Amendment (church officials were saying it was evil to give women equal rights), and I know I can't go back. My soul is too large now to only love one very small group of people. All of us are "us" now. There's no "they" any more. Everybody's there for me to learn from and love.
In my anthropology class on religion last spring, I discovered how universal religions are to humans, but I also learned that everything we do is a sin to someone. I can't live in terms of "sin" any more. I'd rather live in terms of love.
Thanks for your courage and honesty. You make the world a better place!
Love, Aunt Gail

christine said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts!