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Growing up, I was raised in the Christian faith. Both of my parents are Methodists. We went to church every Sunday, as a family. I performed in the church choir and played bells with the handbell ensemble. Sunday evening was spent at church youth group with my peers. Every summer was spent with my Aunt Karen, a Protestant minister, going to vacation bible school in rural Virginia.
Being involved in the church was something that was expected of me. I participated in church activities to make my parents happy.
But being a member of the Methodist community wasn’t something that I chose for myself. Shortly after graduating high school at 17, I moved to a town several hours away from my parents. It was there that I became less reliant on the opinions of my parents and the church.
If someone told you that 20+30 was the only way to get 50, what would you say?. If that person said 10×5, or 60-10 or 100/2… all of it is wrong, only 20+30 is the correct answer.
You’d say they were wrong. There are literally hundreds of different combinations of numbers you could use to reach the same answer. For me, religious affiliation is the same way. Religion may be an option, but it is not the only option. There are dozens of possibilities out there and most people are content to eliminate all but one, singular prospect. Why must people limit themselves in that way? When we focus so much of our attention on one thing, we close ourselves off from seeing other alternatives.
I became a free-thinker, developed my own opinions and chose for myself what to believe in. The older I got, the broader and more varied my interests became. Part of that self-discovery was determining where I stood on controversial issues: a women’s right to choose contraception and abortion; ethical developments such as the death penalty, assisted suicide, cloning and embryonic stem-cell research; and a greater scientific understanding of the solar system, biology and evolution.
Where some people can satisfy their desire to find meaning through religion alone, I turned to the fields of anthropology, sociology, philosophy and psychology to find answers. I could no longer solely rely on answers provided by the church to understand fundamental truths about the world around me. Rather, I sought to answer these questions for myself and make my own logical conclusions about the world and my place in it.
I craved new social interactions and experiences. I surrounded myself with people from different viewpoints, especially those that differed from my own. It taught me tolerance and appreciation toward worldviews with which I differed or disagreed. I enjoyed seeing topics from a new perspective. I wanted to be well rounded and open-minded and learn from people with a diversity of beliefs, affiliations, and behaviors.
I began to see religion as doing more harm than good. Most people wouldn’t agree on what the best ice cream flavor is (and then limit themselves to that ONE flavor) nor would everyone agree on which brand of car is the best. These are things that we can have a difference of opinion on but still coexist peaceably. We certainly wouldn’t start a war over it. Why is religion so polarizing? Instead of building us up, religion tears us down. Throughout history, religion has been used as an excuse to justify war, sexism, racism, homophobia, intolerance, and oppression. If the supposed role-models of the church were standing behind their beliefs, spewing hatred in the name of religion, then I didn’t want to be a part of it.
I discovered that even without religion, I can still be morally and ethically sound. I can behave in a way that is considered ‘right’ in accordance with the laws that govern civilized society. I can be accountable for my own actions without Divine intervention and the threat of a potential afterlife in hell. Religion does not hold a monopoly on good deeds. One can be a decent human being without belonging to a church. Doing something because it’s the right thing to do, not because God might be watching and taking notes. I don’t need religion in order to be good. I can just be good. I don’t murder and steal, not because its a commandment from God, but because I don’t want to go to jail. In taking responsibility for my own life and actions I gained an overwhelming sense of satisfaction from it. There was a great sense of liberation that these discoveries brought. I could give my life meaning, value, and purpose through my own independent thoughts.
Right now, I think I represent a neutral, middle-ground directly between the devoutly religious and the skeptical Atheist. My attitude toward theology is Apatheism. It differs from Atheism or Agnosticism (maybe only in semantics). I don’t challenge the existence or non-existence in a god. It’s not a matter of denial or acceptance in God. I simply have made no opinion on the topic at all. It doesn’t matter to me either way if there is or is not a god. Either way is completely inconsequential to me but yet I remain open to exploring many theories.
Currently, I would not classify myself as “religious”. I haven’t been for many years. I don’t have any intention of becoming “religious”. Religion and spirituality have no current place in my life. I’m not at all concerned with answering questions about a great cosmic mystery, or understanding the spiritual unknown. This really isn’t a topic that has any importance or significance to me whatsoever. I don’t have a need to think about it right now. I’ll discover the truth when I finally die. Until then there can be only speculation and conjecture. At this moment in time my concerns are not centered around where we came from (evolution/creation) or where we’re going (Is there an afterlife?). My focus is only on tangible, real-world problems in the here and now.
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