Having Faith

For someone who claims to be open-minded and accepting of people of all walks of life, I am ashamed to say I make assumptions towards people who are religious, deeply or otherwise.  I make assumptions about what they must be lacking by having faith, and rarely think about what they must gain from it, instead.  And that is why Cheri’s post makes for difficult reading, yet is a real wake-up call.  Faith is a choice.  Some of us choose it and others do not, and choosing not to talk about it is, in its own way, deeply prejudiced.

Also, after reading Cheri’s post, make sure you click on the link for Alpha.  It opens with a picture of a man looking for faith at the bottom of a bin.  Brilliant.  

Over to you, Cheri.  Thank you for making us think twice:    

 

Let’s get it out there right from the start, so that there is no doubt what this post is about – I AM A CHRISTIAN.  I have faith in Jesus Christ and I am proud of that. I’ll talk about my faith (in a non preachy way) to anyone  that expresses a vague interest and that may listen – colleagues that get stuck in  a car with me on a long journey, new people I meet on hen dos, at weddings, or in other random places.

People react differently.  Some are interested and ask all those questions they’ve always wanted answered.  Some tell you about their own experiences (good and bad) of faith, or more commonly, religion (which to me is more about ‘rules’ rather than a solid belief or faith in God). Some look at you with suspicion and then choose to ignore what you’ve said, moving swiftly on to another topic of conversation.  Some bombard you with science and think that you are stupid for believing in anything other than the ‘theory’ of evolution.

I said I’d tell anyone didn’t I? Well everyone except my family.  Don’t get me wrong, they know I’m a Christian, but they don’t ‘get it.’  Because of this I find it hard to talk  about it in front of them.  You see, I’m a ‘born again’ and only became a Christian a year or so ago.

My story goes something like this:

I was one of those stereotypical “had-it-all”, but actually when it came down do it, didn’t really, and something was missing.  I had (still have) great family and friends, a good career, own house, car, and lots of spare money to spend on clothes, holidays etc.  But I wasn’t happy, I was lonely, I had serious issues with food and eating (a whole other post) and always drank that little bit too much when I went out and ended up crying and angry.  It was all brushed under the carpet in the cold sober light of day though.  Just over two years ago I met the boy that was to become my now husband.  He was a Christian.  I made a point of telling him straight away that there was no way in the world ever ever ever I was going to church with him……but I liked him, a lot.

And what do girls do when they want to impress boys?  They do things they aren’t necessarily interested in just because it means spending more time with the boy.  So, after a week, I went, and I actually quite liked it.  All ‘happy clappy’ I suppose you would call it, nothing like the church my grandma goes to.  And to cut a longer story short I became a Christian nine months later.  I did a lot of reading, listened to a lot of sermons and new friends’ opinions, and did an Alpha course.  My now husband was obviously pleased, but my becoming a Christian was not a condition of our relationship, Christian or not he loved me.

Then came the reactions from my family and friends.

My dad just doesn’t understand at all, and will brush all talk of church and that part of my life to one side if it is raised in conversation.  He doesn’t get that I actually believe in God, and that affects the way I live my life.  I think he also thinks that I had a good childhood and I was going okay, so why do I ‘need’ it and what did he do wrong?

My mum had a Catholic up-bringing, but no longer practices, although I think she believes in something.  She loves me and respects my choice, but doesn’t fully understand.

My sisters call me a ‘God-botherer’ but in a good humoured way.  Again, she respects my choice, and although she doesn’t fully understand, she does take note when I try to explain things, and she has taken time to talk to my Christian friends and try to understand.

Finally, my friends.  They struggle with it I think, well, I know.  They see the change in me as a bad thing.  The not drinking as much, the fewer nights out, the more nights in, my slower pace of life.  One friend told me just last week that the new me is a shadow of my former self.  But if that means I am happy, I don’t drink to forget, and I don’t binge to fill a void, is the new me really worse than the old me?

So, over to you. Are you a Christian who has had a similar experience?  What would your reaction be to someone that told you they were a Christian?

Categories: Religion
47 interesting thoughts on this

47 Comments

  1. Becca
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I really couldn’t care less if someone was religious or not….providing that no one is killing children, what they do behind their own doors is none of my business. Some of my fiancées family are very ‘new’ religious and, whilst we’re aware of it, it’s never thrown at us. When we’ve attended christenings and weddings they have been very lovely services from a Minister that obviously knows the couple and children well. And providing that religion will answer questions from people who aren’t sure about their beliefs and might want to leave that religion then it’s really really not an issue.

    Where I do have an issue with religion is when it’s thrown at other people. There is a man that stands at Oxford Street and yells about religion…..I find that a bit much….Please let me shop in peace. They have also converted the restaurant at the end of our apartment block into a Kingdom Hall and I’d like to be able to sit on a bus without being handed leaflets about going to Hell. I know that it’s a part of some religions to ‘spread the word’ and convert non believers but I’m happy in my little ‘I believe in something but don’t know what that is or if its just cosmic fate space collisions’ bubble.

  2. Katielase
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I struggle to define my faith, the best label for me is agnostic because I truly am confused, I don’t know what I believe. I have the opposite of faith, even atheists have faith that God doesn’t exist, I don’t have that either. I’m a spiritual mess.

    The thing is, I’m a scientist, I questioned God a lot when I was younger. I thought I believed in nothing. Then my Gramary died, she was a highly intelligent, educated, thoughtful woman, she questioned EVERYTHING, yet she believed that she would go to a better place after death. That gave me pause. I couldn’t dismiss her faith, I knew how gosh-darn REASONED she was. So I read a lot of CS Lewis, and that reinforced what I had been thinking, faith is not the easy option. Faith can be a battle, that made so much sense to me. I’m still not sure what I believe, but I no longer judge people for having faith. I trust that they are making a decision, not absenting themselves from a decision, and I don’t insult their intelligence. I’m now more likely to ask them probing questions about how they came to their faith and what they believe.

    Another good read for the confused agnostic is The Shack, by the way.

    K x

    PS: I 100% agree on your distinction between faith and religion, religion is problematic because people are problematic.

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I was raised Catholic, though now I mostly don’t practice. Nevertheless I strongly believe in God, it is just something that I *feel* that is deeply ingrained with me. And maybe what I believe in is not the representation of an old guy with a white beard sitting in a cloud. I also agree that there is a difference between religion and faith. There are / have been so many things going wrong with people in the church, because at the end of the day we are all gullible human.
      I’ve also read lots of C.S. Lewis and I really appreciate how he explores the big questions, how he does not “assume” things, how he takes the time to answer them in a rational manner.
      I actually attended an Alpha course in Spain, and while it was great to discuss all the big questions in a young, open, friendly environment… I left there feeling empty because when we asked difficult philosophical questions (like why is there Evil in the World… is humankind evil, is it innate or is it learnt ? ) all they would do was point to the Bible and read a chapter or two.
      It is not that I am not Christian (I actually believe), but I also believe there are many paths that reach the same place, that if you analyse religions / philosophies, at the core we are more similar than different. I doubt of any group that takes their answers from only 1 source… sounds too sectarian to me. I know these are all metaphors, stories with a meaning behind, and that If I really wanted I should study at a theological level, but I expected more. I also tend to question everything (guess that is why I went into Biology / Medicine), so that makes it harder.

  3. Cheri
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting the Alpha link Anna, I hadn’t thought about that! I am out and about today so will try and get back on later to answer any questions, and am looking forward to ‘hearing’ people’s thoughts. x

  4. Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I like to think I belong to a group of open minded friends, and yet I am regularly shocked to find people (whose opinions I normally value and consider educated) slamming religion. Actually, not even religion most of the time, slamming individuals who have faith, which is even worse. And for the most part, it’s Christianity that gets the brunt of it. What are these people afraid of? If they were to hear anyone else being in the least bit prejudiced about anything else, they’d be the first to get on their high horse about it…. yet somehow if somebody holds a personal belief, they think they are of inferior intelligence to them. It actually disgusts me, and I’m always getting into arguments about it that I can never win, because people are so blinkered in this.

    Personally, I do believe there is something, although a bit like Katie, I haven’t quite pinned what I think it is yet.

    (rant over)

    Px

    • Katielase
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Yes! This! And I hate that it’s always the people who call out others for intolerance and hate and prejudice, like their attitude is “I’m an open-minded liberal… just as long as you believe what I do”. It’s very unfair to assume people who you otherwise know are intelligent, reasoned and rational are just being stupid, credible and dumb when it comes to religion, why assume that? It is so very insulting and it makes me very angry.

      K x

  5. Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Yay!

    That is my first thought.

    I am in a fairly similar situation to you, apart from I became a Christian when I was about 14 and the boy only about 2 years ago. The family stuff I sympathise with, it’s definitely not something I could talk about with my dad for example. People always assume your family is Christian as well, which is interesting, like someone would only do it if they’d been ‘brain-washed’ from a young age.

    Faith is a difficult one to explain to people. They assume things about you, or that you will try and ‘force’ your opinion on someone. For some reason the Christian is always on the defensive, I find. The atheist rarely has to defend this choice or their reasoning or proof behind it. Discussion is always fun, but the Christian failsafe in a way is that we don’t have to understand it all. Hence the ‘faith’ bit. And people don’t like that.

    Personally I believe the Christian ‘mission’ is to be a better person, to show people your faith by being an example, being nicer to people, not rushing into decisions and having respect for people.

    The church is not too popular at the moment. I think it’s important to realise that not all Christians are the same, and I personally believe that we have to respect the faith choices and beliefs of those who don’t want women bishops or gay marriage in their churches, although I and many Christians don’t agree with this view.

    Finally, I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a post about sex and approaching marriage as a Christian (V is for Virgin, lol…), but thought it might not be relevant or a comfortable area for the blog (can’t remember sex being discussed). But if there’s anyone out there who I can talk to about that then you can find me through twitter and I’d appreciate it. :)

    xxx

  6. Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I was brought up as a practising catholic, but over time I’ve come to a point where I have a very strong faith but quite like to stay away from “religion”. Rules for controlling people are fine by me – don’t kill, don’t lie and cheat, don’t be a dickhead – great. Oh but if you take the pill/live with a boy/don’t stand in a religious building for an hour on a Sunday morning/don’t cover your body/various other “controlling” edicts, God won’t let you in to heaven.  Oh, cheers then! Also – what is God doing? Sitting there with Santa judging who gets a stocking this year and who gets in to heaven? I suppose I just rebelled against the controls but kept my inner Faith. 

    I’m not one of those people who want to pick and choose and claim that it’s not applicable to modern life, I think, over time, in my head, I’ve just separated the man-made bits with the bits that really get me inside.  It’s not  a higher power passing judgment on my life, it’s  PEOPLE.

    Even way-back-when, when my mum and the bishop were sparing over the logistics of my Confirmation (would I stand with the non-catholic school kids or the altar girls that I was friends with? Dramarama indeed) It just dawned on me that the whole thing was ridiculous and refused to do it. Why did a roomful of strangers care if I was re-affirming my baptismal vows… Surely what I believe and feel INSIDE is the point. In the end my mum relented, accepting that I actually did have quite a good argument. Also, after a hideous experience with my first Confession (kneeling at the feet of an old man in a locked room begging for “forgiveness” for a made up “sin” as I had nothing else to say…. Yeah, erm, I don’t think so!) I think my mum was a bit disillusioned herself. 

    15 years on I chose to get married in church because otherwise I wouldn’t have felt married. I didn’t however choose a Catholic church, against my mum’s wishes. My husband isn’t religious at all (and thanks to his job, is pretty much anti-religion!) so I couldn’t really force him in to a two-hour catholic mass. I chose a CofE church that was special to me (located in my childhood village, full of memories from christingles, harvest festivals, school plays and assemblies and two close childhood friends were buried there long ago) and felt warm and welcoming for my non-religious guests. The vicar was amazing joking that I could say the “obey” if I wanted to, but i’d have to find another vicar, she put my husband at ease and made the ceremony wonderful and personal….

    People may think I picked a church that was prettier or bigger, but I didn’t – I picked it because it felt warm and welcoming and didn’t judge. 

    That is what is what my faith is all about. Belonging – not controlling.

    Sorry if I just got all ranty, this is a subject very close to my heart and comes up A LOT at the moment in many discussions! Great post! Thank you AOW! 

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Definitely. I have thought for a long time that it’s all about what’s inside of you. Would God rather you went to church every week and just said the words with everyone else, or would he prefer that you never go to church but you believe it and pray and live your life with him (not that *he* is male, it’s just easier…) in mind? Would he care if you don’t take communion or confess (that sounds creepy btw, but I guess confession works for some people). God is very personal, I think, it’s a relationship like you would have with anything/one else that is important.

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      I am in a similar place (raised Catholic) and feel exactly like that about control and the man made rules / parts of religion (see my comment above in reply to Katielease).
      I had to comment, because… I also wouldn’t feel married if I hadn’t done it in a church. And in 5th grade I spent a lot of time worrying that I would not see my dad in heaven because he never came to mass on Sunday with us. I think that’s when I started separating the made-up from the deep , more transcendental bits that I *felt* inside me.

  7. Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t raised into any religion, though was Christened as was the ‘done’ thing. My Mr isn’t religious at all, and neither are my parents. My grandparents don’t attend Church at all, but were disappointed to hear I wouldn’t be marrying in a Church.

    The thing is, every time I walk past a Church I have a strong feeling to want to go inside and just sit, and absorb. I feel they are very peaceful places and for some reason feel drawn to attending. When I was in Belgium I happened to walk past an open church mid-service on a Sunday, and stood in the back for about 15 minutes. I didn’t understand the language but loved sitting and feeling calm nonetheless. In my busy, crazy brain this is quite a feat.

    My Mr and family, on the other hand, would laugh at me should I tell them I want to go to church. I’m not quite sure how to go about it because I can’t say I believe in God, but I do relate to a lot of the messages I hear.

    Perhaps it is a little journey I need to take to discover whether I do have Faith, because truth be told I’ve never really given it a chance.

    L x

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I feel a lot like this too Laura. Not just churches for me, any place of faith give me a sense of stillness and reflection that I struggle to find anywhere else. I can’t work out what it means, but I do think it’s an area of my life I want to explore more. Interestingly both my parents are staunch atheists, I’m not sure if that’s connected.

      Px

  8. Celestine
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I’m a Christian. My faith (and church attendance) has waxed and waned over the years. My father now passed away) was Christian, my mother describes herself as “heathen” and my sister has no belief. So I’ve been everywhere from supported to looked at with suspicion!

    I find talking to people about my faith quite difficult. As you so rightly say Cheri, faith doesn’t mean I don’t also believe in science, neither does it mean I particularly want to argue the existence of God with all. Christians are so often accused of trying to convert non belivers, but in my experience, no-one is more zealous than an atheist insisting that I am wrong, foolish and naive for having faith. It begs the question, “what are you afraid of?”

    God, Jesus, faith and the church have been a source of support for me in difficult times and a shared joy in happy times. The church family is indeed like many other families – sometimes argumentative, almost always loving, and often infuriating! I’d like to see society far more accepting of belief and positive towards it – I think it would help us all.

  9. Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Hi I was raised Catholic and am someone who has faith but not religion. The new Catholic mas wording makes me cross (particularly the change from “for you and for all” to “for you and for many”) and I am unsure of where to go with this.

    I think I’ve been looking away from the Catholic church a lot as I feel it is easy to be a “good” Catholic without living true Christian values and that is weird. I also got seriously messed up by reading too much CS Lewis but that is for another day. I’m still finding my faith at the moment. And how to best live it. It’s an interesting thing to think about though.

    On another forum I tend to be the person who is expected to defend the Catholic church, as I can see the many flaws in it, but many people criticise flaws that are not there or make generalisations that are not true so I tend to speak up.

    I’ve found research and study have helped a lot. I really love this post and the comments.

    • Crysta
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I say the “old” words quite clearly in when in church. With a clear emphasis on “for you and for ALL”. When I visit my parents, my mother’s usually giggling in the middle of my father and I, who insist on saying the “old” words. My brother just glares and shakes his head. I’ve put quotation marks around old because I discovered an old mass book from the 60′s…and the “new” words are the same as those said in mass 50 years ago…

  10. jennycake
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I have to agree with some of the ladies above – I was brought up a practising Catholic, but don’t attend church now. As a teenager church was a chore, but I did choose to be married in a Catholic church as it felt right. My husband is CofE and he doesn’t like Catholic masses. I think he finds the tradition, the incense etc too old fashooned and irrelevant. I find it in a way comforting as it reminds me of my childhood.

    I think it is that difference between faith and religion as Cheri perfectly put it.

    Also I have a question for those who were raised but now don’t practise – will you bring up your children in the church? Have them baptised? Enrol them in church schools?

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I want my children to grow up learning the same things I did, so they can make their own choices when they are older regarding their beliefs.

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Jennycake my husband was brought up in a Catholic family, and he has similar feelings to you about when we have kids. He wants to take them to a different place of worship (covering as many religions as possible!) at a young age so they can make up their own minds. I think they’ll be bored to death by the time they’ve been round them all, but I do appreciate the sentiment!

      Px

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I think we will baptise our kids, and explain the bible stories in our own way (by reading them as a bed time story) , It probably won’t be the only thing we’ll read to them.
      I remember the classes prior to Communion being fun and entertaining, so probably we will do that too.
      What I for sure wouldn’t do is to send the kids to hardcore catholic schools like the one I went from grades 5th to 9th. It messed up with the way I understood lots of things and it took years to get rid of that luggage and get to a place where I am comfortable with my faith (I do believe in God) and with how I see the World.
      And as soon as they reach the teenage years there will be books around and free for them to take that stimulate critical thought… like Herman Hesse and Milan Kundera.

    • Crysta
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      This is something I’ve discussed with my boyfriend (who’s agnostic) as I didn’t want it to be a source of conflict in the future. We’d do what my parents did: bring the children up as Catholics, but ensure they have an understanding and knowledge of other religions. When it’s time for them to make their confirmation, then they can chose whether or not they chose to continue or take a different path. We’d also teach them to never follow blindly. Teach them that they should question and disagree with things they think are wrong.

  11. Zan
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Someone once said to me that ‘Faith is always a journey, one that doesn’t ever end’. I liked that – the thought that there’s such a spectrum of what people believe that you’re never in the same place at any one time.

    I’m another who would say I’m not religious, but have faith. In what I’m not so sure most days. Mostly in people – in the inate goodness of people winning out over the bad. I find the best way for me to live comfortably with my ‘unknowing’ state is to try and live the best life I can. I always thought being a good person and living well was the most important thing.

    I struggle with most religions, as there’s always some parts I just can’t get on board with. And being religious doesn’t automatically make you a good person. Surely that should come first? Work on being the best person you can and then if you find a religion that fits you and your beliefs then great. If not, you’re still a great person and no poorer for it.

    (hope some of that actually makes sense and isn’t just me rambling! :) )

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      “I always thought being a good person and living well was the most important thing.” < Zan, you echo my thoughts. I was brought up CofE: Church every Sunday, CofE school, confirmation aged 11, youth camps aged 16…even now I could probably recite the communion prayers off by heart, not to mention knowing a fine line in obscure old CofE hymns. It was part of my life and an integral part of my upbringing. But it was never a decision I made. When I left home for University, it was the first time I felt more in control of my faith. I felt there was finally space to explore and try to understand what I really believed. This led me down a very wiggly path of questioning, challenging, and exploring. I took part in an Alpha course, really hoping that it would lead me to a revelation, something that would confirm 100% that God was a part of my life. You heard stories from Alpha courses that just transformed people, gave them belief beyond any doubt. This wasn't my experience. If anything it confirmed to me that the religion I had been raised in did not have a place in my life anymore. This caused me considerable grief, odd as it may sound. I sometimes wish it had gone the other way, that it had led to a different kind of certainty.

      Anyway, when it came to getting married a good proportion of old school friends and family were surprised I didn't choose the local church. But it was no longer held the same feeling for me and it certainly didn't reflect my relationship or my husband's beliefs. This is where I was delighted to discover humanism. Here was a set of values I could identify with, and here was faith…but this time faith in people, in thoughts, in deeds, in intention. Our humanist wedding ceremony brought us so much joy and didn't feel any less 'real' than a church wedding.

      I don't know where this ramble is going- I guess I just wanted to share my experience of an evolving relationship with religion. We all grow and develop in so many other ways over our lives and I think faith/religion/spirituality is part of this too. There's room for change and we just hope our loved ones will accommodate it.

    • Katie
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      I always thought being a good person and living well was the most important thing. – this also echos my thoughts Zan. I have a moral code, and like the Christian principles of forgiveness, and being kind and compassionate. I just don’t have faith that there is a God and Heaven.

  12. Crysta
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Catholic, who still “practices” and goes to church on a regular basis. I was sent to church schools, but was lucky enough to have fairly open minded, liberal teachers and priests, who often disagreed with the teachings of the church and encouraged me to question while teaching me about other beliefs and religions. I see my religion as a way of practicing my faith, I don’t see it as the only way or the right way. I also disagree strongly with many of the beliefs I’m supposed to have (I live with my boyfriend, am on the pill and support same-sex marriage…etc), and I’m very, very fussy about what churches I go to.

    I will never force my beliefs on others, but as Cheri said, I’m happy to answer anyone’s questions about my beliefs. I don’t like people knocking on my door, or standing on street corners, pushing religion at you. I once had someone knock on my door, and when I informed him I was a Catholic, he continued to try and get me to change my denomination asking me “If God asked you to change, would you?”. I politely (and firmly) informed him that God wouldn’t, and proceeded to shut the door on him. At another time, I was called stupid for having belief in God by a friend of my boyfriends. I would never call an atheist or agnostic stupid (because I don’t think they are), nor would I ever try and get them (or someone of a different denomination or religion) to change their minds.

  13. Caroline
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, so much of this post and teh comments are things I’ve been thinking about, so it’s brilliant to have this discussed on AOW.

    I was “born again” at 17, after a few years of to-ing and fro-ing. My mother was quite unhappy about it, my father bemused, my friends vaguely interested. I went to youth group, church, christian union at school, and really tried to live the life I was being taught to, that was offered as the “right way to do things”. I trusted in God – but I think almost to the point that I absolved myself of the responsibility of making my own decisions – perhaps it was easier to “pray about it and let God decide”. That said, I loved being part of a loveing, caring community that was about living life to the full and supporting each other – for me, that’s what church was. And then, at 23, my best friend, also a Christian died of a rapid and agressive cancer – despite me beleiving (deluding myself?) that God would heal her.

    Since then, after a good few months/years of being cross with God, where I’ve come out is that, while you may be taught in some churches that terhe is a certain way to love life, and if you love that way all we be fine – its not quite that simple. Life is messy, bad things happen to good people, and the simple “its all part of God’s plan” doesn’t always cut it when things really crash down around your ears.

    I still have a strong and sincere faith in God, I still believe in the main tenets of Christianity, and I got married in a church, as I wanted to make my vows in front of God. I’m still working out, though, how my faith should impact on how I live my life – and even if it “should” at all. It guides my values, it makes me want to do some “good” in the world, and I beleive that you should treat otehrs as you want to be treated. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure – so it’s hugely encouraging to see that way more people than I expected are in the same place!

    cx

    ps. Sorry, that was a really long ramble, that I’ve clearly been holding in for some time!

    • Caroline
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      ps. When I said “love life” I meant live life, rapidly and sneaklily typing at work…

  14. Peridot
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear, I’m going to be a sole voice (not a soul voice, geddit?!) of dissent. I am not religious and I don’t like religion, sorry, but on here anyway, I feel I can be frank.

    My godmother is some flavour of evangelist and I have a good friend who is CofE (practising); I understand that everyone needs emotional props to sustain them and some people turn to religion as their prop. Hell, I have props too – but I don’t think mine are the only acceptable ones.

    I do try really hard to be tolerant and I would never belittle my friends’ (or others’) beliefs. But it’s impossible to discuss or even try to debate the issue with them. It seems to me that religion is a solely emotional thing – you can’t argue with that because it’s all about feelings so I try not to go there. But it’s always there like an elephant in the corner that we politely avoid mentioning.

    I’ve come across more narrow-minded and unpleasant people who use the excuse of religion to hide behind then the reverse and this is my problem. Well, that and the whole way women are portrayed in Christianity. I also read Ancient History at uni and learnt about the origins of the Church – it was pretty fluky that the majority of the Western world is now Christian!

    I don’t want to upset anyone but I guess I feel as vehemently anti religion as some are pro. And that is an area with no middle ground. My old flatmate told me that I was going to hell if I didn’t say that Jesus was the most important ‘person’ in my life, even if I behaved in a generous and decent fashion. Guess I’m doomed then – just to save anyone repeating it!

    • Caroline
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Peridot – just to say – I’ve come across a lot of those people too, and they make me really cross, and also make me question things. Examples: “you must choose between God and having a non-christian boyfriend”. Really? I think I should make that decision. (my husband isn’t a Christian, I think God’s ok with that). “You have to have faith to understand / you shouldn’t question what’s written in the bible” – cue end of conversation and any intelligent and reasoned debate. Gaah!

    • Katielase
      Posted November 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Always good to have different opinions! :-D I can completely understand why people dislike religion, I’ve recently decided I cannot be involved or have any trust in the CofE after their continued intolerance and attitude towards women; however I believe that religion is one way to show faith, not the only way. It is possible to have spiritual faith and be entirely non-religious. I really do agree that evangelists and intolerant people are annoying in any situation and religion often polarises this issue to a severe degree.

      The one thing I disagree with here is the idea that faith is a prop, I hear that a lot and I think it’s a bit of a patronising myth, for some people faith is anything but a prop, it’s a constant journey of discovery and enquiry and challenging decisions, and reconciling it with your life choices and the world around you is really flipping hard. It doesn’t feel like a prop, it feels like it might be easier to disregard it, but you don’t. It’s not fair to assume that all people with faith have it as a prop, people come to it for different reasons, although of course some people do use it as a prop.

      K x

      • Posted November 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve recently decided I cannot be involved or have any trust in the CofE after their continued intolerance and attitude towards women” – I have a problem with this. If you looked into it you would realise the majority of the congregation and vicars in the Church of England are pro the idea of women bishops. It was only not passed due to the weird structure that I don’t understand, and a lot of people in the CofE are unhappy about it. But I think dismissing the CofE as a whole, including those people in it, is unfair.
        Is it also worth mentioning that many other denominations of Christianity, and other religions, have similar views. And to some members of the CofE asking them to have a woman bishop is like asking a Muslim woman to not wear a hijab, it’s just against what they believe to be the will of God.

        • Katielase
          Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think I phrased that well, sorry, I do know that many people in the CofE disagree with the vote, the vicar who married me was vehemently pro-women bishops. I still know many CofE believers and if I was dismissing anything, it was the system, not the people within it. I just don’t personally feel like the CofE system fits with my faith and values right now, but that is a personal choice, it isn’t intended as a judgement.

          To be fair, also, the only reason I used CofE as an example is that it is the denomination I was raised with and, if I did solve my agnostic mess, it’s what I would turn to. However, I should really have clarified that I feel uncomfortable with the view of women within many organised religions!

          K x

          • Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Heehee, OK, that makes me feel better :) I understand where you’re coming from, sorry if I seemed a little defensive! My church sometimes feels like my second home, but there are many different factions within the Church of England and I may not so staunchly defend them all. There are just so many different areas and questions to agree or disagree with. I think it probably over-complicates the matter, it gives you a lot of ‘get-out’ clauses!

            Out of interest are you happy being agnostic? Or are you searching out something that makes you say “yes” or “no” to the whole thing?

          • Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            In my personal experience, I’ve often found CofE to be very forward thinking, but there are some bad eggs lingering who wield a bit too much influence. Hoping they pop off soon, I was terribly disappointed by the recent news.

            Px

            • Becca
              Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

              I thought that decision was utterly and completely WRONG. A church should reflect the society it is in and should bend and change with that society.

      • Celestine
        Posted November 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Katielase, you say it so well when you talk about faith not being a prop. It is one thing that greatly upsets me when the non-religious try to take the intellectual high-ground by saying that only the weak or needy or naive or those that can’t think for themselves need God.
        It is indeed a constant questioning and a huge challenge to be a person of faith (notr singling out Christianity here, although that is my way). It would be great if people were a little more open minded (on both sides) and less insulting (again on both sides).

      • Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        (Well said Katie!)

        Although I agree that subscribing en masse to doctrine of any kind is a dangerous thing, I can see now (I didn’t used to be able to, I was once very anti-religion too) that this does not necessarily mean you can tar all people with faith with that same brush. You get maniacs in every walk of life, sadly, the challenge is to be open minded enough to believe in the individual and not the label – atheist, Catholic, Hindu, Bahai, agnostic, whatever. People are people.

        And sadly people can and will use any unifying tool which involves strong belief (that goes for politics as well as religion, and race and culture too) into a weapon to control. Bad people will get into positions of power, and others will follow them. It doesn’t mean that what the core, original beliefs are are a bad thing. It just means human beings are bad, just as much as they’re good. They twist things to suit their own needs.

        If everyone could just concentrate on trying to be good within themselves instead of getting caught up in changing everyone else…. well, the world would be great. But – perhaps – we wouldn’t be human beings anymore either.

        Px

        • Lara Blue
          Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          Penny this is my feeling too and what I was trying to say (very poorly) in my comment. Thanks for articulating it so well! xx

        • Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          This make a lot of sense to me.

  15. Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I became a Christian when I was 12 although I’m not from a religious background. I went to church of my own accord from when I was about 8 and despite a few years of absence during my teenage years I got back into church life at university. I stopped going several years ago although my husband and I both decided to marry in church.

    I found all the reactions to my born again-ness from friends and family that you describe Cheri, and various reactions from the other side of the coin when I stopped going to church. It seems having faith or not can be judged from both sides as strongly but both, in my experience, can come from a place of love, concern and a fear of the unknown. I don’t know how I’d describe my religious status now. I do know that I wouldn’t like my experiences of religion to be made light of or seen as a weakness. If anything, my experience showed me that the harder, more challenging path is having faith rather than not.

  16. Lara Blue
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    This has been a highly interesting discussion to read, thanks Cheri for writing the post and everyone for commenting.
    Now I’m going to add my convoluted thoughts into the mix as well….

    A few years ago, my default position towards religion and those that described themselves as religious was a deep wariness (mostly towards Christianity). I had heard my sister denounced as “evil” for drawing a ying&yang symbol at Sunday school; watched a friend’s sister be rejected and emotionally tortured by “friends” for having a non-Christian boyfriend; knew a Catholic girl who would have unprotected sex with numerous partners because using condoms was “wrong”; saw a friend betrayed by someone she trusted in the name of God and consequently shunned by the Church congregation for self-harming. I found narrow-minded judgement, hypocrisy and a sense of superiority as trademarks religion.
    However, I believe that the above is more about people than religion.
    My parents-in-law have a profound belief in God and they are the most humble and kind people I know. They are highly intelligent, funny and extremely knowledgeable/successful in their own areas. They have never judged me for not being a Christian or pressured me or made me feel inferior. They hold that their faith is a private pact between themselves and God and I watch them use this faith as a centering force and a light to guide them towards goodness.
    I know that sounds trite and overly cheesy (as will this) but they restored my belief in “religious people”. Seeing them made me realise how closed I was towards religion.
    Some of this may also be to do with growing up, I think as teenagers, we are quick to dismiss and leap to assumptions or “hard truths” when reality is more complex.
    Now I would consider myself to be a tolerant agnostic. I occasionally go to Church with them in an effort to truly be open and engage but I feel that it would be worse to go every week and pretend to believe than to never feel that faith in God and try to do my best to be open-minded and live as compassionate a life as I can anyway.
    Okay, I hope some of that at least made sense!

  17. Katie
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    My husband (Andy) is a Christian, as are his parents and sisters. Andy grew up going to church, and has been christened and confirmed. I’m a cultural Christian, as are my parents and brothers. I grew up only going to church for christenings, funerals and weddings. Occasionally we’d go to Christingle, as we liked the candles with oranges and sweets. We attended Christian schools, so would go to church via school for harvest festival and christmas (I like the carols). I was christened but never confirmed.

    Andy and I don’t discuss religion, he knows I have different views to him, but still happy to get married in a church, have our child christened, and will occasionally join him at church. Our church do cups of tea and biscuits after, and the vicar seems nice. I last went to church for Easter Sunday, my husband last went for Remembrance Sunday.

    I would never criticise someone for having faith, but I’m afraid I’m unwavering in my lack of faith, and could never be converted.

  18. Peridot
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    This is all very interesting.

    I used to sit next to a girl who was born again. She was one of the nicest and most thoroughly decent people I have ever met. I once jokingly said to her that she should be Christianity’s poster girl as she embodied all that was good about religion. But she said she was not a good Christian because she hadn’t tried to convert me. I thought her very way of living was a far better advertisement than someone haraguing me could ever be.

    Sorry that I’ve offended people with the ‘prop’ comment. I can see that it probably is tougher to say you’re a Christian than not, especially in these modern times. I meant it that it’s part of human nature to try and explain the inexplicable – I would seriously like to believe in a floaty heaven with all the people I’ve loved who have died having an alternative existance (white nighties optional!). But I don’t. I wish I did, it would make death less hard.

  19. Peridot
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    As a result of reading this post and all the comments I actually had a really long chat about religion with a friend who is a practising Christian. as serendipity would have it we were meeting for supper tonight.

    Certainly from my perspective as an atheist, I thought it would be unwise to talk religion as I thought we’d end up at such odds that our friendship might well not survive it.

    I was wrong.

    I haven’t changed my mind and I’m certain she hasn’t changed hers. But I really do feel richer for the conversation.

    Thanks AOW and Anna.

  20. Cheri
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Such an amazing response, and some really good debate. Lots of talk about religion, rules, and regulations. What I hope came across from my post is that my Christian faith is about Jesus, his love for us, no matter where we are, who we are, what we believe or who we believe in. For those of you that arent sure or are interested in knowing more then I would strongly recommend an Alpha course, if nothing else youll likely get a free meal one night a week, and meet some new people!

  21. Kate G
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Interesting reads everyone. I was brought up Catholic (with my Dad in attendance) and have to say that even as a tiny thing, it did nothing for me other than being something I “had” to do, like eat my vegetables. At 12, in the 80′s, and having moved to another yet town and having to attend the local church and catchechism, something in me said said no, and there and then I stopped attanding any formal religious meetings. The only way I could explain it to my devestated /furious Dad was that it didnt make me feel the way I should, it made me angry and that surely wasnt the point. He accepted my decision but I think always with a sense of disappointment and curiosiy, although now 20 +years later he now himself feels that the organisation of the Church is not something for him any more. I do enjoy going into churches and often expereine a sense of peace, and have attanded many different kinds of religeous ceremonies and I certainly dont judge those who are committed , but the core, the frameowrk of religeon is not for me.

    But turning to faith – I have always belived, and in spite of my religious upbringing. Not in the man with the beard, not in the bible, not in the outadated rules and regulations of the Catholic Church that were foisterd on me, but in the inexplicability and wonder of our (and I inclide fauna and flora here too!) existance in our universe, and the infinite capcacity and existance of both science and faith in what cant yet be explained.

    My darling granny had an embroidery peice up on her wall that read
    the kiss of the sun for pardon
    The song of the birds for mirth
    we are closer to gods heart in a garden
    than anywhere else on earth

    We got married in a chapel that was open on all sides to gardens and that was my faith.

  22. Kandra
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    This has been really interesting to read the post and all the comments and there are some great points.
    I was raised CofE and went to church every week until I was about 11 and able to voice my own opinion. Like many of the posts above I feel I do have a faith but I would define it as more spiritual than religious. Like Lara I have met many people who have ‘turned me off’ religion because they have been very pushy/judgemental/holier than thou and seemingly very hypocritical, and it just makes my hackles rise. I do not judge people because they choose to follow one religion or another, that is only one part of who they are, and I do not expect to be judged purely on the fact that I do not attend church. My grandparents however do attend church, sometimes twice a week, and they are the most open, honest, kind generous people I know so they have kept my mind open and I have also met some wonderful people who would class themselves as deeply religious, I guess in every group of people you are going to find people who are one extream or another or those you can get on with or not.
    As has been mentioned above I think it is the ‘rules’ that I find hardest to swallow, (I was that annoying child who asked ‘why?’ to everything!) I dont have a probelm with rules I think in many situations they are very important, but I need to see why I have to follow them, and ‘just because’ just doesnt cut it… A recent example is a lady I worked with quit because the company (which sells about 900 products) started selling 2 meditation cds, and her catholic priest told her she had to stop working for the company.. even if she never came into contact with the CDs… so she did!! I cant see any sense to this at all! but maybe I am wrong…

  23. Posted November 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is such a great post, and a wonderful series of comments!

    I became a Christian at 18, coming from a very atheist family, and was a Christian throughout my university days. It was the defining aspect of my life, personality, everything: as I graduated from university, my only aim was to become a missionary, and I’d spent several months working overseas for a mission organisation. However, a few years later, a series of events caused me to reevaluate the logic which had led to my ‘conversion’ and I ended up leaving the faith which had totally defined me for a big chunk of my life.

    I’m now an atheist, and I have little respect for religion, but try not to let that translate into disrespect for people who practice/believe in a certain religion/belief system. I have a very good understanding of the basis of Christianity (ie in terms of the Biblical perspective on modern day issues), and I personally disagree with a large majority of it. But so long as someone else’s beliefs don’t then turn into infringements on someone’s rights, I see no reason to hold their personal beliefs against them any more than I’d judge them on their job or fashion.

  24. Caroline
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m a religious Jew (from a not religious, interfaith family.) I don’t get much flack for it because I choose to surround myself with people who are supportive. Well, actually, my step-dad and I have heated debates often, but to me they are good natured, although my mom disagrees that they are good natured. But mostly, not everyone of my friends and family understands but they support me. I don’t have a problem with folks being Christian, as long as they aren’t pushing their religion on me. It does bother me somewhat when Christians complain about how unprivileged they are to be religious, because being Christian in the west is a place of super privilege. The number of people who think we really should just kill all the Christians is basically non-existent, and that’s really not true at all for people of other religions. Most Christians don’t have to use up their vacation days if they get them to take their biggest holidays off for religious or social observance. Children get Christian holidays off school and learn about Christmas in state funded schools (in the US here) and the world at large in December reminds you that if you aren’t Christian, you don’t fit here.
    I do totally understand however, that in liberal circles, being a religious person at all is less privileged in that community. But in the world at large, that isn’t the case for Christians.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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