6 Feb

There was a time when I considered myself to be very religious.  As a teenager, I read some book about martyrs, prayed the rosary and even got up early to go to church on Sundays (sometimes alone).  I read the Bible to myself some nights–randomly opening it, picking a section and trying to figure it all out.  I prayed every night for a good guy to come around, marry me, take my virginity and give me a bunch of babies.  Life was going to be perfect because I was so loved by such an amazing God.  I believed.  Hard core.

I got to college, and my whole worldview shifted, as I suspect it does for so many (most?) people.  I could get into the things that happened to make me question my religious beliefs, but that would take forever and that’s not really the point.  I think it suffices to give you one culminating example.  Every year, Nazareth participates in Take Back the Night.  It’s a day of activities to educate about and prevent future sexual violence, particularly date rape.  In the evening, people gathered at the Cab (one of the dining hall type places) and there was a segment for anyone who wanted to speak out to do so.  I sat with some of my friends from my feminist classes and held back tears of pain silently as I listened to stories detailing rape and abuse and sadness and heartbreak.  And then I really began to cry–tears of frustration as people who had clearly never experienced any sort of sexual abuse took the stage to say that God was there, if you prayed you’d find comfort, if you trust in his greater plan, things would work out.

I couldn’t take it.  I got up and stood on that stage, knees trembling, crying in front of a room of mostly strangers, while one of my friends stood next to me.  I talked about how I loved people who could have blind faith in a greater being who had some divine plan  and that everything would work out and be all rainbows and butterflies for people who were going through hell right now.  How I wished I could believe like that, too.  But that I didn’t.  I talked about how I stood there for all the people who were pissed off at God, because I was too.  And how being pissed off at him was ok.  Questioning was OK.  That praying doesn’t make you feel better when the prayers go unanswered or they shouldn’t have to be said because no one should ever suffer violence of any kind for any reason.  And a good God would know that.

I lived pretty content with my decision to give up my faith.  I had quit going to church in college, except for a VERY ocassional Saturday evening with one of my roommates.  After college, I met Eric, who at the time, had pretty strong faith.  We would have lengthy conversations, arguing over religion.  I remember telling friends that a relationship between us would never work because I could never be with someone who believed those things.  But the truth is that I love a good debate, and I think Eric may have exaggerated his stance a bit, just to play devil’s advocate, just to keep talking to me.

We obviously overlooked our differeing viewpoints and got together, and the “God talks” continued.  Eric lived on campus as an AD at Naz, so he began hosting a weekly Bible study.  We had atheists, agnostics, all different branches and levels of Christianity, and people who just weren’t sure what they believed.  It was truly one of the best experiences of my religious life.  Hearing other people’s thoughts and teasing out the meanings behind different passages of the Bible was really cool. It was around this time that we started talking about getting married and having babies, and we both agreed that even though at this point neither of us was really sure what we believed in, we wanted our children to be raised with some sort of religious background.

So we began “church shopping.”  We went with some friends, every Sunday checking out another branch of Christianity.  We never found a “home.”  Eventually we quit looking.  I figured we’d find a church when we had a kid…so we had 9 months or so…how cute naive little Shme was…

So now we’re here, 3.5 years later, still churchless.  I am no longer sure I want my children to be raised in a church environment.  I still don’t know what I believe (and trust me, I question it a lot), but I know that in a world as fucked up, full of hatred and evil and sadness as this one, there just CAN’T be a god that’s all powerful and all knowing. That makes it sound like I can never see the good things that god may have a hand in–and that’s not true at all.  It just means that in my viewpoint, god can’t let amazingly good things happen for some people and then really terrible things happen to others.   A god like that couldn’t let terrible things happen to children.  He couldn’t let genocide and famine and natural disasters and horrible accidents happen.  And on a very personal note, he couldn’t give babies to thousands of people who weren’t ready and won’t take care of them, when there are thousands more wannabe mommas and poppas whose hearts are aching every night wanting to hold and care for and nurture a child.

Yesterday, a first-grade girl at one of the schools I work with came running up to me to get a hug.  She’s adorable–big, round face covered in freckles.  Short dirty-blond bob.  A total tomboy-looking baby girl.  Most days, she comes to school wearing dirty clothes.  Her hair is greasy and a mess–clearly no one does it for her.  She barely knows me, but if she sees me, she comes running to me to give me a hug (which is typical of many city school kids.  I get hugs from children I don’t know from classrooms I don’t work with on a daily basis).  Every time I see this particular baby, my throat catches.  This baby whose mom or dad is obviously ill-equipped to deal with her.  She is often tired, struggles with work, gets into trouble a lot.  In first grade, this is a reflection of parenting.  And it’s a reflection that breaks my infertile heart for two reasons.  The first is obvious–it’s unfair that her parents got to have a child while we are ready and waiting and trying for years.  The second is that it’s so ugly to feel so judge-y and mean-spirited towards people who have what I want just because I don’t have what I want.  It’s terrible and it’s not who I am, not who I used to be anyway.  Yet here we are, me judging every person I deem to be a shitty parent (and don’t worry, when I say shitty parent I mean really shitty, like allowing abuse to go on, not loving their kids or neglecting them) and wondering why them???  More importantly–why not me????

Last night we were watching the Nye/Ham debate.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how ridiculous Ham sounded.  There was not one iota of actual provable evidence that he could give.  All he could do was back up what he was saying with the Bible.  A book.  Can I use a fairy tale book to prove things are true??  Or any fictional work??  No.  So why is this an acceptable form of proof.  For me, it’s not.  For me, if you believe, it’s because you believe.  You have faith.  You don’t need or expect proof, and you are willing to overlook things in the name of your faith.  “It just is because that’s how God made it.”  I can respect that, I can understand that.  I was there at one time, too.

But I can’t do it.  I can’t look around me and honestly say that I believe in the Christian God.  When people say “you’ll have babies–just give it time–there’s a great plan at work–God works in mysterious ways–you should pray more so you will get pregnant”–I want to scream, I want to tear down all the walls, throw a temper tantrum.  Don’t tell me to pray–don’t you think people dealing with genocide and poverty and abuse and every other atrocity that is 100 times worse than anything I’ve ever experienced pray??? And where does that get them?  Don’t tell me that God has some grand plan for everyone.  Then maybe God shouldn’t have put it in my heart to want to be a mom so badly.

For  anyone that’s reading this and thinks that I look at the world as a terrible place, that I am miserably unhappy or completely off my rocker with grief and frustration and anger, know that I do not and I am not.  Do I look at the world, especially when I’m in nature, and get a tremendous sense of “something” that I have yet to identify?  Do I sometimes sit in a room full of friends and feel a complete and total contentedness and wonder if there is a greater power at work bringing kindred spirits together to love each other?  Of course.  Which is why I would still put myself in the “undecided” religious camp.  And for now, at least, that’s going to have to be good enough for me…


4 Responses to “undecided”

  1. bmpicc February 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Like you, I fall in the “undecided” category. I completely understand where you are coming from. We had our kids baptised for the simple, and slightly ridiculous, reason that if they ever want to marry in a church they should be able to. I could not believe the paperwork requirements when we got married! I often want to believe. I am a bit envious of those that can believe so easily. My problem is people who use it as a crutch, or an excuse for getting what they want. “We prayed and prayed until we were told to pull our son from school and start homeschooling”. What? Did you get a letter in the mail? Or was it that you couldn’t listen to your child complain about early mornings and that you would rather sign him up for travel hockey so you “heard” the answer you wanted? Perhaps this has been a problem all along, but I have noticed in the last 10 years of my adult life that the Bible tends to be used more as ammunition. It is not being used as the guide and comfort that I feel it was intended to be. Instead it gets thrown around like a weapon of sorts. For me, that is something I choose not to be a part of at this point in my life. I think if there is a God when I pass I will have a chance to stand at the pearly gates. When I explain my stance and reason for questioning to him (or her) they will see that I still lived my life the best I could. That I didn’t use my “undecided” as an excuse to not care or be a bad person. That I probably have my head on straighter than most “Biblethumpers” out there. I have a feeling he (of she) would see the same thing about you!

  2. Jen February 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Very thoughtful and well-written, as always! I have never been religious. I do believe there are forces bigger than us in the universe but I’ve never understood how people can be so adamant that theirs is the “right” God. I’m just one small person in grand scheme of things – how can I claim to know the divine secrets of the universe? Plus, I don’t want to be so set in my own beliefs that I stop questioning and close myself off to new opportunities for exploration and learning. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and sometimes people are a mix of good and bad qualities and there seems to be no reason in any of it. I think you can be an optimist and a realist at the same time. You can question why terrible, nonsensical things are happening all the time but also see all the good in people and the world.

    I’m sorry that you have to go through the struggle of infertility. You’re a smart, beautiful, caring, funny, amazing person and you will be the best mom! Infinity of love and hugs!

  3. Martina Bex February 17, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I remember that night at the Cab very well! I am glad that you stood up and spoke, because I remember feeling like it helped me to understand you. And I’m glad that you wrote this post for the same reason! Not like I NEED to understand you, but it’s a nice and kind of creepy way to feel connected even though we’re not working together in close Casa quarters anymore 🙂

    • shmeruns February 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks, Martina. And yes. I sometimes miss the Casa and Pereda’s craziness and Spanish-major insanity. haha.

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