When Truth Is Subjective
I used to accept my family’s faith as truth without question. Now, I don’t.
Last week my mom and dad came to town to visit my mom’s parents, after Granny had spent a few days in the hospital. I tagged along, naturally, to catch up on the family gossip. My mom’s side of the family is rather dysfunctional and everybody (including me) is nosy about everybody else, so there’s usually gossip.
My aunt recently moved back in again with my grandparents — seemingly without her husband, so nosy me is still wondering what the story is there — and didn’t have much to tell about her older daughter, who seems to be the proverbial black sheep of the family ever since she started seeing her boyfriend and became hooked on drugs. But Terri did have some news about Amanda’s oldest son, who will be ten this year: apparently, he stood up in church recently and made a profession of faith, and will be baptized. Expressions of pride and positivity came from Terri, my parents, and my grandparents, while I just sat there on the couch, avoiding eye contact while thinking, “Great. Another one for the cult.”
I haven’t talked to him so I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, but I don’t think Nathan even knows what he’s saying right now. He’s not old enough, nor does he have enough experience or perspective, to make such a big decision. Then again, I suppose if he makes the commitment now, he can always renege on it later if he chooses. I did, and while I fit in externally with my family just fine, internally, I now hold values and beliefs entirely different from those of most of my family members. The exact values and beliefs, in fact, that would render me the proverbial black sheep — the most notable of which is —
I no longer identify as a Christian.
There. I said it.
If God is going to strike me down for it, then may He do it now.
This is probably the biggest one, and it’s one that I’m not sure most of my family is even aware of. It’s not really something I feel like most of them need to know. I’m probably better off just sitting there on the couch, wisely keeping my mouth shut. As it is, I think my mom is the only one who really knows about my skepticism, and while she took it better than she could have, I don’t think she’s comfortable with it. I’m also not sure she’s aware of the depth to which I now disregard Christianity.
I know that for a lot of people to lose their faith, something big has to happen. For a lot of other people, something big happens and they just go on clinging to their beliefs. Nothing at all really happened to me, but I hadn’t had a strong belief in God in a long time.
My family are Christians. My Nonnie is Catholic, and for as long as I’ve known her, that’s been important to her. She used to take me to church with her when I stayed at her house, and I had these little figurines of the Virgin Mary and one that I liked better because it was prettier, Our Lady of Fatima, that I remember asking a priest to bless one day. Blessing it didn’t change anything about it. It was still the same little statue.
Nonnie enrolled me in the only private Catholic school in the area, and my grandparents generously paid the tuition. OLQP gave me a great academic education. As for the religious education, it was okay. To me, Religion was just another class that my friends and I had to be in every day, and Mass was something to be dreaded once a week. For years, though, I believed that you had to go to church once a week, and so after my parents and I quit going on Sundays, I counted Mass as my weekly church service and let myself off the hook.
Years later, I would start going to church every Sunday — with my high school boyfriend’s family, and mostly because afterward I’d get to spend the day at their house. Church became a social activity, and more or less stayed that way until I quit going again.
The only time I felt like I was deepening the faith that had been taught to me since before I was even old enough to understand it was during a time in college. The way I remember it is just that I was at church one Sunday, during a time when my college boyfriend played a leader role in the church, and I just felt like I needed answers. (To what, I don’t know.) So I picked up my Bible and determined that I would read the entire book, from start to finish, and for a while, I read some every day, and I prayed more, and I listened to more Christian music. Eventually, though, I stopped, somewhere in the book of Numbers. I’m sure my place is still marked, too.
I don’t think I ever found the answers I sought. I can’t recall anything special or otherworldly or significant developing from my attempt to more firmly root myself in Christianity (and it seems worth noting that I haven’t given much thought or attempt to any other religion, though I’ve expressed interest in Buddhism). Sure, when I prayed for someone’s pain to go away during church on one or more occasions, it did, they said. But couldn’t that have been just a phenomenon similar to the placebo effect? If you believe something enough, it becomes real to you.
There’s not really any one reason why I left the church.
Maybe that’s good. No one drove me away. I don’t feel like I’m on entirely negative terms with Christianity — though there are certainly things that I don’t agree with. I’ve known plenty of Christian people who are hypocritical, judgmental, and just aren’t generally very good people. At the same time, I’ve known Christians who really want to change the world for the better, and are working every moment to do that, just through being good people. And, at the same time as that, I can think of people who are Muslim, or Buddhist, or gay, or transgender, and they are still incredibly kind, open, good people.
How could I possibly believe in a faith that is so exclusive as to assume that people who don’t subscribe to the same beliefs will not move on to the wonderful afterlife that supposedly awaits? Or that they’re not as good just because they’re different.
How could I want to?
When Truth Becomes Subjective
I talked with Nonnie on the phone last night for a few minutes, and she said, “You and Dylan are Christians. Pray every night before you go to bed. Just tell the Lord, and He’ll take care.” Well. We’re not — though I didn’t feel like she needed to be burdened with that knowledge. We don’t pray, either, although sometimes when I feel really desperate about something, I’ll send up a prayer or a wish or a request to whatever might be up there. A god, or the God, or just the universe.
I’ve heard the phrase “your truth” associated with faith long enough to have come to believe that “your truth” really means your truth. As in, what’s true for you — or for my family — may not be true for me. It’s similar to the idea that for Christians, Jesus is the Messiah, the true Son of God, both man and god in one. But for Muslims, Jesus is just a prophet, not unlike Muhammad. What’s true for Christians is not true for Muslims, and vice versa. Similar to that might be the belief that the Jews are God’s chosen people, and Jesus himself was Jewish, but Christians follow Jesus and Christians are not Jewish, so… I’ve come to believe that truth, in many forms, is subjective, and I don’t have to understand everything.
I don’t know what I identify as now. Agnostic might be the closest. I still believe in something — a god, a creator, a spiritual universal force of some kind. I just don’t know what that is, and I can’t prove that it even exists. Though if it does, then I’m open to whatever it is.