As today is Good Friday, I wanted to post about something very close to my heart and which has affected me personally for a good part of my life. I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts and will respond to everything you throw at me. I know this can be a sensitive subject which is why I put in my own story, I want people to see an example of how religion is not just something you put in a box on Facebook.
Growing up, I was incredibly religious. Interestingly, not because of my family; they went sporadically and at big holidays, but because of a deep need to belong somewhere, to have something in my life to hold on to and that wouldn't change or get sick of me. As a Protestant being educated in a rural Catholic school, from when I was aware that I was different, it never went away. You would think that being bullied because of something that I couldn't change at age 7 would push me away from religion, it had the opposite effect. I clung onto that thing that made me different and put everything I had into it. My parents were always really supportive and so I knew that it was their problem and not mine. When I began to go to bible camps I felt that I had found people who would accept me and I could ignore a lot of the strange things they were teaching. From there I became a Born- Again Christian and up until I was 17, everyone knew me as the religious one. Even when I left the Catholic school at 10 and went to a Church of Ireland one to finish primary and then for secondary, I still felt that people didn't understand and was bullied for it there too. My faith became a crutch even more at that time because now it was personal beliefs being attacked, not the faith I was born into.
Finally when I was in my final year of secondary school, things changed. It wasn't a sudden thing, not at all, it took a lot of thinking and revision of the thing which I had been believing since I was 8 years old. I realised that I didn't feel it any more. That connection to my religion, to the way I justified the world in my eyes wasn't there any more. I had friends who were of other faiths, not just Christian, and I couldn't understand why it was that because I was born Christian and just happened to be raised it that I got into heaven when my Muslim friend, who was much more devout to her faith than I ever was, didn't? As things started to come out about abuses in the church and I thought about how they treated the people who put all of their belief into them, I knew I couldn't be the same person any more. I changed personally and felt stronger in myself and so didn't need the crutch any more. I felt confident in my own ideas and way of living.
Nowadays I categorise myself as agnostic. If there is a god, they will not care about what I was born as. I like to think that if there is something to be reaching for, an afterlife or anything else, that whoever gets to choose if I get in will see who I am as a person, not which team I back. I hope they can see the person that I had hid behind my faith and see that I was someone worth setting free. Maybe I will go back to religion, I can’t tell. Something may happen to help me believe again and if that happens, I will welcome it but I can’t force it to happen, nor would I want to.
Because of this, because of how I was treated for what was one of the most important things in my life, I will never judge someone for their faith. I have many close friends and family who have a strong Christian and today will not be having meat because it’s Good Friday. Religion is not a set thing, it means different things for different people and considering yourself better because don’t hold the same beliefs is incredibly ignorant. There will be loads of people who will put pictures of themselves eating a burger today in an attempt to spite those who believe. It is fine if you fine if you don’t believe and I know it can be annoying if a whole country is very much wrapped up in the state religion but don’t think that by saying these things you will somehow shame people from stopping it, nor will it make yourself look more intelligent because (I cannot count the amount of people who have said this to me) “religion is for idiots who will believe anything”.
As someone who has read the bible (twice) I can tell you that it is not just a bunch of stories in a book. Try reading it before you pass judgement or look at the presentation of the faith in classical times. You will be shocked at how much you will learn. And the thing is, you can do this for all of the major religions. You will find connections between them and see that in many cases they are not that different and that there are merits for all. Don’t assume that just because someone believes that they are weak, or ignorant, or don’t believe in science (again, another one I got).You don’t know the full story. And so, if today if my friends are not eating meat or not drinking, I’ll join them. We know how each other feels but I don’t think it’s my place to tell them otherwise.