Monday, March 5, 2012

The Day I Lost My Faith

My hubby sent me a link, that brought me somewhere else - to a blog entry recounting the writer's journey from Catholic to Agnostic: It's from 2007, but that doesn't matter, it's still as poignant and thoughtful today.

The article made me think about my own conversion as she puts it. Hers seems... much more thoughtful and torturous than my own. Though, I don't think mine was any easier.

I was 13 when I started thinking about god, and whether or not he was real. I read the bible, hoping it would re-kindle my dwindling faith. I even got baptized in hopes it would help me feel a connection to God. neither worked as I'd hoped. Instead I was left angry and faithless. I spent the year in turmoil before I eventually made my decision.

I read the bible, up to maybe Genesis; it's a whole fucking chapter of who sired who. Watching paint dry is more interesting. But the bits that stuck were before that. The bible straight out says that women were evil, just for being born. As a young woman, this pissed me off to no end. It made my blood boil. I'm evil because Eve opened Adam's eyes to the truth, to the real world?! I didn't see how that was such a bad thing in the first place.

On the whole, the bible is pretty misogynistic, at least that's how my 13 year old brain felt. I haven't picked up a bible since, I don't see any reason to either. I decided then and there, that sunny afternoon, that I wanted no part in any religion that thought me evil or somehow less just because I was a woman. I refused to believe that just because I had a vagina instead of a penis I was less worthy, of less value, less capable, less anything.

I'm pretty sure I was baptized by the time I came to that conclusion and I know the experience weighed heavily on me then, and for years after. You see, I wasn't a 'believer' when I was baptized. I was, instead, confused, scared (who did you turn to when God wasn't there?), and wanting to please my religious mom. My actual baptism was a nightmare. See, I have asthma, so I've never had good lung capacity, and during a baptism - at least at the church I was going to then - the preacher dude held you under the water while he did the ritual, much talking was involved.

They did baptisms in batches, since they had to fill this tank in the floor of the stage with water. Really cold water by the way. And we had to wear white shifts. When my turn came, I gasped as I stepped into the cold ass water. He grabbed my wrists, and pulled them behind me and held them in one big hand. He told me to take a deep breath, then wrapped his other hand around the back of my neck, and dunked me. About half way through his long-winded speech, I need to breath. I tired to pull up, but he pushed me in farther. I squirmed and tried to get away, but his hand was like a vise on my wrists. I should mention, that at 13, I was 5ft 6in tall, and a size 13. I was not child-sized. The water was under 4 ft, so part of my problem was my body was doubled over and confined by the floor, and his body pressed to mine. I was terrified. I thought I was going to die. I needed AIR, and this brute just squeezed my neck harder!

When all was said and done, I didn't die, clearly, and I didn't like Christians one little bit. All I could think, over and over in my head was "he tried to kill me!"  For at least ten, maybe fifteen years after this, any time someone touched the back of my neck, I freaked out, like hyperventilating panic attack. You can imagine what a damper this put on any chance I had to make-out with boys/men! It didn't matter that I wasn't in water, that he wanted to kiss me, pull me in to him, not kill me, I couldn't handle it. To this day I don't like it. I tense up. My husband knows, as I've shared this story with him, and doesn't touch the back of my neck. So yeah, the baptism only secured my dislike of Christians and their views on women.

For years I had a hatred of Christianity. Anytime the religion was brought up, an intense feeling of betrayal, hatred, and disdain filled me. I didn't hate the believers, my mom believed, and still does, in God, and I love her more than I can ever articulate. But I think pushing your beliefs on others is just rude. I don't push my atheism at others. That's one of the things I respect most about my mom: she believes in god, she goes to church, she prays, she says grace at meals, she prays for non-believers in her life, just as she does believers, Christ/God/Christianity is part of her life, part of who she is, but she never pushes, she doesn't try to recruit others. I try to emulate her in that.

I realized back then that religion was a safety blanket for dealing with the world, a way to make it less scary. And when I abandoned mine, I was scared. One of my favourite sayings in my teen years was "ignorance is bliss", and I believed that with all my heart. If I'd just stayed ignorant, if I'd just not questioned God, I could believe in him, that he was helping me, that he had a plan, that my life didn't end with my decomposing body. But, I couldn't not question. I'm not the smartest person, but I have heavy doses of skepticism, common sense, and feminist pride.

Ironically, when I was in first year university, I tried on a lark, to pray to Fria, an ancient Germanic goddess who was an early incarnation of the Viking goddess Freya. I was in so much pain carrying my 50+lbs of school books home with a broken backpack. I saw the moon, half full in the 4pm blue sky, I thought of her immediately.

How did I learn of Fria? When I was 14 I read a book that was based on historical fact, about the time the Romans were invading what is now Germany/Austria.  Fria was an earth goddess, her tree the oak, her 'planet' the moon. Women here sacred, but they too could be warriors in their culture. Women's menstrual blood was scared, because it signified a woman's ability to make babies, to create life, so they believed. Fria caught in my mind then, and at 19, I still wanted to believe. I don't actually believe she's real, and yet... I prayed to her all through university. I have marked my flesh with her moon where my lifeblood runs close to the skin (inner wrists). I freely give her part of my soul.  If she were to command me, I would follow.

That day, with the moon high, facing off the sun, so prominent, I prayed. I prayed for her to take the pain away, to help me get through it, to help me get home without breaking down, overwhelmed with the pain. As I stared at the moon, begging for Fria's mercy, it came. The pain was still there, but somehow, miraculously, it didn't touch me. I could feel it, but it was like I was outside of the pain somehow, like I was looking at it, not truly feeling it. In that moment I believed, or at least I wanted to. My logical mind just can't believe in something there is no proof for. I can't help it. And yet, I made my allegiance to her that day. Whenever I say the moon from that day on, I thought of her. I saw the moon as my symbol for her answer. If I could clearly see the moon, then everything would be all right. If the moon was clouded over, if it kept hiding in the clouds, then everything wouldn't be all right. And you know, it worked for me. It really did. Seeing the moon clear, even in hard times, made me feel like I could concur whatever came at me, that with her at my side, I would be fine. That is the power of faith.

Do I still believe?  I'm not entirely sure. Do I still love Fria? Oh yes. Pain is a theme in my life. To be given a reprieve, even for so short a time, for that one act of kindness, she had my heart and soul, and will always have a piece of me.

I guess I just couldn't live without a safety blanket of my own.

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