Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine). Another term less often used is “religiousness”.
I was not brought up in church. I was christened as a baby (no doubt due to family pressure, as my parents, especially my father, were opposed to religious indoctrination), and until the age of 12, never stepped foot in a church. Our family didn’t pray. Even the extended family didn’t participate in outward signs of faith, such as saying grace, etc. My parents are both highly intelligent and well-educated. They had their faults, but were good parents who raised their children to have morals and manners.
I eventually did find my way into the world of religion and church. 40 years later, I still cannot wrap my head around that foreign world. I am fascinated by the christian culture, yet repulsed by it. This dichotomy has been plaguing me and hampering my spiritual growth. Why can’t I sit in church on Sunday and feel content? I am challenged when I go to church. I am challenged by my deep desire to believe that the christian god and his son, Jesus Christ, were/are real. When the pastor speaks of the love that Jesus had for the broken, I am convinced that this time, my doubts and lingering negativity will be replaced by the power of the holy spirit living inside of me. So, what is it that makes believing in a higher power so difficult?
All of my doubts and my negative thoughts are echoed and sometimes shared by other christians. I temporarily no longer felt alone, wracked by my inability to have “good enough” faith. I wanted to be like Jesus, but the christian faith requires the belief of the omnipotent god that created this world. The explanations by the faithful for the condition of the world and the people that god created seem hollow. It’s a fallen world. Heaven is our real destination, if you are a christian. Christians are told that in order to experience this afterlife, one must be a chrisitan. No Jews, Buddhists, etc. will be going to heaven. I scratched my head and wondered and then another pat answer was given to me in an attempt to explain this. I didn’t like the answer, but I still struggled to believe. I continued to pray, read the bible, go to church. I did these things because I want to do the right things.
To compound the theological questions, there is the christian culture that gnaws away at my desire for religious maturity. I didn’t want to be an immature christian, so I worked very hard at not associating with those people who call themselves christians but don’t practice what they preach. I know, christians are only human and can be just as horrible as non-christians. I practiced forgiveness and grace as I try to do with most people. We are all struggling, we should hold each other accountable. I think there is a scripture about iron sharpening iron and bearing each other’s burdens. I’ve done that. Check.
So, what is lacking? Is it that I didn’t have a relationship with god? Well, I can’t say I haven’t tried. Many, many prayers have been said and I have listened. I thought that relationships involved two-way communication, but I’m not hearing anyone answering.
I wanted to start another paragraph here and rant about the horrible, unspeakable suffering in this world, but I’m not going to. Everyone already knows this. Personally, I see it every day in the deteriorating health of a man who has thousands of people praying for him daily. So-called god is not answering the prayers of his own mother, the epitome of religious goodness. God, the deity that created the entire world, has either chosen not to intervene in the lives of his flock, is intervening in ways that are mysterious and unfathomable, or does not exist at all. Of course, most believers choose the second answer and they will find all kinds of ways to back up that belief. Paul suffered. Ok, I can buy that (if you believe in biblical stories). So, why continue to pray for anything, at all? God already knows how fucked up the world is and every day babies get raped and murdered, good people suffer horribly in the worst ways imaginable and yet the god who answers prayers allows these atrocities. I don’t hate him. I merely have no use for him anymore. I still want to have a religious epiphany, but I am no longer seeking it. Praying does not hold a place anymore in my life. Church is fine when it does good, but I can do good without it. I never did find a church community that embraced me, uplifted me and carried me through the hard times, like it was supposed to do, so I won’t be losing that. I will just be losing the 40 year quest for that that has left me bitter and angry. Bitterness and angry will be replaced by contentment, acceptance and I will finally put my searching to rest. And I will rest.