Question from Livejournal’s Writer’s Block: Have you ever considered converting to another religion?
I always intended to talk about this someday, so I suppose now is as good a time as any.
The simple answer: Oh, yes, I have.
The long answer: I was raised in a Christian Protestant household. My parents–first Mom and the bio-dad, now Mom and Teddy–claim Christianity as their religion but aren’t involved in the church, aside from holidays and a short-lived period where Mom decided we were going to become a good, wholesome family and start going every Sunday. (Luckily, I was old enough to get out of it most of the time with only Mom’s yelling and the threat of Hell looming over my head.) When I was elementary school, I was firm in my Christian beliefs. I attended services with my grandparents, I sang in church, I played the tambourine, I tried to teach friends about God…I felt comfortable, I guess. I’ve never had a problem believing that God exists, regardless of the form He may take.
Toward the end of fifth grade, my bubble of ignorance burst for the first time–not in relation to religion, necessarily, but in general. I stopped listening to everything my family said and started to think for myself. In sixth grade, I floundered for a while, unsure of what to believe; there were things taught in my church that I just didn’t feel were right. I looked into Wicca and Paganism but never seriously tried either. Instead, I shaped my own beliefs…not settling on any one religion, but taking different ideas from several.
In eighth grade, like a beacon of light in the darkness, came Unitarian Universalism.
Never had anything resonated with me so much. I was dealing with a lot in junior high, so I can’t say I remember exactly what lead me to find UU or how deeply I looked into it, but since ninth grade, I’ve become steadily more strong and comfortable in my beliefs. Because my family is conservative, albeit a bit hypocritical when it comes to their religion, I’ve been unable to attend UU church services thus far. It doesn’t really bother me because UU is a lot about independent thought and finding one’s own path, but I want my children to be raised in the sort of environment that I think a UU church would offer, and I believe community can play an important role in one’s faith, so I would love to find a congregation once I’m out of the house.
Basically, I have everything I had when I was little. I have an idea of God, and I actually think that He–or She, or It, as the case may be–is so much more all-encompassing than I ever realized before. I have faith in prayer, faith in the fact that there’s someone out there who loves us despite our imperfections, who made us to be imperfect. I am able to reconcile my faith with science. I am able to have that beautiful, peaceful feeling that comes with spending time with my friends or looking at a sunrise and realizing that there is something so much bigger than us but that we are a part of that something, that there is a plan and a purpose for us, that the universe is a place filled with love and that the parts that are broken can be fixed. I’m very, very happy.
Outside of that, I have other things that I didn’t have with my former mindset. My idea of God coincides with my morals and allows me to see the beauty and truth in other religions rather than just thinking that they’re people who have gone wrong somewhere and will end up burning in Hell if they don’t convert. My God is truly an all-loving God, but he is also a Godwho expects something of us, who will not allow us to sit around and hope to get by completely on His mercy. I have realized that the Fall may not have been such a terrible thing after all. I have realized that we love God more than anyone because there is love for God in every other love that we have–when I love my family, I am also loving God, the One who created that family. I’ve rethought my idea of worship so that I no longer associate it with bowing to kiss some tyrant’s feet but with using this life I’ve been given to be the best, truest version of myself I possibly can and celebrating God’s love through service to the world He’s allowing me to enjoy. I’ve come to the conclusion that we do not need angels and chariots to lead the way to Heaven, that we can create Heaven right here on Earth by figuring out what we were put here to do and doing it, doing it with love, with faith, with patience.
My friend Mindy, a very loving Christian whose church I visited recently, has said before that she wants to be a beacon for God. Though our idea of God may differ a bit, I also want to act as a light–for God, and for humanity.
One day, I want a family of my own. I want them to be allowed to have their own theories about life and God and to never feel unworthy of anything. I want them to grow up in a world where all of this discrimination does not exist, or at least is getting less and less. They’ll be in contact with people of different orientations, different races, different religions. They will know that I will love and accept them unconditionally. And I hope that they will go on to be beacons, too, to be even better and brighter than I am.
A lot of bad things happen in this world. Sometimes it seems shrouded in darkness, and sometimes it seems like there’s nothing we can do. But if I can light up even one little part of the world, take away just a little of that darkness–if I can use my fire to bring other flames to life–then everything will be worth it. One day, with enough people trying, with enough people acting as beacons, our planet can be brighter than the sun. Even the biblical garden might seem stark in comparison.
And that is why I’m a Unitarian Universalist. That is why I want to go into counseling Psychology. That is why I chose Berry, a college that seems sincere about students working not only with our heads, but with our hearts and hands. That is why, quite often, I write. For my future, my children’s futures, and the future of the world as a whole…for the light and love I can see through the darkness.
Okay, okay, I’ll hush now.