Why I Believe in God: A Personal Journey
Having engaged in an enlightening and entertaining discussion of wandererh's hub Why Do Unbelievers Always Want Proof? I thought that it would be beneficial to those involved if I made a statement of faith and told of my own, personal journey.
But first I want to clearly state that it is unusual for me to share so openly about my personal self in what I consider to be an informative medium. While I do tend to editorialize, I do not wish to lose your interest by being too self-focused. I hope that those reading this message will take something away from it, whatever that may be. I also welcome intelligent discourse on the subject.
I began my life as a Catholic. This was based on a promise that my father had made to a priest (the one who performed my parents' wedding). My parents for their part, aren't particularly faith-filled people. They are what I would consider "religious" rather than "spiritual." My father in particular seems to enjoy pressing his religious preferences upon anyone who will listen, and is intent in disagreeing with anyone who doesn't agree with Pope Pius (my father is very behind the times). Arguments with him are futile and often become aggressive. He will not hear another perspective and refuses to educate himself about the current standing of the Catholic church.
Furthermore, my father repeatedly used God to threaten his children into behaving. Ultimately we learned to tune him out, and both of us strayed from the Catholic faith uncommonly early in our lives. We were taught, at home and in school (for we attended a Catholic school) that God was eager to punish us for our wrongdoings, and that we must make regular confessions to a priest in order to be spared the agony of hell. We, as Catholic children, were taught that we had been baptized as babies and therefore had a choice in our sin. If we "chose" to sin we would suffer an eternity in hell and there was no redemption except through confession to a priest.
We were subjected to Catholic school. While I know many students who successfully graduated from a Catholic grade school or high school without serious emotional ramifications, I did not. We went to he kind of Catholic school which, in the mid 1980s, was still using physical punishment. Verbal and emotional abuse from teachers was common, and our freedoms were constantly undermined. We were not to question the Pope. The Pope was the authority on God and Christ. Nevermind that "the" authority changed every time a Pope died. We were not to question.
I began to question when I was twelve years old, during a religion class. The teacher had been teaching about how God punished those who broke His commandments, and how He was eager to have justice. I couldn't wrap my head around it. God was a loving God, was He not? Hadn't I learned that somewhere? Why the contradiction?
We kept journals in my religion class in grade school, and one of my classmates wrote an entry that made me question the concept of hell. She wrote that God loves everyone, including people like Hitler and Ted Bundy. It really got me to thinking. If God loves us all so very much, how could He banish us to hell for an eternity? It just didn't make sense.
Even before my sentence in Catholic school was over and I was transferred to a public institution much better suited to me (personally), I had taken the first several steps to converting to Wicca. A friend's sister had books on satanism and Wicca and I became incredibly interested. As a seeker, the Wiccan religion made a great deal of sense to me. Thus began my "true" journey.
The Pagan Season
By the time I graduated from Catholic grade school, I was a practicing pagan. I cannot say that I was wiccan because I never did believe in many of their teachings, and some of it was downright confusing. For those who don't know or understand what I mean, let me iterate:
I believed in multiple gods. In particular I tended to honor the Egyptian pantheon, particularly Isis up to the end, when I was experimenting with calling upon Sekmet.
I believed (and believe) that magick is a very real thing in the world and that the powers of nature and the Universe could be called down in order to achieve certain goals and/or desires for oneself.
I believed that there was no real line between good and evil and that everything was just a gray area.
I believed that there was no Truth, just truth, and that each individual had to find his or her own path.
I was a practicing pagan for a long time, right up until the time that I met my (Christian) husband. For about a year two friends and I struggled to convert him to paganism. We all felt that our home and family life would be more peaceful if we accomplished this particular goal. But he couldn't make sense of what we said, and he couldn't relate to it on a personal level. I became frustrated, and our lives became less and less peaceful together.
I stopped practicing my religion, and I began to spend more and more time in prayer (to the Goddess, and often specifically Sekmet, the Goddess of war and vengeance). I wasn't happy, but I felt that I was right, and in those days, being right was the most important thing in the world. I made almost everyone feel good about their religious choices, except, generally speaking, Christians and Muslims, who fought me tooth and nail and explained that I was worshipping demons. I laughed at them throughout those sixteen years of my life.
I made many people feel good about their choices, and I hurt a lot of feelings and discouraged many a true believer. It saddens me now.
What Not to Say to an Unbeliever
I could very well use another entire hub in order to cover this topic, and the truth is that ultimately I intend to write a book on the subject of how to approach unbelievers when you wish to spread the word about Jesus Christ. But for the moment, I feel that I can place sufficient information in here to see my readers through.
My husband and I went through an incredibly difficult season in our lives. We were living in an apartment where the landlord refused to do any work on our home even when the electricity turned off every time we turned on the stove. We were stressed to the gills and we weren't getting along very well. We even separated for several days while a decision was made as to whether or not to move forward with our marriage.
I had been "sitting on the fence" for a while spiritually. I still had full faith in God, but I questioned why so many horrible things were happening in our lives. My prayers to the Goddess I honored were going unanswered, and I was frustrated with the God of Abraham because my husband had taught me some things that confused me and made me angry. I was out in the cold and frustrated when a neighbor invited me to their church.
I wasn't comfortable, but they compelled me to go, and so I toddled off with them to a breakfast and then a movie at the church. Throughout the experience, I was treated like a child, alternately cajoled, scolded and gently chided. At one point one of their members got so close to my face that she was spitting directly into my eyes as she screamed on and on about how she was the bridegroom of Christ. This incident was not just intimidating -- it was downright scary!
The pastor himself was a bit better, though he went on and on about how I worshipped demons and needed to publicly confess my sin before the entire congregation so that I could be healed. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, and my feelings were hurt. I had gone into the experience considering myself a true seeker of God, and came out of it more determined than ever that I would never be a Christian.
It Gets into Your Head
In the meantime, there were Christians all around me. As an unbeliever, I felt as though I was surrounded by them, all of them shoving Bibles and Watchtower magazines in my face. I felt threatened and I felt annoyed by them. Every now and again, when waiting for a particularly late bus, I would pick up a discarded magazine and begin to read it. Though I was never destined to become a Jehovah's Witness, those magazines got into my head. Bit by bit, I was able to make sense of what others believed, and why.
Nevertheless, I stood firm in my belief that it was a Goddess, and not a god, who ruled the world. What could God possibly do for me? I had been taught growing up that He was a vengeful God, a wrathful God, not a loving God. I was frightened of God. I feared Him more than I feared hell! Furthermore, I feared those Christians I had met, the church I had encountered.
But somewhere along the line, the Christian teachings had begun to seep into my subconscious. As someone interested in anthropology I began to seek out books about the Amish and Mennonite ways of life, began to explore more deeply what their religious ideals were. I devoured everything I could readily get my hands on. I read fiction and non-fiction, some books I read more than once.
It wasn't the way of life that got into me. It was the way they believed that struck a chord deep within me. The beliefs of the people in these books were so pure, so deeply ingrained, and for me, so beautiful that I realized that I had long since stopped believing except in the most superficial way. I needed something different. I needed a serious change.
Then a Miracle Became Personal
I wasn't a Christian yet when I had my first obvious miracle as an adult (there was an incident in childhood that I repeatedly overlook). I won't tell the entire story here, because it would make a very lengthy separate hub in and of itself, but God provided me with a child who was never meant to be. She could have (and perhaps should have) died several times during my pregnancy and during her birth. The fact that she was born alive is, in and of itself, a miracle.
I had an unattended pregnancy with my daughter, and her birth was accomplished with minimal medical interventions. I credit God entirely with her life.
There have been other miracles since then, some big and some small. I try to always be looking out for God's presence in my life, and I find that if you are looking for it, you will find it. It is much the same as a scientific unbeliever looking to science for answers: I simply look to God. I believe that it takes more faith to not believe in God than it does to believe in Him!
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