I believe in God, or rather I believe that I believe in God. Sometimes this statement changes to I must believe in God in God while at other times am not really sure whether or not I believe in God at all. My journey of faith and relationship in religion has so far negated the biblical concept engendered in the scripture about raising a child in a certain way and the child will not depart from it when they grow up. Whereas I may not be definitive about my belief in God, I am quite certain about where I stand with regard to organized religion. Currently, I am not a registered member of any formal religious organization. Further, I can only be found in a religious function when it is absolutely unavoidable like when a loved one is involved in the function such as a wedding. There was a time when I was an extremely religious person, primarily under the guidance of my parents. After that, I became rebellious and sought to have a choice in the matter. Eventually, I would start studying about religion and the concept of God in God in general, leading to a stint of atheism. Further study would transform the atheism into an element of agnostic belief (Schnell, 2015). Eventually, my belief about God would become fluid while the relationship with organized religion would become inexistent. It is very possible, even probable that God does exist, however, humans who believe that they know for a fact about who God is enough to explain this fact to other Christians are, in my opinion, either dishonest or misinformed .
The first phase in my relationship with religion, and indeed God stems from having being raised in a committed and ardent religious family. For as long as I can remember religion was an integral part of our family with my parents being, in my opinion as a child, the most pious people under the sun. Prayer was a constant part of our lives with a form of prayers being routinely offered before most regular events such as meals, sleeping, and getting out of bed. Attending religious services and functions was customary and would happen at least three times every single week. I was taught about what kind of a person God wanted me to be and what kind of an individual my religion expected of me both as a child and when I grow up. Two important things stand out whenever I think about this segment of my life. First, every aspect of my current and future life was mainly predicated on religion. Who I was and what I wanted to be was closely intertwined with my religious beliefs. Secondly, it is hard to tell, by looking back, the difference between religious dogma and divine instruction. The organized religion that my family belonged to circumspectly combined what God says as par the religious books used, and what church leaders said so that the two became intertwined. My journey of growth and my journey informal religion became one larger journey since my parents ensured that I was carefully and consistently indoctrinated. It is also important to note that the primary motivation used in the indoctrination process was the threat of damnation. The fear of eternal damnation was consistently and relentlessly kept alive in my small mind and it did succeed in keeping me a faithful member of the religions. Doing the right thing even when no one else could see me become a part of my young life, because, as I was taught, God could see me and record my actions on a 24-hour basis. My organized religion foundation can thus be assessed as having been solid.
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The second phase of my relationship with organized religion and God came as a consequence of pure post-pubescent rebellion. This was a tragic segment of my life but also a great learning experience with religious affiliation being among the segments of my life that were most affected. It would be important to note from the very advent that I am not proud of my character and attitude around this segment of my life, in spite of the fact that this period enabled me to have a more open-minded approach to religion, without which I would have come to understand it the way I do today. In my early teenage years, I came to believe that I knew better than everyone about almost every subject. I also developed this notion that my parents were obtuse and backward hence everything they believed was right, must be wrong. Most importantly, I always desired to do anything but what I was either to do or was expected to do. Therefore, I would strive to avoid religions meetings, use the kind of language that I knew my parents and their religion expressly forbade and attempted traits I knew my parents stood against, a key example being cigarette smoking. It is the general reaction that I got from my acts of rebellion that would eventually inform my relationship with organized religion. Everyone treated me like a common criminal who was ungrateful for the great opportunity I have been given to enjoy eternal bliss as a friend of God. Further, my seniors ensured that I developed the most alarming pictures of eternal damnation as a means of ensuring that I was scared into behaving as I was expected to. Someone must have pushed too far because I found myself wondering if all that I was being told about God, the devil and religion could be true. Curiosity led to study and study led to a change of heart.
The third and final phase in my relationship with religion came when my curiosity about both God and religion led me to carefully study and revisit all that I had been taught and made to believe about the subject. My study led me to carefully evaluating books, watching documentaries and reading online. I started with content relating specifically to my organized religion then moved to content about other religion and finally to content by those who believed that God did not exist. For start, I came to realized that the world had been in existence for much longer than my organized religion had led me to believe. A careful study of the world from the perspective of the Abrahamic religions create the impression that the world is a few millennia old. However, the reality I was finding, based on available research was that the world is more than hundreds of millions of years old. Further, there is evidence of life hundreds of millions of years ago and also evidence of human life tens of thousands of years ago. A related study would also lead me to a comparison between creationism as taught by my religion as the concept of evolution remised in scientific research (Guidotti, 2017). Available evidence pushed me towards an acceptable of scientific arguments on evolution as opposed to the theories of creationism. It was, however, the historical concept of religion that most dismayed me. Most of the stories relating to early religion that I had been consistently taught did not seem to have any historical basis (Dalley, 2000). It was impossible to place most of the traditional leaders of my religion in a historical context as alleged or at all. Many of the supposedly historical stories had a close semblance with fictional events. For example, I found a very close semblance between early religion laws and the code of Hammurabi. The great floods on the other parts seemed extremely congruent with the epic of Gilgamesh (Dalley, 2000)! My initial reaction to these studies was that organized religion was predicated on a falsehood as God did not exist, and also that all religious teachers were liars. However, as I made further studies relating to different religions, it begun to occur to me that there were too many intelligent and important people who believe in God and religion. Individuals such as Cardinal Ratzinger, the only Pope to have retired in modern history, the Dalai Lama if the Tibetans and many others made a great impression in me. I moved from believing that God does not exist into wondering if he really does thus making me agnostic (Schnell, 2015). Definitively, however, my relationship with organized religion was irreparably broken. In my informed opinion, anyone who believes that everyone else is wrong, must be wrong.
I would be the first person to admit that my religious journey had led more to confusion than it had led to enlightenment. However, my confusion is only limited to who God is but not to what organized religion is. Based on my life experience and continuous study, most modern religions had taken a singular stance about God and developed the belief that other stances about God are definitively wrong. Most organized religious leaders believe that they not only understand exactly who God is but also exactly who God is not. The ideas about God are just too many for them to be true. However, the different ideas about God also carry too much congruencies for them to be easily dismissed outright. My journey out of religion is thus not informed by a belief that God does not exist per se but rather that the concept of God as engendered in my former religion and also most organized religions cannot be right. Perhaps God exists, indeed, He most probably does, but it is really had to tell if He does definitively, let along being able to understand Him properly. The journey of my relationship with religion thus begins with ardent and fervent adherence to religious belief at a young age. This was followed by a period of rebellion at the advent of adolescence. The rebellion would be followed by a stint of seeking for knowledge through study. The study absolutely alienated me from organized religion but left me confused about the concept of God. I am still learning.
Dalley, S. (Ed.). (2000). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the flood, Gilgamesh, and others . New York: Oxford University Press, USA
Guidotti, T. L. (2017). Between distrust of science and scientism. Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health. 72(5). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19338244.2017.1312987
Schnell, T. (2015). Dimensions of Secularity (DoS): An open inventory to measure facets of secular identities. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion , 25 (4), 272-292