I grew up going to church. When I was little, I used to live in Jamaica with my grandmother and my cousin. My Grandma was a very religious lady, but from what I remember, religion wasn’t boring or forced with her. It was simply a part of her essence. Of course, she died when I was only 10 so, I probably didn’t have a good enough grasp on anything to make a judgement about what she was like religiously. We did go to a Christian church every Sunday (as far as I can remember). Black Churches in Jamaica aren’t like anything I’ve encountered in America. Going to church in Jamaica was more like a weekly party. We’d get all dressed up in our best clothes to dance and sing and stomp and blast music so loud it shook our tiny house across the street. We were lucky to live in between two churches, so when one God Praisin’ party ended, we’d just go to the next one. My memory of these days is a bit foggy, but I can remember falling asleep during sermon only to be awaken by the beat of the drums and some lady screaming praises beside me. I would jump to my feet to dance with my Grandma and mimic her Hallelujahs and Praise Jesus, much to the laughter of the people around me.
My family is very split when it comes to religion, however. So, when I came to America, my mother sent me to Kingdom Hall, what is essentially a church for Jehovah’s Witnesses, with my grandfather and his wife and to a Christian church with my cousin and my aunt. I even occasionally went to Sunday school and read the bible, when my mother wanted to punish me. These churches were really boring in comparison to what I was used to. There was singing, but it wasn’t the loud, boisterous kind- certainly nothing I could move my feet to. I wasn’t allowed to talk, or praise, or do anything, really. Despite being a big, and previously positive, part of my life, my interest in religion began to wane.
I would not say I grew up believing in God. I can’t remember a time where I ever had a genuine interest in religion. When I was little, church was something we did, same as eating and pooping. Like eating and pooping, it could be fun, but mostly it was a part of my life simply because it was. I didn’t have a say in it. As I got older, my mother stopped forcing me to go to Church and I think that was the final nail in my religious coffin.
When I look back, I feel like God was always shoved down my throat as a way to punish me or worn as disguise for blatant misogyny. There were things I couldn’t do because I was a girl. Or even worse, things I should do, like clean up after the men in my life, bare children, and be submissive, because it’s my God given duty as a woman. That never sat well with me. It didn’t make it any better when I’d question it and get “because it’s what God wants” as an answer. I feel like that’s just the religious version of “because I said so.”
When I began identifying a lesbian feminist it became even worse, still. The idea of serving some dude who sits in the sky judging us simply because he told us to was awful. This was made even worse by the fact that the most religious people in my family are some of the worse humans ever. I didn’t like the fact that I was a sinner for being gay or not knowing how to cook, but all the awful shit they did was fine because they prayed for forgiveness.
I violently began rejecting religion. It got to the point where I couldn’t even talk about it without getting heated and having to physically eject myself from the conversation.
This is all to say, something pretty awesome happened this summer.
I talked to some awesome people who began teaching me about spiritually, service, and self. Like I said, I’m not a religious person, but holy shit. This is the first time someone spoke to me about something even slightly religious and it resonated within me.
Before writing this, I wanted to give myself the benefit the doubt. I was in a very low place when this happened, so of course, I was far more receptive of their teachings than I would have been if I were, say, in an argumentative mood. I considered the possibly of this being a right place right time type of thing. However, it’s been months, and I think I’m very much out of the low place I was in. I still find myself going back and thinking over the things I’ve learned. It still makes sense to me, which I think means something. I believe in it, as weird as it is to say that.
Forgive me if I leave some stuff out or don’t get everything 100% correct. I’m going to write this as I understand it.
To start, there is no God in any shape that I am familiar with. There is no “because it is His word” to follow. There is only the earth (or The Universe), your purpose, and simple truths about life that we cannot, despite our best efforts, avoid. This is what I have learned so far.
- The earth is all about giving back. We are born, we take, and we give back to the earth and to the people around us the best we can. This can be done through any way we see fit, like, teaching, or recycling, or helping those in need. The point is to do things that are going to benefit other people. We are all human. We’re supposed to treat each other with kindness. We are supposed to appreciate and give back, so that everything stays in balance. There is no punishment though. Because ultimately, no one cares. There are paths laid out before you. You have free will.
- Everyone has a purpose, and once you’re done and you serve that purpose, that’s it. You’re finished. You’re all good to go to the next life, or rest peacefully in death, or however you want to think about the afterlife. When Cameron Boyce, a famous Disney channel star, died, I went in really torn up about it. I said, “that has to be a mistake. There’s no way, he was such a good person.” And my friend turned to me and said, “No? Sweetheart, he’s served his purpose. He did what he was supposed to do, he’s resting now.”
- Happiness is fleeting. So is sadness. And anger. And any other emotion you can think of. Life isn’t about being happy, or sad, or wealthy, or anything else people usually strive for. Life is about being at peace. I struggled with this a lot, because for me being at peace means being happy. Apparently, a lot of people get that confused though. Being at peace means being okay with whatever comes your way. Feel your feelings, but also understand that the sadness you’re feeling will pass, the happiness you crave will come but it will go, but it will come again. That’s how life works. That’s how it is.
I feel a little crazy when I talk about this stuff. I think that stems from the fact that I’ve never even been so much as quasi-religious. I think the reason I like this so much is that, although I don’t believe in God, I do believe in something; As in, a higher power “something.” To me, it makes sense that there is. There is no way we are the pinnacle of intelligence. This ‘higher power’ has never been ‘God’ for me, though I understand it is for other people. For all I know, it could aliens.
I think I like this spiritual stuff because it encompasses all that I believe to be true. Of course, we have to give back, of course we have a reason for being, of course happiness doesn’t last forever. However, this removes the idea that we are good because someone told us to be. We are good because it is the right thing to do. There is no shame. There is no good or evil. There is only growth and the energy you put into the world. You learn from the mistakes you’ve made, and you grow. There is no regression, you can’t un-grow. You can screw up, but everybody screws up, so…so what?
I can’t even begin to tell you all the good this has done for my mental health. I find myself awake at night, caught in a spiral of depression and regular 2am shit. The reminder that it will end, and I will be fine, is more comforting than anything else.
I understand that, like everything else, this isn’t forever, but I dunno, I really fucks with it.