–Between diaper changes and building legos, I’ve tried to explore questions about religion: how did it begin? is it necessary? where would the world be without it? can you be spiritual and not religious, as so many people claim to be? what are the benefits of having a religion? why does religion get such a bad rap? and most importantly, why is my religion important to me? I won’t try to answer all of the above, I simply share some thoughts.
My questioning started before Lent. A friend posted something on Facebook about “Godless Parents Are Doing a Better Job”. This was based on the article published in the L.A. Times, based on a study done by Phil Zuckerman, based on results from a survey from the Pew Research Center. This survey found some alarming results back in 2012: “One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”
Here’s the Pew Research Results: http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/
and here’s the L.A. Times article: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0115-zuckerman-secular-parenting-20150115-story.html#page=1
It shifted something in me. Why do so many people who don’t believe in God, much less a religion, tend to believe that faith is like believing in Santa Claus or that you can’t be smart, educated, open-minded, and empathetic and also believe in God? And now, it turns out that you are not a good parent if you teach your children about God?
As we sometimes learn the bad words of a foreign language first, are we learning the bad things about religion first, without really delving into the richness and benefits of it? Sure, there have been crusades, corruption and unacceptable behavior in the history of the church. But where has there been no blemish, no “sin”? The presidency, the papacy, banks, schools, sports and our own homes have been rocked by scandal.
I spoke to a friend who is Muslim not long ago. We each asked questions about the other’s religion and it was eye-opening and enriching. No judging or competing. I wish we could all speak that way about religion.
There is so much I don’t know. But what I do know is that we are all connected, and that God is the center that holds us all together.
“Religion is man-made. It’s not what Jesus wanted.” That’s what many people say. But politics, medicine, school rules, and speed limits are also man-made. We still follow those principles and abide by certain laws.
Being Catholic for me has not always been easy. Religion is sometimes difficult, challenging us to become better. I went to Catholic school through 12th grade, but things didn’t really sink in until I became a mom. I love Jesus, the Virgin Mary, going to mass, the sacraments, the saints, the fellowship, and the traditions. Teaching my kids about God has been one of my greatest joys. These are some of the things they’ve wondered about God throughout the years:
-Is God a man or a woman? – What language does God speak? -Why can’t we see God?
-I love you almost as much as I love God. -How can God see everything? Does he have infinity number of eyes?
-Why did they kill Jesus? -Why do we have to go to church?
-Can I have all the Hulks I want when I’m in heaven? -Can I fly when I’m in heaven?
Exploring these things with them is life-giving. I believe planting seeds about God is as important, if not more than teaching them how to read or ride a bike.
Religion to me is a way of life, it is a map to God, it is community, it is part of what defines me, it is what molds me and holds me. It’s my spiritual gym. I could never be in shape without it! Here’s what some of my friends said religion meant to them:
N.G. shared with me that “we’ll never be truly happy unless we seek out God. He made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven”.
Another friend, N.W. shared: “There’s the saying about how each of us has a ‘God-sized hole’ inside and we can try to fill with all sorts of worldly things but it can never be properly filled without an authentic relationship with God.”
J.O told me that “true religion is the one in which God the Father has sought a way to reach out to man, invite, nurture, grow with man and walk with him day by day. For we (humans) did not choose God… But rather God has chosen us.”
E.M said that “for a long time I was spiritual, but I have never been as happy as when I started to be religious.”
FB said “religion and worshipping in church is about community and support for one another.”
MD shared that you can be spiritual AND religious “it’s all in finding the balance between spirituality and religion”.
Thank you all for your thoughts. I believe we are all spiritual. We are born that way. Seeking meaning, a place where we belong, understanding, doubting, desiring… But to me, spirituality is like the human eye. It is made to see, and the only way it can see is with light. Religion is that light. Without it, the eye is useless.
I realize that having a relationship with God is a very personal journey. And I mean no disrespect to anyone reading this. I simply felt the need to explore these thoughts and share them.
One last thought: Of course you can be good without believing in God. But I believe that all goodness comes from God. So whether we see it or not, parents who don’t believe in God are raising good children because God created us all to be good.
Here is a link from my favorite priest, Father Barron, who explains the new trends in religion, and why he thinks there are so many people who believe in God but not in religion: