Losing My Religion

Last week the Associated Press reported that according to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey the percentage of Christians in our nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all. The survey found that traditional organized religion is playing less of a role in many folks’ lives. In fact, it stated that 12 percent of Americans believe in a higher power but not in the God at the core of monotheistic faiths such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

These kinds of studies always intrigue me and not simply because I identify as Christian. I’ve been borderline obsessed with religions since I was 14. That’s the year I met someone who was atheist for the first time. Growing up in the Deep South in a black family God had a huge presence in my life and I figured it was that way for everyone. And even though my parents didn’t go to church often, we prayed before bed and before every meal and “Jesus” was the name you called on in times of trouble.

Oddly enough, my realizing that there were people in the world who thought there was no God didn’t shake my faith in God’s existence at all. Instead I suddenly wanted to know about every faith in the world. So I went to the public library, checked out books on Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Scientology and the Mormon faith, ran home and read them all. (Yes, I was a nerd.) I was also active in a group for black and Jewish teenagers and spent plenty of weekends at local synagogue.

Despite my interest in organized religion there have been many times in my life when it has stood in the way of my spirituality, when it has actually pushed me away from God. In January I joined a new church that I absolutely adore, but I’ve attended churches whose doctrines caused me to doubt God’s love for me and convinced me I was less special to God because of my two X chromosomes.

A poet friend who also identifies as Christian but very rarely talks about her faith said she keeps quiet because she believes, “religion is as intimate as sex.” I’m finally starting to understand what she means.

Sure I’m open to listening to what church leaders, friends, and family have to say about religion. I don’t even mind being called out when I’m acting a fool. But at the end of the day how I love my God is nobody’s business.

And though I am as committed as ever to church, I have finally learned how to ditch routine religion for a real relationship with my Creator.

What’s your story? What do you believe?

5 Comments

  1. Your relationship and religion is intimate but i dont believe it should be kept a secret.

    Religions also intrigue me but most seem to complicated so i just stick to being a Jesus Freak. LOL!

  2. I definitely agree that religion shouldn’t be kept a secret and I think that when you are in love with God you can’t help but tell people. But again religion is intimate and I’ve gone to churches that try to dictate how people worship — clap when I clap, dance when I dance, sing when I sing, shout when I shout and if you don’t it means you don’t really love the Lord. Well, it could just mean that person is worshipping in silence. I just think more churches should focus on encouraging authentic worship instead of trying to get people to praise the way they think people should praise. That’s all I’m saying.

  3. I’ll jump on board and agree with you both.

    Religion requires an intimiate relationship but I’m not going to keep it to myself.

    Many churches get caught up in how worship should look. As long as the worship is sincere I don’t think it should be criticized. I can jump off the furniture and pop and lock like Sis. Bishop Fancyhat but that doesn’t make it authentic.

    Many churches don’t realize it, but if they allowed people to be themselves in worship and not shoehorn them into some type of unrealistic mold, they would become more welcoming – and more people would feel free to join their flock.

  4. Yes, your worship and relationship with God are private and intimate and can be faked for public purposes, but I believe that Christianity is a very public religion. Jesus did most of his work outside the church (synagogue) walls; baptisms are a public declaration of faith, and to spread the gospel is among the instructions Christ left with the disciples.

    Here’s something I find odd: If Christianity is declining, and proselytizing is really supposed to be a part of the faith, we’re either not doing our jobs or we’re somehow turning people away. Hypocrisy maybe? A minister at my church often says, “Sometimes people can’t hear what you’re saying ’cause your actions are talking too loud.”

  5. I think that this is a great story Jai and I am glad that you wrote it. For me, I don’t feel about religion the way that I did growing up. At this point in my life, I don’t even consider myself to be religious. What I do consider myself to be is spiritual. To me, religion can be misleading because so many people think it has to be super traditional and organized along specific lines. Whereas I believe that spirituality is about the personal relationship that is between the person and God. To me that is what’s most important and what I focus on more than being Baptist, etc.

    I agree with you on that churches shouldn’t try to dictate how people worship because everyone is different. Some people are expressive and some people are silent…but it should be dictated by how that person feels.

    To me, I think that so many people, churches and whoever tries it out to be so much more complicated than necessary. Live your life right, treat people right, respect yourself and others, trust God and believe and utilize the abilities, skills, instincts and gifts that He has given you and go from there.

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