Disclaimer: This post is about my own personal experience with people of other religions and my own point of view on why I am not part of those religions. This entry is not an attack on your particular religion, merely a recount of real experiences. If you are in any way offended by my ideology or opinions, I assure you, I do not care and your complaints matter so little that I won't even bother reading those comments. Enjoy!
I have some real gripes in life, but one of my biggest gripes is having to explain my spiritual beliefs to others- not because it's hard to do, but because it's ridiculous that I should have to. It's ridiculous to have to interact on that level with people I hardly know because I always believed that religion and/or spirituality is a personal opinion- not a reality, not THE truth, not the scientific way- no, it is a tool some may choose to engage with for their own personal comfort and joy. I feel like it exists for our own personal use, to find comfort in, to find guidance in, but never to take so seriously that we're willing to kill another for it, nor willing to harass others into joining in. It happens in the mind, the heart and (if such a thing does exist) the soul. The second you make your spirituality someone else's problem, then you're no longer a student of the invisible world and philosophy of Why, you're just an insecure person incapable of their own higher thinking and independent reasoning. The second you organize your religion in such a way that you become an elitist bigot about it, your religion has become your master and you it's slave... and religion is too eager to destroy reason.
My family is a diverse grab bag of genetics; few of us are blood related, few of us share the same religious beliefs and the only real commonality we seem to have ideologically is our collective liberal lean and even with our liberal agendas, I am still, once in a while, questioned about what I believe in, what I've chosen to be, how it could be good for my soul, etc. Usually, the person asking has just entered our family and comes in with this strange notion that I worship Satan (usually perpetuated by what ever family member they married), that I perform bazar rituals of satanic delight, that I've sacrificed my soul to be a rebel. It's insulting, it's rude and it only EVER comes from the mouths of my Christian relatives who cannot seem to wrap their dainty little brains around the idea that maybe, just maybe, my soul is of no concern to them. I refused to be involved in the church (any church) because I had strong ideological differences. I have a loathing for being around groups of overly religious people, especially when their religion has very clear instructions on how they ought to feel about a pansexual pagan like me. While most of the Christians or otherwise religious people in my family are a credit to their faith and see nothing wrong with my own, there is always one or two people who feel the need to figure out why I'm not what they are. Could it be that I see nothing Christ-like about sitting in polished pews under chandeliers, in the view of a great crystal dais? Could it be that I have sincere problems with the way women are treated and portrayed in and because of the Bible? Is it because any religion that embraces misogyny as a general rule is not the one for me? Is it because I feel very turned-off by the fact that churches don't pay their fair share of taxes? Or could it be that as a non-heterosexual woman, I have a very big problem with being called an "abomination in the eyes of the lord"? It's all of that and more. Maybe I'm tired of the superficial acuity with which the common zealot passes judgement on anyone who isn't them. Maybe I'm tired of watching those who call me a sinner then cheat on their wives, idolize money above their god and oppose my right to marry whomever loves me. Or, most importantly, maybe I'm just not a Christian, never have been, never would be. And maybe there isn't anything wrong with that.
Believe me, I tried as a child, I really did. My grandma would force us to go to church and I sat dutifully down in the pew on sundays quietly stewing in my own hatred at being preached to by some glamourous charlatan in an expensive suit while his face is plastered over mega-TVs as he cries, "give, give, give to the church!" and all the while I'm thinking, "Jesus would not approve of a megachurch, Jesus would be appalled at this vanity, how can you be a Christian and not act in any way the way Jesus asked?". I read the bible to try and understand the appeal, and for me there wasn't a single moment of appeal- that is, until Jesus entered the picture. I liked Jesus- he seemed like the nicest hippie, a socialist who gave all he had and demanded that others give as well, we bonded over some shared ideals. He was my first example of actual Christian virtue and he wasn't even a Christian! Finally I found something I could understand in the clutter of what I perceived to be hypocrisy and paranoia. He, I appreciate, He I understand- it's the people following him and skewing his gentle persona to fit their own ridiculous bigotry that I couldn't understand.
When people in the family ask me if I believe in God, I don't know how to answer. If they're older, I just lie and say "yes". Do I believe in God? No, I don't believe in their god. If they're younger (and more open-minded) I just tell them it's complicated because chances are they still wouldn't be able to understand what I'm talking about anyway. If I like them enough, I''ll tell them the truth: I believe in many gods but my perception of a "god" and "divine" is entirely different from the Western idea. I have my OWN idea of the divine that cannot be defined in simple terms. There's no man in the sky dictating to me, my gods are not all-powerful, they did not create time or earth or beast. The spirits, souls, ancestors I admire and venerate are ideas, they are nature summed up in many names, they are examples by which to comport myself, they are facets of evolutionary life I feel a spiritual affinity towards, they're a great many things but not my jealous overlords. I've realized that it's almost impossible to convey my idea of the invisible spiritual world to some Westerners because we're so blinded by the language and lexicon of Western religions, of Christianity, that they cannot seem to understand that GOD/S means something different all around the world, that there is no apt description that crosses all boundaries and encompasses all spiritual notions. It only seems to be Americans and other Westerners that can't imagine a religion that they'd have to experience to understand, that doesn't have synonymous ideas with their own religion. They can't seem to break away from terms like "god" and "devil", "right" and "wrong", "good"and "evil". I don't live with the black and white Westerner mentality, I chose as a child to study every religion I could find and try to understand it from the point of view of it's own culture and people. Maybe that's why I decided to major in Anthropology, because I love to break the mold of my own cultural bias to better understand what spirit and god means to those outside of my own little world. But that's not how everyone around me thinks, that's not how the religious people I know think. They find out I practice folk-magic and the folk religions of my ancestors and the first thing they think of is: Satanist. I am not a Satanist. I'm not a Satanic witch, I'm not even a Luciferian witch for Christ's sake- I am ME, and since you don't KNOW ME, the assumption that anyone who isn't a standard run of the mill organized religious person must then be in league with Satan only further makes me feel uncomfortable around Abrahamic followers when they get nosey about my faith.
It never fails to amaze me that I can come from a family with so much diversity and still face discrimination. One parent didn't have a problem with my not being Christian (she isn't either), but took issue with my spiritual explorations because, well... because she didn't feel like I ought to be involved in the "white man's religions". Of course, this person is half white and contributed to my heaping helping of European ancestry, so I never understood the discord. One parental unit was an atheist I'm told, and I'm certain he'd call me crazy for being a conjurer. My dad is a preacher's son- he never really understood the whole "pagan" thing, but he decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting with me over. My sister is Catholic now and very supportive, probably because she's one of the only people who takes an interest in getting to know me (present company excluded) and hasn't found anything damaging or harmful in what I do- in fact, she respects the hell of what I do because I wouldn't be ME if I did anything else. But that's my inner family, my extended family are tricky people. I love and fear them, I know and don't know them, I am connected to them but I try to keep as much emotional distance between us as possible and most of that is because it's always heartbreaking and disappointing when someone says they love you but then attempts to change the core of who you are. I can't be around them or their religious groups or religions in general because there is a sincere lack of respect or understanding for outsiders.
The idea is that I'm a rebel, I'm the one who is weird for the sake of being weird. Nothing insults me more than being told that I don't know what I'm doing or that I do what I do just to stand out. Yeah, I woke up one day and thought to myself, "I want to feel alienated not just from my friends and colleagues, but from my family too! I'm going to be as different as possible so that everyone will continue to give me shit all my life! That sounds like a plan!" No, I just wanted to do what made me happy in this short life and in my opinion, that's the point of spirituality and that's what it's good for. It isn't real, you can't prove your gods or spirits are real, you can't substantiate you religion with science and evidence- I know all this, I've accepted all this and I still choose to practice as I do because my human lifespan is short, the world is small, the universe is vast and what I choose to believe in as a personal matter is none of your god-damned business.
Religion is a personal opinion and it should never be thrust outside yourself and down the throats of another. If someone shares your faith, more power to you both, but if you need to proselytize and sell your religion, then deep down inside you know exactly what I know; you're insecure, delusional and incapable of enjoying your own faith. That's why I despise missionaries- would you just feed the poor and help the sick WITHOUT demanding their loyalty to your invisible master? I don't need to convert others, I don't need to spread the word of The Hag and Hunter to the masses- why? Because I'm not insecure in my faith; I know what it is and what it isn't, what it can do and what it can't do. I know that in the end, believing as I do and practicing as I do makes me personally happy and brings a sense of order and peace to my life, it guides and inspires me, it asks no impossible demands and exists as a truth only in my heart, mind and soul. And that's all it needs to be, people.
I'll never get used to being patronized by in-laws or by extended family or family friends about what I do. I'll never get used to that awkward moment when someone says; "So you think you're like, a witch right? You'll need to like, totally do spells for me right? You worship Satan right?"- no, I'd rather not get used to that level of stupidity (honestly, who launches into that with a practical stranger?). But I think I'm ready to get used to answering that awkward moment with, "When you figure out a way to be curious without also sounding like a petulant teenager, get back to me." I expect it won't endear me to my dysfunctional family, but it will certainly put those whacky zealots right in their place.
"You don't know witch, and witch don't know you, so back the hell up and mind your own soul."- Chelsea Grant