Tuesday, August 03, 2010

God (or the lack thereof)

Tonight at an Alanon meeting the topic of discussion was what our experiences with spirituality were like when we were children. A whole can of worms opened inside me and I feel the need to spill some of them here. Church when I was growing up was mandatory. So was Christian school for eight years. But this was not just any kind of church. It was a very Pentecostal and rather fanatical church.

The deal with church was that my mom went, and my dad did not. Mom was "saved". My dad maintained that he was Catholic, but he never stepped foot in a church for most of my life. From age five, I was taken to the churches my mom picked, and I was taught that my dad, who wasn't "saved", as well as all of my extended family members who were Catholic, were going to burn in hell for all of eternity.

That's a heavy load to put on a five-year-old. And so began my indoctrination. So began my guilt. I was a sinner, and was reminded of this all the time in the church and school. So I begged God for forgiveness every night for my sins. I begged God to stop some volatile things occurring in my home too. And, most importantly, I begged God to make my father get saved (and all my extended family too).

God never pulled this off for me. So I got a little resentful. I got a little sick and tired of the huge guilt trips this religion put on me as well. I got a little ticked off when terrible things happened in my life, and God, who I spoke to all the time, never did a thing to help. I stopped believing in God.

Today, I can say that there is something I like (and have liked for twenty years since my first exposure to it) about twelve step groups, and that is the concept that one can have a higher power of her choosing. The higher power does not have to be called God. The higher power can be a tree, humanity, a flower, the universe, an internal presence. On the rare occasions when I talk of having a higher power at all, I generally call it the universe. I don't ask the universe for a lot of things, but sometimes I do. Sometimes I say a quiet prayer to whatever is out there, whatever life might hear me, and ask for some peace, some solace, even something like healing. Sometimes, I am a tad bit spiritual and not terrified of that entire concept as I usually am

The youth pastor of the church I grew up in was sent to prison for molesting kids at the church. I was not molested, but I knew people who were. And today, I have no respect for hypocrites. Most of the deeply religious people I've come across seem to be hypocrites. I have no desire to ever be involved with any religion, though I have gone to services at the Unitarian Universalist church a few times over the past few years. Religion is just not for me. God is not for me. The universe, and faith in it, and hope for progress, those are for me.

Universe, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change

the courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.


  1. God is not for me either. I had a similar experience as you did. I was raised in a very strict and conservative Mormon household. I was ingrained with guilt since day one too. I still deal with it in many ways; even after being out of it now for 13 years.

    I'm now a Zen Buddhist but a very laid-back, open-minded, non-structural one. I just meditate to help relax my brain and find it helps. I won't do anything religious unless I think it helps. I'm not buying tickets on any guilt trip trains anymore. No more packing my bags!!

  2. Hi Jen,
    I think the "mum is religious, dad is not" dynamic is a pretty common one. Both my parents and grandparents fit that pattern. I think this is interesting, especially given that religion tends to be misogynistic, yet it is often the women who fill the pews and keep the organizations running.

    I went to church until I was about 15, when I left, and I went through agnosticism to the point where I could be honest enough to say that I don't believe any of the god claims I have heard, so I'm an atheist, and have been for years.

    That said, in the worst moments of my depression I've prayed out of desperation. No answer, of course.
    No doubt due to a lack of faith, or me being tested, or some such thing. The mental acrobatics associated with theism require a lot of flexibility.

    I'm dubious about the whole "higher power" thing that many of these support groups seem to be built around. I think we are better off being honest with ourselves and not trying to build a foundation on fairytales. Relying on invisible means of support is never a good thing, especially for those of us who suffer from mental illness.

  3. HBW, I know what you mean about the guilt trips. I have had plenty of those too. Good idea not to pack your bags!

    Depressed, I understand what you are saying, and actually, I could say the same thing and have said the same thing. I don't believe in God. The higher power thing is something I'm not so sure about. I definitely don't believe that any "higher" power or God can solve any kind of mental health problem, and I definitely don't think it would solve mine. That much I know for sure!


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