For many children, The Bible was part of their normal routine. The wake-up Sunday mornings and attend church with their families. They pray before meals and before bed. They attend youth camps sponsored by their church and find it to be a wonderful, life-changing experience. I have had many friends who fall under many different denominations, and have many different relationships with God.
I was a little different.
The first time I was truly exposed to religion was when I was in third grade. I attended dinner at a friend's house and they began to pray before their meal. I was confused because I thought people only did that in the movies, so I asked why?
Soon after, they offered to bring me to church with them, just to get my questions answered and to develop a better understanding of what it meant to believe in God. After about two visits, I decided it wasn't for me. Maybe it was because I grew up not caring about who or what made the universe, or maybe it was because I didn't want to wake up at 8 am on a weekend. There's really no way to tell.
Since then, my experience with religion has been a neutral one. I would not say that I believe in God the way that most people do, if at all. I don't try to define myself as an atheist because I hate to step on toes, but I don't view myself as agnostic either.
Instead, I opt to just… not waste time caring. I respect everyone, no matter the religion, and wholeheartedly understand that a lot of people have been able to better themselves due to reconnecting with their faith.
As for myself, I try to devote my time to things I find more important and have come to the conclusion that you don't have to be "saved" to be a good, loving person.
This takes issue with some people.
Around the beginning of Spring comes the return of the campus preacher. I wish I could say he is a kind, understanding man, as so many preachers are. I wish I could say I appreciate the love he tries to bring others and how he shines a light on our campus. I cannot say these things because this man is not, in my definition, "good".
I have never had a one-on-one conversation with this preacher or any of his friends that tag along at times. This may sound hypocritical, considering I'm writing this article about him.
However, I do not wish to spend time trying to talk to someone who is not going to listen to a word I say. He parks himself outside of Siceluff Hall, the building I am in every single day.
Not once have I ever seen him listen. Instead, I watch as he screams at students, telling them they're going to Hell for one reason or another. I have heard him tell female students that they are going to Hell for attending college, as it is not the role God wants them to play in their own lives.
I have heard him tell fraternity brothers that they are going to Hell for drinking alcohol. I have heard him tell LGBTQ+ students that they are an abomination to God for doing nothing but hold hands.
I wonder how he came to the conclusion that this was the correct approach. It takes me back to third grade, when my friend's mother kindly explained prayer, and how she learned from a man named Jesus, and how he had helped her heal after a hard divorce.
I think of how her family offered to take me to church with them and introduced me to their pastor, who welcomed me with open arms. I think of when I told them I did not want to come back, and they did not shun me or tell me I was wrong; they hugged me and invited me over for dinner that same night.
Instilling fear in people is not the way to their hearts. It is cruel to try and make people so afraid for their fate that they come running to the person telling them they will be damned in the first place.
In my limited experience with religion, I have found that those who are forced to believe in something are the ones who end up abandoning that cause in the long run. Things like faith must come from an intrinsic source, not an extrinsic one.