I really don’t know how to simply state this—but I was an atheist.
My family knew me as a believer as I was raised in a religious family. However, as time passed, I started branching out from my parent’s beliefs and acquired my own; the belief that there was no God. All my friends knew, of course. I grew up in an environment where everyone believed in evolution, and with some who were Agnostic (where they’d believe in a higher power but not quite put a name to it). In our generation today, the belief that there is no god has risen dramatically when compared to past generations. It’s almost as if being a nonbeliever is the biggest trend.
I remember my friends and I would joke about going to Hell almost after every sentence spoken and we’d put our faith in our hopes rather than the Man we all didn’t believe in. We would laugh and talk in inappropriate times and mumble curse words under our breath and not even care if it was disrespectful. I remember all the heated conversations we’d have with one another when we’d hear about all the “bias” information others believed in when it came to religion. We’d start talking about evolution and science and do everything we can to depict other’s beliefs.
I was one of those people who believed there would be no consequences for any of my actions, that once I did die, I would end up six feet in the ground just like everyone else. Nothing more, nothing less.
But there was something in me longing for someone to hear me. Someone bigger.
I didn’t mind the idea of me rotting in the ground by myself for the rest of eternity, but my own mother? My friends that I love so dearly, my family? Even my cats? I remember wanting to believe that everyone I loved would be going to Heaven. Even if at the time I didn’t believe in Heaven, I would’ve wanted them to go Paradise, the World Tree, Svarga Ioka, anywhere really, as long as their souls would still be alive and even have the potential to be reborn as someone new.
This is where my journey began, just by one idea.
I started to consider myself as an Agnostic at this point, I wanted to believe that there was someone out there watching over my loved ones and that for my friends and family members who did pass, that they were somewhere they wanted to be rather than in dust and ashes.
I remember starting to make observations on everyone around me. I noticed that whenever someone is in need, regardless of who they are or what they believe in, they find themselves praying. Whether they’re praying to someone else’s God, or even their own, we find ourselves turning to religion in the darkest times of our lives.
My mother would always tell me to pray whenever I’m driving on rough roads or going through a tough time in my life. I remember always brushing it off and continuing with my day because that’s just what I was used to doing at this point. I didn’t care what would happen if I was heading towards a rough direction, however, I do remember driving during a winter storm and thinking to myself, “please have my mom and everyone else make it home safely”.
But who was listening to me? Who was listening to the prayers we all send off during our dark times?
I wanted to figure out who I was sending all of my hopes and prayers to; who was listening to me. I wanted to think that all my thoughts were being heard by someone, if anyone. I remember reading every book I could get my hands on, and if I couldn’t get a hold of anything, I would google it and read up on any and every aspect I could understand. From the Bible, to the Quran, the Torah, Tripitaka, the Vedas, and more. I even went down other spiritual paths and learned about all the spirits and Gods, fairies and all. From Greek Gods to Demi-Gods and everything in between, I found myself picking beliefs from every and all religions.
I’ve started to realize that no matter what God a person was praying to, whoever that person is, or who you are, we all pray to the same one. Someone can be praying for you to Vishnu, to Buddha, to whoever. It’s the same as when a Christian prays for someone else regardless of who they are, they will pray for them to God. I’ve noticed that all religions have some things in common besides the fact they all put their faith in something. To live for the God you are serving, you must act kindly, boldly, and live and love loudly. If you can do that, then you are already living for any God you want to find yourself believing in (if you decide to believe in one). It’s up to the person who believes to taint their views with hate, it is not the religion itself. The right person can make it great, but the wrong person can turn it sour fast. Just like politics, there’s the people who are far in their spectrum, and then those who are pretty moderate about things. I get that there are flaws in every religion, but just like people, you can always push past the mistakes and fix them within yourself. Times are changing and you can’t really change a scripture that’s thousands of years old. However, you can always live by your own views and adapt to it to the best of your abilities. You are your own person, after all.
Now that I’ve educated myself to the best of my abilities, I had to start facing the stereotypes that I grew up believing. My friends, gosh do I love them, are probably the most open minded and accepting people in the world. But we started to see the world harshly and started judging a person for their beliefs. Eventually I had this wall built around me that prevented me from saying certain things to certain people. I, for example, and for some reason, believed Christians were pushy and strict, and oddly enough, Republican (not even religious related at all so it was a pretty weird thing I incorporated). I started to have these certain classifications on people from all religions, that if they were a certain religion they acted and believed in certain things.
So I had to push my comfort zone and test the waters myself.
I ended this journey by meeting a variety of people, and one, who welcomed me into their religion with open arms. I was raised as a Christian-Catholic and I wanted to somewhat go back to my old roots because it was something my mother raised me with, so I found a sense of warmth and belonging going back to it. I used to go to a church when I was a lot younger, but growing up I found every service laced with hate. Because of this I grew such a hatred for churches and religions. However, as awry as I was, I’ve found myself trusting the people I met and believing that they’re not as bad as this religious image I built around them was. I was welcomed by someone I now consider a great friend of mine to their church. I realized that they weren’t pushy or strict (or a Republican) at all! Just a normal person filled with a loving heart and a kind soul. They talked to everyone and anyone and easily made friends and wiped out any bad thing I contributed to any person involved in Christianity. I remember telling them about my past and they still opened up their church to me and made sure I felt comfortable attending. They were even patient with me as I was still iffy with praying and singing their songs. I have never felt so comfortable and free before. They even offered to talk about the science and history side of all, because it turns out even they acknowledge other beliefs as well. After awhile I’ve noticed a sense of unity, understanding, love, and huge wave of comfort while attending. It’s almost been a month since I started going and every time I do show up my thoughts and views change for the better every time.
Today I find myself living and loving loudly and boldly, the same person as I’ve always been. However, the only difference is that I’m not doing it for just me, but for the God I believe in as well. To this day I still carry around the belief of all religions in me, and I’m still as open minded as I’ve always been, but I have found a sense of belonging when I can say that I’m no longer a nonbeliever, but instead someone who considers themselves a Christian.
To all my friends out there, I know this will be a huge shock to you. But I know you guys well, and I know you will all accept me regardless. And no worries, I will still attribute to all conversations and will not shove my “Jesus ways” down your throat. Believe it or not they don’t really do that! I’m still the same person I’ve always been, and I will always be the same no matter what.
To the most loving and understanding people I’ve ever met, a huge thanks to my great friend Irina and to everyone at New Covenant. Without any of you I would have never found the end of my journey.