5 Quick Questions About Faith

We play a get-to-know-you game here at the 5 Kids blog called 5 Quick Questions wherein I ask you 5 questions and you answer them. Usually, I ask you to tell me important things, like “Fill in the blank: The last time I had to clean up something wet but not mine was __________,” or “Pick two: Beauty, brains, brawn or brownies.

But I decided, given the Faith Series we’re (sort of) embarking on, to ask you 5 Quick Questions About Faith because I’m much more interested in facilitating an interfaith discussion than I am in a homogeneous conversation. Although homogeneous conversations where everyone agrees with my faith are RAD for justifying my beliefs, they’re, well, also terribly boring.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post in support of asking questions, even when those questions are hard to hear or tread on thin ice or make me want to rip my ears off. And one of the comments from that post stuck with me. On Facebook, Marissa Kent-White wrote:

“I totally agree w/you! I have a special needs kid, and I am not very PC, to be honest. It hurts my brain to have to always say “the right thing.” I am sensitive and aware (hell, I am a child-family therapist) but I am also an open, honest book. I believe (for me at least) that is the best way for me to process who we are as a family (an awesome one, duh!) and to educate other people. I believe we grow through experience, and asking questions and answering them challenges us to have those experiences. And being a Jew, we’re told to QUESTION EVVVVVERRRRrryyyyyTHING!!!! Hence the Rabbinical debates. No vows of silence here. BRING ON THE QUESTIONS, EVEN THE DUMB ONES.”

And here’s what I thought when I read that: Wait. WHAT?? Jews get to question EVERYTHING? THIS IS SO UNFAIR! Also, this Jewish Question-Everything thing sure does explain a lot about Jesus ’cause that guy questioned a Whole Lot of Things.

Truth is, I’ve never (ever, ever, ever) been part of a Christian church that actively encourages us to question everything. Like, ever. I mean, I’m part of a Christian church that loves me through and despite my questioning, and some folks there love me even because of my questions, but I do tend to upset some Christian people who don’t understand why I can’t just accept their well-thought-out answers. I think of myself as the butter in the group. Butttttttt, what about this? Buttttttt, what about that?

So when Marissa mentioned she’s TOLD to question everything?? I was surprised, and I had a serious case of faith envy. It got me to thinking about all the things I really don’t know about other faiths. Or perhaps even my own. But how do we meet people who aren’t like us? Where can we go? How do we find the trailhead to enter the beautiful wilderness of meeting people heart to heart?

I thought I would start by asking you questions. So here we go.

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5 Quick Questions About Faith

  1. I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
  2. Why?
  3. One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.
  4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.
  5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.

And here are my answers:

  1. I’m a Christian. I used to describe myself as a “follower of Jesus,” instead, because I wanted to disassociate myself from the very real emotional and spiritual damage some Christians have caused. I talk more about my journey back to embracing the “Christian” moniker in a post I like to call Authenticity, Asshattery, Faith and Fear. In addition to being a Christian, I’m a charter member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile and the Church of I Don’t Know What’s for Dinner STOP ASKING. I also really adore cheese.
  2. Hm. Why, huh? Who’s bright idea was this question? This is not a quick question. This is false advertising. Someone should sue. So, why? To be fair, I’m a Christian because I was raised in a Christian family and then when I tried to reject my faith, I found I couldn’t. Turns out, I actually believe this stuff. Maybe not all of what the universal Church tries to tell me; I don’t always buy their interpretation of the minutia of beliefs. But I believe absolutely that there’s a wideness in God’s mercy that is wider than the sea, and I believe with my whole heart that we were put here to learn Love, to be Love, to live Love.  In the words of U2’s Bono (in what I believe is one of the greatest Christian interviews of all time), “You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘as you reap, so you will sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts.” Love interrupts. I just adore that.
  3. Probably the biggest stereotype I hear about Christianity these days is that we’re anti-gay. This is undeniably true for some Christian groups. This couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I think gay people are the same as me, which is to say horribly, heroically human; awful and awesome and messy and magical and capable of causing great harm and also loving others to a vast, glorious, unreasonable depth and breadth. Sometimes all in the same day.
  4. One thing I wish people knew about Christianity is that we’re more than our infighting. More that our tedious theological discussions. More than either just haters or lovers. More than the myriad verses posted on Facebook. More than guilt-mongers. More than our loudest members. More than “a decision to follow Christ.” Actually, now that I think about it, that’s one thing I wish Christians knew about us, too.
  5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be for all of the ways we’ve judged and belittled instead of embraced and loved. I’m sorry.

And now it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Please feel free to answer just 1 or 2 or fewer than 5. Or to ignore these questions entirely (which are really meant more as a writing prompt) and just tell us what’s on your heart. Or ask me or our community your own questions. It’s all fair game, friends, and I can’t wait to see what you say.

With love,
Beth

……….

P.S. This is the 2nd post in the Faith Series, but I didn’t plan on it, so there’s definitely at least one more. A series of at least 3! Woot!

Glasses on Old Books image credit to adamr via freedigitalimages.net

 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
96 comments
  1. I just found your blog today. I love it. And I love this discussion. I hope you don’t mind me joining a little late.

    I’m a Mormon.

    The easy reason is because I was raised that way. The real reason is living the doctrine, even when it’s hard, fills me with peace and assurance and love.

    One stereotype of the church I have heard is that Mormons are blind followers. This I suppose could be both true and false. We believe in having faith; in trusting God even when and especially when we feel unsure. We also believe part of having faith is studying and praying to resolve any doubts we may feel. God expects us to trust Him but He also expects us to do our homework.

    I wish people knew that the center of our faith is Jesus Christ; that He lived; that He established a church in His time; that He died and was resurrected so that we can overcome sin and death. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims to be that same church Christ established in His time and we invite, even challenge, all to come and find out if that claim is true.

    I apologize for imperfect people and my own imperfections, especially to the extent that they have hurt others.

    1. I know it is an older blog, but I love it so much I have to reply!

      1. I’m a Jedi/Trekkie, Evolutionary/Christian, and member of the Church of the Never-ending laundry pile!

      2. Why? I was raised atheist so the Star Wars concept of the Force became very real to me as a child of the 70s and 80s (ok, I’m old…) It helped give me a sense of something more to this world than just what I could see and touch, this resonated with me and ultimately helped me discover a whole spiritual world that I now define with Christian terminology. Truth is truth and the labels we use vary from person to person. I love all sci-fi stuff and ultimately became a scientist (Evolutionary Biology led to Molecular Biology), my belief in God was solidified in an upper level Biochemistry class when I looked around the classroom and it dawned on me just how many chemical reactions are required for a single cell to function for even a second of time and the unlikeliness of that happening randomly in this universe that is ruled by chaos theory. Christianity came later but ultimately tied everything together for me plus gave me the freedom to pursue new ideas that tied self-improvement and love with my constant musings about how life works on a molecular level through “Bible Studies.” 🙂 (Currently, I am pondering the nature of dark matter and how it could satisfy the requirements of a spiritual realm.) For me, studying science is studying God’s handiwork and studying the Bible is studying what God wants from me.

      3. The stereotype issue is particularly painful for me because I stand firmly in the middle of a dichotomy. Many Christians view Evolutionary Biologists as atheistic sinners who try to mislead Christians away from God. (I actually received an email from a Christian group I belonged to equating belief in evolution with murder and adultery and then later had to read a similar passage in a book my Bible Study group was reading!) My scientist friends on the other hand, feel like Christians are ignorant, judgemental freaks who try to actively discount our profession. Sigh. All I can say is “Not always!” 🙂

      4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith is that it is both personal and universal. It is rooted in science and theology but ultimately the greatest thing about the Christian concept of “the priesthood of the believer” and the indwelling Holy Spirit is that I believe with all of my heart, soul and mind that God has given me (and each and every other person on this planet) the power to question and evaluate EVERYTHING without requiring another person’s interpretation. I have all the tools I need to form my own, personal beliefs and so do you.

      5. I would like to apologize on behalf of all scientists who have ever tried to pretend like they know everything or that we could EVER even take a position on something as untestable as God! On the other side, I would like to apologize for any person of faith who has ever tried to negate a scientific discovery or fact because it doesn’t fit in with their faith. And finally, on behalf of all humans I’d like to apologize for any attempt to make you feel badly for your own beliefs- whatever they may be!

      Peace! And thank you, Beth, for such an authentic discussion of faith! You continue to amaze and inspire me!

  2. 1. I identify as Catholic, but I have a feeling the powers in Rome might excommunicate me if they knew all the ways I disagree with them. (but I can say the tenets of my faith place me solidly in the Christian camp)
    2. Why? Initially, because that’s the faith in which I was raised. It’s where I was when I discovered that trusting in a higher power makes me feel good, and I’ve never found that my faith clashed so strongly with my church that I needed to seek elsewhere. I stay because I love my church family; I belong to one of the most liberal Catholic churches I’ve ever found (Rome would probably kick us ALL out if they knew…), and I find spiritual renewal through going to mass each week and worshiping with this community of people. (I should also note that when I lived in other cities and tried to attend mass I felt extremely out of place – so I think it is more my home parish that holds me, rather than Catholicism itself)
    3. Stereotype – that Catholics worship Mary. I’ve met so many people who were raised in protestant Christian churches and balked when they found out I was Catholic. Apparently we worship Mary, pray to statues, idolatry at its worst. Obviously (maybe not so obvious, considering how many times I’ve had to dispel this rumor?) this is not true. My husband’s family, when they first met me, couldn’t get over what a good person I seemed to be, DESPITE BEING CATHOLIC, and they got really nervous when we went to a Catholic wedding and the priest held up the bible during the procession…almost like they expected the devil to jump out from behind a pew and possess them or something. This is always strange for me, because my church taught me that faith would come to different people in different ways, and that the label of a religion should never hold as much weight as a person’s actions and the way they treat other people in the world.
    4. One thing people should know about my faith – is that it’s mine and it’s evolving. Because I disagree with Mother church on so many details, I spend a lot of time praying and thinking about what the right course of action (many times political) is. How should I feel about gay marriage, abortion, birth control, women’s rights? What about getting involved in wars overseas in the name of protecting the innocent? I don’t really trust even my priest to answer these questions for me. I try to take the example Jesus set and live it as best I can. And I’m hoping that somehow I can help my children to find faith as well, undefined as mine seems to be.
    5. Just one? Please. The Catholic Church, as an organization, has done awful horrible really bad things. I can’t even begin to apologize for all the horrible things it’s done in the name of faith. All I can do is continue to pray for those in power, and hope that they look for divine inspiration in their decision making instead of being swayed by human arguments.

  3. Beth, I think I love you! And I love the comments on here, it’s so refreshing to see sincere and open conversations about faith/beliefs/etc. Love the sharing that’s going on without judging!!!

    1. I am a mormon – that’s a nickname for members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a Christian and a chocoholic
    2. I am a mormon because I was raised in the church by my mum, (my dad is a “retired catholic” – in his words) as I grew she encouraged me to seek out my own answers, so I did. I searched, prayed and felt the truth of what I had been taught resonating in my heart and soul. I don’t have all the answers, I’m still seeking – which is what God has instructed us to do and I trust Him to lead me to the answers I don’t have yet. I trust Jesus to support me in my times of doubt and dispondancey as he has so many times before. I have felt God’s love and tender mercies throughout my life, in ways I could never deny.
    3. One of the stereotypes about my faith is that Mormons aren’t Christian. That bothers me because I identify myself as a follower of Christ, he is the foundation of what I believe and try to follow.
    4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith is that the God I believe in is loving and merciful. He is not a judgey mcjudgerson – and I think it saddens Him when any of us act that way.
    5. If I could apologise for one thing on behalf of my faith it would be for all the times people have felt hurt or discriminated against, for whatever reason, when all they should have felt was loved.

  4. 1. I am a Christian (Bible believer/follower of Jesus)

    2. Because I believe that what the Bible says about God is true, and because I believe that Jesus has died for my sins in my place so that I could be forgiven.

    3. One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith is that Christians are naive, especially in the area of Science. This may be true for many, but I also know just as many (or even more) Christians who are very knowledgable and intelligent people. The great thing is that Jesus came to save naive and intelligent people alike.

    4. I wish that people knew what the Bible really says. There is so much speculation and hearsay about scripture, even Christians (including myself sometimes…) misunderstand and misquote it. I would like for people to really read the whole book and try to understand what it means, before making any assumptions or claims about it.

    5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be that Christians so often misrepresent Jesus. Because of a misunderstanding of who Jesus really is, and what He really teaches, Christians often behave in a way that distorts how others view Him. I am sorry that we get it wrong so often.

  5. 1, 2) I am an atheist, but until about 3 years ago, I was a Christian. I found at that time that I couldn’t believe in God anymore, and it’s still strange to me. My husband is still a Christian, and I really appreciate that through everything, he’s said that he didn’t know what would happen, but he loves me anyway. I am not a member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile simply because I enjoy doing laundry, but I do belong to the very similar Church of the Never Ending Dishes Pile because two tiny kids will do that to you.

  6. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments!

    1. So now this is even more embarrassing–I’m not sure how to answer this question. Flippantly-I believe in the public library, mountain forests, and affordable health care for all. Seriously–I don’t know what I believe, and I’m far too old to still be undecided. I am an Episcopalian who hasn’t been to church in 12 years. I don’t miss it. I don’t believe in a micro-manager in the sky. And yet…I can’t bring myself to say I am a “former” Episcopalian, let along that I don’t believe in God.

    2. Why? I was raised Episcopalian. If I were to go back to church, I’d go back there. I love the liturgy and tradition of it, and I love the liberal politics and inclusion of reason as a tenet of faith. I just found that when there was a point in my life when I stopped attending church, it didn’t make any difference. It didn’t affect my morals or actions. I believe in love as a force, but I don’t believe in a omniscient, sentient being, or a dead body coming back to life, then going up into the sky. My own mother used to say that she didn’t always believe in the resurrection, but she always believed in the Holy Spirit. It was enough to keep her engaged in church and worship, but it make me feel like a hypocrite. I knew a priest who said, in regards to other religions, “There are many paths to God.” I loved her acceptance, in comparison to what many people of faith say about other faiths, but it also makes me feel like–then what’s the point of picking one?

    3. Are there stereotypes about spiritually confused people? I guess I could get it from both sides. Non-believers could sneer at my refusal to completely let go of my crutch, active believers could predict my afterlife in hell. But I have friends in both camps, and nobody has ever been snotty about it. I guess because I can pass for either…

    4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith and lack of faith is that there are good Christians and bad atheists and bad Christians and good atheists, and really, your faith or lack of faith is kind of like alcohol. It just amplifies what’s already there. Faith can crack your heart wide open to serving humanity, or justify the deepest evil. So can walking away from faith.

    5. I’d like to apologize for apathy. One thing that might pull me back into a church community is to push myself into actual activism and contributing to social justice. As I said, 12 years of non-church going hasn’t changed how I act or treat people, but I think it has slightly shrunk my circle of “fellow souls.”

    Yikes. This is really forcing me to look at how much and for how long I’ve avoided these questions. Could a blog post by one of the funniest writers I’ve found change my life? I’ll be sure to let you know if so!

    1. Great stuff here, Wendy. I too am ‘too old to be undecided’ … yet, here I am … more undecided than I’ve ever been. And strangely comfortable with it all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. I am a Quaker, who was raised Catholic, but now mostly goes to Lutheran church (it’s in town and I like the pastor).

    Why? Because Catholic church scared me. I dreamed I’d wake up pregnant after learning about the immaculate conception and how my father would react, when we went through the signs of the cross I always was bawling by the end. My mother switch to Quaker when I was ten and I followed suit. I love being a Quaker, it’s so inclusive (at least my branch of it is). At meetings we sit in silent meditation for an hour and we talk at will when called by the spirit within. I’ve heard people talk about being inspired by Buddhist beliefs, Christian beliefs, Muslim ect and love how we embrace each other. I also am finding wisdom in Buddism and how it aligns so well with my current feelings.

    One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is. We don’t (usually) look like the guy on the oatmeal can! Though some of us are a little dustier than others 🙂 Lots of gardeners in my church. And we’re good people, truly.

    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be complacency and not acting on my beliefs to do good in the world. I do some but I could do more.

  8. I love this series of comments so much. Usually on the rare occasion that I am up late following the endless rabbit-hole of the internet I find myself at some crappy buzzfeed “article” or (on a good day) reading comics on The Oatmeal – but instead tonight I find myself *thinking*. All these lovely, open, heart-felt responses forced me to pry open the faith closet that has been shut for a few years in my life and do some cleaning out, dumping out old preconceptions and prejudices, dusting off my own beliefs a little, straightening out the shelves. Thank you. To all of you. And to Beth.

    So, my answers:

    1) I am a lapsed Evangelical Quaker. I still think of myself as Quaker, and MOST of the time consider myself a Christian (though I fully admit that I am a pretty crappy one).

    2) Why? My story of faith is not noble or compelling, it is mostly a story of apathy and lack of conviction. A slow dwindling away from the conservative christian messages I received as I grew up. I was raised Evangelical Quaker in a very conservative town. I was a Biology major. I fell in love with and eventually married an Agnostic. I was heavily involved in theatre which means spending lots of time with gay men and people who swear a lot. I taught sex ed at an urban public high school to students for whom the political and theological intricacies of the abortion/contraception debate were totally irrelevant. I started having trouble keeping track of what I was “supposed” to believe because so much of it didn’t jive with what I was learning. Plus I moved a lot so I was always church shopping. It was exhausting. I gave up about 6 years ago and stopped going to church. I still love Jesus, He just looks a little different than he did 10 years ago.

    3)The most bizarre and consistent misconception that people seem to have about Quakers is that Quaker and Amish are the same thing. It must have something to do with the dude on the oatmeal box. I know almost nothing about the spiritual doctrine of the Amish, so I can’t really articulate differences in theology, but I will tell you that every Quaker I know uses electricity.

    4) What I wish people knew about ME and my faith is that even though I have stopped going to church I have not lost my faith. God is even larger and more awesome to me now than he was when I was trying so hard to be a good Christian – I was terrified all the time. I could never measure up. So I gave up and embraced my imperfection, and realized that God loved me anyway, which, as it turns out, is the whole point.

    5) Most of the things I want to apologize for are not really about my faith, but about how groups of people have co-opted parts of my faith for their own purposes. Misogyny, war-mongering, bigotry – these are not the behaviors Jesus modeled. Anyone learning about Christianity from the news would think the Bible has two chapters*: “God Hates Abortion” and “Homosexuality is Icky”. This is not what Jesus was about.

  9. Love this topic. It’s wonderful to me for people to have a safe place to talk about their beliefs, to hear about others and to sit back and consider them all. Here are my thoughts:
    1. I am an atheist.
    2. It makes sense to me in the way that I hear religious friends describe that their faith makes sense to them.
    3. Stereotypes include, as someone said above, that we are a bunch of immoral assholes. I suppose some of us probably are, but then so are some of every group.
    4. I want you to know that I believe my time spent in this world is the chance I have to do good; that the time to do the right thing is now, because there will be no chance for forgiveness or repentance when this life ends.
    5. If I could apologize on behalf of my peers, it would be for those who are uppity, judge mental and make those of faith feel stupid or somehow less than.

  10. I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
    I am a Jew, and a member of the Church of the Never-ending Laundry Pile, and a Who-vian, and a Trekkie, and an all around Follower of All Things Geek.
    Why?
    I’m a Jew because that is the way I was raised. I became nonpracticing in high school and college, then got a job teaching in a Jewish school and rediscovered my joy in Judaism. No other organized relion makes sense to me. If there is a God, there is only one and there is no intermediary, in my opinion.

    The geek thing is because my people are there. In SF, the future plays out in its most wonderful and most horrible ways, and I like thinking about that stuff. Plus, geeks have a wicked sense of humor.

    One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is that we’re all (Jews) either nonpracticing, or crazy orthodox nut-jobs. There’s plenty of us middle of the road, plenty of observant but not crazy, plenty of us just trying to figure it out.
    One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is its complicated, and always evolving.________.
    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be the same as so many Christians above. Sorry my faith has been judgey, and hurtful, to those who brief system is different from ours.

    1. So good to hear of another SF geek mom!!! I really have found my village! 🙂

  11. 1.I am an Atheist
    2.Logic, sense, reason, reality, science. It’s hard to explain. But unless it’s really, really real, then it’s not real. Period.
    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is “Atheists are just mad at god.” To me, this is like saying I’m bitter about Santa or annoyed with the Tooth Fairy.
    4.One thing I wish people knew about my lack of faith is that you don’t need religion to have morals. I feel that I can do what’s right based on my own sensibilities, without the pressure of an intangible parent figure in the sky to threaten me into it.
    Another is that I come from a Christian family. I don’t make a big stink about it in front of Grandma. Some Atheists are rather in your face, and I rarely talk about it. I’m not ashamed, but there seem to be so many bigger things to talk about. It’s like asking a Christian why they don’t believe in all those Greek gods.
    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be that some the big name Atheists are also sexist assholes and have been getting press for the wrong reasons. They are embarrassing and the reason why I don’t go to Atheist conventions. Surprising amount of drama.

    I am also raising my daughters to be Atheists (No, sweetie, there’s no Santa either.). I should have written about that. That would be more interesting.

  12. I am a seeker. I grew up in a Christian (Southern Baptist) household. As a young adult, I grew away from the church for a short while but found my way to an Episcopal church where I met and married my husband, and where our children were baptized. Fast forward a few years to my husband’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Though he survived a long time for that kind of cancer, he died when our children were 7 and 11. I had been sustained by my faith, and by the loving and faithful support of our Christian friends, during his illness and, at his death was glad that he was free of pain, whole again in the arms of God. Then, six short weeks later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I had thought that telling my kids that their dad had died would be the hardest thing I had ever had to do, it was surpassed by telling them I had cancer too. To see their terrified little faces, when the ground of their lives was continually shaking uncontrollably, was devastating. I was sick, and grieving myself, and was Unable to protect them. And I just could not understand how any god could allow such cruelty to happen to innocent children. It made me question everything I had believed and to look around the world at all the atrocities that occur to people. I totally lost my faith, as I could no longer believe any of the things I had been taught about God. I have long-struggled to regain my faith (it has been seven long, lonely, exhausting years since my husband’s death) but I have been unable to.

    I am still a good, moral person. My son is still a Christian but my daughter is not. I want to continue to be part of a community. I miss that part of church. I am visiting a Unitarian church because I love their accepting nature, their commitment to each other and the environment.
    And I still love those Christians who are loving and accepting. I just can’t understand those who are judgemental and critical of the “strugglers” like me.

    1. I’m only just reading through these now. Katherine – sending love and hugs.

  13. 1 – I am a recovering christian and social justice wannabe…

    2 – Why? Because I was born to christian parents and raised that way and have these beliefs become ingrained and personal to me, only to later question everything. As a result, I now believe in and advocate for human rights and equality – because I would rather celebrate my gay friends weddings and show them the same love and support i do my straight friends …because I’d rather take the teenage girl to the abortion clinic, than see her lose herself, her future, and her supports because our world hasn’t adequately fought for gender equality, social supports, free contraception or equal health care …because I’d rather fight for justice and equality than have clear definitions of right and wrong …because I’d rather live a life of honesty and uncertainty, than be fed information and not be allowed to think for myself …because I would rather acknowledge my and my family’s mental illness for what it is, an illness, than be told I’m/we’re “less than” and not strong/good enough …because I believe love means acceptance and tolerance and stepping into another’s shoes with mercy rather than condemnation …because I think so much of life is by chance and I can’t believe in something/someone that thinks of itself as elite/better than and the only way …because I think we’re all right and ultimately fighting for the same things, and a truly loving god couldn’t/wouldn’t condemn or reject for not fitting a certain standard. But, all of these stem from my christian upbringing and something inside me tells me Jesus would and did fight for these same things and we’ve just messed it up, so I cannot reject the religion completely and instead am trying to figure out what it means to love

    3 – Unfortunately, we’re still living in a world where the stereotypes about christians are true. However, I know that there are MANY out there (clearly shown by the comments here) who fight these stereotypes and believe/advocate for equality. The stereotypes are true of only some.

    4 – I wish people would know that I didn’t “choose” to be here. These doubts came naturally and independently and unfortunately there’s no way to un-know the things I now know or answer then unanswerable questions I have. Also, I wish people would know that living in this place of uncertainty is much harder than living in the comfy confines of religious certainty; disbelief is much more complicated than belief.

    5 – I would like to apologize on behalf of myself – to those I judge(d), or tried to sway and convert; to those I taught hell and damnation; to those I consider(ed) myself better than: I want you to know that you are loved and accepted and okay just as you are. You don’t need to believe what I believe to live an honourable life. In fact, I think you have more to teach me, than I you. I’m so sorry for judging you. And I’m sorry to the christians who are living good, honest lives – I don’t want to hurt your religion or the way you’re living: I am still angry and reeling from my time there and trying to sort through this mess in my head and heart. I am human and flawed too.

  14. I am an atheist.

    Why? Because, after being raised in a number of different faiths (what seemed like the entire Christian spectrum [wesleyan, episcopalian, methodist, catholic, quaker], and buddhism [theravada, then zen], then explored sufism, hinduism… I seemed to recognize a pattern. So much of what I saw had little to do with finding a real, unarguable truth. Rather these places or groups of various faith were more concerned, ultimately, with convincing people that they were correct and had the best option for laying down all of one’s metaphysical chips. And I found, for myself, that I was okay not adhering to one specific set of beliefs outside of my own moral compass. I very much miss a sense of community that I experienced as a child within churches or temples, however I am unable to commit myself or my family to any sort of creed or set of beliefs simply because I want to feel like I belong somewhere.

    One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is that I must be an atheist because of a bad experience with religion, and that if I’d had better pastors, priests, etc. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss God or religion. This is not true- I experienced a lot of love in all of these religions. It is their commonality that made it so clear to me that the one consistency was humanness. People make the effort (or don’t) to better themselves through thought and contemplation, and I saw this regardless of their faith or lack of faith.

    One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is that I’m not angry at people who are religious or think they are stupid. I do get frustrated when I see people struggle when their religion’s standards conflict with their own moral compass, because so many times that conflict results in unnecessary pain and/or guilt.

    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of mySELF, it would be that I rarely “come out” of my atheist’s closet because I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. I’m realizing how condescending and patronizing that action actually is, though- why am I able to handle hearing about others’ beliefs but think others don’t have that same capability? I want to be better about trusting those of faith to be able to handle my lack thereof.

  15. 1. I am a Christian [though sometimes I choke on the word].
    2. Because I believe the history of Jesus – what he taught, what he lived, what he said he was – though I find it very difficult to understand it and live it. Because in special moments I feel a universal connectedness, a deep understanding, a beauty so huge I lack words to describe it. Because life, both physical and intellectual, is so vast and intricate and interconnected, that I see a supernatural/divine artist and parent in it all. Because becoming a parent has shown me things first hand, that make it easier to understand where God might be coming from with lessons and distance and hardship, and parenthood has helped me see just how blind, confused and immature I can be.
    3. A stereotype I hear a lot about Christianity is summed up in the character of April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy. I suppose it is true AND false, depending on limitless variables imposed upon us by our specific genetics, family, church, experience.
    4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith AND lack of it is that it is open and dynamic. The questions are bigger than answers. And that answers are pretty much never carved in stone… except perhaps the ones that were actually, clearly, carved in stone.
    5. If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of Christianity, it would be the pain of persecution (as big as torture, war and death, to as subtle as rejection and “sins” declared. Especially all the “I love you’s, but…”

  16. 1.I am a(n) ________. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
    2.Why?
    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is _______. This is (true or false) because _______.
    4.One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is ________.
    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be ________.

    1. I am a not sure still thinking about it. Not sure if there is a god out there, but I do like to think there is something going on. I am also a member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, a rabid Stephen King fan (I know, I know it’s cooler to hate him), a leader of the Did You Do Your Chore sept, and a questioner. My belief system is to treat other people the way I want to be treated – period.

    2. Why? Well, some of the answers are obvious, I mean, have you actually looked at the characters in a Stephen King book, they could totally be my neighbors. Except the vampires and stuff.

    The not sure is a bit longer to answer.

    As many others here, I grew up Christian. Methodist actually. I loved it, loved the almost ritualistic routine of the service, the hymns, singing in the choir. Then my parents moved us across the country to more liberal Open Bible type churches. I went to those types for years and years. Everything from bands with actual guitars playing the worship music to people standing up and praising God, out loud, whenever they wanted. And it was good. I’m glad I did because it kept me out of trouble and gave me a moral code at a time in my life where I needed one. And I’m happy for the people there who still get good stuff out of it. If praying works for you, go for it.

    Then I did the whole questioning thing. It was painful and it sucked to finally admit I just didn’t believe any of it. WHen I finally admitted I didn’t believe I was totally relieved to not have to pretend anymore and then totally confused when I realized I had to decide all the rules of life for myself with no rule book. That’s been hard. I spent a long time being defensive and a bit in your face about my nonbelief, especially to my family who all still pray for me because I am going to hell. It feels better for me to just go along on my own personal quest to figure things out. I believe a bit of Christian things, a bit of Buddist things, etc. I am fascinated with other faiths and belief systems. I think it’s awesome when someone has found something that gives them comfort or peace. In my house we have a non church going Christian, 3 very faithful Christians, an atheist, another I don’t really know, and me. And that’s just my husband and kids lol. And I think it’s great that everyone is deciding for themselves what they believe because then it’s authentic and real.

    3. I think one of the stereotypes of my non belief is the whole lack of morals thing. I do have them, I really do. Sometimes it takes me a little while to figure out what my values are, but that’s me trying to be authentic.

    4. Hmmm…one thing. I wish people, especially my Christian friends and family would understand that I do believe in a god/deity/spirit, just not the Christian god. I believe there is something out there. I don’t think this whole earth and people thing happened by accident. But I don’t know who or why and I don’t think someone up there is watching me. I believe in a god/deity/spirit who doesn’t fit in a box. That god is something I cannot possibly understand so I don’t try. And while I am stating my beliefs (on the wrong question number) I would like to add my most basic belief, which I also think is the heart of most religions. It’s be kind, love people, try to do no harm, and treat everyone the way you wish to be treated. And please don’t try to fit me in your little boxes, I like my beliefs messy.

    5. I think that as a previous Christian I would apologize for all the times I judged someone and found them wanting, when I was so imperfect myself. As a non Christian I would apologize for all the times I have judged someone and found them wanting when I was so imperfect myself. Yes I know, I said the same thing twice. I believe judgment is a poisoned knife that divides, cuts, and grows bitterness and venom in our hearts. So, I’m sorry if and when I judge you (cause I still do it, I’m really trying though).

    1. I forgot to add the I believe in the Zombie Apocalypse! Don’t judge

  17. 1. I am an atheist.
    2. After spending over two decades of my life as a solid Christian, I was no longer satisfied with the questions that ate away at me. I could not bring myself to teach my children stories from the Bible. I gradually tried out believing less and less, explored various religions and found myself unconvinced by any of them. I now feel more peace than ever.
    3.One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my lack of faith is that I’m immoral. This is false, because morality should be based on empathy, which is a neurological function rather than something that exists only within religious traditions.
    4.One thing I wish people knew about my lack of faith is that I still want to be friends with Christians, but I do worry that people will try to evangelize my children before they’re old enough to choose for themselves.
    5.If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be the bitterness that I hide. Sometimes I am still angry for being indoctrinated so young into a puritanical tradition that I believe had psychological consequences throughout my entire life. I choose to let it go, but I must continue to choose over and over.

  18. Well, I rarely participate in discussions of this kind, but because I have found such deep and meaningful insight here on your blog and among your comments I am behooved to participate.

    I am a Seventh Day Adventist Christian
    Why? Like someone else here said, because I wont leave. There are things about my denomination that I don’t agree with. There are also many things I cherish, but often because it is the old comfortable familiar. My entire family is SDA as is most of my husband’s family and I love that my children and their family can enjoy sharing a spiritual family too. For the most part, I am just hog wild about God. He has become so real to me and so dear to me. I love that He/She has a sense of humor and such deep compassion. I also love that there is mystery to Him. Faith is such an adventure!

    One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is that we are a cult and that we don’t believe in Jesus Christ (yes I’ve had people tell me I don’t believe in Jesus Christ – really? I’m pretty sure I’d be aware of that). This is false because we absolutely believe in Jesus Christ. However, I often fear that some of my denomination is sorely misinformed about just how powerful His sacrifice on the cross was and just how free we are in Him to live whole/healed lives and to worship with abandon. What I wouldn’t give to worship in an SDA church where the quiet conservative worshipers wouldn’t mind or take a second look if I danced around, shouted, fell to my knees. But I do those things outside of church usually.

    One thing I wish people knew about my faith is… Honestly, anything true. I feel like people have NO clue what real SDA beliefs are.

    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be (picking one from a very long list here) judging other faiths. I feel like growing up in a little understood denomination of Christianity I have gained perspective about this, but not everyone in my denomination has. I realize that until I have walked in the faith of another denomination myself, I have no real idea what a Mormon or Catholic or Unitarian or Quaker etc. believes and what their real relationship with God is. And really, I no longer care. My faith is about wanting to see and know God more every day. To really SEE His character and feel it changing me from the very center of my being. I have no use or time for anything else.

  19. 1.) I am a Mormon — a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    2.) Why? Because I believe. I believe because not only have I prayed to God to ask Him if it’s right and true, but also because of the fruits that this choice has yielded over and over again. (Matt 7:20) My faith has brought peace, hope, meaning, and direction to my life. It doesn’t take the bad parts of life away. It doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility to choose, to think, to figure out things, to live a good life, to step out in faith into the darkness. But it helps bring patience and hope to my life. It brings grace and tender mercies to buoy me through the hard times. It brings me the assurance that God is there, that Jesus is my Savior, and that they know me personally and intimately. I also think that one of the valuable things about organized religion is that it creates a community of people who have shared religious experiences, which helps to unify each other and create not only a stronger whole, but stronger individuals.
    3.) Mormons and stereotypes?! Where to start. Ha! Actually, I’m not going to answer this question about my religion, but my faith. The stereotype I hear a lot about faith is that people who believe in God/religion/faith are stupid/brainwashed/uneducated/fools. Faith is living in a way that you don’t have to understand or have proof for everything; you have had proof for enough things, and enough knowledge of your ignorance, to know that you will never have proof or understanding of most things and you can leave the rest in suspense, trusting in God’s plan and timing for when you’ll be able to understand and know all things.
    4.) One thing I wish people knew about my faith is that it defines me. It is who I am. I am a woman of faith, and my goal is for all of my actions, words, and thoughts to show that and to show God’s grace – or rather more and more over time. :o)
    5.) The only thing I can think about to apologize for my faith or my religion is people’s misunderstanding of it.

  20. I am a(n) _Christian_______. (Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Chocolate Lover, Trekkie, Member of the Church of the Never Ending Laundry Pile, etc.)
    Why? I was raised going to church and walked away as a teenager because I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy. Really, I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do without having to be accountable for it. When I was in college I was doing anything I wanted and was confronted with a friend who had become a Christian and had actually changed his life. He lived differently. He responded differently. What he said he believed actually showed up in his life. I wanted that. So I began to walk a faith journey. I read the Bible and tried to live by what it says. Still not great at it twenty years later, but still walking anyway.
    One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is __If you ask just right then God will answer your prayers. If your prayers aren’t answered then you don’t have enough faith_____. This is (true or false) because __This is false because God does answer all prayers. He just doesn’t always say yes. It has little to do with your faith (except that you have faith even as small as a mustard seed) it has to do with the fact that God knows more than I do. God is allowed to answer no, or wait just like I can with my kids._____.
    One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is _That all sins are equal, there isn’t one that is bigger than any other… even though some get more air time than others. All sins are equally able to be forgiven as well, even if people don’t forgive. God does._______.
    If I could apologize for one thing on behalf of my faith, it would be _arrogance and intolerance. Ok, that is two things. Sorry._______.

  21. 1. I am a imperfect child of God who was saved by grace & loves Jesus, my Heavenly Father & the awesome incredible Holy Spirit who works in amazing ways. I was raised as a Roman Catholic & married a Lutheran hoping we could both maintain our faiths. That became complicated with children. We ended up leaving both those denominations as we looked for a place to build our growing family’s faith. I pray a lot about unity in the church. Christ’s prayer for the church was that we would be one and we are so far from that. My current church is going through a lot of controversy and struggles and it keeps me on my knees praying for unity, truth and healing. I long for His Kingdom to come. I feel selfish doing so but believe God at his word that He wants all to come to Him & that He is faithful to make that happen.

    2. I have had a spiritual thirst & curiosity always, I believe faith is both a gift and choice. I was given the ability to believe and leap and have never regretted that. I am searching for a book my grandmother gave me as a child called ‘Where is God?’ apparently it is a question I asked her frequently. It explained that God is in the beauty of nature, the love of strangers, friends and family as well as the church. I am thankful to have had my faith nurtured all my life. I would be bitter and hopeless without it. I don’t know how people without of faith get up let alone keep on keeping on.

    3. I wish people could see past sinful people (believers) and broken bureaucracies (the church) to see the loving God moving and working in the world. Free will is a wildly extravagant gift that has not only spoiled but tormented many. The thing many don’t see is that there is more to life than life & God’s power reaches beyond the grave. Some individuals sinful choices (Hitler) keep millions from being able to see the possibility of a loving God. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28, God works for good in all things. He put Schindler there with his list and has a way to bring good in all circumstances. We don’t always see the end result because our end is not the end. I wish everyone knew God and I was better about bridging that gap. It is crazy that an all powerful God would choose to be born in a stable, live in a hot, sandy land without wifi or central air and die on a cross, but that shows just how much He really loves us. His love is crazy wide, deep and long & it is beyond our understanding. I am head over heels in love with that God.

    4. So many apologies. The fallen world is overflowing with our failures; the sexual abuse, the death in the name of God, the judgmental, non loving, selfish, righteous, unkind, unending filth of the world. God is love. I apologize for all the unloving, failed attempts made in His name & for the good that could have been done but wasn’t. There is enough for all, if only we shared. It is His not ours. GOD LOVES YOU READER. Don’t let anything someone else has done separate you from Him, that is my prayer. Amen, please and thank you Lord.

    Thank you Beth. I’ve never tried to put that all down and it’s a good start. I have so many loved ones, friends, acquaintances and strangers who I want to share God with. You’ve helped me get my ‘rough draft’ started.

  22. 1. I am a Muslim. I was raised Catholic, but as an adult, I started questioning the existence of God, then I turned away from Him and the church all together. Through the painful and humbling experience of divorce, loss of most of my worldly possessions and wealth and a fear of being alone in this big scarey world again, I found my way back to God, but this time, on a different path – through Islam. Thanks be to God.
    2. Why? Because the first time I prayed as the Muslims do, which is in a completely submitted position of having your head on the floor, bowing before God, I felt closer to Him than I ever had in my life. On this path, I feel close to God and I love being Muslim.
    3. One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith or lack of faith is that women are oppressed or controlled by their husbands. This is false. Muslim women are held in a high esteem in our religion and Islam gave rights to women long before the feminist movement. 1400 years ago, women were given the right to vote, to own property, to be maintained by their husbands financially, to own and operate businesses, to be treated as equals, etc. I’d also like to add that women wear the veil (hijab) by their own choice, not because they are forced to. We wear it out of modesty (kinda like the Catholic nuns).
    4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith or lack of faith is that there IS a God, and He is One. There is none like unto Him. He is our Creator and He is the most Merciful. The Oneness of God is the basis of Islam and then the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent to teach us about God, how to live and behave and how to pray so that we can all live together in harmony – physically and spiritually. Humans are spiritual beings, sent to Earth as a test, but our souls have been to Heaven and yearn to be close to God, even while we are on Earth. Islam’s teachings keep you close to God. We believe in all the monotheistic religions and prophets, like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus (peace be upon them all) and we believe that Muhammad (pbuh) was sent as the final Messenger. He is the seal of the prophets.

    May God guide us and bless us all. May He grant us Heaven and bring us close to Him. Amen.

  23. First of all, I love this post (can I really start every comment with that?).

    1. I am a Buddhist-Catholic-Unitarian Universalist. I’m also a member of the Church of I Secretly Adore the Irish Tenors.

    2. I grew up Catholic. I absorbed many UU beliefs in late high school, after reading Emerson and Thoreau and other Transcendentalists. In college, I horrified my Catholic friend by telling him that all of faith boiled down to this: Love is the Only Way. As an adult, I still appreciate the beauty and solemnity of the Mass. In my dark moments, appeals to Mary and Jesus and God the Father have helped heal me. Still, in its essence, I see the Church as an external, exclusive faith: that we are broken and only by asking for help from the outside can we be healed. After being diagnosed with post-partum depression, I took a Mindfulness Meditation class and came to realize that strength and light and wholeness are ALREADY in me–that I don’t have to look elsewhere or ask someone else for it. Buddhism seems to me more of an internal, inclusive faith. Both balance and heal me. I don’t really care of some Christians say you can’t be both. I don’t live in an either/or faith world.

    3. One of the stereotypes I hear a lot about my faith is that we’re stuck in the Middle Ages. It’s true. Catholic views of women, the priesthood, the male hierarchy, birth control, homosexuality, much of science–I disagree with pretty much all of it. I go by what Barbara Kingsolver once said about the U.S.: I don’t like it, but I’d rather stay and change it than leave.

    4. One thing I wish people knew about my faith was that being a person of faith does not equate with lower intelligence. I think some people think you have to believe EITHER in science OR in some faith tradition. Why can’t we do both?

    5. I would like to apologize for the hate and discrimination “validated” by a faith tradition. For any faith. God, no matter what we call Him, Her, Them, or whatever, is Love Incarnate.

  24. I am answering before reading comments.

    1. A Christian (and also, a member of the church of the never ending laundry pile.)
    2. Because I was raised as such, and have come to believe for myself.
    3. That Christians are hypocritical and judgmental. This is unfortunately true in some instances, and thankfully false in others. As a whole, we accept that we are so much less than perfect, yet we are saved by the grace of God. As individuals we tend to hold others to higher expectations than ourselves.
    4. It’s a celebration of a love that we are not able to comprehend.
    5. The Westboro Baptist “church.” Although I am not Baptist, they are hate-mongers masquerading as Christians.

  25. 1. I am a Christian, geek, member of the Church of the never ending pile of laundry.
    2. The most straightforward answer to why is that I was “sort of” raised Christian. I was taken to Catholic church as a kid, and Sunday school (where I was not really appreciated for asking all those pesky questions!) until about the fourth grade when I whined my way out of it. But I kept wondering if it was true. Eventually I made a good friend who was a Christian (and rational!) and I started really reading and researching the historical Jesus. Eventually I decided that if I actually believed that Jesus was the Son of God, then I should probably take Him pretty seriously. I decided that (for lots of reasons, including the fact that His followers kept following after His death when it meant their deaths, and that they recorded the first witnesses to His resurrection as women, who couldn’t even be witnesses under the law of the day) He really was who He said He was. So now I follow Jesus and that makes me a Christian.
    3. I think the stereotype that most annoys me is that all Christians are super conservative, anti-gay, anti-Democrat, pro-gun, bigoted people. Of course there are some, and they are loud (I’m looking at you, Westboro Baptist), but there are also lots of liberal Christians! And Christians who think it’s not a sin to be gay. And Christians who vote for Democrats. And Christians who are highly educated, even scientists. It’s not a faith for dumb or uneducated people.
    4. I wish people knew that Christianity isn’t just something I do on Sundays, or something that when it comes up I say I believe in it. Christianity has changed my entire life. It has changed my entire point of view. I am a different person now because I follow Jesus, a better person. I think about how to be a better follower of Jesus EVERY DAY and it affects my interactions with pretty much everybody I meet. So if you’re wondering why I let you into that lane even though you totally jumped the line while the rest of us waited in traffic, it was Jesus.
    5. I want to apologize so much. Mostly I want to apologize on behalf of Christians for hurting so many people. In wars, in bigotry, in hurtful language. I’m sorry. It’s basically the opposite of what Jesus said to do, and yet we keep doing it.

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