I believe that I have learned a lot about myself and my beliefs this past year. Being challenged and put in new situations has allowed me to gain perspective and new ideas about things. I have expanded my beliefs, and I believe that they will continue to stretch as I grow and learn more.
So let’s lay this out for you. I was born and raised Catholic. Went to a Catholic primary school K-8th. I am still a practicing Catholic, and my faith is very important to me.
After going to a Catholic school, then public high school, and being surrounded by mostly Christian friends, I wasn’t exposed to other religious traditions. I didn’t even know about the large variety in Christianity, until I started dating my ex who identifies as “Non-denominational Protestant”.
After dating him for a while, I learned a lot about the differences in Catholicism and Protestantism and ultimately figured out it wasn’t going to work.
Not to say that I wouldn’t marry someone of a different religion. I would be able to marry someone of a different religious background if there was no pressure for someone to be “right” and the other person to be “wrong”. I would also want our kids to be raised with an awareness of other religions and to not believe that others are wrong for believing in something different.
Of course, if I did happen to marry someone Catholic there would be benefits like getting married in the church, practicing NFP etc.
But ultimately, what I have learned from this year is to question “WHY” I believe in things. Unfortunately, a lot of things that people believe in religion are based on assumptions or vague promises of “He has a plan for us”. When you tell these things to people who are generally irreligious, they think it is pointless.
I’ve really had to dig deep and think “WHY” do I believe in this? If I say it’s because I was raised Catholic and this is what the priest tells us in Church, what does that say about my faith?
Of course, being raised Catholic does have a part in why I believe the things I do. However, there are certain things that I do not whole-heartedly agree with in the doctrine of the Catholic Church. And there are other things that I do agree with, but I have additional reasons for believing than just the ones stated in Catechism.
For example, confession. I’m sure all of you have seen a movie scene where a person commits a crime then sees a priest to be absolved of their sins. My ex used to ask me, why do you need to go to confession? Why can’t you just pray to Jesus and have your sins forgiven? And I definitely don’t think that there is anything wrong in praying to God and saying that you are really sorry for what you have done. However, I feel like going to confession aids me because I’m just human. I know that God is everywhere, but it does help to have a physical representative of him here. Admitting my faults to another human being is a struggle within itself. Telling other people about things you are ashamed to admit is hard. Somehow saying these things out loud makes them more tangible and harder to ignore. It’s easy to say in your head, “God, I’m sorry for doing this….” And be done with it. But telling another person out loud is something different entirely.
And then there’s the controversy surrounding homosexuality. Most Christians would say that homosexual acts are a sin because it says so in the Bible. But other than that, I can’t find a legitimate reason for why it is bad. (Also, other sins like lying and stealing are not regarded with the same amount of disapproval).
And of course, the ultimate question, who gets to go to heaven? Personally, I believe in a God who is omnipotent, all knowing, and all forgiving. It seems impossible that this kind of God could pick and choose which of His children get to go to eternal paradise because of what religious tradition they follow. That would be like judging people based on what sports team they root for. If a person is moral, I do not see any problem.
Of course, there will always be people who will disagree with me. And that’s okay! You have a right to your opinion. I am simply stating, that because of my experiences this past year, I have learned to question and stretch my beliefs. And for that I am grateful. I would much rather think about something deeply than accept things without question.
Reader, have you had experiences where you’ve questioned or adjusted your religious beliefs? If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear your stories.