Losing My Religion

A Big Job

There are actually still nearly seventy posts which contain my lawfully wedded’s given name. All three hundred some odd posts probably need to be edited for usage style and clarity. I would like to make sure that all three hundred some odd posts and any future posts include jump breaks so that, when posts are viewed all on a single page, pages are not cluttered with entire entries and it’s easier for readers to scroll through.

That also helps with syndication–I have the blog set to only syndicate up to the jump so readers must return here to the original blog for the rest of the entry. Editing all of the old posts is a job of epic mammoth proportions, though. At this point, I’m going to abandon the prospect. I still have novels in progress, teacher duties to attend to, and parenting responsibilities. I still have a laundry to do and old files to sort through and my bookshelf could use a good dusting…in short, I’m booked.

All of the items cluttering my rather lengthy to-do list still are not enough to keep my mind from wondering, contemplating, considering. I’ve blogged before about my religious beliefs or lack thereof. I’m not going to point you to specific entries–I’ve spent entirely too much time over the last several days perusing previous postings. Suffice to say that it is a topic I’ve probably beaten to death ’til it’s dead.

Still, what do I really know about religion–mine or anyone else’s?

When I was twelve, I went through a process at my grandfather’s church–First Baptist Church of Marshall, Texas at the time–wherein I met with the pastor of the church and conferenced about my decision to be baptised. At the time, I had been attending services regularly after finally breaking free of my step-brother’s unacceptable advances. I thought I wanted to follow the righteous path outlined for my by the church elders and Sunday school teachers.

The rules were simple: no sex until married, read the Bible, follow the ten commandments and Golden Rule, show up on Sundays and Wednesdays in your best clothing. I do not remember this being an exact wording from any one person or group, it just seemed to be the summary of etiquette and sermon. I did read the Bible back then, but my reading comprehension skills were evidently lacking at the time, in spite of my college reading level.

A colleague of mine is quite versed in the text, context, and culture surrounding the Bible–he is a true Biblical scholar. A pastor at a presbyterian church my grandparents are now attending in the same town I was baptised in is also a Biblical scholar. I attended her sermons for about a month during my brief stay at the homeless shelter my grandparents operate. Between her and my colleague, I feel at once intrigued and embarrassed. How can I denounce something I have yet to thoroughly study?

I have yet to thoroughly study most of the world’s religions, of course. Atheism (the lack of belief in a any supreme being) seems an easy system to understand, and once understanding I knew it was not for me. I do not call myself an agnostic either (there is no proof god does or doesn’t exist so suspend the argument). I spent quite a bit of time on relgioustolerence.org once upon a time, but that does not fully constitute in depth study of the world’s religions.

To further complicate matters, the world is not simply made up of Christians, atheists, agnostics, pagans, and Muslims. Each of those terms comes with subgroups, fringe groups, related groups, alternative groups, anti-groups, etc. I suppose no one can truly understand all of the above, but the aforementioned colleague seems to come pretty close in relation to understanding Christianity and the Bible. I actually asked him one day for recommendations on which version of the Bible to read.

When I use the umbrella term of pagan to refer to my own beliefs, it means to me (as explained in a rather lengthy post elsewhere on this blog) that I can encompass all non-Abrahamic religions into one huge vat of knowledge, blended together with two cups sugar and half a bottle of Jack. It means that I can say, “I’m not a Christian, but it’s okay if you are.” But is that a cop-out? Do I really know enough about any religion to be passionate about it?

I wish I had the deep convictions which drive various friends and relatives of mine to talk or act or think or feel or be a certain way. I wish I could recall the basic tenets of my own belief system at the drop of a hat like my aforementioned colleague. The truth is, I never left Christianity, because contrary to my twelve-year-old-self’s decision to be baptised, I had never actually joined Christianity. I never knew enough about what there was to believe to be able to consciously and with maturity say, “Yes, I will embody this.”

But–SPOILER ALERT!–I never actually joined the pagan world either.

Random discussion with the colleague about his religious beliefs and about the Bible have gotten me thinking about what it was that caused me to reject the religion in the first place. At fourteen, I met an atheist who ended up becoming my boyfriend and gently convincing me that sex outside the bonds of marriage was not bad and was actually quite good. Around that time, I had met a few apparent teenage witches as well. For those next few years I teetered between atheism and paganism before meeting my future ex husband.

When I met the man I ended up marrying, he introduced me to this world. Sure, I’d met people prior to that who called themselves witches or wore pentacles or claimed to be practitioners of magic, and I’d even tried my hand at the occasional spell, but it was the freedom of job corps and his intoxicating blue eyes that sucked me into his version of this culture, which is to say that he had books to read and erected an altar in every household he ran. He never really taught me ritual of any kind. I can even distinctly recall a night where we’d intended to do a ritual with another woman who’d been our neighbor, and I ended up running down a country road barefoot in the dark wearing nothing but a long black gown and tear-streaked mascara.

Since meeting him, I have taken on the phrase solitary practitioner to describe my version of paganism. I have tried some tentative and elementary spellcasting, participated in rituals with other people as part of pagan groups we tried to belong to, and for many years wore about my neck a bone-carved pentacle he had given me, although I’ve no idea what’s become of that particular talisman. I’ve gone to exactly one meeting of the local interfaith group, representing myself as a pagan.

Through Pentacles of Pride, I got a new pentacle, but have not worn it. I am not ashamed of it, but just haven’t found anything to hang it on. I recently even designed a new tattoo to represent my newborn son, and part of the tattoo incorporates a pentacle and other non-Abrahamic symbolism, but of course I have not yet had the time to schedule a sitting.

Symbolism aside, I guess where I’m going with tonight’s entry (because while it is technically morning, I have yet to sleep from the previous day and so feel it is still night) is that I am lost, spiritually. I do not know what I believe. I wish that I had a true spiritual guide, a friend who could show me their path in depth and help me decide if it really is the path for me. I wish that someone like said colleague, someone who really knows their shit so to speak, would invite me to be a part of their world for a while. Of course, there’s no one quite like him and he doesn’t quite like me, so it seems.

It seems disingenuous to pick a religion based on the notion that a friend led you there or a lover decided to prosthelytize from between the sheets, but of course that’s what has guided plenty of people down whatever path they chose. And, after all, isn’t love destined to bring you either death or religion?

R.E.M.–That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight losing my religion, trying to keep up with you, and I don’t know if I can do it. Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.

View the full blog at heartchasms.blogspot.com and like the blog on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Losing My Religion

  1. Ashley, I just want you to know I read through all of this, and I am so proud of you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I would love to bring you into my small world for a while. I feel lonely here sometimes and it would feel good just to have someone empathize with the way I think. You WILL find your path, and it’s going to be all the more beautiful because you found it on your own terms for YOU.

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