They say never talk about religion or politics at a dinner party or among friends, however I enjoy the idea of using this platform to delve deeper into more hefty subject matter and nothing interests me more than those who believe in God or a god, have strong faith and believe that Jesus has a plan for them.
Let me give you the background info on me first of all. Growing up in Ireland I went catholic schools, made my first holy communion and confirmation and once, when my younger sister was about 6 years old (there's a three year age gap between us), she shouted in the middle of our street "There's no such thing as God!" and I remember being embarrassed and saying something along the lines of "Amy, you can't say stuff like that!". I didn't respond in this way because I was deeply religious, I was just lead to believe differently due to attending a Catholic school and being told that's just the way it is.
However, as I became older I questioned the idea of a God alot. When our family did attend church or mass, I hated going and the only time you saw me there was when I was part of a school choir, going to a funeral or a family wedding. I was the type of kid who wanted proof and I mean actual proof. If there was an actual God, then I wanted to see him. Not through nature, not by looking at my surroundings but a physical person. There were rumors that a statue of a saint in my school moved and flamin' Nora, I wanted to see that thing move! I would stare at, urging it to move, not because I wanted something to believe in, but because I wanted whole hearted, seen with my very own eyeballs proof.
I can remember being part of a school debating team around the age of 13 or 14 and the topic was "Is there a God!". I jumped on the "No, there isn't" side quicker than you can say cornflakes and relished the opportunity to debate my socks off on the matter. My closing argument was something along the lines of "religion has and continues to cause some of the biggest wars on the planet, what God wants this!?" (Not very well researched I know, but gimme a break I was about 14 and the internet wasn't invented then!)
Also, around this time two representatives from the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints moved into our housing estate. They were from America and I was intrigued by the two of them. They were very friendly, and entertained any questions anyone had for them. I had heaps! I wanted to know about their religion, what they believed, why they believed it and more importantly, what was America like and have you met Zack from Saved by the Bell 'cas I love him? Some of my friends were not allowed talk to them as their parents thought they were a bad influence, but genuinely I thought they were nice people and I liked talking to them. I didn't convert to their way of believing though.
My lack of belief only continued to grow in my teenage years and now I'd confidently consider myself to be atheist. I will attend church for weddings or funerals but I wont accept communion and I will avoid kneeling for prayer, blessing myself and reciting any prayers. I respect those who have a belief in a religion or a God and am literally fascinated by those who do. I wonder what it is specifically that they believe in and how their faith developed. I often wonder, if they were born into a non religious family, would they still be strong believers? I would probably debate no, but I'd be interested to hear others thoughts on this.
In the last number of years, many childhood and college friends have taken the very grown up step to get married and have children. With the exception of one wedding, each one has been a religious ceremony. I remember one in particular involved the couple reciting what I would term 'a religious heavy' prayer to each other promising that they would follow God and essentially do what was asked of them from him. My other half (who is also a non-believer) looked at me. We were thinking the same thing. That wasn't for us. We also won't have our children christened. It's just our choice.
The non religious wedding we did attend was one of the most beautiful and personal ceremonies I have ever attended. There wasn't a priest or prayer in sight and any readings were devised from love stories or love poems. It was very personal and apt for the couple in question and the event was topped with a symbolic handing binding event and rather than being blessed by God, they were blessed with earth, wind, water and fire. It may sound a tad hippy to some, but honestly it was beautiful and there were many church goers outside who said it was the nicest and loveliest wedding ceremony they ever attended. The couple later officially tied the knot in a private civil ceremony and signed the piece of paper that made them married in the eyes of the law.
So reading all of the above, what do I believe? Its a difficult one for me to answer. I do believe in evolution and that science has played a role in the development of the earth and us as human beings as we see it today. I once had a conversation with someone who was shocked I believed in evolution, he exclaimed "You believe we came from apes?". Well science and research certainly dictates to it, so yes I guess I do!
As mentioned, I'm clearly one of those fact finding and evidence based type people so kudos and respect to those who have faith and a strong belief without requiring any of the above!
I'll end on saying "Each to their own!" and if you feel the need to comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I have huge respect for you all whether your faith is Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Mormon or otherwise, its the diversity of people that we have on our planet which makes it an interesting place to live.