Hiding in the wings…

When I was young, I was what most people would regard as extremely superstitious (and in fact, I’m still relatively so).  I thought the back corner of our yard was evil, and would not go past our elm tree (about 20 feet from said corner) past dusk or so, unless there were other people around with me.  I thought that if I behaved a certain way, wanted it bad enough, and “proved that I could make it”, that whatever omniscient being I felt was in charge of the universe would grant my wish and send me back in time.  I believed these things pretty much until the end of high school.

What’s interesting about this is that I was raised with no religion at all.  My maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister who was kicked out of the church for preaching that the bible, while a good example of how to be a good person, was not explicitly true.  I think this was a great thing to say, but, well, the church did not, and he got the boot.  When I was a kid, my mother had a very negative view of organized religion, and I strongly suspect this is at least part of why.  My father was raised in a Presbyterian church by relatively devout parents (my grandfather literally kidnapped me once as a kid, to try and have me baptized before my parents could find him) and while he had some fond memories, he didn’t really believe in raising a kid with a religion either.

Now, their goal was partially to let me choose my own path, and partially to attempt to steer me away from organized religion, keep me from believing in a greater universal force, etc.  Ironically, by leaving me to my own devices, I ended up creating my own little personal religion (which, while not Christianity, did involve a higher being, etc), in response to the vacuum that was my spiritual life.  It was 100% personal, too.  I never told a soul.  I don’t think it was intentional, but as a kid, I got the impression that having a religion was a negative thing, and even seen as vaguely shameful in my family.  As a kid who was very aware of how I was perceived, I did not want to let my parents know that I was indeed a spiritual person.

I remember when, around age 14 or so, my best friend (who was raised Irish Catholic) asked me what I thought happened after we died.  I said, without hesitation, “They put you in the ground and you rot.”.  She was taken aback by this frankness and apparent atheism, and I remember feeling a great degree of internal conflict over wanting to tell her what I felt happened to the rest of a person once they died.  Even today, I am very hesitant to discuss religion, especially my early days of it.  I wish I could be more open about it, and I’m hoping that this blog will help with that.

6 Responses to “Hiding in the wings…”

  1. 1 Jen August 4, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Being a progressive younger person at a Catholic school meant several trips to the principals office and even a few administrations of pops when I challenged the teachings.

    I always felt like perhaps God was overtaxed with all the people praying to him, and once I was introduced to Greek/Roman mythology, felt it at least a more productive form of worship. At least there were specific gods for specific needs/wants/desires. And who exhibited more human characteristics rather than the all knowing Christian God.

    Teaching children that one way is right and everyone else is wrong is not only harmful to the children, but ultimately not very “Christian” either.

    A great entry. 🙂

  2. 2 Driftingfocus August 4, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    See, in high school, I dabbled in paganism for awhile, but it never really stuck. I thought I would prefer the more direct approach to spirituality (which you aptly describe as “specific gods for specific needs/wants/desires”), but in fact what I ended up realizing, over the course of college and post-college, was that in fact what appeals to me more is vagueness. One of my favourite things about Quakerism is the concept of “the light”. It’s what you make of it! Some Quakers view it more as a part of God, some view it as something entirely different, some don’t even really believe much in “the light” at all. It’s such an amorphous concept that it gives everybody room for their own interpretation, and I love that.

  3. 3 baekho August 4, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Religion is really far more primal than just its organized structures, and I’m glad that you’ve found something that works for you, especially since you seem to have avoided much of the negative aspects of ogranizations.

    I really like “Shut Up and Listen!”, btw; it captures the apophatic approach perfectly and resonates in a context much larger than Christianity.

  4. 4 Driftingfocus August 4, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Yeah. Something I have not yet talked about is the fact that I often am very resistant to organizations and being told what to do, what to believe, etc, not only in a religious context but in life in general. One of the things that appeals to me about Quakerism is that while there’s a general set of beliefs, they often have the attitude that you’re welcome to believe them to whatever degree you like, and they don’t judge based on that. I know Quakers who are definitely more on the Christian side, and Quakers who essentially use Meeting to meditate, and not much more. I like that variety and lack of criticism.

    And thanks! I wish I had come up with the joke myself. In case you didn’t see it, the explanation of the title is in the first entry.

  5. 5 Wendy August 5, 2008 at 10:26 am

    This is very interesting stuff. I didn’t realize SUAL was about spirituality or I would have come by sooner. I’m not registered with WordPress, maybe I will need to do that. In any case, I’m bookmarking this.

  6. 6 Driftingfocus August 5, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Since you study psychology and religion combined, I am particularly interested on your thoughts about what I write here. You don’t need to join WordPress to comment, as you found out, but it might help you keep up with it better.

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August 2008

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