Losing My Religion

BY: Janis Gaudelli – “Champion of Truths, Unicorns & AWE-tism”

Disclaimer: Religion is a pretty controversial topic, especially in the current climate.  This blog is about my relationship with religion.  It is not meant to be divisive in any way.  I did not write this to dishonor anyone’s belief system(s) or faith in God.  This is the story of a girl who, from a very young age, questioned and struggled with her faith.

I remember it clearly: I was in 3rd grade sitting in religious ed., and my religion teacher, Sister Edith, was sharing a lesson from our workbook about Lent.  I asked a question that I still ponder today: “How do we know there is a God if we can’t see him?”
She looked at me, unhappy and a bit taken aback, and responded, “Never mind, God is all around us.”

I remember thinking, as most curious kids do, “what does that mean?”

Then a few other classmates and I looked around, seeing if we could spot this God she spoke of who is all around us. Ha!

I am still that curious little girl questioning the concept of “God.” I have always been in awe of those who just ‘get it’ and believe without a doubt in their minds.  Those who speak to him because they believe he can hear them.  Those who leave their wants, needs, and decisions in his hands, believing he will provide an answer.  Those who live their lives by his word.  I struggle with all this, and more. I always have.

I grew up in a traditional Catholic household, where my siblings and I accompanied my parents to church every Sunday.  My Dad & Mom were Sacristans, and my Aunt was a former nun teaching in the Catholic school system.  We had religious paraphernalia in our house (crucifixes, photos, prayers, bibles, etc.) to showcase our family’s belief system.  However, I had the most trouble connecting to it all.  I had all these questions and only received empty responses, as if nothing was ever open for debate.  I received a lot of the replies like: (the ever-popular) “never mind”, “because that’s the way God wanted it”, “you don’t question God”, and a few others that dismissed my inquiring mind.  Those answers didn’t work for me then, and they certainly don’t now.  Growing up Catholic, I was asked to follow a belief system I questioned, and why shouldn’t we question something we’re simply curious about?

Therefore, I grew up conflicted about religion. At least, about my religion and my God.  I didn’t feel I belonged at mass, and I am sure most kids my age felt the same.  I wanted the priest to have it all make sense for the 7-year-old me, the 10-year-old me, the 15-year-old me, the 25-year-old me, and so on.  I wanted him to apply what he was reciting from the Bible to modern day.  I wanted him to reveal how we could apply these lessons and messages to our own lives.  But, instead, I felt like my wants were ignored and talked over, so I became bored and disengaged.

As I got older, my attention veered away from the pontification and I started to take notice of the believers that sat with me.  Some followed the word of the lord and lived it authentically, on the daily.  While others sat in pews, practicing, accepting and believing, yet once that hour of worship was up, they all went back to being really shitty humans (clergy included).

As religious as my parents were, they didn’t put us in the Catholic School system.  But, ironically enough, I attended a Catholic University: Seton Hall University.  The lure was anything but religious, in fact, it was almost a deterrent until I met a priest on my school tour who shockingly answered questions. These were straightforward questions, like, “Are the students required to go to church every Sunday?” and “Are Catholic studies part of the curriculum?” One bold rebel asked, “What if we don’t abide by every Catholic principle?”

I expected the priest to reply with some of those canned answers I had heard as a kid: some ‘never minds’, a few ‘that’s the way God wanted it’, etc.

But he surprised me.  He replied: “You are not required to go to church” (say what?), “You do not have to study Catholicism as part of your major, but Catholic studies are part of the core curriculum”, “We offer other religion courses aside from Catholicism, it’s your choice.”

His reply to the bold, curious rebel was the clincher, “You’re an adult now, you can make your own decisions and that includes what or who you choose to believe in.  And whatever that is, it shouldn’t alter your educational experience here. Any other questions?” After that tour, I returned home and immediately sent in my acceptance letter.

I began to explore my spirituality during my 4-year college career.  There was one class that changed my outlook on the whole concept of faith called “World Religions.”  We studied belief systems ranging from Buddhism, The Whirling Dervishes, and Hare Krishna, to Jehovah Witness, Baptist, Judaism and a myriad of others.  I was fascinated.  I talk about that class to this day, and how it changed my perspective on faith.  That class allowed me to widen my lens on all these different religions and helped me understand which deity & set of principles I aligned with best.  It made me realize that my curiosity was actually celebrated by some of these religions, in which parishioners were empowered to ask questions and obtain the answers needed to grow deeper in their faith.

We were tasked with visiting three services from the religions we covered in class, and I chose a Buddhist temple, a Baptist Church and a Hare Krishna service.  During these visits, I was able to compare my Catholic experience with those of three other faiths.  Other than beliefs in different Gods and each following a diverse set of rules, I witnessed a difference in the believers at these services.  The parishioners were of all ages, all sexualities, and all walks of life. All were engaged, and all were accepted.

I remember coming home at the end of that semester with a new understanding, a new outlook and a greater awareness.  I revisited my hometown church and felt the difference, the divide.  It was during that visit home that I found myself losing my religion.  I realized I couldn’t turn a blind eye to an establishment that drives people out based on personal life choices.  I couldn’t be part of a church where females aren’t allowed to profess and lead.  I couldn’t believe in an institution that is resistant to change. I couldn’t actively follow the ‘rules’ of authority figures who are committing the most horrific sins – crimes, actually – of mistreating innocent children.

That said, I haven’t aligned with a particular denomination since leaving the Catholic church.  Since then, much has transpired in my life that has challenged my faith even more.  I still struggle, and maybe I always will, but my credo lies in living a life of kindness and compassion.  Nature has become my church; it’s where I retreat to think, confess and work towards betterment.  I find spiritual enlightenment in people, places and things that do not judge or discriminate, that just love and accept wholeheartedly with no requirements, qualifiers or decree of feeling ‘less than.’

To me, religion is more than just a collection of beliefs, it’s the fabric of who you are.

My religion is Love.


janisbiopic

Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels.  She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways.  Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living.  Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.

FOLLOW JANIS AND THE DAILY FEELS TRIBE @:  FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM

8 thoughts on “Losing My Religion

  1. Wow Janice, that was beautifully and honestly written. I think most of us have felt that way at one time or another. We all want to ask Who is God and how do I get to meet Him. To be quite honest I had 13 years of Catholic School Education (I liked seventh grade so much I took it twice, ha,ha) but in those 13 years I was taught about God through text . I was also taught Geoghraphy but the only way to know about either was through experiencing them. I had a desire to learn about God. People couldn’t or wouldn’t explain who God was so I decided to go in search of Him myself. In my own way. I observed people, how they treated others, their weekly Mass constitution, their praying ethics and their everyday standards of life. I discovered that all that glittered wasn’t gold. A lot was pretence. visibly doing or saying the right thing but not actually living it. I also found people who would stop into church just because.. They just wanted to spend time during the day, anyday alone with God. They were low key, non judgmental people of faith. They had an intimate and personal relationship iwith God. That’s what I wanted.

    As a kid, I went to church because I had to. I never really got anything out of it though. I wanted and needed so much more. I began talking to this unseen God in hopes that He could help me. I started off by asking questions or asking for help. What I began to notice was there was a certain peace that began to come over me. I didn’t understand it but I felt protected by it. Things would happen in my life that I didn’t understand and so I began to rely on that feeling of comfort. It always showed up, unless of course I was being obstanent. Then I had only myself to blame for not allowing that peace to enter in.

    I began to understand that though I did not know God, He knew me. He knew my needs, my wants, my struggles, my joys. He knew everything there was to know about me. He knew more about me than I did. That led me to trust Him. If He knew me so well than He also knew what was best for me and when the right time was to deliver my needs. I began to understand that timing is everything with God. When we are ready He will shower us with gifts of plenty. Not necessarily in a materialistic way but in His way. It is our openness and trust in Him that leads us to a place where doubt is not a concept.

    It’s possible that we judge the existence of God based on our interactions with man. As humans we are imperfect. We have faults. Some more so than others but never the less we err. We consciously or unconsciously react to what we experience through others We tend to put our trust in man and are which can make us skeptical and untrusting.. . II have a hard time when it comes to trusting people so I don’t. I put my trust in God. He then leads me down the right paths. IHe allows me to make my own decisions. Because I trust HimI know that I am on safe ground. The only person I would have doubts about would be myself. If I’m not ready, God won’t push. But when I am ready He moves mountains out of my way.

    I was brought up Catholic but I’m not a practicing Catholic. I’ve seen too much that makes me question the people not the faith itself. I don’t want to be one of those people that may cause others to judge the religion. I feel if I don’t live it I shouldn’t represent it. I live my life solely by my personal relationship with a God I never met but constantly feel His presence. I love Him in my own childlike way and I trust Him always. I never doubt or question Him. Even in the worst of situations He gives me strength. When I am weak it’s because I’m not ready to change. When I am strong it is because I have opened myself up to Gods assistance.

    I believe each person has the freedom to experience a God or not. Before there was religion there was God. Hate is not God. Love is God.

    I think you are much more connected to God than you give yourself credit for. God is Love. Love is God. All He asks is that we love Him. No questions asked will give us all the answers we need. Faith opens the door to knowing all that God desires us to know about Him know. In His creation of me, I have created a relationship with Him. In your love, compassion and dedication you represent a vision of what God is.

    Thank you for being you and for being a messenger of a Gods love for all not some.

    Like

  2. Your childhood experience echoes my own to an extent. The funny thing to me is that children tend to have less of a problem than adults with noting the absurdities and inconsistencies of church dogma. One of the questions that marked the beginning of the end of my allegiance to Catholicism had to do with a question I once asked regarding the fate of unbaptized infants who die soon after birth. The answer – they go to purgatory – didn’t sit very well with me, and was my first intimation (in the 3rd or 4th grade) that there was something very seriously wrong with a religion that preached this. I could go on and on, but I’ll simply say that no one needs religious faith to become a good person; in fact, you’re probably better off without it. Christopher Hitchens once remarked that in the normal moral universe, good people will tend to do good things, and bad people will tend to do bad things, but to make a good person do behave wickedly, you need religion, and its sadly very easy to think of several examples of this.

    Like

    1. Wow, John – thanks for sharing. As i was reading this i remembered that you went to Catholic School – St. Greg’s in fact. So it was part of your daily intake. I love the Hitchens’ remark… it so true. Sometimes I feel like an outcast, like i am not getting something. And then i get replies like this, from people i respect and admire – and well, i am happy to know i am in good company. Thanks again! 🙂

      Like

  3. Great post, Jan. The ambiguous feelings you describe are quite common, even in the most devout Catholics, myself included. And I agree that you are more connected to God than you may realize. God is love – the kind of love and non-judgmental compassion that you describe.
    I always need to remind myself that any institution run by human beings will be imperfect. There is evidence of the hypocrisy you describe in every one of them. I urge you to read the actual teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. He was all about love – incredibly rebellious love. Unlike anything that the world had seen up to that point. And, man, did he have little patience for hypocrites.
    Keep fighting the good fight – and, please never give up hope.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Hen! It’s funny, because as i was writing this i thought about the church as a corporation – bc they are. I reflected upon the fact that if i believed the vision and guidance of the CEO of the corp i was working at, but he hired really bad managers and bosses to execute his vision, i would most definitely leave the company. I have to believe first and foremost, but then i need to see that belief system carried through by whomever is put roles to represent it. I just don’t respect and definitely cannot follow the people representing God’s vision. So i look for divinity in other things… and i am happy and fufilled.
      Thank you for your amazing words. i do appreciate them. xo

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s