My Own Faith

I’ve never believed in God. Even as a child, sitting in a stuffy church room for Sunday School classes, singing songs about Jesus, I didn’t really believe it. 

I have seen people who believe in God. From childhood friends who knelt beside their bed every night to say their prayers, to the frantic relative who is desperately hoping for a miracle. Growing up Italian meant plenty of communions, confirmations, and receiving rosaries for birthdays. It also meant a sick feeling of not belonging, even where I’m accepted by the people I love. 

The crucifixes on the walls and prayers to God make me queasy and uncomfortable. Inside churches, all I can think about is the thousands of dead bodies of oppressed people who were forced to accept the Catholic religion. The incense makes me lightheaded and the reflection of stained glass on the floor triggers my fight or flight instinct.  

My parents have never been ones to push religion. I haven’t been to an actual church event in over ten years. My dad is openly atheist and my mom is agnostic, which means I’ve always been confused. 

I’ve been betrayed by the church. I have had the soul-crushing realization that no matter how much I want to believe, or hope, or even pray for something I desperately needed, things didn’t change. If they did change, it wasn’t for the better. 

No matter the amount of hands I hold or cheeks I kiss, their promises to pray for me will not bring me any peace. I know the comfort that people have gained from it, how their heads bend with hope and love, filling their heart to pray to whatever is out there. Even with this knowledge, I’m confined to knowing that I just don’t believe.

I’m afraid of what I don’t know, what I don’t understand, the sincere unknown of the Bible that seems inconceivable to me. So influenced in my early years by my parents’ opinions, my life has been a jumble of fear. 

The one thing that will never fade away from my memory, or change in my life, is that religion has not been there for me when I was struggling. For years, the understanding of God never came to me and led me to the all-knowing peace that might have shaped my life. It never saved me. I saved myself. I couldn’t grasp at the corners for a sense of meaning in life because nobody was there to help. 

The thing is, I know what life is supposed to be. For me, it’s life without the bindings of the unknown. I don’t have to open a Bible and read or pray for absolution for peace to finally enter my life and let the bad feelings fade away.  

I’ve found peace on my own, broke free from the clouds and darkness, and let myself feel. I know peace in flowers after rain, with little teardrops on the petals. In a glass of fresh lemonade after a long, hot day. In windy drives with the windows down and music playing. In the pages of my notebooks where I write my most beloved stories. In animals and the crisp air of the forest. In dew and firewood. Peace is everywhere for me, just not in church.