We were driving in the car when my son asked me: “Mummy, what is your religion?”
He was learning about religions at school and wanted to know what mine was.
I told him that I was baptized Christian Protestant by my parents, but right now, I do not consider myself part of a particular religion.
“How come mummy?” He asked
I said: “ Because I no longer believe in religions.”
It then came to my attention that my son wanted to make a connection between what he was learning at school and his reality to figure out where he stands. So, I proceeded by telling him that, just like me, he was baptized, Christian. But then I realized how much spirituality is a personal journey and wanted to allow him the space to develop his own beliefs without too much interference from mine.
I told him: “When you are older, you will be able to choose a journey of your own, and I will be here to support you if you need me.”
I used to think that a parent’s role was to raise a mini or better version of ourselves. I used to believe that as parents, we must ensure that our descendants fully embrace our values, traditions, and ways of living. But time made me change my perspective.
Now, I want to guide my children to be who they deeply aspire to be, even if their choices and values differ from mine.
Here is what made me change my mind.
I grew up very close to the church. Sunday morning services and prayers at the dinner table were part of my upbringing. And I loved that as a tradition.
But on the flipped side of the coin, Christianity was also presented as the only way possible for salvation. And I struggle with that.
The mini thinker in me could not reconcile with a God that will make his children be born in another religion just to punish them in hell because they never got to meet Them in the first place.
Part of me never felt fully aligned with the Christian religion. As a little girl, I have always questioned the inconsistency of the bible, and no one seems to want to take my questions seriously.
I was conditioned to see Christianity as the only way to salvation. But what exactly did I need to be saved from in the first place? Saved from an original sin committed by way too distant ancestors, I am not even sure I am related to.
I was constantly living in agony and constant pressure that I would burn in hell and thought that much of my misfortunes were God punishing me for being a hidden non-believer.
It took me years of soul searching, visiting, and changing one church after another. It took me many confrontations with my family to finally find myself at peace with the fact that I am not a Christian. That I never was.
Only then was I able to start my personal spiritual journey.
Most of my beliefs today have risen from eliminating the beliefs forced on me when I was younger.
Knowing what I no longer believe in allowed me to gain clarity on what actually resonated.
I do not believe that salvation is only available for a portion of believers.
On the contrary, I think many people in time and space have experienced the divine differently than Christian believers, and their experiences are also valid.
I do not believe in begging prayer that puts human beings in a constant feeling of powerlessness. Instead, I believe in the search for wisdom. I believe in a source working and composing with us to gain clarity and to find the resources we need. I believe in gratitude as a result of that.
I do not believe in punishment and hell. I believe in growth. I believe in kindness toward us when we witness our worst behavior. I believe in welcoming and loving our whole self and not only the self that gets approval from the outside world and norms.
I do not believe in resurrection in the carnal sense of the term. I do not think we have to die to experience bliss, nor do I believe in being in a constant state of ecstasy as my idea of happiness or paradise.
I do not believe in the cross as a symbol of rebirth. I find it hard to get over the fact that it was an instrument of torture, the worst that ever existed. I cannot imagine working with the guillotine or the electric chair on my neck as a spiritual symbol or entering a place of worship, praying, or meditating in front of these.
I do not believe in communities that exclude others solely based on their differences.
When I think of how I experienced the Christian religion, I can’t help but imagine how much of a difference and impact it would have made if, instead of its dogma, the emphasis were put on the example and Jesus Christ’s philosophy of life:
- His inclusive leadership
- His ability to simplify the most complex concepts, make the scripture available and digestible to the masses
- How he rebelled against oppressive norms
- How he chooses to advocate for the marginalized, the sick, the rejected, the poor, and people living with disabilities
- He spent his life educating, empowering the masses and treating everyone with respect and dignity.
- He didn’t measure someone’s value by his accomplishment and was only impressed by people’s hearts.
- He always chooses integrity, even at the cost of his life. He never betrayed himself, even in the most tempting and challenging times. He chooses courage over comfort.
- He was comfortable navigating different environments: the elite, the middle class, the poor, the intellectual, the mystical, etc. He mastered the art of belonging in every place and no place at the same time.
At the end of the day, to me, it doesn’t matter what religion I belong to or what will happen to me after death.
What matters to me is that I am alive now. How do I embrace and honor this life while I am still alive? What matters is how I love and treat people while they are still alive. What inspires me are philosophies of life that are based on human dignity, self-awareness, and consciousness.
And to my son, I look forward to see what will matters to you.