This week we have Sarah. She talks about how having a religious upbringing impacted her perspective and the difficulties brought to her once she decided to leave the life her family had laid out for her.
“For the first 17 years of my life I went to church, every Sunday of every week of every month and every year. It was a routine and it was just my life. I’m now 19 and I haven’t been in the last couple of years at all.. Apart from the Christmas carol service (who doesn’t like a spot of carolling at Christmas?!). Deciding not to go anymore was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and maybe not for the reason some of you will think. You may say, if it was so hard to leave then it must have been an important part of your life. Yes, I won’t argue with that. It was a major part of my life but it was hard because of all the ties I’d break. I lost friends, I feel my relationship with my parents suffered and I feel like I lost respect from people that I used to go to church with. As soon as I stopped going I felt like everything I ever knew just dissolved at once, and I felt alone. For a year I was going to church because I knew that’s what everyone wanted, my family most of all. They’d brought me up as a Christian and I was scared I’d disappoint them. But one day I realised I’d been living to make everyone else happy, everyone except me. So I left and consequently I have been the happiest I’ve been in a long while. I have nothing against religion, it just wasn’t for me.
I think one of the most fundamental questions we can ask as humans is WHY. Why did that happen, why do we die, why do they go to heaven and not me, why are they suffering and why won’t God intervene. Everything revolves around WHY. Having a religious upbringing allowed me to answer some of those questions. I may not still believe the same things I did five years ago but if I had experienced a different upbringing then I may still be asking myself some of those questions. For the first chapter of my life I had direction and I had answers, and it allowed me to decide for myself if they were answers I wanted, or agreed with. It turned out I didn’t agree, but I was able to come to that decision for myself, and I think that is the most important thing. So am I glad I had a religious upbringing? I can honestly say I don’t know. It was the life I was born into, and for a good part of my life it was all I knew, and possibly it has affected how I am now and my perspective.
The affects my religious upbringing has had on my life are vast, it’s not something I’m going to explain in depth or we’d be here all day. One thing however, that I’ve particularly noticed is the judgement on those who have different beliefs from you. This isn’t just limited to the judgment of Christians (something I felt a lot when I used to go to church), it’s both ways. Having walked both paths so to speak I noticed that this was an issue wherever I went. When I was at church, those who were deemed different and didn’t believe, were judged. When I left church I began to realise even more the judgement passed from ‘believers’ to ‘non-believers’.
Whether you are religious or not, or have had a religious upbringing you’ve diverged from-you need to live your life the way you want to. I suffered a lot more living to conform to everyone’s expectations. Whatever the consequences may be, live your life. But most importantly, don’t judge the way others choose to live their lives.”