Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Do Religious Beliefs Change As We Age?

Abby says:
Ever since I was a young girl, I had a strong sense of spirituality and God. I never felt I needed organized religion; however, I grew up in a Catholic household and attended 12 years of parochial schools. I lived daily with nuns who carried (and used) rulers as their ammunition to make us memorize, recite and learn. Needless to say, organized religion was in my life to stay along with some of the guilt that can accompany it.

I remember as a grade-schooler being introduced to confession. It was utterly frightening and kept me up at nights. Imagine once per week as a very young person having to “confess your sins” behind a dark red velvet curtain to a priest then performing whatever penance he gave you. How many sins could an 11-year-old girl commit in seven days? Some of us would get together in the bathroom prior to confession and decide what we would say. The poor priest – we all went in confessing the same thing every time.

By the time I got to college, I experimented with other religions and went to the synagogue with my Jewish friends. I actually began to embrace that faith more than I did Catholicism. Later, I married in the Methodist church. The older I grew, the more I began to deeply question my faith. I didn’t really have a problem with Catholic “biblical” teachings, rather, their human interpretations. No birth control. No marrying a divorced person in the Church. No receiving the sacraments unless you had been to confession. Priests who drove corvettes. The list went on. I am a really practical person and this seemed very unbending and impractical.

Fast forward twenty-some years later. Am I Catholic? Probably partially – I don’t think one ever totally lets go of that upbringing. Am I Jewish? Not really, but I embrace, am interested in and celebrate their holidays and traditions with my Jewish friends. Am I Methodist? No.

Old habits die hard. Ironically, if I had kids growing up today I would not hesitate to put them into Catholic schools. While it was a stern upbringing, I not only got a solid education, but I learned about discipline (the hard way). In our world today with hate and crime, that is not a half-bad thing. To this day I still have my first rosary and prayer book tucked away secretly in a drawer.

Sheri says:
Religion is part of who I am as a person. I am Methodist, although I have a lot of experience in the Catholic Church and I am quite comfortable with mass and many of the rituals. I’m not comfortable with Papal supremacy – isn’t he just a man? I’m not comfortable with the no birth control rule. I’m not comfortable with how some priests are very rigid and some are very fluid with the rules.

I’ve known people who could not get an annulment and therefore were unable to marry their true love in their chosen faith. I’ve known others who have been married in the Catholic Church even though they were divorced and no annulment was achieved.

I loved going to confession. (I had one of those liberal priests who let me go through the rituals even though I wasn’t officially Catholic.) The miracle of it! Confess your sins, do your penitence and Poof! You are forgiven!

Eventually, I settled back comfortably in the Methodist faith. Other than the Pope and the saints, the fundamentals are quite similar.

One of my favorite people on this planet is a devout Christian. But instead of being preachy, he loves a healthy discussion/debate about religions – all of them. He’s well traveled and well-versed in theology. He sends me articles and recommends books. A few years ago, he gave me a book titled, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” It was fascinating.

He’s still going to church. Most of the time, so am I.

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