You Are What You Believe
1. What issues has this chapter raised for you? How would your family and friends respond to this material? If you are a Pagan, how would a member of your prior religion respond?
Bad memories from the past, about what I once believed, things I once said – all out of blind ignorance. My family, friends, and former church-mates would be appalled, blame the devil for my sinful life, and think I was crazy. Sad that open-mindedness, love, and embracing science are deemed crazy. Thankfully, my partner is open-minded and loving. He is supporting me through all of this, which means the world.
2. What are the essential elements of spirituality to you? Do you think there is a difference between religion and spirituality? Where do you see Paganism fitting in?
I do see a difference between religion and spirituality. I personally find paganism in general to be more spiritual than religious. I think the essential elements of spirituality are: a sense of something bigger than yourself (be that the rest of humanity, a deity, connected energies of the world, etc.); search for inner peace and acceptance of self; desire to learn more about the world around you; and, of course, love. This is what religion means to me – following holy books and being bound to exclusive ideology.
3. What beliefs are important to you now? Why are they part of your personal philosophy? Where do you think they will take you in the future?
Important beliefs are: equality for all, world-wide love, peace, harmony, acceptance/tolerance, respect for the earth. They are important because of things I’ve read, heard, seen, and felt. I believe they will lead me to a more harmonious, happy life than I’ve had in the past.
Spiritual Timeline – Physical Crisis, Mental, Spiritual, and Psychic Breathroughs; noticeable change in state of being; sudden change in beliefs
Age 0: Born to parents who were newly entering the IFB scene. Regularly attended the local IFB church as a family.
Age 4: Mother says I wanted to “be saved” after church one night. She led me in a prayer and from then on I claimed to be saved. I never had any recollection of the actual event, but I trusted my Mom’s account. Began attending the church’s Christian school.
Ages 8-11: Had a teacher get onto me for saying “gosh;” had teachers tell me that it was wrong for girls to wear pants, so I went home and cleaned my drawers out because I wanted to please God; was obstinate enough that my dad questioned my salvation, distinctly recall him praying with me one night to show me whether or not I was really saved and to help me not be so rebellious. I remember my first attempt at witnessing – to a fellow child while we were playing together, she was Catholic.
Ages 12-18: Began to feel excluded from other students at school because I wanted to do the right thing, became very down because of the exclusion; often confused by the lack of sincerity of the other students; battled between being inquisitive and accepting what was being taught to me; loved to ask questions and do lots of thinking; I can remember wondering how we Christians could know that we were the only ones who had it right, what about the rest of the world?; did lots of reading; became involved with children’s programs at church; sang in the choir, sang specials with other people, played music for specials at church and at a nursing home; wanted to leave for college so I could get around more spiritual, mature people; worked at a Christian camp for two summers in a row, had a huge impact on my spiritual life; got my first real job, felt the need to be a good testimony by dressing right and not behaving worldly.
Age 18-21: Went to a Baptist college where I planned to study youth ministries, which changed to cross-cultural studies, which then changed to a humanities program that focused on English and history; by the time my second year rolled around I was making friends with a different crowd of people than before, and became very close to a few people who really changed my life, not sure if it was for good or bad; my new friends lived more liberally than I had once though acceptable, but they convinced me that their life was Christ-centered so I changed my views; those friends dominated my life for many months, telling me what I could or couldn’t do, pushing me to be like them, arguing with me and putting me down when we didn’t agree on something; spiritually I thought I was on a mountain top, because I was constantly reading my Bible and praying to God, truly trying to do what I thought his will for me was; became very ill while still at college, had to leave and go back home to live while tests were being run; very depressed and confused, in lots of pain.
Age 21-now: found out I had fibromyalgia, battled with depression, was in lots of pain; lonely and disheartened by current friendships; after one fight too many with my friends, we separated; I claimed my spiritual independence; shortly after that I began to question Christianity, the inspiration of the Bible, and lots of things I had been raised to believe; I left Christianity and claimed the title spiritual-but-not-religious; read heavily about deism, agnosticism; met a guy, fell in love, got married; read about and then felt a connection with paganism but pushed it away because my then-husband decided it was creepy; guy turned out to be trash, we separated, and it was very dark and sad in my life; my mother found a book of mine about paganism and flipped out, telling me it was the devil’s work and that I was his tool; found a new life, new love, and happiness again; began studying again, looking specifically at druidism and eclectic paganism.
Now I am who I am. I’m tired of taking crap from people. I’m tired of being beaten down. I’m claiming my spiritual independence and self worth and making the most of them. This is my life. These are my choices. I am strong and ready to continue my journey towards greater spirituality (sans religion).