Let's Address the Atheist in the Room

My background in religion is pretty sparse. I was raised Roman Catholic for the beginning years of my life, but as I grew up my family relocated several times and became much busier. Eventually, faith was not our number one priority, and my spirituality began to fade.

In high school I really began to question my beliefs. I developed a habit early on in life to pray every night before I went to bed, but soon I began to wonder if I was really praying to anyone but myself. Did God exist? Why does everyone assume that their God is the right God? Isn’t religion just a mechanism for feeling like we have a purpose in life? I asked myself question after question, and all that ensued was confusion.

I never chose Belmont because of its religious orientation. I chose Belmont because it was small, beautiful, and offered the major I was aspiring at the time. But the religious aspect always made me nervous. I was puzzled enough about my religious preferences; I didn’t need a university telling me what I should believe.

I remember one of the very first days of TT orientation. As a collective group we were instructed to participate in a large prayer. I looked around the stadium at the freshman class with their heads bowed and their hands folded. In that very moment I felt incredibly uncomfortable. I was surrounded by people that looked like they had been praying to God since the day they were born. And I hadn’t. It felt like everyone was seeing a man in the room that I wasn’t sure I even believed in.

I didn’t want to be judged, and I didn’t want others to think I was judging them. Religion is a touchy subject, so I figured the more I kept to myself the better chances I would have at blending in. But that didn’t change the fact that I was so scared of whether friends I made, or professors I met would criticize me for my lack of belief.

Needless to say, on my first day of my Understanding the Bible class I was horrified. I had no idea how much the professor was going to expect me to know about Christianity. I was even more terrified that she was going to try and shove Christianity down my throat.

It’s funny though, how they say everything happens for a reason, because that Understanding the Bible class completely changed my perspective. I had an amazing professor who inspired me everyday. The class that I was most terrified of became my favorite class I had all semester. I fell in love with the study of religion, and in a whirlwind of a year I decided that perhaps I wanted to double major in religious studies. I can’t help but think that I would have never realized my love and interest in religion if I had never been required to take that class.

Despite this,I’m still not clear on my spirituality. When someone asks me about my religious preferences, I never know the answer. For a while I thought I was Agnostic. Sometimes I think I am a Deist. But there is this beautiful thing about religion that no one seems to talk about.

Religion is like a ball of clay. You can mold that clay into whatever shape you desire. Into whatever shape you need. And into whatever shape that will help you get through the day. There is no scientific fact that tells you that your ball of clay is wrong. There is no expert that will pick up your clay and tell you that your shape isn’t symmetrical, or the right color, or the right size. Your molded clay is specified directly to you, and no one can change that.

It’s hard being lost in faith, but I am so happy that I am. Searching for the perfect shape of clay has been taking me on this adventure that I never knew I would go on. I have been learning so much about how religion matters and applies to different people, and along the way I have been learning how it matters to me.

There probably will be another day that I’m one of the only non-Christians in the room, but that time around I won’t feel uncomfortable and in a panic. I’ll cherish the presence of a group of people who are so warmly embraced by their faith. And I’ll bow my head, fold my hands, and smile.