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I have never once put on a dress to pile into the minivan on Sunday mornings, attended Midnight Mass or interlocked my fingers for a prayer before dinner. I’ve never picked up a Bible, felt any strong emotion at the sight of a cross or feared that any of my mistakes would prevent me from getting into Heaven. Frankly, I didn’t believe in Heaven at all, but as a kid I always thought it was a sweet, frivolous sentiment when I heard it mentioned in songs like Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” or Brandi Carlile’s “Touching the Ground.” 

Growing up without religion revealed itself to be a double-edged sword, but up until recently, I saw it as the best thing to ever happen to me. I actually pitied my peers who dedicated so much of their time to church, seemed afraid to do anything wrong, and viewed the world through a lens that, to me, was deeply flawed. When I entered high school, I developed an intense disdain toward anyone and anything that had to do with religious matters. I absolutely hated the way that certain churches seemed propped up by imperialistic and discriminatory attitudes; I was angry for my friends that were LGBTQ+, non-white, or part of any demographic that Christianity does not serve. I hated the idea of fearing how you live your life until you die, I hated the ethnocentric agenda that seems to underlie missions/mission trips, and I hated the pressure to praise a higher power that never seemed to prove itself. To me, atheism was the epitome of “cool.” 

Now, I did not experience a major revelation that eradicated all those feelings; I still carry those opinions and know that I will never be able to fully support the church. However, this past winter when I went home for the holidays, I felt increasingly and unceasingly softened by life; it was religious to me in the strangest way. The tenderness blossomed slowly, like the morning’s first rays of sunlight peeking over a hill or flowers coming up shyly through concrete. 

It began with gratitude becoming an essential part of my day-to-day routine. I couldn’t help but feel awestruck at the smallest things, like a pretty sunset or a sweet text message or genuine interactions between strangers I observed. I was finally feeling like myself; after having a difficult and emotional transition into college, I felt content for the first time in months and noticed that I was able to focus on the little things again. It was different now, though. I was reading books that questioned the meaning of life, I was writing people letters just because, and was getting ready every morning even if I had nowhere to be. I was trusting that somehow, difficulty was growth in disguise and that nothing good was a waste of time, even if it didn’t last forever. Life seemed too beautiful for all its complexities to be deemed just a coincidence, and reincarnation was becoming a very tempting theory to believe in. 

Gradually, I started considering the possibility of a higher power’s existence not as a strict supervisor affiliated with a denomination, but as a chuckling observer who watched all these silly little humans worry about whether their silly little lives would work out (and knowing that they always would).

Though I exist on a very different plane than a lot of reverent, god-fearing church-going individuals, an intersection has appeared in our Venn diagram, and I think the best word to describe this new similarity is hope. I admitted to myself that there is no real value in living doubtfully and skeptically and that even if there’s no paradise or renewal waiting for us beyond this life, believing does no harm. Spirituality is still a confusing and dynamic journey for me, and I’m excited to see how my views continue to change as I get older.

Sydney Coleman

CU Boulder '25

Sydney is studying journalism and public relations at CU. She moved to CO from MI in 2010, and during her time here she's enjoyed hiking, learning guitar, and practicing photography.
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