Identity is a fragile, intangible thing that every human on this earth has. It takes a long time for one to develop their identity. When identity is challenged, judged, or destroyed, either by others or ourselves, we immediately become defensive or break down. Without our identities, who are we?
For most people, religion is part of their identity. Religion is essential to how some people view their world, treat others and more importantly, how they conduct themselves. If you were to ask people what they identify as religiously, you would get a world of responses. Religion is a fascinating subject that is as controversial as it is interesting. But for me, I grew up without religion in my life.
When I was born, my dad was a manager of a popular restaurant franchise and my mom did a kick-ass job of raising me at home. My parents did an amazing job raising my sister and I and gave us the absolute best life they could, in my opinion. There was one thing missing that separated me from other kids growing up, and this was that I didn’t go to church or practice a specific religion.
Anyone who works in the restaurant industry knows that most of the business is done on the weekends. That being said, my dad worked very hard to provide for us and majority of that work was done on the weekends…meaning Sundays. My dad always worked on Sundays and when it came to going to church, my mom didn’t want to take her two young children to church alone. Not because of what anyone else would think but because church is usually something that is shared with family. My whole family wasn’t able to go, so my parents just never took us.
I went to bible school as a young child and I have some memories of it. For me it was more like summer camp; a fun time playing games and eating cool snacks with my friends while my parents worked or needed a few hours to themselves. I went to pre-school in a church and we did chapel sessions every Wednesday. I was exposed to religion but I couldn’t absorb it at that young an age. Fast forward a few more years. I had attended a few youth groups with my friends at their churches during middle school. I never felt like I fit in there. Everyone was talking to God and I just didn’t feel it…Maybe it was because I was 15 and had never been to church a day in my life, I didn’t know how to act or feel. I desperately wanted to love it and be part of the community that so many of my friends belonged to. But I couldn’t find it in myself to believe in it.
When I was in high school I took a world religions class and that’s when it all changed for me. We learned about Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism…all the religions I had learned about were super interesting and again I felt myself desperately trying to identify with a religion, so I could be a part of something bigger than myself. I felt like part of my identity was undiscovered because I didn’t identify with a religion.
For me religion was a community, something I wanted to be a part of, not something I truly believed in and wanted to practice. Once I realized that believing and practicing religion are key parts in belonging to a religious community, that’s when I began to separate myself from this concept and continued to live my life religion-less. I do not label myself when it comes to my (lack of) religious beliefs, because I simply do not have any. Of course I respect all religions and their practices, I just don’t really apply any of them to my life. I was taught to be the best person I can be, to help others and love endlessly by my parents, without the help of an organized religion. I also love that although my parents didn’t force religion on me, and didn’t criticize me either for not going when I could have gone on my own.
I grew up without religion in my life and continue to live a wholesome, happy life without it. I used to think a part of me and my identity was missing without it, but now I take comfort in knowing I don’t need religion to justify my actions or to treat others right, I just do it out of the person I am and how I was raised.
I do not want anyone reading this article to think that I disrespect your culture or religion by choosing to not practice any, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I really enjoy learning of other cultures and religions, I love feeling enriched by the diversity of our world and all the people in it.