My Journey With Religion (Why I Am No Longer Religious)

Even though I didn’t attend church every Sunday morning, my childhood still had an emphasis on religion. I even had a “Bible Tutor” around 8-years-old and was traumatized by my brother’s reaction when he found out that (SPOILER) the Easter Bunny or Santa are not real.

But that’s not why I no longer consider myself a religious person.

When I was younger, my self-diagnosed OCD controlled a lot of my life. To say that religious notions/principles/teachings did not play a part in this would be a lie. It made my OCD and anxiety far worse.

I had intrusive thoughts that made me feel like, since I thought them, they were actually going to happen. I thought something was very wrong with me. I felt guilty when I didn’t pray. And when I did pray, it was a quick prayer whenever my mother left the house because I was afraid that if I didn’t say a prayer before she drove off, her life would be taken away from me.

Stuff like that.

For a long time, I tried to practice religion and force myself to be “found” in it. But I always, always felt alienated. When I sat in church, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I tried to make myself belong, too. I participated in church activities when I could, volunteering at pasta dinners, and trying to attend youth groups because that’s what all my friends were doing. It never worked. I still felt like an outsider. 

Whenever people talked about their religious awakening or when they found Jesus, I didn’t relate. For me, God was always part of my life so why did I need to find him? 

I was surrounded by a community of people who were very religious, so a lot of my peers assumed I was religious like them. I tried to fit in–talking about our favorite Bible verses and participating in prayer. 

Being an outsider created a lot of guilt in me. I felt like I could be doing better–I didn’t even know whether to consider myself Catholic or Christian (when I went to church, it was a Catholic one). I even had a couple people in my life try to force their religious ideas onto me. They wanted me to believe in what they believed and how to believe in it, and how I should be reading the Bible, and sending me bible verses... all because they loved me. 

It only made me feel worse. 

Because what they were teaching me was that I was a SINNER. Everything that made me who I am was considered bad, evil, and sinful. And it made me feel even more guilt. And anxiety. And compulsions. I wanted to be perfect. I needed to be perfect. So, I tried and failed and tried and failed…

Until I realized that maybe I should stop forcing myself to love religion or be part of it. And when I did, I felt so much happier. I felt lighter. I felt more myself. I was accepting myself for who I am instead of forcing myself inside a box that didn’t even want me there.

Now, I’m excited to see where I go. I think I might be a spiritual person more than religious, but I don’t know for certain until I allow myself the freedom to explore that.