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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Faith

Faith isn’t always religious


As cliché as it sounds, the United States of America was founded on the idea of freedom. Our forefathers believed in it so much that they wrote a Bill of Rights to instill it as a value protected by law. What is also explicitly protected is the interference of one’s practice of belief.

This includes not just practicing religion, but the right not to practice as well. Living in Texas, the biggest state in the Bible Belt, that can sometimes be hard.

I was not only raised Catholic, but attended Catholic school from pre-K to high school. I attended church services biweekly, was involved in youth group and even went through confirmation.

But the idea of faith has always alluded me. I understand believing in a higher power, but the worshiping aspect of Christianity, Texas’ largest religious majority, baffles me.

I place my “faith” in humanity and not in the spiritual or supernatural. My understanding of faith is the hopeful anticipation of something that will change or happen based on either evidence or observation.

Rationalism and reason, qualities that sometimes aren’t stressed enough, are what guide me. My definition of “faith” evolved as I grew older.

I have faith that I will graduate from college. I have faith that I will have trouble parking in the economy lot at school. I take issue with believing in anything without evidence.

Living in Houston, religion is almost inescapable.

Houston has the two largest megachurches in the nation. It’s impossible to go a week without seeing or hearing about Joel Osteen; whether it be Osteen collaborating with Slim Thug, or seeing his absolutely-so-perfect-it’s-creepy smiling face on his book sitting on your parent’s bookshelf.

I know many good people who take comfort in their religion. Most of my friends have stories involving when they “knew” that they had “felt God’s presence,” and every time I hear these stories, I just get more and more confused.

Proverbs 3:5 of the North American Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding,” which I interpret as blindly accepting that the “Lord works in mysterious ways” should be my answer for anything unexplainable.

After years of Catholic school and many theology courses, I just can’t accept that a God is the answer to everything I don’t understand.

I have no problem with religious people at all. Thankfully, most Texans tend to have a “stay out of my business” kind of attitude when it comes to either politics or religion. Because this is the Bible Belt though, there are still plenty of people who are vocal about their poor interpretation of the Bible.

Most of the time it’s shown with legislators, like Gov. Gregg Abbott, who try to impose their religious beliefs on same-sex marriage, women’s reproductive rights or education.

But then there’s the occasional crazy person.

Remember the Monster Energy 666 lady? That’s Christine Weick, a notoriously vehement evangelical who not too long after that video went viral, charged a podium during Muslim Capitol Day, a day where Muslims gather at the Texas capitol to celebrate their religion, screaming, “I stand against Islam and the false prophet Muhammad,” before she was taken away by security.

It’s people like Christine Weick who give Christianity a bad reputation.

I stopped going to church because of people like Christine Weick. I grew up knowing some priests and nuns who were the most caring and welcoming people I ever met.

But during my Confirmation when a new pastor was brought in, I started feeling a little less welcome. He was this pompous New York monsignor who during his first week had all the boys in confirmation class gather in one room where he proceeded to go on a tirade about why masturbation was bad and why we will all burn for eternity if we did not talk about it in confession.

The last time I went to mass on my own, he gave a 45-minute sermon focused on why you can’t live with your significant other before marriage.

After that, I threw my arms up.

Now I’ve reached the point where I believe religion is not a necessity in living a good and moral life. I don’t need 10 commandments to tell me that killing is bad or that stealing is wrong.

But evangelicals in the Bible Belt will probably never understand that. Massive reform is needed, and I don’t see things changing soon.

Until then, I’ll enjoy sleeping in on Sundays.

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