The One About Religion

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


When I was younger, if I heard my parents up and around before 8:00 a.m on a Sunday morning my first thought was always, shit this means we're going to church today.

From what I remember, we went to church a lot. No matter how hard I played sick, tried to turn off my parents' alarms, or told them I had explosive diarrhea, on Sunday mornings we were at the Catholic service at either 9 or 11 a.m.

There were a handful of times when we got there too late and couldn't find a seat so we'd go straight to Val's Breakfast Buffet and skip service. And those were some of the happiest Sundays of my life. God had answered my prayers on those days.

That sounds terrible. I'm kind of kidding, but mostly not. I'm just being honest, I really disliked church as a kid. And as an adult, I still dislike it.

Or I dislike the thought of it. If you're a church-goer this might sound ridiculous, but I'm slowly learning there are good churches out there. I was just going to the wrong one (FOR ME.) *Catholicism is not my thing, if is yours, that's great. 

I cut ties with my childhood church for good when I went with my parents last spring right around the time gay marriage was being passed by the Supreme Court and the priest asked everyone to pray for "the sinners." Nope. Not okay with that. Just my opinion.

Here's the thing, I believe in God and I actually pray a lot, but I prefer to do it in my home.

But like I said, I might try to give church another try. For Christmas we've started going to my uncle's church and I really enjoy it. However it's going to take some time to wash 18 years of strongly disliking church off of me.

We went to Easter service on Sunday and I was dreading it. I've been to church all of three times since I've lived in Chicago. I was hoping we'd get there and it would be too full and we could go straight to brunch. But it wasn't. And once it started something crazy happened.

I actually liked it. I listened to the message and it made sense. It was so uplifting and tolerant of so many different things. The minister encouraged us to question what we've been told about Easter and Jesus in general, that perhaps we shouldn't take the events "we know" about Easter so literal and it's really meant to be more symbolic, after all.

There's a very good chance I was never paying attention as a kid in church, but I don't ever recall being told it was okay to question this kind of stuff. From what I remember, we were always told the opposite. Questioning anything was akin to not believing.

The photo above was at the end of service when we all released our fears via balloon up to the heavens so we could be "resurrected." It was a really cool moment.

Although as my friend Jake said, I couldn't help but feel bad for whomever had to collect all of those fears the next day.

Afterward we went to brunch and I managed to find a bright wall to pose by, so all in all it was a great Sunday.

SCARF. WEDGES. JACKET.

I got the pants here and thought I was getting the top, as well. But I was wrong. Oh well, that crop might have been a little much for church...

Anyway, I'm not claiming I'm going to start going to church every Sunday, but I think it's worth giving it another shot in the future. I consider myself religious but I don't really like religion. Does that even make sense? Probably not.

I'm not trying to start a religious debate here by any means, but what are your thoughts? In the Chicago comedy world I'm definitely in the minority for believing in God, but to each their own. I believe in a lot of things most believe don't.

36 comments:

  1. Your line "I was just going to the wrong one (FOR ME.)" is something I think is SO key. I'm a Christian but basically hated going to church growing up (Presbyterian). Too formal, boring, and my family didn't really make much of religion during the rest of the week. It wasn't until I went to college that I figured out that religion doesn't have to be boring and "follow all these rules". Once I figured that part out and started going to churches that had awesome sermons and good music (I'm a worship leader), it began to make sense to me again. There's so much more to having a relationship with God than stuffy churches-- it's more about your own story with Him. I hope you eventually find a church you really love, I'm sure there's one out there for you! - Sarah

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    1. I love the way you said this! I fully agree. It's totally about what you find that works for you. It took me leaving my parents house and even leaving a christian college to figure out the type of church I wanted to attend. Thankfully I found one that I'm fully invested in! Never thought my church would become my community/friends but I am so thankful I found a church that works for me:)

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  2. I grew up with the same Sunday morning dread. I mean, I like Jesus and I'm all about being a good person, but church can be torturous when you're 10 and all the good cartoons are on... I still (occasionally) go to the same church I did as a kid, but the people and message has changed and I need to go browse for another. Plus, my husband didn't grow up in the church and he gets nothing from the service (which makes me sad and him frustrated)... so we're on the hunt for the right church for US very very soon. Hope you find one, too!

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  3. Loved this post! I don't have any experience in the Catholic church, but the church we go to now in Nebraska is a "church for people who hate church" and I find our more and more that Jesus has never been about "religion and rules" but about love. And that's what I want to be a part of!

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  4. I was born and raised Catholic as well-I don't consider myself a Catholic anymore. I stopped going the second I left for college. There is just too much with that religion that I don't agree with. My husband was never raised in any sort of religion at all, so for the earlier part of my adult life we didn't attend any church. We ended up going with friends and their parents while visiting them and actually loved it- a Christian church. We found one similar close to our house and now go every Sunday and I actually look forward to it, which I never thought I would! I will say though, as a born/raised Catholic I still have a lot to adjust to during services, with people raising their arms, the rock music, etc. In my Catholic church if you so much as breathed too loud people would look at you like SSSSHHHHHHHHH! and the priest would glare. So sometimes I find myself being like shhhh! when people want to chit chat before the service starts! I even find myself wanting to genuflect before I take my seat..haha!

    When it boils down to it though, its all about relationship with God and not a church!

    Yet another great post :)

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  5. Yes yes and yes! I strongly believe that you need to find the right church for you. It's amazing how diverse churches can be just among one denomination! I too, grew up Catholic, and was really let down by the church when my mum died. When I needed the church the most, they let me down. It took a long time of searching, but I found a church with my values and beliefs. I don't always agree with everything, and tbh, you never will find a church that you agree on everything with, just like you'll always "agree to disagree" on the minors with friends, but the big stuff is covered and that's what I like. Plus for me, the music is a big deal. I was so used to the organ and the old choir people sining hymns, I had no idea that you could clap in a church, let along have a band with a variety of instruments.

    I think if you feel it out, you'll eventually find one you'll like. But the way I look at it is, having a relationship with the church is a really awesome perk of also having a relationship with God. And it helps to have people to lean on when you need help, or have questions :)

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  6. I was born and raised Catholic. I was born into a very religious, church-going family. I was in Catholic school K-12 (and 9-12 was an all-girls high school). Uniforms, church every first Friday, etc. I was an altar server, san in the choir, and a lector (someone who reads the readings and announcements). I got married in a Catholic church, to a Catholic man, and still try to go as many Sundays as I can.

    And I love it. Usually. It signifies "home" to me.

    I think I got lucky because the pastor at my church really welcomed things that many other Catholic churches did not: gay rights, AIDS awareness, etc. But of course there is plenty I do not agree with. I just choose, personally, to remove myself from those beliefs.

    There is plenty that I am ashamed of from the Catholic Church. But most of it I really love. I think it helps that we have such a great Pope now.

    But yes, I fully agree - one's relationship with God / Higher Power / whatever should be very personal. You don't know anything about my relationship with God, and v/v. So I think the judging that calls itself Christian is just awful these days.

    I suppose people would judge me for choosing what parts of the Catholic faith I want to take part in, but you know what? That's ok with me, and that's all that matters.

    An aside: We had a Baptist evangelical pastor come to our door the other day. Eric answered the door and got an earful of "why he's going to hell". for 20 minutes. So that was awesome. I hid in the living room and didn't come out.

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  7. It is definitely important to find a good church for you. Makes the going experience so much better! I used to dread going to church when I was younger, too. But I always felt better after attending! I have realized now that I went to a pretty great church...hard to find one to compare!

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  8. I've gone to church my entire life. My family has always gone to a church that is a bit more relaxed in that we have fun music and it's okay to not dress up. I don't go as often anymore and personally kind of want to find a new church that's for me to start over in not the one my entire family goes to.

    I remember back in middle school my church small group was resting a book and something didn't make sense to me. I'll never forget how my leader listened to my questioning and took the time to search out an answer for me. It showed me that it's okay to ask questions and dig deeper plus that my leader really cared.

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  9. I share the very same background as you and have the same thoughts you have. I also spend much of my day praying and talking to a God I have come to believe in and I don't burst into flames because neither of us are practicing Catholics.

    I've come to explain it as my God lives in 2016 and he very much evolves with the world around us. If you are kind, caring, work hard, and try to laugh more than anything, then you're good people in mine and His hearts.

    Excellent insight<3

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  10. I've also gone to church my entire life. As I grew up, though, I realized that my family's church wasn't necessarily for me. I tried a few different churches, quit going altogether, and then ended up back at my old church who had a new preacher. I think a lot of is is timing. And the preacher. And the church family. I love going to church now. I'm there as much as I can be. And I feel like I'm a whole new person too. It's a wonderful feeling to rely on God. I hope you find a church that works for you. :)

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  11. Recovering Catholic here! We had to go to Mass every week (choice of 3 services in our church or we could go to the college services a few towns over) religious education (I'm not only Confirmed, but taught the Confirmation class for 2 years after) etc. All of this was per the request of my mother and grandfather. It didn't matter to them that I had huge issues with the hypocrisy of the Church, that our priest was being naughty with the Church secretary, or that at the end of the day? I just didn't buy it.

    I have a lot of faith, though. I know my G-d doesn't hate and isn't vengeful. The bit about loving thy neighbor is the way to go. At about 17 (a year into teaching Confirmation classes) I had a conversations with an intern priest who I told I was going to start my own religion where we were nice, good people who did good things, didn't hate or shun, and met in shoe stores and then out for dessert.

    He said, "Court, if I can't talk you into [gesturing] this, then that sounds like a pretty good start and G-d will take it."

    He also told my mother he didn't need to pray for my soul, it was doing just fine. Shrug. I'd go to his Mass.

    I don't often go to Mass anymore, but sometimes I feel a strong draw to do so. Those are the days I hear something worth hearing. Days I don't feel the draw? Not as good. I feel like I have more Faith than ever, just less patience for the bullshit that goes with the institutions if that makes sense.

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  12. I also grew up with a father who took me to Catholic mass at a very traditional Catholic church. However, I was never baptised or confirmed or whatever so I wasn't allowed to partake of communion. Imagine my awkward junior high self just sitting in the pews while everyone else got to go up to the front and get their cracker. Yeah, it didn't leave a good impression on me. Ever since then I've been wary of churches. In fact, someone once told me that they were out running and they ran past a church. The pastor was out front and he said, "Why don't you come in and commune with God?" And the runner said, "How do you know I'm not communing with him already?" And that's always been my take on it.

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  13. The big man upstairs takes worship in all forms. Whether it be in your Sunday best in a church or talking with Him on a park bench. I personally don't like casual/contemporary churches, so Steven and I are trying to find the happy medium in between going to church in your jeans and stuffy 11am high church. I think this a great post, and you're going to find that so many of us are rowing the same boat you are!

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  14. Let's start with my confession... I am the Uncle pastor. :-)

    Next, let me formally apologize to all of you who have been hurt by church. Church should never be used as a weapon and anyone who does so is WRONG and they will be held accountable by God himself.

    I too, was "motivated" by my parents, etc, to attend church every Sunday as a kid. And had much the same experience as mentioned. I feel for you all.

    I would go as far as to say that what many of us experienced as "church" growing up, is far from anything that Christ had in mind. If you read the New Testament (Jesus life and the few years following) in search of what "church" should look like, you would never end up with one guy, wearing a white dress, lecturing a bunch of people sitting in rows.

    If you are interested in a description of the early church, check out Acts 2:42-47. Just google it.

    Jesus says that there are really only two rules: 1) Love God; 2) Love Others (Mark 12:29-31)

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  15. Enjoyed reading an authentic post - thanks for sharing! My mom grew up like you and rejected the Catholic church after college for similar reasons. But she missed the community and rituals, so we attended an Episcopal church down our street for many years (my dad, on the other hand, is an adamant atheist bordering on intolerant). I actually really liked it because everyone was kind and welcoming, and the sermons were thought provoking... plus a lot of my friends attended, and I liked doing community service.

    Throughout my childhood, "Christian values" were intentionally instilled in me by my parents at home and in Church... but never an unfaltering belief in a higher power. I always appreciated the symbolism, the lessons in the Bible (and still do)... but could never shake the idea that it was pure coincidence I was born into a (primarily) Christian community/family/society.. and not in a Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or other setting. Should geography really play such a strong role in the fate of one's soul? I am spiritual, but I simply can't wrap my ahead around the idea that only one faith got it right. That puts the traditional concept of God into question for me... but never my belief in kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love.

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    1. P.S. Momastery posted on a similar topic today, and I LOVE her take on it! http://momastery.com/blog/2016/03/29/waiting-or-working/

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  16. I've always like Ghandi's quote: "the only problem with Christianity is Christians". That's how I feel about it. It was brave of you to post, and thought provoking. You're entitled to your opinion and people should respect that.

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  17. I think its so great to have an individual opinion on religion/church rather than just "doing what you've always done." When I went off to college I went to a church that was very different than my one at home and I realized the difference in worship really shapes how you view God and religion. I don't go as much as I should anymore but I think it really makes a difference on the particular church. And way to go on cutting ties with the gay-shaming church. That just hurts my soul that people still think that way.

    Emma | Seeking the South

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  18. Such an interesting read. I'm looking through all the comments and I never realized this many people were raised in the Church. I always forget that being religious is the norm in most parts of the country.

    My parents were raised as Irish Catholics and they are now all (step-mom included) atheists. Growing up in a non-religious household in the Bay Area, I never realized that a significant portion of the American population goes to church on Sundays. Church was just something I went to out of curiosity with my very Catholic grandparents a couple times a year when we would visit Ireland. The one thing I liked about going with them was the sense of belonging. I really wish that there was an alternative way to find that same sort of community for those of us who don't believe in a higher power.

    I can pinpoint the moment I decided I was down with my parents' decision to keep religion out of my upbringing. I went to church with a friend one time in elementary school as her mother had a come to Jesus moment during her divorce and instated a new rule that any kid who slept over on Saturday night had to attend church. Of course I was down to try anything once. It was all fine and dandy until they asked me when I had accepted Jesus as my lord and savior and if I was ready to formally do it on the spot. I remember thinking "I'm 8. I don't know anything about this. Can you give me a minute to figure out what it's about before asking for that level of commitment?" That moment pretty much turned me off exploring organized religion for life.

    As a side note, I completely forgot it was Easter on Sunday until I showed up to brunch in yoga pants and a sweatshirt and saw everyone else in their best church outfits. My granny must have been turning in her grave. Naturally, when I told my parents, they found this hilarious and were strangely proud of their little heathen. Anyway, I haven't been sent to burn in the fires of hell just yet, so I remain hopeful for the future.

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  19. I love this post! I am definitely a very regular church go-er. I was raised Mormon and still am. And I really really love it. I have to really commend my parents... they taught me so much about religion and faith. They always encouraged me to explore and to question things. All through my life I have made it a point to do all i can to learn about other religions and faiths and understand them to the best of my ability. I love learning about and exploring other religions. I went to a private catholic high school, which was amazing. I have been to all different services, from catholic to baptist to Buddhist to non-denominational. I am so happy that I have to! My dad said something that really struck a chord with me once... He said "At the heart of almost ever religion and faith is a very good and a very true core. Its the people delivering the message and the people receiving it that tend to warp it to match their own agenda and their own ideals, good or bad." That makes so much sense to me. We are all so different as humans and we all have very different thought processes and ideals. All faiths and religions are equally important and necessary for the world. So I think its so important to find not only a faith, but a church that makes you feel like you belong and that understands you as much as you understand it. Even if that church is no church! One issue I tend to run into is a lack of respect for beliefs other than your own. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in what we believe that we forget that there is truth and good things about almost every belief system. I really love all faiths and I really really love when people can be so open and talkative about their faith with out being at all combative or condescending in conversation surrounding it, just like this whole blog and all the comments.

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  20. This is so funny to me, because I JUST got back into church after 12 years of being very very anti-church. I grew up sort of going, then got super into it in high school, then had a really bad experience and swore it off. But some crazy things have started happening in my life and it's like God is saying "Hellllooooo...now is the time!", and for some reason I'm going with it and not resisting. I love when people can figure out what God means to them personally and find a relationship so different than what they've known in the past. I hope you continue to get something out of going!

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  21. Finding the church that's right for you is so important. And part of the sermon at my church on Sunday was about setting aside the hurt or distaste from past churches and keep an open mind. I have tried various churches and have had to leave some due to intolerance.

    For what it's worth, I think questioning is a good thing and important to theology. Even the disciples did it!

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  22. I totally agree that you have to find the right church for you. I grew up church of Christ & luckily the one I've been going to since middle school is pretty "liberal" for a CoC. I think for me I like the church atmosphere because of the connections I've made- some of my fondest HS memories are from youth group. But again, it's all in the fit.

    Also I definitely think you can not go to church & still believe. Church itself isn't for everybody. Not going doesn't make you less of a believer- just like GOING doesn't make you a "perfect Christian."

    I'm also with you on the religious but not religion. I definitely do consider myself Christian but sometimes it's awful being associated with things that are just so far from what I think & feel. A friend once told me that when they met me & realized I was christian they were hesitant because of previous experiences they'd had & it makes me SO SAD that we're more known for judginess/intolerance than the good stuff- you know, the stuff JESUS ACTUALLY TAUGHT. (sorry, I could write a novel about these things, ha)

    Anyway, I'm glad you had a good experience at Easter! I hope you find your "one." :)

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  23. I think this makes total sense. I grew up Catholic and still consider myself Catholic, but I can't go to church very often because it's very physically painful for me. In my opinion, questioning things is a great idea. To me, blind faith doesn't make sense. You shouldn't believe something because someone told you to; you should believe it because you thought about it and questioned it and it still makes sense. And you do need to find the church (and maybe the denomination) that works for you. At the end of the day, while priests may be religious leaders, they're still human. There are going to be some who may pretend to speak for God but they don't because God doesn't do hate. As one SNL skit with Jason Sudeikas as the devil says (I know, I know), God doesn't hate anyone - "that's his whole thing!" Any priest or minister or anyone who says that God hates anyone is saying what they think is right and not the reality.

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  24. I find how faith grows and changes as we get older fascinating. Maybe because I've been thinking about how my own has changed over the years. Especially since graduating college. I'm in a totally different place with it than I was when I was 22. I loved how you pointed out that you weren't going to the right church for you. I think that's the case for most people. They grow up in one church, don't like it, then write it off forever. But maybe that just wasn't the right one for them. Even within the same denomination, each church can vary SO MUCH. Let alone from Catholic to Non-denominational to Lutheran to Methodist or whatever. So, I'm glad you're starting to find your own thing.

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  25. I grew up Baptist and remain Baptist now. I remember hating going to church when I was little too. Not so much church, but Sunday school. I'm an introvert so people scared me. hah. I think its great you are starting to attend a church again. I think as long as the church believes and teaches the Bible, it doesn't matter what religion they claim. Sadly though, there are a great deal of churches that teach the "feel good" portions of the Bible and leave out the rest of the truth. Bottom line, being a "good person" isn't enough. We do indeed need Jesus.

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  26. I was raised the exact same way, I steered away from my church once I got a little older and realized I wasn't a fan of what they were teaching. I'm now in a little bit of a rut, we have two little boys and I want them to have SOMETHING to believe, I just want it to be super open minded. I need to do some research and find a church that can give my boys just that, definitely easier said than done.

    I really enjoyed this post, thank you!

    XOXO

    Melissa

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  27. I'm completely with you on this. I used to hate going to church, but I consider myself very religious. I wholeheartedly believe in God, and I honestly believe that it doesn't matter whether or not you go to church as long as you believe you are a good person. Now that I'm older and I've started to listen to the homilies on the rare occasions that I do go, I realize how wonderful and thought-provoking the talks can be and I appreciate God so much more. It's really all about finding the best church for you, that's gonna bring you closer to God.

    I mean, regardless of whatever I say, in the end, it's going to be you and God, so it doesn't matter what anyone else says or thinks. Your life is about you.

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  28. What church Taylor? I've been "thinking" about going to one in Chicago for years.

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  29. I am unsure about my belief in G-d, but I do know that some of the rituals of Judaism hold a large sway in my personality. I love going to services, since it is a lot of singing and critical reading of the Bible. Additionally, I take the major messages, rather than necessarily the messages about obedience to G-d.

    Though when I was young, I also dreaded going to services.

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  30. As a child we rarely went to church as a young woman in her 20's we went a lot more often but then in my 30's we just stopped going I don't remember why we stopped we just did and now I don't feel the need to go to church, I pray and I talk to God a lot but I don't feel the need to do so in a church.

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  31. "I consider myself religious but I don't really like religion." Yup, that makes total sense. I say something sort of similar-- more along the lines of considering myself to be spiritual, but not necessarily liking religion. I also connected with what you said about feeling more comfortable in your home than in the church you grew up going to. Both of my grandfathers were pastors, but I grew up with parents that taught me to question everything in order to make decisions for myself, and didn't force religion or the church on me. I would say that I'm fairly agnostic, yet at the same time I'm a very spiritual person. Church can be so many different things too-- time spent doing yoga, morning coffee and reflection time, a walk in the park, a regular gathering with friends, etc. I think it took me until now to realize that church doesn't necessarily have to be what our previous experiences were, and we can each find what makes most sense for us as individuals. Religion is a personal thing, and for that reason, it should be a personal decision in terms of how we practice it. There's no right or wrong way to do so, but just what feels right for each of us. Thanks for writing this! I actually really enjoyed reading it.

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