Live Through This

Giving Me Something I Can Believe In

My faith used to be a perpetual whirlwind of soul-deep confusion.

Illustration by Kelly

Once upon a very short time, I was a devout Jew. I specify that this period was brief because, before my 18th birthday, I would also identify as Catholic, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Wiccan, Buddhist, and atheist. It was obviously really easy for me to be secure and unquestioning in my religious beliefs, and my string of young conversions were a totally fun process that was not at all fraught with long periods of uncertainty and doubt in not only myself, but the very nature of existence. HAHA, JUST KIDDING, YOU GUYS—faith, to my younger self, was a perpetual whirlwind of soul-deep confusion. Although it’s certainly true that religion can be, and for a huge number of people is, a fulfilling, engaging part of life, I have had a lot of trouble understanding my spiritual place in the universe for the majority of my existence within it. This led me to travel down mannnnyyyyy different paths in search of a religion with which I genuinely related on a personal level as well as in a universal, holy way.

Even though all this religious exploration was full of philosophical and existential meltdowns, I’m really glad for all that restless searching, because it finally led to where I am now—having settled into spiritual state of mind that makes me feel grateful for and secure in what I really believe.

My lifelong religious befuddlement makes me something of an anomaly among my closest family. Throughout 54 years, six children, countless holidays, love notes, and arguments, my paternal grandparents have each respectfully maintained and observed their own separate, but equally devout, faiths. My grandmother is Catholic and my grandfather is Jewish. Over the years, I have alternated between thinking they were submissive, incurious people who just, after taking on the faiths of their own parents, just never bothered to question them, even after marrying someone who believed something different (this was during my longstanding period of being a self-righteous jerk); and being profoundly impressed by their utter certainty in their faith, a steadiness that is completely foreign to me. Long before my divine confusion set it, though, my grandparents’ two faiths intertwined to define my earliest religious identity.

Per my grandmother’s wishes, I was baptized Catholic as a baby, but Judaism was the first religion that I chose to belong to. At three, I insisted that, like my great-grandmother Blanche, who lived in a high-rise in Coney Island, and my distant cousins who wore headscarves and had Hebrew names like Chaya, I was a through-and-through Jewish Jew. My mother attributed this change to my toddler love of Jewish stories, food, holidays, and incantations—basically, I would jump all over anything that had even the tiniest bit to do with “God’s chosen people.” Most of all, though, I loved that side of my family best when I was wee, and their zealous Judaism was what they all had in common. I insisted on learning the prayers and attending services with Jewish families in my neighborhood. When Grandma Blanche found out that I had been broadcasting my Judaism to my preschool teachers, classmates, and pals on the block, she wept with joy. The next time she saw me, she gave me a menorah, which is a religious candelabra used to observe Hannukah, that she had brought with her from Russia to Brooklyn. At the time, I saw “God” and “family” as parts of an overarching, loving entity, one to which I belonged.

My parents, although slightly mystified by my refusal to get down with the New Testament, were tentatively accepting of my self-designated Judaism. “You can be Jewish as soon as you’re old enough to walk to the cantor [a Jewish prayer leader] and take lessons,” my mom remembers telling four-year-old Amy Rose. I understand that not everyone’s parents are willing to give their children this kind of autonomy, and I know that it’s important to many families that everyone observes their faith in the same way—but to this day I appreciate that my folks didn’t freak out when I decided to do things differently. I, on the other hand, was not always as tolerant. “When you were five,” my mother remembers, “your little sister wanted a Virgin Mary statue on the front lawn. You said, ‘You can’t do that! It’s disrespectful to me because I’m Jewish!’ And then you cried for hours.”

I had my first crisis of faith when I was about nine. My mom had brought me to the synagogue to help a neighbor create artwork for the walls of the temple. We were making a sign that listed the Biblical mandates that Jews were meant to observe, one of which said that Jews could not marry or even date outside of their own religion. When I realized that there were restrictions—that I potentially wouldn’t be available to people I might like—I felt distressed and insulted. After a childhood defined by Yiddish slang and a strong devotion to bagels and lox (which persists to this day, though my beliefs have changed), I gained a new understanding of religion, which sent me on the spiritual spiral of uncertainty that would plague me like so many frogs and locusts for the next decade: organized religion has rules, and they’re not always fun ones. My Judaism was meant to be a way to get closer to people that I loved; the idea that it might keep me from loving others in the future was abhorrent to me. So went the first of my many falls from grace (although I still treasure Grandma Blanche’s menorah).


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  • Gabby December 3rd, 2012 11:33 PM


  • Katherine December 3rd, 2012 11:34 PM

    I really appreciated this piece. Just wanted to correct a few minor things – the candelabra you mention is called a chanukia, not a menorah, and a cantor isn’t really a religious leader but more of someone who leads the prayers. By the way, I loved “plague me like so many frogs and locusts.”

    • MotherOfInvention December 4th, 2012 12:35 PM

      Katherine, I think we may have regional differences. For instance, in the my town, we sing songs about lighting the Hanukkah menorah, and the cantor teaches Torah and bat mitzvah classes. I see that other comments have addressed the restrictions about dating outside of the faith as loosely held; in my area, they are adhered to very strictly by certain synagogues! If Amy Rose faced her religious dilemmas in the Northeast, her descriptions are on target! I know I really identify with her search, local religious group expectations, and wondering how I fit into all of it!

      • Maddy December 4th, 2012 2:24 PM

        Splitting hairs here because I, too, call it a menorah, but the Hanukkah “candleholder” is a chanukia. The cantor’s role does differ, though.

      • Katherine December 5th, 2012 11:48 PM

        Absolutely possible, since I live in an Orthodox community in the Southwest. I agree, though, on the whole dating issue -in my area dating outside the faith is severely frowned upon.

        I hope I didn’t sound overly critical, because I really did like this piece and identified with it.

  • Freckles December 3rd, 2012 11:37 PM

    Thank you, I needed this. Rookie never fails to read my mind!

  • bRookie December 3rd, 2012 11:38 PM

    This really resonates with me, as I had a very similar experience growing up. The only thing is that I have been wondering lately how to reconcile the desire to do whatever I want, as you mention in the last line, with the desire to have some sort of thing that is not me that helps me choose the right thing when what I want may not be the best idea. Like, how can I make this about something greater than myself if it is all about choosing whatever I want? But I can’t think of any truly good justification for any specific religion or belief system above any other one, or above not one, for that matter, because they all entail personal choice, which is exactly what I find problematic.

    • reginageorge December 16th, 2012 3:06 PM

      Depending on how you look at it, religion won’t make you choose the right thing. I can’t explain it very well so here’s an example:

      You want to eat another container of Extra Awesome Strawberry Ice Cream. This is a bad idea because you just ate one and you’ll feel sick if you do. Plus, Extra Awesome Strawberry Ice Cream is 99% sugar and not a particularly healthy food choice.

      If you don’t know that it’s wrong, having a religion won’t make a difference. Your religion could have ambiguous stances on how much Extra Awesome Strawberry Ice Cream you can eat and when. You’re not quite sure where you stand on that debate. You may even have skipped that day when you and other young people were told about Extra Awesome Strawberry Ice Cream. Your best friend in this case is Googling it or spending a few years meditating upon your choices, by which time your younger brother will have come along and eaten all the ice cream. No deal. This is the same thing that happens if you’re an atheist and don’t know whether it’s a good idea to eat it.

      If you do know that your religion says that you can’t eat excessive amounts of Extra Awesome Strawberry Ice Cream, and you agree with this stance, it’s up to you to resist the temptation. It’s the same as being an atheist: you know that it’s a terrible idea, but you can cave in anyway.

      Religion can help you make choices but it’s not absolutely necessary and sometimes it’s not particularly helpful. It’s up to yr conscience.

  • izi December 3rd, 2012 11:38 PM

    Is it too late to submit pieces for this month?

  • Jasmine December 3rd, 2012 11:38 PM

    Thank you so much for this; you were very open and neutral and I love that you didn’t try and shove any opinions down peoples’ throats!
    I am Christian but I don’t define my beliefs from churches or how other people define their spirituality. It’s a personal thing and I agree that people should really figure it out on their own.

    Again, great article Amy Rose c:

  • hexdiary December 3rd, 2012 11:41 PM

    I like how this piece ends it what we all eventually realize. In one way or another we want a connection, whether it involves a god or not, we want to commune with the world around us (or god). I don’t know! I think this is really interesting. I think for each person it’s more like, what do you want to be connected to? What is enough for YOU? Some people I think need to be connected with a personal god, some people need a overseeing god, I know I only need nature and the natural order of things (which is why I live an atheistic life) but I just think it’s such a good point. Beliefs are all about what we relate to.

    • chloegrey December 3rd, 2012 11:58 PM

      I love the way you put that!

  • anisarose December 3rd, 2012 11:48 PM

    It is always very interesting to hear about the evolution of people’s faith. Other than a brief spell when I was around 13, I’ve always been very secure in my faith but I’ve also been very interested in learning about other faiths from friends, talking to my parents, and getting involved in interfaith groups. As a Baha’i, I follow the teachings of Baha’u'llah, the prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith, but I also believe in the validity of the major prophets (Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, Zoraster, etc… ) and that their messages are attuned to what humanity could handle at the time of their coming.

    From my observations, what a lot of people struggle with is that they feel as if religion is telling them what to believe because they feel as if listening to a clergyman interpret doesn’t fulfill them spiritually or resonate. Probably one of the most important aspects of my faith that I love is the emphasis on individual investigation of the truth or the responsibility of each person to read about the faith and learn for themself. Of course, there are meetings, discussions, and things of that nature but I love being able to pick up one of the many books of my faith and learn.

    There are a TON of other teachings that draw me to my own faith (equality of women and men, emphasis on education, harmony of science and religion, effort to eliminate extremes of poverty and wealth…) but I would also like to hear why people are drawn to whatever faith they practice or the lack there of!

    • Abby December 4th, 2012 1:08 AM

      You sound awesome… just saying.

  • Tierney December 4th, 2012 12:20 AM

    A well written piece, but the message doesn’t sit well with me. If one values truth, then our beliefs should not be “our own creation,” rather they should be formed on the basis of evidence and reason. Sometimes that means believing in things that you don’t like or make you uncomfortable, but that’s all a part of living in reality. Too often people form their beliefs on what makes them feel good. Sure, that’s one method of getting through life, but I don’t think it has much integrity. Of course our body of knowledge cannot (yet) answer all questions, but that’s where three simple words that we ALL should be more comfortable saying come in, “I don’t know.”

    • Maggie December 4th, 2012 12:33 AM

      That’s a really interesting and well-stated point. I think what Amy Rose meant by “our own creation” was more like, the unique amalgam of spiritual components that resonates in each individual’s heart (as opposed to just making stuff up and calling it your religion). And I think that amalgam can work in concert with more reason-based truth-seeking. But what you’re saying is still such a good point. “I don’t know” is def the creed of the wise.

      • decemberbaby December 4th, 2012 10:55 AM

        Isn’t it the point of “faith” to help you trust in beliefs that can’t be supported with reason or evidence? For example, it makes me mad when people say there absolutely is no God because there is no perceptible evidence of a God. I think one of the characteristics of a “higher power” is that it’s beyond the reach of our reason or our senses, that’s why when we feel a certainty in our hearts for something that we can never know for sure, we call it “faith.”

        At least, that’s how I’ve always defined it. I’d be interested to hear other people’s perspectives.

        • all-art-is-quite-useless December 5th, 2012 12:16 PM

          The reason why I’m not religious is because I find it difficult to accept having faith in something, just because. I flip between admiring people who have such trust in their beliefs and have faith, and being irritated that people can believe things just because they “have faith” (this is has been in some of my less tolerant of “people not being 100% reasonable 100% of the time” moments, or when I’ve been reading too much about philosophers like Hume and Kant).

          It also irritates me when people say that they absolutely, no-arguments God because they have no evidence of Him/Her/Whatever, because it is impossible to have evidence for or against the existence of a higher being. I think that humans can’t say for absolutely sure whether their is a God, but we can say whether we as individuals have faith. We can have reasons for our faith, or the lack or it, but theirs no evidence isn’t a reasonable stance to take (especially as so many absolute atheists I know pride themselves on their reasoning). I think that the problems in many organised religions can put people off religion and decide that there is no higher being, without really thinking that there could be a God, just perhaps not one that wants/does/is necessarily what Catholics, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or anyone says He/She/whatever wants/is/does.

    • Roz G. December 4th, 2012 4:34 PM

      thank you! I was just about to reply something very similar to this! If I’ve had problems with my religion it is because I am looking for truth. For me reason is the way into truth (and of course faith if one is talking about religion) and some things in my religion’s dogmas just don’t make sense reasonably.
      But I disagree with making up our own creations about what religion should be. It makes it all very relative and a world without real truths scares the shit out of me. (although we might just live in one… who knows?

    • Nauny December 4th, 2012 4:46 PM

      I agree with what you’re saying. God is God, which inherently means that He is above all. That means we have to allow ourselves to be humbled, to say we don’t know everything and we can’t know everything and to trust that God knows what is best because He is omniscient. That is a huge part of having faith.

  • EveyMarrie December 4th, 2012 12:27 AM

    This was totally beautiful. I love the idea of people being able to believe in something bigger than them and being loved no matter what situation they’re put in. I mean, I was born Catholic, but I don’t believe in it. I’m by definition ‘atheist’ since I don’t believe in a God, but I don’t like that term because it spouts off too much negativity of the people who force their ‘disbeliefs’ on others. I just choose to live my life with my own thoughts on what’s right and wrong. I know harming others is bad, doing anything to cause harm to myself is bad, treating people with respect is good, etc. But I admire people’s dedication to their religion. The people who totally love and partake in it and respect others’ life choices, whether or not they truly think other of it and, I don’t know, I sort of envy that sort of connection religion can bring to a community, you know?

    Anyway, I love this piece and how honest it is about the feelings of switching back and forth, trying to find something that worked and felt right. Just absolutely love it.

  • Martinapovolo December 4th, 2012 12:36 AM

    im religious, not spiritual

  • Faith December 4th, 2012 1:00 AM

    As a Christian, I can remember when I was little and when asked my religion, I would say my parents were and that I didn’t know what I was yet. I used to be confused, and would often find myself wondering why I even existed. I found what I looking for; a purpose in life and a meaning to live. I didn’t like the fact that in religion you had to “work your way up to heaven.” I think Christianity is more like a lifestyle because this is where God works IN you. You don’t need to prove yourself to Him, you come as you are, and He’ll do the work! Faith plays a huge part in this, you just gotta Believe!! It’s intriguing how opinions are easier to swallow than facts..

  • Abby December 4th, 2012 1:06 AM

    This is… great. I’ve been having a lot of FEELINGS about religion in the past few years… As a young teen I was always involved in my (Christian) church’s youth group, and then the people I liked in it moved away and the atmosphere changed (which I didn’t like) so I stopped going. I still tried to stay strong in my faith though… I tried so hard to pray all the time and read the bible and even went as far as making a “chastity pact” with God… but it always felt like I was just going through the motions. I wanted to believe… but I didn’t really. Eventually, I just kind of got weaker and weaker in my faith. I hated that a lot of “Christians” were so un-accepting, and I just … couldn’t believe anymore. I had always just blindly accepted the teachings as the truth, because why would my parents/pastor/church people lie to me? But I just… couldn’t anymore. I didn’t believe it.

    Now I guess I’m an “atheist”… but as someone has already said, I don’t like that term because it has such a negative connotation. But… I just can’t believe anything. I don’t have proof, and I don’t “feel” it, either. I don’t know… I guess I just really want the security of a religion… but I’m not going to practice one just because I like feeling like I belong. Losing my religion was hard… and it still is… maybe someday I’ll figure out what’s right for me.

  • sorcianoelle December 4th, 2012 1:20 AM

    Brilliant article.

    Although homosexuality is considered a sin, I don’t think lesbianism is. I also don’t think people who are homosexuals burn in hell, I just think God doesn’t like it.

    What is the purpose of life? To love God and each other.

    What happens after you die? You go to heaven.

    Does it matter where you go to college? No.

    Hope that helps. xoxo

    • Lillypod December 4th, 2012 3:42 AM

      fyi, homosexuality includes both genders. (No matter what your beliefs)

    • all-art-is-quite-useless December 5th, 2012 11:52 AM

      The Bible only mentions male homosexuality, not female homosexuality, to my knowledge anyway (similar to that in British law, until 1967, homosexual acts between men were illegal, but homosexual acts between women have never been illegal). I’m not sure why, perhaps it was because for a long time it wasn’t widely considered that women had the same sexual desires as men…

  • Wickedforlife December 4th, 2012 1:20 AM

    The thing about Jews not being able to date or marry outside of their religion is insanely hardcare elitest judaism. Most Rabbis don’t even follow those rules. And if would even have mattered in your sake because you weren’t born a Jew by both parents or on your mother’s side. So there is no hardcore jew bloodline to keep up. And recent geneological studies have shown through studying a group of extremely traditionalist jews that because they were trying the 100% pure Jew bloodline they eventually caused inbreeding, and thus birth defects, and a higher likelihood of dying of fatal illnesses. Most Jews have taken notice of that and try to use logic in principal too. Now, the marry other Jews thing is mostly a cultural idea, which when looked closely at is often only used for first impressions. A Jewish mother will ask if the girl her son is dating is Jewish, but once she gets over the initial fact they, like all people learn to accept it. Think of Howard’s mother on the Big Bang theory.

    • firky December 4th, 2012 1:34 PM

      Not sure if I’d call it “insanely hardcore” and “elitist”. Many Rabbis do follow these rules, and many don’t. There are different denominations in Judaism that adhere to varying sets of beliefs, values and laws. Calling it elitist, insane and hardcore is (to me) an unfair statement – we all come from different world views. Who’s to say that there’s anything wrong with that?

      Much of what makes Judaism what it is is the freedom we have to interpret the Hebrew Bible as we wish. Many of the laws and traditions come from commentary made way after we received the Torah from God at Mt. Sinai, and not just commentary by one person – there were quite a few! So you can only imagine how many contradicting ideas were established.

      And I think that’s a wonderful thing.

  • pansyavenue December 4th, 2012 1:39 AM

    This is nice! Brilliant thoughts, wonderfully put, but I have a slight qualm. Structuring Amy Rose’s piece as 4 long internet pages of copy seems to detract from the best parts of her writing. It’s harder to appreciate clever & unique turns of phrase when they’re strung end-to-end for as long as they are here. I’m gonna dish that onto an editor’s plate as some food for thought. Even one pull-quote or subheading or line/photo break could make a piece like this much more reader-friendly – & I have `~*faith*~’ that none of these additions would detract from her work. But that’s just my opinion.

    - love, a Rookie devotee & #1 Amy Rose fan

  • Kasey December 4th, 2012 1:56 AM

    I 100% relate to the whole idea of needing to abandon religion completely or a while, so you can start from scratch and ind what really matters to you. I was raised as a Christian, though my family never went to church. I was sent to Christian summer camps every year, and — I’m not sure how to explain it — all of the biblical stories and sermons never felt REAL to me. Around middle school, I started flip-flopping between Atheism and Christianity. I’d abandon my beliefs during the school-year, then be brainwashed into conversion every summer at camp (“brainwash” is a strong word, and I am in no way implying that’s what all conversion is, that’s just how it felt to me every time I went to camp). The summer before my junior year, I decided to stop labeling my religion altogether and think about it again in a year (and hope I didn’t die before then). Since then I’ve been studying a lot of astrology, because it just feels right to me. I believe in the “spirit” as a sort of energy that is present in all things in the Universe, but just isn’t widely understood/studied yet. All in all, I’m really excited to learn more about astrology and spirituality. Hit me up if you’re willing to share anything on it!

  • karastarr32 December 4th, 2012 2:47 AM

    This was an amazing article, I had to bite my lip from cheering out loud. I’m a Christian, but I guess I’ve always gone to more liberal churches (e.g. The first priest I remember was a woman and last yeat she got married to another woman.) I’ve definetly experimented within Christianity, though. I’ve been to strict Roman Catholic churches, small Episcopalian house churches, and non-denominational megachurches. Currently, I go to a Church of England cathedral, and once a month to Hillsong megachurch. I know both places have has issues, but if I ruled out every church I’d ever had a problem with, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I’d just like to point out that there are sooo many similarities between all sorts of faiths. My friend Saf and I both get along because we do follow religious rules and go to church/mosque every week. Sometimes we have arguments, both 90% of the time we actually agree on things. And, PS Amy Rose, not all church camps and mission trips are bad, the ones I have been to are LGBTQ-friendly, very fun, and are often the highlight of my whole year.

  • Lillypod December 4th, 2012 3:39 AM

    Amy Rose, if you always keep an open mind you will find the truth.

  • HeartPlant December 4th, 2012 6:58 AM

    I was so looking forward to this month! I’ve flip-flopped from religion to religion too, Catholicism, atheism, Satanism, atheism again and am currently Christian. I think I’m going to stick with Christianity because it’s a set-up that’s working for me at the moment, but there are things that bother me about it too. The LGBTQ thing for one, and also the sexism. (y u no women bishop?!) I really enjoy the times of worship that I have with other people and I like praying with people too. So, at the moment it’s an environment where I can do that, so the awesome stuff is outbalancing the awful stuff.

  • LeatherStuddedFae December 4th, 2012 7:33 AM

    Yup. Bravo on this wonderful article! I’m a Christian and I grew up as a Christian all my life. I was confused. There’s Born-Again, then there’s Catholic, then there’s Baptist… I didn’t even know the difference then. But as I grew up, I understood more. Yet at the same time, I was questioning religion. I was into Pagan and stuff.

    I searched about other kinds of religion but no matter what, I still believed in God and I always find myself turning back to Him. :) I keep my mind open to the things around me despite sticking to Christianity. Youth camps are actually fun. =D It just really depends on the kind of people you’re with. It’s even more fin when most of the people you’re with are open-minded. <3

  • Melisa December 4th, 2012 8:02 AM

    Very insightful.

    I, myself, is raised as a Christian and thus have Christian ideas and values “stuck” in me, but I’m sort of wavering at the moment. In one way I feel the need to explore other beliefs, but in other ways, whenever I began to explore and ask questions, I feel like I am sort of “betraying” my current religion.

    The last paragraph really is gold. Amazing, well-written piece, Amy Rose!

    P.S. I love love looove your name

  • sweetvalleyhi December 4th, 2012 8:21 AM

    ‘We weren’t even teenagers yet, but were having a heated argument about whether gay people should go to hell, or if shrimp cocktail was sinful.’ – I LOVE YOUR WRITING W/ A PASSION

  • Mary the freak December 4th, 2012 9:57 AM

    I am seriously clapping after reading this article, no atter if I’m sitting in the school bus.

  • KatyKamikaze December 4th, 2012 12:08 PM

    I too went through a lot of confusion, sent to a Church of England primary, a Catholic High School and all the while going to Protestant church on a Sunday. I have been amazed by Buddism and Shinto religions and interested in Wicca.. ultimately though I found that my true wonder and passion lies in the logical order of things, the amazingness that is planet earth, the universe, galaxies and solar systems without having to attribute them to a God or explain them any other way than a great cosmic coincidence so fantastic it can support our life.
    Morally I live a very humanist life.. It’s my way of feeling connected to others and following what I think is ethically right. I think I like the fact also I can identify with others who are the same as me, but I have realised this after figuring out I am Humanist, instead of being Humanist because I wanted to fit in with people I already know.
    I understand that religion is important to some, but it’s not for me, and I feel personally that I would like for me to be able to talk openly about what I believe a lot of the time without being seen as ‘offensive’ to anybody.
    I think we all need these spiritual journeys, regardless of where we get to at the end of them!

  • jenaimarley December 4th, 2012 12:09 PM

    Oh my, this is so good.
    I have gone through a similar spiritual journey (and still am?)
    I even wrote college essays about it! Ha.
    But anyway, for a while I really wanted to be fully into everything about a religion but after so much searching I think I just have to take the beautiful things I find in all of them and work it into my very own personal spiritual amalgamation. You can still find community in this though! It doesn’t have to be lonely, although sometimes it feels that way.
    Also I love the way certain variations on religious sects are actually closer to each other than to the religion they are variations of (Sufism, Mysticism, etc.)
    Also anyone know / observe World Pantheism?? IT IS TOTALLY JOY-BOMB.

  • lubs December 4th, 2012 12:20 PM

    this made me so happy because being raised away from forms of religion in general it feels needed to connect myself with some kind of faith. I’m still not sure whether my parents’ decision was good or not, because sometimes I feel like I’ve never had any contact with my spirituality, even when most of the times I’m convinced that the “moments of being’ are truly what I live for.

    Also I just recently finished Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger and I really loved that idea of god (Chris actually, as they say in the book) being a Fat Lady.

    • lubs December 4th, 2012 12:20 PM

      *Christ, my bad

    • georgie fruit December 4th, 2012 6:15 PM

      that scene where Zooey explains that the Fat Lady is Christ is basically the foundation of my own personal religion.

  • koalabears December 4th, 2012 3:41 PM

    This article is just perfect. I can relate to many of the things you said; I’ve been feeling sort of “lost” on that matter, because I was raised a Catholic and now there are so many things about it that I don’t like. I’ve had a similar experience with the whole “speaking in tongues” thing; I started going to a youth group (some of the people were from evangelical churches) and it just felt really weird the first time I saw a guy speaking in tongues. I guess you just have to find something that feels right to YOU, find what you believe in, whether that involves a god or not.

  • marimba_girl December 4th, 2012 4:36 PM

    Totally dig this! Although the brief portrayal of paganism did not sit well with me, but I understand that this is one individual’s experience.

  • Nauny December 4th, 2012 4:41 PM

    Having a personal relationship with God is the most fulfilling thing in existence!
    I became a Christian in high school and although I’ve had trials and questions, God never stopped pursuing me.
    Having faith is a process of continually allowing yourself to be humbled and realizing that you are on this planet to love, serve others and to better yourself.

  • GlitterKitty December 4th, 2012 4:46 PM

    I can relate so much to this article. I was baptized into the Catholic Church when I was a baby and have attended a Catholic school my entire life. But I’m not really that religious and neither are my parents. I’ve questioned a lot (such as opinions on homosexuality) and was told by my school teachers that it didn’t really matter if I disagreed.
    While this is a good message, I always thought “why do I belong to this group if I don’t agree with what it believes?” I also disliked those youth groups and going to church in general. I spent a while believing that this made me a “bad Catholic”. But I now realize that finding a religion with your exact beliefs is not going to happen unless you make up your own. It’s best to find a religion whose general beliefs you agree with and want to participate in. It just isn’t worth your time to nitpick every little thing. If that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world.

  • shjaron December 4th, 2012 4:54 PM

    Amy Rose, you intrigue me so much! You don’t get tired of pulling out surprises with each new entry. It’s always a pleasure to read your work.

  • jackief December 4th, 2012 5:11 PM

    This is a wonderful piece! I can totally sympathize, though I stayed an atheist. It does get a negative connotation as others have commented, but I agree that your beliefs/or non-beliefs are a personal & difficult choice. My own journey has made me appreciate life more & realize it is fleeting and beautiful. Feeling unsure and vulnerable about the larger wonders in the world that we have yet to discover does not have to be tied to any organized religion. Which this story really illustrates wonderfully. I feel like those larger wonders is what Einstein meant in his conception of god (mystery of dark matter, physics etc). Anyone interested in atheism should check out the work of Dawkins and Hitchens, they are amazing individuals.

  • mamadidntraisenofool December 4th, 2012 5:59 PM

    The comment on Ginsburg (who funny enough founded a Buddhist university with my spiritual teacher Chogyam Trungpa) irresponsibly appropriating Buddhism come as quite a laugh for me. Your statements reflect, I believe, the misunderstanding most people in this country have with Buddhism. This is understandable, Buddhism is an incredibly complex and ancient spirituality. Translation from Sanskrit can be very difficult and often the english vocabulary lacks the depth and richness of the original text. Buddhism does teach that everything is interdependent, like Bell’s theorem, however you do not come to this “conclusion” from no-self or Anatta. Anatta is not the complete loss of self, it is acknowledgement that there is no permanent ego and that we are ever evolving, everything natural follows the rule of impermanence. When a person learns this they are released from suffering because they are no longer attached to a disillusioned solidity. Your words on Gurdjieff (whom I love) and Virginia Woolf (my girlfriend) more closely describes elements of Buddhist thought, then what you proposed. I enjoy the idea of spiritual free for all, where we take what we wish. I, myself, do this consistently. However, I would encourage you to look into the concept of spiritual materialism. Often, we cling to higher notions in order to escape truly facing ourselves, our shadow, our depth. If we only take the light of a spirituality, we miss the dark, which, is desperately needed for transformation of any kind to occur. Study any of the people influenced by Gurdjieff or Critical theory to see that.

  • Roz G. December 4th, 2012 6:13 PM

    It seems like it was very easy to you… knowing what was right and what wasn’t. For me it isn’t so easy and that’s what has me suffering… is homosexuality or sex before you’re married blabla wrong? yes/no WHY? Who or what defines what is wrong and what is right? Not religion according to this article. Then what? Society at the moment? Laws? NOTHING?? Whatever you decide to be right is right and whatever you decide to be wrong is wrong? How does that work? Are there no fundamental truths at all?

  • didja December 4th, 2012 6:29 PM

    I loved this article. <3
    Although it sort of made me fidgety and uncomfortable. These past few years I've considered myself to be a [closeted] atheist (my parents are rather close-minded Muslims)…but lately I'm kind of second-guessing my beliefs.
    I don't think I really believe in God, but I feel that there is something beyond what we're aware of?

  • sternenfall December 4th, 2012 7:10 PM

    I’m Episcopalian, but went to afterschool and swam at the Jewish Community Center. It was really nice, I think, to learn about Judaism (we took Hebrew classes and did Shabbat and Havdalah together). Now I’m waiting to be confirmed into the Episcopal church, and I keep waiting because I don’t know if I’m ready or not. I am at least a little jealous of my Jewish friends, with guidelines about when it’s time for them to become full members of their congregation. I hope that at some point I realize, all at once, that I am ready for it, but I have no idea.
    beautiful article!

  • Moxx December 4th, 2012 7:39 PM


    I don’t even know what to say!

  • soretudaaa December 4th, 2012 7:56 PM

    I really liked this article, and relate to it to a certain extent. I remember when I had to do my confirmation as a Catholic I had a lot of trouble with my beliefs. I basically hated every other Catholic I knew (pretty much everyone I knew at the time), which made it really hard for me to identify as one. Besides, non-Catholic people tend to resent Catholics for many reasons (mostly those perpetuated by extremely orthodox Catholics, but also because of general misconceptions about the religion by pop culture or the media). Once I matured a bit and realised that I am not defined by others (whether they’re similar to me or different), I started questioning the serious aspects of Catholicism, and wether I wanted to keep being one or not.
    I confirmed then, a bit unsure, and only about a year ago I actually began to understand what being a Catholic meant to me, and why I choose to identify as one, every day. I realised I don’t have to believe in what my Religion teacher told me in 4th grade. I don’t have to believe in the same things the kids at school did. God made me able to question things, and gave me the capability to choose what is right and what’s wrong, and believing that is what makes me a Catholic. Believing that the essence of Catholicism is summarised in the words of Jesus: “Love others as you love yourself” is what makes me a Catholic. Everything else (even concepts such as heaven or hell, which I believe are metaphores that illustrate how we’ll trascend our lives depending on how we act here, and how we’ll be remembered by others) is our choice.

  • inkandhonesty December 4th, 2012 10:24 PM

    So I’ve been submitting my faith submissions to
    Is this right? I tried clicking on the link in the faith box but it makes me create a Microsoft Outlook account to view the email. I was just wondering if there was a special email for it or something.

    Btw- I love this article! I can relate with the homosexuality part (even though
    I’m straight). I love my religion, but I don’t know how to feel about the part in the bible that says gays are an abomination. I believe you should be allowed to love whomever you want, but then again I’ve been taught everything in the Old Testament is the word of G-d, no exceptions. This helped me through my confusion, so thanks :)

    • Phoebe December 4th, 2012 11:21 PM

      That is the correct email! The link tends to go to Outlook on some computers, but you can send normally.

  • Janelle December 4th, 2012 11:18 PM

    This article was fascinating from my standpoint, as someone who has grown up essentially religion-less. My dad is an Athiest, and my mom has the kookiest mish-mash of beliefs. Together they created a lot of confusion for me as a kid. For some reason, I haven’t ever searched for my own spirituality. It’s something that I would like to do, but at the same time I don’t know where I would begin. Questioning things like religion and spirituality can be SO CONFUSING. And I think it’s probably my directionless feelings that have kept me from delving into different religions the way this article explained.

  • paige.xo December 5th, 2012 8:11 AM

    Great article.

  • silvermist December 5th, 2012 5:24 PM

    I come from a country with a really high percentage of Catholics, which means that virtually almost everyone calls themselves Catholics but only a few actually go to mass and even fewer follow all the ‘rules’ (maybe no one does, who knows?).
    What bothers me in all this, and the reason I stopped going to Church was exactly the homossexuality thing.
    I never heard anyone in Church say that homossexuality was a sin. Never. They say we should respect everyone.
    But the Catechism says that having sex outside the marriage is a sin. Which means that if you’re homossexual and you’re refraining from sex you are not sinning. However, if you decide to have sex with your partner then you are supposedly commiting a mortal sin.
    My problem with this is that I felt it was unfair going to Church and knowing like everyone my age is having sex without obviously being married AND they are fully accepted but if someone happens to be gay and do the same with their partner they will not be accepted and they cannot marry through Church. Also, they probably have to hide their relationship from the parish.
    I admit I think sometimes: “what if I’m wrong? What if they are actually right and it’s actually a sin?” Really, how can I know for sure if it’s right or wrong?
    But even though I miss Church – the songs, the feeling of being part of a community, the feeling that I’m helping other by praying and going to mass – I feel less insane now that I don’t have to worry that I’m saying “Yes, I believe in all you say!” when I actually don’t.

  • Alepisaurus December 5th, 2012 5:41 PM

    I mostly liked this article, and I appreciated the story of a changing faith journey.
    I had a bit of a struggle finding a religious environment where I feel comfortable, so I relate pretty well to that.
    I’ve also used the shrimp argument for similar purpose, though I think the missionary thought “eating shrimp” was some kind of euphemism.

    There was one thing about this article which made me kind of uncomfortable, though, and that was what the author said about the Charismatic Movement. I, just, the way the author spoke about it made me sort of sad, even though I know it was personal experience and not an overall review. You mentioned how some Pentecostals at your camp “hollered and thrashed and stretched their arms wide (which) scared me”. I’m not a Pentecostal, but I have been to some really moving Charismatic prayer meets, and I guess it seemed a little bit freaky at first. I really don’t feel one way or the other about speaking in tongues, and there are some groups that feel speaking in tongues isn’t put on, but that the words don’t have meaning, either- I guess I’d side with them. I’ve had some pretty great spiritual experiences at Charismatic meetings, and I understand that they aren’t for everyone, I guess I just feel a little disappointed WITH THE MOVEMENT NOT WITH YOU that the most it could give you was a feeling of freaked out-ness, instead of a feeling like you get at a really good concert with bass you feel in you bones+ positive spirituality.

  • brendaq1001 December 5th, 2012 8:19 PM

    I really appreciate this post, for the longest time, I personally have been confused as to what it is I believe, and very recently, I have found peace in what I believe that goes along the lines of not following a specific religion. There is truth in many religions, but there are also many faults, no one organization can claim they have all the answers because as humans we are imperfect and unknowing, and truth itself is something that is not a set thing.

  • miranda11 December 5th, 2012 11:42 PM

    I respect people with faith as long as they’re open-minded. I, however, have never associated myself with any religion. My dad was raised an Evangelical Christian and my mom invented her own religion before I was born, but my parents let me choose what I wanted to believe in, and I chose to believe in nothing. I don’t have a problem feeling alone though, like you said you did without religion. I feel extremely strong and important as well as small and insignificant without a god, and I find that comforting. Everyone has different needs, and that’s why we all have different beliefs.

  • Red December 16th, 2012 2:13 PM

    This was very interesting to read!! I do have one question though, I know you mentioned that you mainly resorted to the religions surrounding you, but may I ask why you never looked into Islam? Sometimes I find people choose to ignore Islam purely because of the ugly image in which it is painted by the media, is that why?