Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
When I was young, I used to go to church every Sunday.
I loved it, too.
I used to be the star student in Sunday School — I was the one who took a page of notes (FRONT + BACK) during the service.. My teacher beamed every time I turned it in.
The recognition made me feel good, so I kept doing it.
Nobody else was taking FRONT + BACK notes.. nobody. 😉
I Used To Pray A Lot
When I was a kid I used to pray before bed. Then as I grew older I stopped that..
But as I grew up I always seemed to find myself in prayer when I was particularly lost.
On airplanes when we ran into turbulence. Before wrestling matches in middle school. On bad days at school when I got bullied.
God was my friend. I used to think I could hear him talking to me — maybe he was — but now I believe that was just myself.
I prayed before my state championship match in high school during senior year. I lost. I lost in one of the worst ways you can lose, actually.
I stopped praying after that.
Then God Went Away Completely
I decided to go to a private Christian college for school. They had a good wrestling team and I was part of the squad for a year. Then I quit.
Then I was stuck there — in that small christian school — and I began to see things. Things that don’t necessarily indict Christianity/religion, but moreso people.
I saw people tweeting about getting “SO drunk” on the weekend and then going to church on Sunday.
I saw them judge. I saw them be incredibly fake.
I looked around and saw a bunch of people who were afraid to be themselves. They’d treat someone like gold one second then talk a massive amount of crap behind their back the next.
So, do you like them or not?
I saw a “Christian” school that sometimes only cared about money and the ways they could milk dollars out of their students.
I saw people put on amazing talks at chapel and then break all the rules the university had when nobody was watching.
The fakeness was excruciating, and my best friend from 6th grade (who was my roommate) started noticing it, too.
We started talking about God. We started talking about how, as we saw it, people used God like a spare tire..
They only pulled him out when they needed him.
There was no real relationship there for them — they just used their relationship (or what they felt was a relationship) to feel better.
“I have somebody that’s there for me always in God,” started seeming like the most selfish thing somebody could ever say.
It’s not JUST about you, really, with God. It’s about him, too. It should be, anyway.
I saw too much of one and not enough of the other most times.
But there were good apples, too. Genuine Christians. I loved them the most.
Then I Saw ‘Life of Pi’ — It Changed Everything
At my college I got pretty down/depressed on a regular basis. One of the things I always looked forward to every year was watching the Best Picture nominees.
They’re always great films.
Life of Pi was marketed as this “Avatar-esque” picture with a lot of gnarly special effects so naturally I wanted to see that one first.
From the first shot of that movie, I was hooked.
It was incredible. It blew my mind. The ending was so confusing, but I loved it anyway. It honestly brought me closer to God, I think, even though I considered myself a straight-up atheist at that point.
I always thought there was only one God — one true religion that was “right” — but that movie showed me that may not be true.
It showed how beautiful hinduism was and how dedicated muslims were and how graceful Christianity could be.
I was enamored. I cried. It’s a sad movie but for some reason it’s one I can watch over and over again — normally that’s NOT how I feel about sad movies.
One and done. Ya hear that “I Am Legend” ??
I texted my Dad about the movie. He asked me if I was still a Christian. I told him no. I think that hurt him a lot, but I think he was also happy I told him the truth.
It was the truth.
Now I’m Just Not Sure About God
I have so many reasons for “not believing in God” it’s ridiculous.
My grandfather became a born-again Christian a few months before he died while undergoing chemotherapy. It seemed to me like he was just trying to save his soul.
Self-preservation was what I chalked it up to.
When you live 70+ years and then suddenly decide to believe in God during the last .003% of your life, there’s something fishy about that to me.
I largely just believe people use God to make themselves feel better about what happens after death. I say that so respectfully it’s ridiculous. I’m not angry about it. It doesn’t piss me off. I just can’t help but see it that way.
I can’t change how I feel about it that easily because that’s what I BELIEVE.
You can relate, can’t you?
It seems like nobody cares about God — they just care about what God can do for them.
I’m going to get deep here, so stay with me — I redeem it at the end..
I also believe that limitations make people feel special. I think there’s some stupid stuff that Christians beat themselves up about but I also think that their “choice” to live life this way low-key makes them feel special.
Because they didn’t feel special before.
So they use God and religion to define their life in a quest to inject meaning into it. There’s an all-powerful being up there that cares about YOU.
That’s the dark side of it.
That’s the rational side of me talking.
Now allow me to redeem things a little bit.
I Can’t Fully Shake The Idea Of God
I’m a writer. I feel things. I write stories. I try to see the meaning in EVERYTHING.
Because of this, it’s hard for me to shake the idea of God completely.
The romantic part of me wants to believe it. The romantic part of me who sometimes notices crazy coincidences in everyday life tries to convince the logical part of me that it was actually divine providence, not just a crazy coincidence.
A few years back I found myself praying when my plane hit major turbulence from Maryland to Las Vegas. Hows that for self-preservation hypocrisy?
I just can’t convince myself, though.
For some reason logic always wins.
I guess my ego is too large. I guess there’s a small part of me that enjoys thinking he knows something other people don’t.
And maybe I have no room to judge my Grandfather. Maybe he had all the same thoughts that I did throughout his life but realized something profound before he died.
It’s easy for me to hear the Adhan here in Bali and think to myself that these people are just wasting their time. It’s easy for me to look at Holy Water and say “this is just regular water.”
It’s easy for me to read stories from the bible and say “Wow, you really thought a snake talked?”
But there’s a part of me that just won’t let it go. There’s a part of me that believes God is still there — and that I’ve just put him away somewhere, waiting to see if this whole thing is even real.
Sort of like if someone had a major decision to make but they just needed more time.
I look at this world most days and I wonder where God is. Then I read fantastic stories from people here and even see movies like Life of Pi and it makes me believe again for a split-second.
I don’t think religious people are stupid. I don’t. The only thing I hope to communicate to you now are my honest thoughts — I know there’s a very real chance I’m wrong, too.
I think I’m just waiting for some profound sign. Manny Pacquiao said he got saved after a vivid dream he had. Many people say similar things. They just got overwhelmed with emotion and suddenly saw the light.
The only thing is I don’t trust emotion. Emotion makes people get married who have no business getting married. Emotion makes us do a whole lot of stupid sh*t that is stupid and was stupid and should’ve been treated as such by the person making that decision.
How do we know if something is God or just a flood of endorphins and other chemicals dancing about in our brain making us feel like we just received a message from the universe?
That question is still uncertain. It will always be uncertain, I think, because there’s no real way to answer it.
And that’s why I’m not sure about God either. I’m here, stuck in this sort of purgatory waiting for a sign, but when it comes I probably won’t believe it anyway.
This Is Not Like Me, I Know
Normally I write pieces that AREN’T like this. I’m sorry if I offended you. I don’t mean to put down religion — I mean to put down myself, and maybe a few other religious fakers I’ve met — that’s all.
I feel bad for my own self. I just can’t bring myself to fully believe, even though part of me does.
I respect you all. I admire you as well. But most of all I love you. I have a lot to learn from you and from the stories that God has given us.
I hope one day I can open up my heart to them a little more.
Thank you for reading.