When I was younger I attended an all girls Catholic boarding school for a portion of my high school experience. The facility was run by nuns, and my teachers were a combination of nuns and non-nun types, and contrary to the popular idea that nuns are strict, in this case most of them were pretty soft on the students and certainly never rapped our fingers with rulers nor exposed us to any other arcane punishments. Usually if you did something wrong, you would loose certain privileges and at the worst, your parents were called.
It was in this setting that my mind was first opened to an understanding about world religions, not just my own religion. The school was not permitted to teach catechism as a required subject, since the law was pretty specific about that and instead the school required and taught comparative religion. You might groan to know that it was taught by a nun, but in truth she was a light in the darkness for me. She was brilliant, inspiring, and fun to learn from. At the age of 13 I was asking her all the questions about Catholicism that I had saved up, the questions that priests couldn’t or for whatever reason, wouldn’t answer. The questions that no one seemed to know the answers to! Of course, she in her wisdom would never answer my questions directly, but instead taught me to research my own answers from books written by Vatican scholars. This gave me a deeper, more connected understanding of my answers, and in a way, began to teach me out of my Catholic upbringing.
Once I hit my 20’s I had no time at all for religion, and was by then disgusted with the crimes and hypocrisy of the church. I didn’t like the way the priesthood was a magnet for sexual predators or the way the church dealt with those situations, and also the overall stance on birth control and women’s issues, the exclusion of gays, and the stale empty catch phrases of other Christians just upset me or at the least, was very off-putting.
“Do you take Jesus as your lord and savior? Do you accept that he died for your sins?” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is that supposed to mean something to me, in my life, in this moment, that speaks of anything worth while? It’s like listening to parrots, all just saying the same thing over and over again. It seems pretty meaningless and empty to me to hear someone in full worship mode. And so I left, because I wanted to be a hedonist, to dance through life, to make art and never restrain myself for any religious reasons. And most of all, I stopped believing in God. It seemed pointless to ‘worship’ a ‘god’, and that it is comparable to me believing in the tooth fairy and looking to Santa Claus for spiritual guidance.
I spent a great deal of time continuing to search out new religions, or old ones as the case may be, and learning from what the rest of the world had to show me. Over time I realized, all religions are saying, basically, the same exact things. They just frame it with different gods and use different books, but are describing the same ideals. In some cases, the religions I was studying were more restrictive than Catholicism, and so I became an agnostic who strongly bordered on atheism. I pursued happiness and success without the community of the church. And that went pretty well, so far.
The worst of all the religions I studied, and the one thing I strive to avoid at all costs is the collective knowledge of the ‘New Age’. New agers, as I call them, are a bunch of seriously misguided hippies who want money for ‘energy healing’ and other snake oil cures for whatever spiritual or physical ailment you may have. Would they ever go into the parks of Oakland and try to heal those who really need it, like the drug dealers and homeless people? Oh no, never! They do absolutely no charity work from what I can tell. Among no other religions that I experienced did I feel such a huge sense of entitlement and hypocrisy. They would wax poetic about how everyone is a spiritual being… except for people they don’t like, of course. Like yuppies, or whomever is generally not liked by hippies for whatever reason. They are not spiritual beings, apparently. And the number of people in new age religions who are self proclaimed shamen is strikingly annoyingly high. I don’t need some white dude who grew up in California to be my guru shaman, I’m just not into that. Besides, most of the time it’s a creepy move to get into the pants of ‘goddesses’ (hippie women).
There are also a lot of self proclaimed witches and magic users, people whom in my opinion are seeking power over others more than the discipline of the self and they seek spiritualism though mechanics outside of their inner knowledge. They rarely take responsibility for themselves though.
And so throughout this journey, I’ve noticed that I miss those days when I could talk pure spiritual philosophy, and came to realize that while I don’t believe in god in the way I used to when I was a girl, I miss a lot of the lessons of the Catholic church. I decided out of the blue, I’m going back. No one can convince me god exists, but the lessons and community is something I desire, and being able to reach out to another like mind is very appealing. Maybe I’ll find another person like the nun from my old school who is just as excited to talk with me!!! I do hope so!