Name: Amy Paris
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Former Religious Affiliation: None
I have never been religious. My parents had been raised in religious homes, but had grown out of their faiths, as I’d delicately put it. So I was raised in a non-religious household, and was never exposed to religion at home at all. We celebrated a very secular x-mas (taking the “Christ” out of it, don’t you know), full of presents and food and family, but certainly without church or even reference to the meaning of x-mas. Ditto Easter – we had Easter baskets and bunnies and candy and eggs, but never went to church or discussed rebirth or any of that. It was a hallmark holiday at my house – sanitized of any and all religious content.
I did, however, go to a Christian school from kindergarten until third grade – the formative years, some would say. We lived in an urban area with a poorly funded and staffed school district, so a parochial school was a much better option in terms of education and safety than the public schools were.
At that school, we had to go to chapel during school hours every Wednesday. I remember liking the stories the reverend told (like the Good Samaritan, etc.), but for some reason, I never thought I was supposed to believe they actually happened, or that they were true. I never bought any of it, even at such a young age, and I didn’t realize I should have. I liked the moral lessons the biblical stories taught, but I thought they were like Aesop’s fables – just fictional stories told to make a point – certainly not reality, not history.
I also remember asking my mom why they were always passing around that basket in chapel, asking for money. I just couldn’t understand why god, who was supposed to have created the entire universe (which obviously required major start up funding), always needed money. Couldn’t he just make some? My mother just laughed and said she wished she had the answer to that one herself.
As I got a little older, I could tell that people really did believe the stuff that the pastor talked about in chapel, as well as in the bible. So as an older child, I would go to my friends’ churches with them on occasion, to see if I could make sense out of them, and to see if any one of them made more sense than the others. Because it had to make sense, or people wouldn’t believe it, right?
So I went to Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Unitarian, and Baptist churches, but thought they were all equally impossible to believe. I went to Synagogue with my Jewish friends, to see if that was any better. None of them sat right with me, though.
In college, I majored in anthropology, and chose comparative religions as a double major. I guess I was still trying to figure out what it was that made people buy into religion, and why it seemed to be such a driving force in so many peoples’ lives – especially when it seemed so fluffy and empty and wrong to me. I learned about religions logically, and enjoyed doing so. But I couldn’t make the leap to faith.
Despite all I’ve learned, I’m clearly just hard wired not to believe any of it in a faithful way. That’s a good thing, in terms of thinking for myself and doubting authority and taking the path less traveled by. I need to see it, touch it, hear it, feel it – whatever it is – before I believe it. I need evidence. The fact of the matter is that I have to go by what my life’s experience has taught me, and that is that there is no evidence and no higher power.
I have learned that this life is all there is – no afterlife, no heaven, no hell – and that this life is beautiful. I learned that we don’t need any supernatural force to guide us through. There’s beauty in being able to do it on our own. As Douglas Adams once said, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
I’m very vocal about my disbelief, and don’t encounter any direct disdain for it anymore, although I’m sure there is plenty being said behind the scenes. That’s fine by me. I don’t have to be like everyone else or feel accepted by them. I have family and friends who all love me despite my disbelief. They know I’m a good person who works hard and raises a family and treats people with kindness and respect. What I believe beyond that doesn’t seem to matter. And why should it?Tagged with: 1971 • Amy • anthropology • chapel • tithing