Religion…and me.

This blog post will be a bit of a surprise to some and not as much to others. I am going to share a part of me that may change your perception of me, although I hope it won’t. Please read with an open mind and heart.

My graduate program in Mental Health Counseling and Art Therapy has been quite the ride so far. Some of the most important work we are doing is analyzing our identities such as our racial/cultural identity, our professional, our therapeutic identity, our identity as an artist, as a student and as a scholar. It is important for us to be solid in who we are in order to best serve others in our future profession. 

I am currently enrolled in a class titled Power, Privilege and Oppression. The subject matter, as you could guess, is all the types of power, privilege and, you guessed it, oppression. We are covering everything from race, to religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender and everything in between. In this class we are asked to examine one of our resistances, i.e. a group of people, type of people, organization or otherwise that we just have an innate problem with and can’t quite shake it. After identifying our resistance we are supposed to take steps to move through this resistance and try to find a neutral ground for ourselves and ultimately our future. For many of us we will not be able to dictate who walks through our door for therapy, nor do we want to. So, it is important for us to know that our resistance could come in, and need help and we need to be able to be in a place that we can give that to them.

Religion and religious people are my current resistances that I have been examining for the last 6 weeks. Now, many of you may wonder why, since I grew up religious and many of the people I love are religious. So let me try to explain. 

First off, this is pertaining primarily to the people who use religion as an excuse to judge, demean, and exclude people from their worlds. There are people that use doctrine to make others feel lesser than themselves. To me, this is the complete opposite of what religion is supposed to be. “Love one another” is how I was raised. Not “Love one another, unless-you-disagree-with-their-lifestyle, religion, sexuality, appearance, language, etc. then you don’t have to love them and you can judge them instead.” This is when I start seeing religion as far more damaging to the people I love instead of a comforting way of life. Now you might say, people mean well or they are showing love by sharing their religious opinions with me, but that doesn’t mean they are not being jerks. That doesn’t mean I can’t be offended. Well meaning or not, judging is judging. 

I like honesty and I like people knowing what is going on in my life. However, as of late I have been less inclined to share because of the fear of what people from my upbringing might think or say. This is where my resistance is situated. When I feel I can’t share exciting news or opinions because of what others may say or think about me is when I see the negative side effects of religion. Here is some honesty, though. As of right now I am not religious. I do not know what exactly I believe when it comes to the existence of God. For now I am living my life to the fullest, loving, learning and experiencing everyday. Religion is the reason I am where I am today and part of who I am today but it is not something I am currently practicing. 

First Baptist Church has always been a home to me. And the wonderful people there have always been family to me. There have been things the members of that church have done for me and my family that is beyond anything I could ever repay or imagine possible. But being unfortunately judged has hurt in the same intense ways. 

Things I need to make clear: 

  • One can still have morals without being religious.
  • One can still be around and love people who are religious without being religious.
  • I came to this decision alone with a lot of research and introspection.
  • Religion is part of who I am. Religion taught me to be loving, confident, compassionate, empathetic, brave, passionate, kind, open, and happy. 
  • Religion also made me doubt my education, doubt my love, doubt my thoughts, doubt my friendships, doubt my intuition, my decisions, and some of my experiences.
  • But Religion gave me some of my absolutely most treasured memories and people. 

I’m trying to understand, process and love all people. I’m trying to accept myself and everyone around me. This is the way in which I can get through some of this muck. I’m trying to work through my resistance, and as part of that I felt the need to share this journey with my friends and family. 

I am still the happy, silly, compassionate and creative Tori. I am still the girl you know and love and I’m a lot more complex than one blog post can explain. I welcome clarifying questions if you have them, but I would ask to keep any other opinions left out. I am not a lost sheep, I am not a heathen, I am not going to hell. I am living and I am happy. 

 -Tori
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