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If religion is so good, why do I feel so bad?

By Becca ~

I was a Christian ever since I can remember. My mom never forced religion on us as kids because she was raised in a sheltered Christian environment as a kid. My mom got pregnant with me at a young age, and would tell me how people at church would always look down on her for being young, pregnant and unwed to my father (who later on fathered many other children with other women, but that’s a story for another day.) She was deeply hurt by the cruel judgment from both church folk and family, telling her she made a huge mistake and a “sin” in the eyes of God and how she could never raise a child on her own (this said from my father.) Needless to say, as far a single parents go, my mom did a pretty good job raising us kids and working two jobs at the hospital to make ends meet in our rundown apartment in southern California . Nevertheless, I grew up on a Christian faith and bible stories and church from my grandma, who would often attend a seventh day Adventist church and was the main influence on religion for me.

As a child I loved going to Sabbath school and learning about Noah and the ark, and Moses parting the red sea, and all the fantastic stories the Old Testament had to offer. I grew up praying for almost every meal and at night (although I was never much for praying in the morning). As I grew older I believed God had given us all a path and a purpose, and the meaning of our life on earth was to follow that path and love him unconditionally, even if it cost us our precious earthly life. I never doubted the stories I read in the bible and Gods love for us. Being a Christian was at the time the fiber of my being, and I couldn’t fathom any other way of life. I did my best to surround myself with people of the same or similar beliefs, and ensured that I dated someone who was “equally yoked’ as I was taught. I found other people to be arrogant and narrow-minded, and would turn my ears off at the mention of evolution (even though I needed to learn it to pass grade school.) I was taught never to take the lord’s name in vain, and still to this day take offense to it… even though I slip the occasional ‘oh my god’ or the rare ‘goddamnit’ in agitated situations.

I’d say I loved God as equally as I feared him. I loved God, but what if I wanted to read a favorite book on the Sabbath? What if I wanted to watch a movie that contained a sex scene, or used profane language? As these things, or “sins” would occasionally occur, I pictured God jotting down every sin I did. It was like god had a laundry or grocery list with every sin, small and large. When I was eighteen I bought my first ‘toy’, telling myself if I used it then I wouldn’t be led to fornicate or have premarital sex like all the other kids at school were having. I later learned that masturbation was as bad a sin as sex. It seemed like everything I did, or didn’t do, God kept a watchful eye on his daughter. As I got older, I started getting confused in the church my grandma went to. Weird stories of fire and chariots in the sky, and the select 400,000, and the war between God and Satan and Judgment day that the book of revelation told bewildered and frightened me. Where will I end up? Will I see my family and will they recognize me? How long is eternity? I wanted to follow God and keep his commandments, but what church did he want me to be in?

Seven years after my dad walked out, my mom remarried a man who was Mormon, and we moved at the end of my freshman year. Being the faithful-believing Christian girl that I was, I told my family once we were there for a while and settled that we needed to find a church. At first I was enchanted by the wonderful teachings the missionaries taught, and even developed a crush on one of them. I started reading their books and told myself this is the true church because of the warm fuzzy feeling I got reading the scriptures, like the missionaries said I would. They told me that it was a confirmation of the true church of God , and I believed it. I tried so hard to be good for God, and even when I fell, I would come crying and bear my shameful sins to him. Later I learned that the church expected its members to do a lot of things to keep their high end status with their heavenly father, and to have what I yearned for; a place in heaven with those I love. They taught us in our youth classes to strive to marry someone who shared their faith and be married and seal for time and all eternity. It seemed so beautiful to me, the thought of being with a man I loved forever in heaven. Ironically, the man I fell in love with was not of my faith.

He was Christian, but wasn’t raised with the strong and developing background I had. I saw this as an opportunity to tell my new love about the wonderful stories I read in the bible, and how important prayer was. I hoped, without being too pushy, to teach him how wonderful it was to know Jesus and why these beliefs were so important to me. In the beginning I insisted that we wait for marriage to have sex and he would occasionally go with me to my new church, even though I later found out how uncomfortable he was there. I thought I was on the right track and was pleasing in the eyes of the Almighty by being pure and a good church girl, but like all normal humans, we started having those urges. Although we love each other very much, and have a lasting relationship that has been through so much, I found it hard to contain the physical love I wanted to share with him. We did wait til our first anniversary, but even though it was genuine with the right person, I felt like I had disgraced God by breaking my chastity. I was being told that I was choosing a boy over God, and that I was falling away. After that we didn’t have sex again for a long time. I felt so torn and shameful, which I blame to this day for my low self esteem in intimacy. I knew we did it out of love for each other, but did God seriously need it written on a license first? I wish I could take back all the shame and guilt I felt. My boyfriend was nonetheless caring and tried his best to understand and comfort me, but my guilt persisted.

While I was still Mormon, I struggled with what I was supposed to believe. Then I wondered what if it’s all wrong? I researched and compared book to book, verse to verse until I decided it was not the religion for me. Then I started wondering, what about the bible? Since leaving my religion I was converted, I didn’t want to throw the “baby Jesus out with the bathwater.” But if I found that the bible was indeed right, what did I have to lose? I started to look online and read verses that were supposedly ‘contradicting’. I whipped out my bible and found those contradicting verses were indeed contained in my own bible. What I found shocked and sickened me. Things I found about God committing mass genocide and letting bears kill and eat children. Was this the loving God I came to love and worship? I remember one time I shared the story with my boyfriend about Noah’s ark and I remember his shock of why God would wipe out all of humanity without giving them a chance for forgiveness. I tried to justify this and how humans were so wicked that god had to start his creations all over. But if God is all knowing and omnipresent, why did he let man become so evil? I went down to my neighborhood Christian store and found a book called “explore your faith” and looked for answers. The book gave answers to many of the questions I and my boyfriend had about Christianity. One chapter gave its reason/opinion about If God makes mistakes. It seemed relevant, up until it stated that God is “all wise and true, but he is not ‘pure logic’”. WHAT?? Why would a God be put in charge of making the world and mankind, if he didn’t go by logic? Things, as far as Christian reasoning went, started to go downhill for me.

I remember when I was twelve I played my first play station game about a girl who was strong in her faith and did everything in her power to end her world’s suffering and “Sin”. I was not only fascinated with the games storyline and pretty visuals, but found it easy to relate to the character and how she, like me, did everything out of her faith. As the story unraveled, the girl, who was obedient and did everything her religion expected of her, started to find evil and hypocritical doings of her leaders. In the end she left her faith, but saved her world and did things her way. Even though it was only a video game, I felt like the makers were trying to make some kind of statement about religion, and how humans look to it as a comfort to escape their death and pain even if it isn’t genuine. In my own world, I see that to be true. As I look at the bible with an open mind, I can see how its authors saw writing the bible to be some sort of moral compass in a world full of evil and hate. I can see how “God” in concept can be both a tool for encouragement and also a tool for fear of his believers, if they dare stray. I haven’t decided what belief I want to follow, but whatever I believe I want it to be true and real. For the time being, I want to enjoy life and love those who are in it.