Writing Prompt #2: Does religion play an important role in your life? Why or why not?

                Religion. I have such a love/hate relationship with religion. It played a very important role in my childhood and adolescence. I went through 8 years of Catholic grade school and 4 years of Catholic high school. I also did 4 years at a Catholic college but that’s because they gave me the most money for a scholarship.

                Catholicism at its core is ridiculous to me. You’re telling a bunch of CHILDREN to be good and they’ll go to heaven. But if they’re bad, they’ll go to hell. NO PRESSURE, KIDS! Get out of here with that crap. Catholicism is all about putting the fear of God into people. You want me to fear God but also to obey him in every way? No thanks, I’m good.

                Let’s separate God from religion and talk about whether or not I believe in God instead. It’s taken me years to decide what I do and do not believe, and the truth is, I’m still not entirely sure. I used to say I toed the line between Agnostic and Atheist. I dangled between believing in something and not believing in anything.

                I’d say it started after my Grandpop died. He was my favorite person and he died the summer before I turned 14. The summer before high school, the four years where I think I could’ve used him the most. My Grandpop was religious. I mean, he went to Church and he prayed and he believed in God. He truly believed which always astounds me when I meet someone who wholeheartedly believes in God. When he died, I was so damn angry. Angry the God he trusted and believed in so much would take him from his family.

                After his death, Church became useless to me and God was nothing more than a pain in my ass. Especially because my Mom believes in God. Even after her father died, even after her best friend died, even after her cousin who was like a sister to her died. She still believes. How? Why? In what?!

                In my late teens, my Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. That’s when I basically threw my hands up in the air and said, ‘screw it’. There’s nothing and no one looking out for us. If there was, they wouldn’t do this to my mother. Not to mention the fact that the world is terrifying. The gun violence, the rapists, the murderers, etc. It makes it impossible for me to believe there’s a God watching over us.

                Now wait, I know some of you believers are probably getting sick of me talking about how much I don’t believe but stay with me here. As I’ve aged, my views on this have altered slightly. I’ll be thirty this year (I’m not handling it well) and if you met most of my friends, they’re all atheists and they would love to talk to you about it. They’ll tell you when you die, you die, that’s it. You cease to exist, you are nothing but a dead body in the ground. The end.

                Um… does that not freak anyone else out?! I can barely think about it for too long because it gives me insane anxiety. That’s it? When we die, we’re just gone? Life is over and it won’t have ever mattered whether you lived or died because now you’re gone. You cease to exist. But about souls? Do we have souls? If we do, do they move on somewhere else? Where is this place? Is it a nice place or it is a place Dante himself could only write about?

                I think about death way too much. I mean WAY too much. It crosses my mind at least once or twice a day. Not only my death but other people I know and their death. If I don’t believe in anything, then the assumption is when I die, there’s nothingness. I don’t know how you feel, but I do NOT like the sound of that.

                Here’s what I’ve come up with: I don’t believe in anything, but I desperately wish I did. I think I would be able to sleep better if I had something to believe in. But I can’t believe in the Christian God, I can’t. It’s too farfetched, it’s too out there for me.

                When someone asks me if I’m religious, I always say “I’m spiritual, not religious”. I do believe in spirits because I’m not naïve to think human beings and animals are the only things on this earth and in our vast cosmos. In times of crisis, when other people pray to their gods, I pray to my Grandpop. I believe no matter where he is, heaven, hell, or another spiritual plane, he can hear me no matter what. I have to believe in that, at the very least, to get through the day.

                I don’t know what to believe in. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to believe in anything having to do with gods or religions.

                All I know is, I struggle with my beliefs and my faith because I’m not sure I have either one anymore.