"Call, I never see you in church? Where have you been?"
I often find myself trapped in a situation in which I am surrounded by several people from my church who want to know – with judgmental eyes, of course – why I never seem to be in church. Of course I show up once in a while – like, once every two or three months – but people never notice anything.
I am tempted to tell them that I only go to church to appease my parents, who are pious Christian, but I don’t want to have further conflicts. After having been asked these questions by my own family, relatives and even friends, repeatedly, however, I can no longer pretend to be cool about it.
My close relatives accuse me of being too lazy to go to church, which is baseless. If only they notice that I used to be a religiously devout kid, they would know that laziness is not likely the reason behind my reluctance to perform religious rituals. But like typical Asian families, we don't really discuss this kind of issues, and my point of view is always seen as a form of rebellion, arrogance. A heresy.
I am aware there are a lot of people like me: in search of a deeper meaning and understanding of God and religions, but surrounded by religious families. We have to deal with the judgement and alienation, as well as the hostility that come with our pursuit of our own truth.
I've been learning several religions for the last three years and I could not help myself for the “changes” that I have been going through. I've read the bible twice to three times by now, but somehow I feel that the religion I was born to, or the one that is written on my ID card, is too limited to contain the understanding I'm looking for. So I have embarked on a learning journey of other faiths.
Lately, I’ve been learning about the basic of Islam (especially Sufism) and reading some books to be acquainted with Prophet Mohammad. Reza Aslan’s No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has really opened my eyes to see Islam as a peaceful religion. I'm also now learning about mindfulness from Dalai Lama and find some peacefulness there. (though my head remains noisy – I am still training to grasp this mindfulness discipline). Then the Ramayana story helped me learn about the Brahman concept, which I can really relate to.
What I’ve learned from all these religions (although I'm still too far away from the understanding) is that the core of their teachings is love and the journey to seek God. We are all hungry to get close with the Ultimate Power and desperately yearn for the answers to all the perplexing riddles presented by the Universe. We all depart from the same spiritual thirst, but our pride, interest, selfishness as well as certain teachings that are based on fallacies and hatred, have led us astray.
Sadly, some people employ the “Crimestop” principle when their mind challenges them to question the teaching they had received. This is why religions often incite hatred, and trigger conflicts and wars.
I don't get why religions force me to believe that Mahatma Gandhi and Joan of Arc cannot sit together in paradise because they embraced different faiths. And why are we so possessive and exclusive about the idea of heaven? No one of use has arrived there, so why are we bothering ourselves with paradise stuffs?
The thing is, I'm trying to understand God, so I use my mind, which God has blessed me with, to find God, to question, to study and to not be trapped in a blind faith. I can't love God without comprehensive understanding about myself, the universe, truth and morality. I refuse to be a person who knows how but don't know why.
So, would you mind respecting me and my private spiritual journey? And as this is a real private and personal stuff, would you mind stepping out of it?
If you care about me, just like you say you do when making a fuss of my belief, would you respect me should I finally decide to go the religious “nones’” way because I discover that my faith is in love, morality, and humanity?
Will you love me the same if I tell you that lately I’ve been feeling God’s presence in beautiful songs, arts, sound of the waves, petrichor, and morning breeze?
Callistasia is a grown-up lady who still can’t bear the fact that she is not a unicorn. She writes to speak, but mostly to preserve her sanity. She is currently writing for the City Desk of The Jakarta Post digital.