Not My Religion

Volume 44, Issue 3

When I was recently asked “Why aren’t you religious?” I found myself tongue tied, grasping at an answer I couldn’t seem to articulate. When I imagined this conversation in my head, I always saw myself giving a young Richard Dawkins-like answer, pulling quotes, facts, and scripture to use as artillery against my interrogator. But nothing goes in real life as it does in our fantasies, and my answer fell short of its intended persuasiveness. It turns out I gave a resounding, “I don’t know.” This exchange stayed on my mind, though, and I started to reflect on the root of my lack of faith. I was brought up as a church-going Episcopalian, attending Sunday school, and bonding with my “church family.” But I never remember religion being something that was central to the way my parents chose to raise me or instill my values. There was no “What would Jesus do?” or saying grace before dinner. Church didn’t stick. I never felt the bond or connection with God that was preached, or the faith that I saw around me at church. It left me feeling like an outsider looking in, and made going to church nothing more than tiresome.

But as I grew older, the ideas of faith and religion interested me more and more. Whether I was looking for the reason that I couldn’t find my own faith, or reassurance that others couldn’t find theirs, I started reading. For the first time I was given the view that not only was a lack of faith in God not uncommon, but it was seen by some authors and artists as the rational point of view. I began to feel more comfortable with a more critical view of religion.

As I learn more about the world around me, I think the main reasons people my age have disconnected from religion are the aspects of it (at least in Christianity) they can’t support. I can’t speak for all teenagers, but I do know that those I have grown up with don’t agree with certain positions that some denominations take on important issues. Take the issue of gay marriage, for example. Most of my friends don’t see the reason it shouldn’t be allowed. So to us, religion is being used as a way to oppress a population, an excuse to hate a group of people because of a certain Bible scripture or belief. While I’m aware that people protesting gay marriage on the street corners don’t represent Christianity as a whole, these are the people we see on the news. These are the people who, to many of my generation, represent Christianity. The radicals we see on the news morph the idea of being religious into something we don’t want to be a part of.

I have used my own views on religion as a lens through which I might understand why it seems other people my age have moved away from organized religion or a traditional view of faith. I think a modern faith community should engage the time we are living in. Green architecture, more accepting values, and a more contemporary approach to the needs of parishioners would make faith and religion more palatable to people of my generation.

The writer is a junior at Loyola University Chicago.