How much of your life is do you feel is only validated through your religious beliefs?

The reason I ask this is because, having been raised in the most conservative of religious families, I had it reinforced to me many times over that there was no value outside of what was our narrow Christian beliefs. Our mindset of the time was that absolutely nothing in life counted, if one removed what we considered to be the only validating factor in all existence---Christian belief, particularly our denomination's belief.

My rejection of Christianity for Atheism has in many ways invalidated me in the eyes of some of our family members who still hold to such conservative beliefs. In the accounting of God, it is their opinion that I am not even noticed, and until I make my way contritely to God(which, in their opinion means embracing a life filled with church and all its attendant formalities) and beg for forgiveness, I have no more importance or reckoning than might be given a pinch of dirt. I do not count, you see.

What are your thoughts on this and your religion, if any?

Update:

Errata: In the question headline, I wrote *is* twice; the first one should not be there. My apologies.

13 Answers

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Wow. I relate to this so well!--and you expressed the issue well.

    I was raised in a fundamentalist Pentecostal home--and the only worth I had was through my religion. I've struggled with self-esteem all my life--because Christianity even has hymns that refer to people as 'worms'. Worse than that, though, are the ways in which I bent myself to try to eradicate everything that didn't specifically and justifiably bring 'glory to G-d'. I'm quite a reader, for instance--always have been--and I remember being shamed for reading books that were 'worldly'. For that matter, I remember being harangued for an hour when I was 19 because I wanted to go see a mild movie.

    I've always been intelligent and creative, and was constantly told that both my intelligence and creativity should only be used to further the Christian cause. Again: a lot of guilt. And with good reason: Creativity is hard to control from the outside. IOW, my parents and pastors could control what I read, saw, heard, etc.--but not what I thought.

    I broke free eventually. I remained a Christian for awhile as an adult, although I was much less strict than my parents had been. Eventually I broke with Christianity for good--not because of this issue, but because I just didn't believe it--and I was an agnostic for a few years. Even then, though, I had trouble accessing my creativity (still do, actually), and I think part of the reason is that there was always so much fear and guilt attached to using it.

    My story is odd in that I am now an extremely religious person again! Long story short, I converted to Orthodox Judaism. Don't ask me why--I haven't fully analyzed it--but I feel much freer to be myself even within the admitted narrow confines of Orthodox Judaism. I pray, read Torah, study, keep kosher, stay modest--and I read anything and everything I want. I write what I feel. I listen to the music I like (Jewish groups figure prominently here, but so does Led Zeppelin). I DO still fight against the inclinations that were inculcated in me from an early age--but I try not to give into them. The trick is recognizing the guilt...

    and those people who joke about Jewish guilt obviously didn't grow up Pentecostal. :/

    I believe now that G-d made me who I am, and is delighted with me. I think He enjoys my talents and my idiosyncrasies, and I suspect that if ALL I did was pray, He'd worry about my mental health. :) I'm stating that in unreligious terms--but my point is that G-d wants us to be ourselves, free and easy and HAPPY--and that He is not impressed when we try to bend ourselves into ugly, misshapen little pretzels in a misguided attempt to please Him.

    That's just my belief. You're an atheist--you'll feel differently. But I totally agree that it's difficult to shed a guilt-ridden religious past.

    BTW--to actually ANSWER your main question: I feel that much of my life is ENRICHED by my religion. I wouldn't use the word 'validated'--because obviously I'm myself, with or without Judaism. I think I'm a happier, better me than I was as either a Christian or an agnostic, but recognize that the experience of others will differ.

    Edit: Cher, I think you're right--it's love based. Beyond that, though, there's a qualitative difference. With Jews, there's a little guilt over externals...My experience with Christianity was a sense of SHAME over being myself.

    Source(s): Me.
  • 1 decade ago

    That's sad. They are proving to you their beliefs have moral limits because they aren't very nice. Thereby reinforcing that what is outside their beliefs may have more value.

    In Judaism, belief is given a lot less importance. So, if you act within the actions, you can have doubts & explore all sorts of philosophical ideas & probably read about them as written by prior Rabbis who also explored them. Also, in the last few centuries with the advent of Reform Judaism, there is more room to continue the religion even if you're ideas conflict with the full traditional ones.

    I wish you well at dealing with these family members. They aren't acting out of true spirituality no matter what they believe, but rather out of human frality. A religion that is strong doesn't need to supress those that don't agree with it. Judaism winds up on the receiving end of that same problem you're describing, on global not individual level, so I have a small taste of what you're experiencing. Stick with your own truths.

    -------

    Tehilla

    - your guilt comment struck realization for me. Jewish guilt is pervasive, but at totaly different character -- you could even say, it's largely "love" based at it's essense? You're right, that's the flip side & that's missing in most Jewish guilt - shaming. It's also always about actions (toward others), not about core self.

  • 1 decade ago

    My husband's parents are Jehovah's Witnesses. If my husband had been baptized he would have been excommunicated when he left the church. Luckily he is stubborn and was out of the church before he was 12. I don't know if his parents would have done it but I know they would have been obligated to. He was not allowed to do most things kids do (sports, birthdays, anything worldly)and some of the things he was taught were just abusive. (Like he could be possessed by the devil and could stab his brother) He is now an atheist and hates all organized religion. I'm more of an agnostic from a non practising Protestant family. I think if our daughter came and told us she was religious we would have a hard time with it. Hypocrites. lol

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    the majority of my life is, for the reason of how I prioritize my life. God, Family, work, and last of all Church. I had it reinforced in me also that there is no value(outside of the Catholic faith).

    I broke away for a time, and was a lothesome and despicable individual, for a season.

    but I was drawn back, and I am truely greatfull for the newness in my life by accepting Christ.

    Religion is for Churches.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Well, considering I'm a Satanist, I'd say 100%. The Church of Satan teaches that the ultimate religious experiance is to be yourself and indluge in what makes you happy, which I do on a daily basis.

  • 1 decade ago

    My non-theistic beliefs wholly define who I am. In many ways, I am still the Christian chick I used to be, but I now find it easier to accept others solely on the basis of who they are, not what they are. I'm also more accepting of certain aspects of myself that are considered vulgar and sinful in many Christian circles.

    Source(s): Atheist
  • 1 decade ago

    My life is really a reflection of my understanding of God's Word.

    I am an Evangelical Christian, neither conservative nor liberal; rather, progressive.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This is one of the reasons religion hurts people and families

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    sounds like you feel you never had an opinion. As children we are often brought up to think and believe what our family believes....no thought process you know. Just follow the leader. But as an adult, you really need to search your heart for truth, what is God, Who is God, Is there a God? Turn to God to know truth. Instead, it sounds you have just run the opposite way from them, not necessarily because you don't agree with them, but more as an expression, like your vote matters.....whether you believe in the vote you cast or not.

    Do not rely on others understanding, not on your own, but on the One who created you. Allow Him to show you truth my friend. Blessings.

  • 1 decade ago

    I think they may be referring to you are not in the

    family of God anymore,,,I,m sorry to hear you left God,

    and hope someday you can come to him with

    the peace he give,s to all,,

    religion is not what God is about,,it,s about the life

    he gives us at the end,,if their religion was wrong

    for you,,just find a relationship with you and God,

    Salvation is for al l who will come,God Bless

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