People are often confused about my views about religion. Some think I’m anti-religious. Some think I’m pro-. I’m neither. I hope I’ve come to a healthy place when it comes to my relationship with religion.
So I want to talk about the different stages of my personal relationship with religion in such a way that it might help anyone out there who’s struggling with this. Now, I’m talking about most of us who have been in religion, maybe even grown up in it, or have some kind of relationship with it. But even for those who claim to have no relationship or who have never had any relationship with religion, I hope the last stage might be helpful for you too.
I compare our relationship with religion with our relationship with our parents. Whether they were good or bad or average parents, whether or not we experienced abuse with them, whether or not they are perfect or bad people, I hope these stages help.
1. Dependence: As children, we are totally dependent on our parents. We need them. They give us everything we need. They help to shape our worldview.
It’s the same with religion. We are totally dependent on it, it shapes our worldview and nurtures us in this world.
2. Codependence: This usually comes around adolescence when we start testing our boundaries and limits, and our parents’ power and rule. We are stuck between needing our parents and wondering if we do anymore. They may still feel responsible and even assume they have total control, but our ability to challenge this and prove it wrong creates tension.
Again, it was the same with me and religion. I began to test its power and control. It thought it still controlled me, but I was beginning to prove that it didn’t. There was a mixture of fear, love, anger, and resolution to find my way without it.
3. Independence: This came for me around the time I went to college. This was when I pretty much left my parents’s home and never returned except for visits. Now and then, when I was in trouble, I would reach out to them for help. But I was pretty much on my own, liked it, and presumed the rest of my life would look like this.
Interestingly, and probably not by coincidence, it was around this time I started to explore my independence from religion. I began, painfully and joyfully, to discover that I didn’t need religion. At least in the same way. Religion continued to assume I should do everything it said. But I had to make a life for myself.
4. Interdependence: Even though my parents and I are in very different places, I have come to the place where I can be with them, visit with them, and talk with them. I am independent now. But I do desire some kind of adult relationship with my mom and dad, and for the most part I think I have achieved that. Of course, it does take two sides for this to happen well. I think they’re doing their best. I’ve done a great deal of work to let my negative feelings go… the kind that eat me up inside… and move on to a new kind of relationship with them.
When I read Louise Hay’s book, “You Can Heal Your Life”, I was struck by how, once she’d come to a place of profound wisdom, she felt it important to reconcile with her mother. I read the same thing in Byron Katie’s biography about her relationship with her mother. For some reason, many people feel it’s healthy to work through all the stages to come to a place of relating with all things, including the most terrible things in our lives, as adults. Sometimes it might even mean never seeing them again. It might mean giving it one more shot. It might mean reconciliation could occur. How it ends up looking is not the point. My point is that I come to a place where I can relate to them… together or apart… as an adult.
When it comes to religion, I do not hate it. I see its value. I no longer hold a grudge or wish it were dead. I know some people who had horrific parents, but they are not against parenthood. I know some people who have had terrible marriages, but they aren’t against marriage. I have had some pretty nasty experiences with religion, but I’m not against religion. I can see its value, especially when it behaves. I appreciate it for what it is, but I will never let it control me again or negatively affect my life. I know it for what it is.
I can see the devil in the details. But, I can also see the better angels of its nature.
I’m going to relate to it….
Not like an infant.
Not like an angry confused teen.
Not like a prodigal.
But like an adult… someone who cares for himself and relates to it in healthy ways.
It took me some time to get here. But its worth it.
Peace on your paths my friends!