Saturday, July 31, 2010

Can you just... quit?

I read the statement Anne Rice released, removing her name from the label of "Christianity" and I've been giving it quite a bit of thought. Here's what she said:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
 "As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
"I believed for a long time that the differences, the quarrels among Christians didn't matter a lot for the individual, that you live your life and stay out of it. But then I began to realize that it wasn't an easy thing to do. I came to the conclusion that if I didn't make this declaration, I was going to lose my mind."

Those are really strong words. So, I'm asking you... Can you quit religion but maintain a spiritual life that still resembles what it was when you were going to church? Or that's better even? I mean, beyond "oh, I don't believe in religion but I'm a vaguely spiritual person." I'm talking about having a real set of beliefs, practices, rules, whatever, and always working to better yourself and put forth good into the world. Can you have a relationship with your God that's there all the time, not just when you need it? Can you be a (insert religion here) without being a "(insert religion here)?" How is that done, especially in "Christian" religions that value community and fellowship as highly as any of their beliefs?

I'm asking this because religion has always been hard for me. It shouldn't be. I was raised by devout (albeit unconventional) Mormons, I was exposed to many different religions growing up and I maintain deep, respectful relationships with many of my lifelong Mormon friends. I also have friends and family who are Jewish, other denominations of Christian and Islam, and find Buddhism beautiful and fascinating. These religious people always seem to have something special about them that I envy and often seek after. However, I've spent most of my life being afraid of religion--of what it makes me feel and the institutions themselves. When a church takes a stand on an issue (like Anne Rice mentioned), or lends its support to a cause that I don't agree with (like Prop 8), my instinct is to back away slowly. I've also been on the receiving end of judgment and exclusion, and I think that's something that can easily happen in groups that promote a specific lifestyle. I met so many Mormons in New York who are able to go to church but remain confident and grounded in their beliefs that stray from those of the church. They're smart, liberal and God-fearing. I know people like that of all religions, who create their own understanding of their religion within the institution.

So why is it so hard for me? Why is it in my nature to remain detached from labels and sects, but also to believe in something bigger than all of us? How does anyone reconcile science, conscience and progressive ideas with old traditions and beliefs to have a life that's well-rounded and full of purpose? Obviously, you could go one way or the other but for someone like Anne Rice... or me... who is pulled in two directions, do you really just have to go rogue?

I am aware that I will, no doubt, get some criticism for this post but please understand that I don't mean to offend anyone. There's no one unbiased person that I can go to with questions like this, so I felt it better to put it out there for everyone and see what I get back.

1 comment:

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I was also raised Mormon, also by a rather unconventional family in that respect. My immediate family became inactive around the time that I was 12, and ever since I've questioned so many things. It's hard for me too to figure it all out or figure out where it is I belong, what it is I believe. There are so many choices with so many people telling you what's right or what's wrong, it's hard to make sense of it all. I definitely believe in God, I believe that families can be together forever, I believe that there is much more life after death. But then there are things I don't agree with, and how can I accept part of something when I can't accept other parts of it?

    If you figure it out, let me know :)