Theology

How did you decide to stay in your religion?

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I recently conducted an informal survey on social media: If you were raised within the belief system you are currently in, how did you decide whether to keep it?

Here is a sample of some of the answers:

For me, it was experiencing the miracles for myself. It was putting absolute faith in God and taking the leap, only to find He took care of me every step of the way. –Tiffany

I tested its boundaries, I walked away for a while, I painfully deconstructed my faith to the bare studs and re-examined everything I thought was true with a healthy level of skepticism, and then I rebuilt. –Stephanie

I did a lot of deconstruction. I had to ask if this was something I wanted to trust. More than anything, its BEAUTY is what most compelled me to stay, albeit with huge modifications. –Laura

The belief system I was raised in basically boils down to “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” It’s always made sense to me and still does. I have expanded in some ways, and built upon it…but it remains the basis of how I try to live my life. –Holly

I was raised loosely Episcopalian. I suppose I still am. I tried basically all the religious flavors before realizing I lacked the belief in God necessary to make religion work for me. I’ve been hugging trees ever since. –Lyndsey

I noticed how much my own heart changed for the better when I molded my worldview through the lens of Christianity. –Kate

After looking at the best arguments for other worldviews, I found them unconvincing. –Noah

It had to become personal to me. I was raised in a Christian home, but became a “Christian” when I had a personal experience with God in my mid-twenties. –Sam

I took several comparative religion and philosophy classes in college. This was at a time when I was questioning. I had serious questions that weren’t being answered as quickly as I would have liked. But it became clear to me that these other ways of looking at reality had serious gaps as well. I came to the conclusion that no other worldview was plausible. And the Holy Spirit is a powerful thing. –Joe

I feel that it’s part of who I am…Outside of my belief in God, Orthodox Christianity provides many of the things I need to feel safe and fulfilled – community and consistency, for example. I’ve had people ask me, “But what if you’re wrong?” My response is, “So what if I am?” If this faith helps me be a compassionate, self-disciplined, responsible human being, then that’s worth it by itself. –Sarah

For many of the respondents, there’s a common denominator: the strong need to venture out, “test the waters” so to speak, and prove to themselves that their faith of origin is “real” – although the means of testing that faith are highly subjective.

Reading these answers reminded me of a book I reviewed a while back – Strange Gods by Susan Jacoby. Her theory about religious conversion is that most humans choose religion on the basis of emotional needs, not hard evidence. Even just a sample of answers from my friends and followers provides some legitimacy to her study. I know that emotional needs were definitely the catalyst for my conversion.

Now I turn the question back to you. If you are still practicing your religion of origin, I’d love to hear why.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

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5 thoughts on “How did you decide to stay in your religion?”

  1. I do still practice Catholicism, my religion of origin, and the reason is because of two things:

    1) Philosophy / history / logic – basically, the intellectual side of things. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the more I read and the more I thought about it, the more I was forced to conclude that Catholicism is inescapably true. And yes I chose the word “inescapably” on purpose. This was the piece I got from my immediate family.

    2) the Presence. That’s the best word I can come up with for the very occasional sense that, quite simply, He was there. More often manifest in the world at large rather than at church, but also very evident in the people I knew (outside my family) that faithfully and passionately practiced Catholicism. They moved through the world with a welcoming, infectious joy that I only tapped into for myself during prayer group or youth conferences. It seemed to me that if God was anything or anywhere, it was wherever this Presence was.

    So between #1 and #2, I’m stuck. I do read people’s deconversion stories, and I empathize, but I’m here for life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also love hearing about why people chose to stay in (or leave) a religious tradition. Thank you for sharing these responses. I left Christianity (my religion of origin) so the question isn’t directly applicable to me, although I think I could probably argue that I have always been a spiritual seeker, so in that sense, I have stuck with seeking 🙂

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  3. I was raised in the Church of God in Christ, the largest Black Pentecostal denomination in the United States. I am third-generation COGIC; my grandfather–Bishop John Howard Dell–was a church planter and pioneer in the early Pentecostal movement in Georgia and had worked directly under the founder of the denomination, Charles Harrison Mason. He was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) , received his call to preach about 17 years of age, and later joined the COGIC church, in which he served until his death at the age of 90.

    My mother’s heritage was African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), and her relatives had been
    pioneers of Black Methodism in the Covington, Kentucky area, founding an AMEZ church
    in the early 1900’s.

    Both my parents were devout Christians and they really “walked the walk” and raised us four
    kids in the COGIC church. Our lives revolved around a tight-knit, warm loving church community
    and was filled with Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, worship services on Friday nights
    and Sunday mornings and early evenings; children’s ministry activities; ecumenical services
    with other Black Protestant churches in the community, and the yearly Holy Convocations–held
    yearly in the spring and summer–when the churches in the diocese got together and held
    joint services.

    For the most part, I loved everything about our church life–the warmth of fellowship with
    families whom you saw week-in and week-out; our choral tradition (both a hymn choir and
    a gospel choir); the emphasis upon children/youth being active participants in worship and
    worship leaders; the expectation that the Holy Ghost moved among us and miracles could
    and did happen any time; the exuberant nature of Black Pentecostal worship that literally
    embodied the actions related in the psalms. Among my earliest memories as a child was
    watching the intense, ancestral praying/chanting of church members; and my parents’
    constant Bible reading and study throughout the week. I remember hearing my grandfather’s
    stirring sermons and seeing my own father dancing with abandon in the worship service.
    I also loved all those Easter egg hunts and those church picnics on the holidays,

    My parents had an ecumenical emphasis and constantly exposed us to other church
    services in Protestant and Pentecostal churches in the area. They were active in Full
    Gospel Businessmens’ Felllowship and Women’s Aglow, and I loved going with them
    and their music ministry to convalescent homes and other churches. I’ll never forget
    the time we played and sang for a local white Lutheran church on Trinity Sunday!

    My own exposure to other Christian churches and Messianic Jewish synagogues
    continued throughout my college and graduate school years, and continued when
    I graduated from seminary (1982) and from graduate school (1983). I became a
    children’s choir director for many years, working first in a white Assemblies of God
    church, then a Black AME church, then successive charismatic churches; then
    working in Black Presbyterian churches and then starting an ecumenical youth choir.
    later. Our choir sang in various churches and our annual choir trip to Canada to
    celebrate Pentecost was always a joy.

    Although I was and remain a Black Pentecostal Christian, my experiences in other churches
    were necessary to enable me to see how the Body of Christ can be found everywhere.
    My Dad used to always say “God never leaves himself without a witness”, and always
    told us that “God has his folks in all churches”. I certainly experienced the good and the
    bad, the glad and the sad, and the simple joys of faith lived with others “not like me” in many
    worship contexts.

    I worship now in a small, local COGIC church since returning to my hometown. I believe that
    all Christians can benefit from experiencing and living the life of a believer in other worship
    contexts outside their original faith base. We grow as believers and as human beings when
    we experience the power and goodness of God outside “what I’m familiar with”; many times,
    miraculous conversion experiences and epiphanies occur when God chooses to meet us
    where we are at that time. I’ve experienced many miraculous times “outside” my church
    of origin, as well as within it–and as Isaiah reminds us, “the word of God is not bound!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a strange question for me because I did not grow up in any particular religious tradition. For a few years in my childhood (7-9 years old) we did attend a Unitarian church, but I never got instruction in the theology or practice. I later studied comparative religions rather unsystematically and never have found one that attracted me to the degree of wanting to seriously practice it or give it belief, although I find most value in the core understandings most have in common in various formulations. So, I think I have in a way stayed with what I started in, none in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some combination of personal experience of God, good role models, nerdy interest in religious stuff, community, committment, valuing it as a family/cultural tradition, wanting to live in a coherent narrative, and fear of being judged/untethered.

    Liked by 1 person

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