Religion a personal choice, not a forced belief system

I find it intriguing that within the word “belief,” “lie” is at its center. Growing up, I was raised as a cradle-Catholic, i.e. I went to church and church school every Sunday, but did not read the bible like most Catholics fail to do.

At Sunday school, I learned that Jesus saved us from sins, the Holy Spirit’s prettiest form was a white dove and God looked like a white man with a beard (I am a fan of beards, but that’s a story for another day).

I stuck with church, partly because of my parent’s coercion. There were many days I did not want to go to church or church school. I failed to memorize prayers and stumbled over them during the congregation chants. I didn’t get the whole transubstantiation thing (where the bread wafer and wine you consume during Communion miraculously turns into the blood and body of Jesus). I did not like that abortion or homosexuality were ostracized. I was reluctantly dragged there until my Confirmation where I vowed that I would continue to practice Catholicism. I feel like I lied to save face for the beliefs that I was taught were facts.

The start of college came and so did the end of my visits to church, except for the obligatory Easter and Christmas. My mom still believes that I am just going through the typical college phase of trying to “discover myself” and that I will eventually “come back” to the church. That may be so, but being at Tech I have met so many new people, from so many different backgrounds. I have learned that there are many beliefs out there, and the root that binds them at its origin is a belief in some higher power and our fear of death. Being open to my friends who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic etc., I have learned so much more about their beliefs and myself. Ignorance is bliss; it’s easy to preach under the safety net of your cradle-raised religion, but it’s harder to question what we don’t know as tangible truths.

My trip to the Westboro Baptist Church confirmed my distrust in the constructs of religion. I know this is an extremist group of Christians, but I was still shocked that I was associated with them on some level. Signs posted up in front of the cult like society read, “Thank God for 9/11,” “God Hates Fags,” “” and “Pray for more Dead Soldiers.” I was delighted to see that someone bought the house right across the street and painted it rainbow, starting an organization called “” It is good to have and share beliefs, but there is  a difference between sharing a belief and forcing it down someone’s throat.

Would it be so wrong to let our children discover religion on their own? We bring them into this world and mold them into another form of us, but is that the right thing? Why not teach them all the options they have with religion and spirituality? Why not change the strict institutions we are forced to believe and end the religious slavery?