I have seen some dramatically negative effects of having a belief system forced upon someone.
Notice I said forced—not taught, not introduced, not influenced. Forced. As in, “This doesn’t feel good, but you’re making me do it anyway.”
I know people that have been beaten, belittled, and, in various other ways, made to feel unsafe in the name of religion. I have witnessed the damage it’s caused to mental and emotional health. I’ve seen people rebel in ways that were not good for them, and I’ve seen them lose complete faith in anything and everything—completely rejecting the idea of spirituality.
It’s like their defense system shoots up metal bars behind a wall of bricks, and they refuse to be open about anything even remotely related to the conversation that triggers their fear of religion. Others are afraid to express interest in any other belief system, though they feel called to.
Mom, I appreciate you for encouraging me to move toward what feels good to me. Thank you for allowing me to explore and keep an open mind. You didn’t force me to go anywhere in the name of religion, nor did you force your own beliefs upon me. I was able to listen at my own will and choose whether or not I wanted to say my prayers with you at night.
Because of you, I do not fear a higher power. I have been able to take pieces of various belief systems and find peace in my own way. I didn’t have to fight through the metaphorical cage you could have put me in.
I have been given the freedom to admire the kindness and forgiveness of Jesus, the compassion and insight of the Buddha, the rituals and intuitive connections of witches, appreciation for nature from the indigenous, the fascinating discoveries of science, and many more various spiritual ideas.
I may be a suffering human, but I am also a resourceful human. I am also a genuinely kind human. And I am someone who is not hateful toward others over our differences. I have the space to allow others to be who they are and where they are.
This space—you’ve given me. This space brings comfort to people in my life. This, I believe, has allowed me to be the kind of human who brings honest love and compassion to others in environments that could use more love.
Thank you, Mama, for ultimately teaching me that there are more ways than one in all situations and that what’s best for me is what feels good to me.
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” ~ Buddha