My Struggle With Faith

My Struggle With Faith

Growing up in a religious family was a struggle for me. My mother’s family are Christians, while my father’s family are Catholics. My dad had me baptized as a Catholic before I was one. Every person in my dad’s family are Catholic. I even went to a Catholic school for seven years before switching to public school.

When I was younger, I was proud to be a Catholic. Even when I switched schools after sixth grade, I still considered myself a proud Catholic who believed in God. But, after my freshman year of high school, I started to question my faith in God. I started having different thoughts and asking myself different questions. Does God really exist?

At the time, I went from being Catholic to unsure. Throughout high school, I really didn’t know what to believe in. A part of me wanted to say something to my mom, but if I told her about my conflict, she would probably flip. Coming from a very religious family, I felt as if I had to believe God or else. I didn’t know who to share my conflict with, until I met my creative writing teacher in my junior year of high school.

Mr. Sherbine referred to himself as a “born-again” atheist. No one really understood what he meant by that, but I thought it was cool and funny for some reason. I was able to talk to him about my religious family, and my personal struggle with faith.

By the time college rolled around, I made the decision to be an atheist. I never made the decision to tell anyone, not even my mom, because I wasn’t ready at the time. Plus, I didn’t know how anyone was going to take it. I emailed Mr. Sherbine about my decision to be an atheist, and how I was conflicted on revealing it to my mom. He gave me some good advice, but he also asked me, if I did want to tell her, was it a necessity. He shared some personal struggles about being an atheist as well. After reading his email, I gave it more thought, and made the decision not to tell her.

As of right now, I really don’t identify myself with any religion. I consider myself non-religious. Personally, I think it’s easier for me to be secular because I feel more at ease. But, how do you tell your overly-religious family that you don’t identify with any faith. They believe that prayer and your belief in God solves everything, but that’s not me. I don’t believe in most of their beliefs, but that’s how I am. I’m more liberal than they are.

I haven’t told my family about this because I know how they’re going to react. In a Nigerian household, you really can’t be not religious. Every Nigerian that I have met, they’re religious. During high school, I thought my struggle with faith was just a sign of rebellion. But now that I think about it, it’s an actual struggle.

I don’t want to disrespect my family; I don’t. But I feel like I’ve been living some sort of lie since I was fifteen. Is it a crime or a so-called sin to not identify yourself with faith? In my perspective, I see religion as a choice. You choose what faith you want to believe in, if you decide to believe in anything. I don’t put down anyone’s belief. If a person wants to believe in God or Buddha, that’s fine. That’s your choice, not mine.

I think the reason why some people are non-religious is because they either don’t identify with any deity, or it just causes conflict. I have one friend who’s an atheist, but he’s not a serious one. But I do tell him about my family, and he knows how difficult it is. How we have to go to church, even though we don’t want to. I go to church because I don’t want to upset my mom, or get into a fight with her. Before, I barely went to church, except on special days like Easter.

One thing that really annoys me is when my mom talks about the type of person I need to marry. In her words, I need to marry someone who’s a “man of God.” For those who don’t know what this means, she’s basically saying that I need to marry someone who’s religious. But, what if I don’t want to marry someone like that? What if I find someone who is just like me and isn’t religious? Telling me that all the time is suffocating sometimes.

So, I don’t know how many people are going to read this, or if I decide to share this column with my family. But I think I’ll tell them when the time is right. When that time comes, maybe they’ll understand.