Heaven or Bust

When I was younger, my father took me to church. While he sat upstairs with the other adults, I was downstairs with the youth group. The only thing I can really remember about Sunday school is that I asked a lot of hard hitting questions that the teachers really couldn’t answer, which made me start to think that this church thing wasn’t for me. The church I went to was rather small, and it seemed that everybody wanted to know your business outside of church. It didn’t help that I was from a small town, and that this was normal. I remember asking a lot of questions, much like adulthood I was a curious child. If there wasn’t evidence, I was less likely to believe it.

At the beginning of every Sunday school session, a video was always played. One song was the go-to:
“Jesus loves the little children ………. – red and yellow, black and white…..” being the curious child I was, I immediately raised my hand.
“Does everybody have the same God as us? Like everybody in the world prays to the same God as me?” I had to be nine or ten at this time, but the look I got from my teacher began feeding my doubts.
“Of course! Didn’t you hear the song? God created all of the children, and expects them to sing his praises to other people, people who may have strayed from Him.”

This reply, of course, got the wheels in my mind turning. Strayed away? How can someone stray away from God? What makes people decide to stray away? If God created all the children, why do certain people believe in other things? I needed answers! I didn’t know at the time, but the questioning made me a problem.

I recall coming home from school one Wednesday, and my step mother told me that I need to go to church with her that night. I choked up, not wanting to go. “But why?” I managed to choke out.

According to her, I was straying from Jesus. I later learned that the Sunday school teacher was concerned with my constant barrage of questions about religion. I learned at a young age, long before the teenage years, that adults don’t like to have to explain something like religion. You blindly follow, because that’s just what we do.

After a couple months, the church as a whole learned why we never seemed to expand our small church. Our pastor was skimming from the collection tray, using the money for himself. My mind went spiraling with questions again. If he is the voice of God for our church, why did he do it? The answer was always “he strayed from God”.

I have to give major props to my dad. He asked my step mom why she made me go to church, if all I did was question. “Why force her? Let her choose on her own,” I heard him tell her, and her reply was her famous exasperated scoff. In the end, I didn’t have to go to church anymore. When the rest of the family would leave the house, I would jump on the computer and turn to the one place that would always answer my questions without trying to derail my thought process – the internet. Over the course of a month I learned that not everyone prays to the same God as me. There are people that believe in many deities, and some people that didn’t believe in anything. My mind was singing with this newfound information, and I just had to know more.

There came one Sunday where my stepmom wasn’t feeling well, and nobody went to church. Instead of diving into the internet search, I launched the encyclopedia we had on our computer and started looking up other religions. Buddhism, Paganism, Catholicism, the list went on! There were so many religions, and I was swimming with knowledge. I remember that night at dinner, I was bursting at the seams, ready to share the information with my family. My dad listened intently, happy that his daughter was finally getting answers. When he walked away, my step mother scolded me for believing the lies. From that day forward she watched what I did on the computer.

I didn’t understand what was going on. Not everybody believed in the same God…not everybody was willing to follow something so blindly. I resented religion with every fiber of my being, and specifically mine for lying to me, for never answering my questions. I couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal to be curious.

Now that I have a child, I swore to myself that if ever he wanted to go to church, that was his decision.  I wouldn’t force him to go like my stepmom did with me. If he has questions about other religions, we will approach those as they come. Because I know how his mother was. His mother was curious, and naturally he will be too.

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