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Spirituality in The South

I’ve wanted to write this post for quite a while now but it’s taken me this time to find the words to adequately express how I feel. The past few weeks have inspired me to get the words down and just see what happens.

Religion is such a touchy subject, one that tears so many apart, that brings up such emotions and causes some to defend their view point at the expense of others. I am not religious, I have not been since I was old enough to make my own decisions (and since Sunday school stopped doing arts and crafts in the teenager class). It is never something that really crossed my mind or even informed any part of my life. Then I moved to the States.

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” Douglas Adams

There have been many big differences for me living here in North Florida, firmly seated in the South and what most would consider definitely still Bible Belt territory. Religion is possibly the biggest. In my county, for example, you still can’t buy alcohol before 1pm on Sundays because you should clearly be at church. Religion is everywhere: on the billboards, on the street corners, in restaurants, the grocery store, with almost everyone you meet.

It truly was a shock to me. Many people are religious at home but I’ve always felt religion (for the most part) has been quite a private thing. It wasn’t something people talked about all the time, it didn’t inform political decisions, it wasn’t a question you’d ask a stranger. However here, almost every time I meet someone new we’re asked “which church do y’all go to?” Now that puts us in a sticky situation, usually we reply “we’re not religious”, and we watch as faces drop, noses scrunch and lips purse.

So, I’m not anti-religion. I believe religion has a huge part to play in the lives of those who choose it and I believe in many of the base “rules” of the stuff. I believe prayer works, but I call it positive intention. I believe God provides, but I call it the universal laws of attraction and gratitude. I believe in fellowship, but I spend mine being with the souls that set mine on fire. And I obviously believe in being kind, not murdering, giving to those in more need, and all the (what I would call) obvious teachings. I choose to call my beliefs my spirituality as I do not subscribe to any religion and I do not worship a “God”. I believe the world is incredible and every day we are blessed with opportunities to further bring out the good in people’s souls.

“I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.” Kurt Vonnegut

From what I know of religion it is about love, acceptance and truly believing in the good of humanity. However what we as “non-believers” see often is hatred, intolerance and selfishness. I see the nose scrunch and hear the disappointed “oh” and think to myself is that how your God tells you to treat people? I do not believe God teaches that reaction. I believe people teach that reaction. As a feminist, and a deep-down Marxist, I cannot accept an institution that controls peoples thoughts. Are people born to dislike those of the LGBTQ community? No. Are people born believing women should be subservient to men? Absolutely not. People are born good. Circumstances lead people away and all that can fix that is love. Inexplicable love and kindness.

“For God shows no partiality.” Romans 2:11

Religion is important, it is necessary and it is a perfect way for people to come together and collectively give thanks for the incredible blessings in this world. Those blessings can go out to whoever, or whatever you choose. The energy is the same.

(If you don’t really care for my more intense views please skip the next 2 paragraphs…)

What is unnecessary, is institutionalized religion and a blind belief in a 2000 year old book. Religious institutions (again here comes Marx) were founded to control the masses. It was a place to hold people accountable to the governing bourgeoisie and keep the poor just as poor in a feudal society.

The Bible is a vast book and again so important to those who read it, yet it is deeply seeded in historical circumstances that can be dissected if one so takes the time to do so, or care to. There are historical reasonings behind so many scriptures that are hung on to and I see this so much in politics in America more so than I ever did in Europe.

(… and resume)

But all this rant brings me back, once again to grief. The emotion I experience every day, that has become part of who I am, and which inspired me to finally write this down. Grief is such a fragile time in anyone’s life. It is a time where as an observer you must put the grieving parties needs above your own. A time where there really is nothing to say that will make it better. A time to share your religious views only with those who you KNOW feel the same.

“Kindness is a mark of faith, whoever is not; has no faith.” Prophet Muhammad

Over the past week or so I have been told numerous times that I should feel better because at least my mum “is with God/Jesus now”.

So, PSA, that does not make me feel better.

I believe in energy, I believe my mum is still around but I do not believe in a God that would steal a soul such as my mother’s from this earth for no good reason. It does not make me feel better and it sure as hell does not attract me to your God. To tell me of an eternity I do not believe in, does not settle my soul.

I suppose this is a reminder that good people are good people, religious or not, your God or another’s. There is far too much focus on religious neglect and abuse of power in the world. So go out, worship that that fills your heart and show it only with love. And please, words will never make it better for those who are grieving. Just hug us, tell us we are loved by YOU and that you’ll be there every step of the way because that is what we truly need.

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” Peter 3:8

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