My Religious (Or Lack Thereof) Experience

Pastor preaching inside a church.

When I was in eighth grade, I went to church every Sunday. Now, Sunday is just like every other day of the week. Before I was fourteen, I had never stepped into a church, as I had never even considered the possibility of the existence of any higher power; I was a science and facts believer through and through.

In seventh grade, though, I made some new friends, and they quickly became my closest circle. The topic of their religion was something I danced around and never directly addressed until they did. At first it came up in passing, a quick mention of their youth group or a church event that weekend. Then it was directed at me in nice comments like “I’ll be praying for you,” during a particularly rough week. Before long, they were fully welcoming me to Sunday school.

My friends meant well, and I knew that, and turning down an invitation subtly felt like turning down their friendship. So, I agreed. I began reading the Bible—which is both historical and religious, right? I went to church and youth groups and Bible studies, but only to meet new people. If I was going to be a Christian, I wasn’t going to do it halfway. I learned all the worship songs and cursed myself if there were any I didn’t know; I began memorizing Bible verses and the Bible’s books, got a promise ring to wait until marriage and most of all, set my heart on convincing my parents of God’s existence.

Needless to say, they weren’t happy about this last part. They were perfectly content with believing in evolution and the Big Bang theory and so on; meanwhile I strolled in, instigating arguments over a topic that they did not really see any point to. Our futile debates often ended in yelling and one of us storming off. No progress was made, and a wall formed between my parents and me. They had supported my efforts to be a Christian somewhat, but they drew the line when it came to their own beliefs—a fair compromise.

The whole time I was fighting this battle, however, I wasn’t even really sure what I was fighting for. Did I actually believe in Jesus? In Heaven? In the words of the Bible? Or did I just wish I believed in all that? All these questions were swarming in my mind while my friends were throwing more at me. Did I want to have a proper confirmation? Want to help raise money for the church? What about the mission trip? So I made excuses.

“My parents said I couldn’t go,” I lied.

“I’m just too tired.”

I found myself evading the topic of religion again, but this time, I was partially committed to it. And I stayed that way: always one foot in the door and one foot out. I couldn’t figure myself out, so I never said a definite yes or no to religion. After I switched schools, though, both feet were out, even though my head sometimes peeked in a little bit.

Hannah Ma ’22

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