How It All Began
About five years ago, I stopped following Christ.
When I was eleven years old, I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. My family was stationed at the army reserve there. We lived down the road from the Chapel, a church that held services for all types of religions.
I first started attending the Chapel services with my mama. She was pregnant with my baby sister at the time. During the end of her pregnancy, she started staying home on Sundays to rest.
Since I was a member of the choir and the chapel was in eye-view of our house, I’d still walk to church by myself for Sunday service.
I believe it’s relevant for me to point out here that I was eleven years old in 2003, only two short years after 9/11. And remind you, we were a military family. The “terrorist environment/awareness” was very current and extremely relevant to us.
As I said earlier, the Chapel was for everyone, not only Christian faiths. The Chapel is where I first witnessed other cultures practice their religious traditions.
I would stay after and help clean up for the next service, which happened to be an Islamic service. Some of the Muslim women would come through the door covered from head to toe in black cloth and I was fascinated by it.
In hindsight, I guess it were only a matter of time before I asked my mom some curious, religious questions.
One day, I walked up to her, determined to get answers to two questions. First, if those terrorist would murder people in the name of their God then how are we so sure their God isn’t the real God? (cause that’s a bit extreme) Second, are the people at church safe, because they look just like the terrorist people on TV?
She gave me a quick reminder on not questioning our God. Then she told me to stop worrying about what other people were doing and focus on getting to know my God.
That was the end of the discussion; to this day, she doesn’t even remember the conversation. But, I left it alone like she said.
About ten years later, I found myself standing in a shopping mall in Dubai, on liberty from my first deployment. As my friend and I were looking through some albums in the music store, we witnessed an Islamic call to prayer.
We stood there absolutely culture shocked as we watched almost everyone else in the mall disappear into prayer rooms. The exact thought I had was, “these people are serious about their shit man. I need to know more about this.”
I’d become curious again, only this time, I had enough logic and resources to think, “hey, I can just look this stuff up.” And that’s what I did.
The Realization That Changed Everything
I’d become obsessed with the plethora of information out there. I started googling every major religion I knew. The radio got swapped for audio books and sitcoms were swapped for documentaries.
I forced the courage to ask people about their beliefs and prepped an open mind for their answers. Then, I went back and researched what they told me. But, there was one bit of information, or realization I should say, that changed everything for me.
Here it is: Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God. I know it seems so basic, but a lot of people do not understand, acknowledge or accept this. That is okay, I didn’t either, but I do now.
Allah means ‘God’ in the Arabic language. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions, meaning they all follow the God of Abraham (For my fact checkers.) Their perspective of the details may differ, but the foundation of their religions are the same.
A New Perspective
At this point I was a lot confused because all this time, the God those terrorist claim to kill in the name of, was the same God I prayed to at night.
Once I’d realized this, I realized how ignorant I was to something that supposedly meant so much to me. I also realized I was not alone in my ignorance. After all, it took twenty-one years for someone to clarify this for me.
Religion is inherited. Most people take on whatever religion they were raised in. That is why religion is deeply linked with culture and one’s religion changes drastically depending on where they’re located in the world.
Had I been born in Bali, Indonesia, there’s a high chance I would follow Hinduism. But, I was born in South Georgia, USA, where most of the population are followers of Christ.
It really made me wonder where I would be spiritually if I had been born somewhere else. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, my spirituality had been limited and manipulated to control.
Starting Over From Scratch
It dawned on me, I really didn’t know enough about religion to be claiming one. And I damn sure didn’t know enough about religion to be aligning my entire life with one.
People assume I don’t believe in Jesus. I do believe in Jesus, if all those people say he lived, then he lived. I just chose not to be a follower of Christ.
Instead, I chose to stop following my inherited religion and start from scratch. There are billions of people in this world who practice religious customs other than the one I grew up knowing, I wanted to learn and understand what they knew.
There was no way to really keep an open mind if my entire being was already committed to Christianity. I’d constantly compare everything I learned to my pre-established Christian beliefs. So, I had to let go.
Where I Am Now
When people find out I don’t identify with any religion, they assume I am an atheist. People assume I don’t believe in anything, but I actually do believe in God, or I should say, some version of God.
In my opinion, our spirit is the most important piece of us. It is who/what we are. I owe it to myself to ask questions and seek answers that seem plausible to me.
I’m on a journey to find out what I connect with spiritually and not allow others to teach me what they have already come up with. Personally, I think spirituality goes way deeper than any one religion covers.
I’ve learned so much since I chose to stop following Christ. I have more logical answers for some of the questions I had that weren’t adding up. There is still a lot of confusion, but getting to know what I believe to be God takes time.