I don’t even know if I believe

I almost went to mass today. But as when I’ve considered similar things before, what stopped me was the way I was dressed. I was in denim shorts and a t-shirt for The Handmaid’s Tale show that said “I intend to survive.”

If God is real, I don’t think he cares about what I wear. But the other people there sure do and right now I’m using all the fight I have left in me just to survive.

I can’t say what the pull was that made me consider going to mass, after more than 9 months since attending any church. I didn’t even go on Christmas or Easter. Frankly I’ve been pretty angry about the whole damn subject (and have enjoyed reading my ex-evangelical FB group.)

Maybe what made mass sound appealing was the fact that my illness makes me feel really helpless right now. I thought the familiarity and the rituals might be of some comfort. I thought it was a place where I could go and just cry and nobody would stare at me weirdly.

Maybe it was from watching The Handmaid’s Tale and seeing that the evangelicals in that dystopian future have killed the Catholics (and a nun was still fighting for social justice in the resistance effort.) That always was the part of Catholicism I liked, the social justice and the resistance and the attitude that we’re supposed to try to love everybody and leave the judgment up to God. Catholics often stand apart from the rest of Christianity in really good ways.

I still don’t know what I believe. I can’t think of the Bible as more than allegorical. At this point, the stories of Jesus’ life seem like parables at best. The rules you have to follow to be a Catholic “in good standing” still seem like control mechanisms designed by fallible men. And some aspects of Catholicism are worse than other Christian religions.

But ideas like the message in the above picture that scare me away from most churches, especially any kind of evangelical church. I don’t even know if I believe in God, let alone that I value him more than everything else in my life.

Yet there’s still something there, some tiny grain of something appealing that makes me think if I ever pursue religion again, it would be Catholicism. Or maybe Episcopalian since they are basically Catholic with a more overt focus on equality. (And I believe they also still sing the original, prettier Gloria that the Catholic Church took away shortly after I converted. That song was one of my favorite things about the Catholic Church, even to the point that I got some angel statue that had the words on it — and I am most definitely NOT an angel statue kind of person.)

But I’m getting off track here. If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said I never wanted to step foot in any church ever again. And I don’t know why I’ve softened my stance on that a little bit or if it will even continue. It could just be something I think about more kindly when I feel like I need peace the world can’t give me.

Yet I also know that going to church doesn’t often give me the peace I’m seeking either. Maybe peace will be something that will always elude me to some extent. I’m not sure if calling myself the “conflict girl” is self-fulfilling or simply accurately knowing myself.

I’ve let a lot of people convince me of what I can and can’t believe when it comes to faith. Conservative Catholics are every bit as bad as conservative evangelicals, and the conservative Catholics would call me a “cafeteria Catholic” for trying to pick and choose which rules to follow. They say that you have to submit to the authority of the church to guide what you should believe. And that’s just never going to be me.

I have no interest in the apologetics or the people who have proofs and arguments for why every single Catholic doctrine is correct. I want to still read tarot or horoscopes if I feel like it, neither taking them particularly seriously nor feeling like doing so opens me up to the risk of demonic possession. I want to believe in chakras and self-healing and that there are tons of mysteries we can’t possibly understand.

My life is sadder when I deny that there are any mysteries. But I am also absolutely miserable when I try to conform myself to be something I’m not or believe things I don’t.

Maybe there’s a place in the patchwork of what I believe that has room for some Catholic icons. Imagery is a very powerful factor in the human psyche, after all. Maybe I don’t have to be “all in” or totally convinced that everything the Catholic Church teaches is complete and correct. I may not have to go to mass every week to get something out of it once in a while. If I don’t follow the rules and there actually is a place called hell, I guess I would have ended up there either way, so I should just do what brings me occasional comfort.

But I also think that we’re supposed to glean what’s useful from religion and use it to help us cope and to make the world better. I don’t think it matters so much which religion you follow. Is your faith helping you be a better person and to get through the hard parts of life? If it’s not, what’s the point of having it? And I mean that on many levels.

If no faith helps you, feel free to disregard all of it. I actually don’t think there’s much objective truth and I certainly don’t agree with the way religion is used to try to control people. But I’m coming around to think that maybe a little bit of faith doesn’t have to be so toxic. I might be able to find a way to shoehorn it into my jumbled mess of a belief system.

All I know I for sure is that right now I feel like I can’t cope with my life or my illness and it seems like I need to be open to finding comfort wherever I can find it.

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