My Conflict With Religion

Religion used to be a definitive part of my life.  I was following the rules or I wasn’t.  I was accepting God’s love or I wasn’t.  I was respectful to people of all religions.  My religion wasn’t worse or better than others.  But I was raised Roman Catholic and I was raised to adhere to the tenets of that religion.

st francis of assisi church

Early on, though, I started to question how people lived their faith every day, myself included.  To my 7 year old self, who was still trying to figure out what the priest was saying in the Latin mass as my father reached over to turn pages to keep me on track, I wondered why people seemed so holy during mass, and so angry in the parking lot.

The expression wasn’t used at the time, but road rage was the r’aison d’être in the basketball court-now-parking lot.  Everyone juggled for the front row of spaces so they could whiz out of Church the minute it was over.  Perhaps my father was the worst with this. He practically dragged me to the car as the last Amen was said, and went nose-to-nose to beat the next guy out of the parking lot.  Horns honking, cars swerving around each other, accidents barely averted, expletives muttered and “peace be to people on earth.”

In high school, I really started to question religion.  What was so different about the Protestant faiths and Catholicism? Did God, at the beginning of time, or Jesus Christ at the beginning of the before and after time of Christianity, think wow, I’m going to steer all people towards a one and only faith and then have them argue over it and fight wars over it and kill over it, just so that in America everyone has a different building to go to on Saturday or Sunday mornings? Ahhhh…..doubt it.

But my doubts really surfaced as I began to learn more about Native American and Alaskan cultural heritage.  I was born in Alaska, and the idea of being so closely allied to nature, to the fact that our agriculture, our seasons, the tide, sharing this planet with animals of the land and the sea appeal to me at a gut level.  That God created our planet to nurture and honor all living things with respect, was not against the religion I was raised in, but tangential to it.  That misuse of religious ideas was the fault of man and not God.

native church and graveyard This photo was purchased by my grandmother during a visit with us in Alaska.  The caption is a century old Inuit church and graveyard.  However, you will notice that the graves are marked with Russian Orthodox crosses, showing the Christian influence that started with the Russians “owning” Alaska.  And this photo is from the early 1950s, which, if accurately captioned, makes the church/graveyard from the 1850s.

In college, I attended a Seder and was shocked at how drawn I was to the service.  The similarities between the Seder service and the Catholic mass made me feel at home.  I think it was the pomp and circumstance, the ancient and rich traditions that clicked with me.  This added another dimension to my religion dilemma.  After all, Christianity is based on the Judeo-Christian tradition.

And then came my involvement with the Kichwa of Ecuador and Kichwa Hatari of New York.  Again, a religious tradition of a people whose existence depends on the seasons, on the agriculture and animals of their region, on respect for the Mama Pacha and how we have to honor God by respecting the earth.  I don’t pretend to know much about these traditions of faith, and I’m not sure that I’m articulating these beliefs accurately, but I’m learning. kichwa hatari inti raymi

Perhaps it is best to describe myself as spiritual, rather than religious.  I am a spiritually flawed person, but try to live my life by the Ten Commandments, by respecting others and this planet upon which we live.

I believe that our spirit or soul lives on in a different form that I choose to call Heaven.  And I believe that my daughter and my grandmother will be the first to greet me when I arrive there.

sunset brewster





About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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8 Responses to My Conflict With Religion

  1. Bea dM says:

    Thanks for sharing. It all resonates perfectly with my search for the spiritual. OUt of a strict Roman Catholic family, the inconsistencies of teachings vs. life finally became too much in a boardng school run by Jesuit nuns. Your encounters with Native faiths are mirrored in mine in Mexico and reading Claude Lévi-Strauss. And by way of studying other beliefs, one leventually lands in a very personal but authentic place of simply striving to live a good life. Right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bumba says:

    It’s in Genesis: the separation between man and nature. Man is to rule over and master the forces of nature. “Nature” religions see man as another creature and a part of the whole divine scheme. However, all religions offer a path to the divine. If only they could stop fighting each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bumba says:

    In Genesis, man is created separately and instructed to rule over (and care for) the other creatures. Man (and woman too, altho in the Bible equal rights are not granted) is separate from nature, unlike the “nature” religions” where people are a creature like the others and out role is to simply be a part of the divine whole. Joseph Campbell talks about the results of the different mythologies. He’s a very fine and interesting read. Can I say Happy Holidays?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you Barb! Where religion is concerned, I’ve also always been in conflict. I asked questions on who is God when I was about 9 and all I got was a smack on my head with a 100 page book! I had a how-dare-you even question! To me, religion is created by man, each has its own path. With so many religion praying to that one (or two or many) god(s), who do we know which ones to believe? Killing in the name of religion is so wrong and how is that “right”? For that I’ve been religion-agnostic for a while..sometimes I get spiritual when I need to be. :p It helps.

    I’m with on the Native American culture – it’s something I’ve always been intrigued with! Read a lot about it when I was a kid. So fascinating! I’m reminded of a book – American Gods – a fascinating read, too. One of my favourites! (OK, I digressed there. :p) Merry Christmas Eve, Eve and happy holidays, Barb!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      To you as well! It’s interesting to see that our take on religion has caused us to question many things. I do believe in God and feel comfortable in a Catholic church. But I can’t let go of my native influence. I fell like I have a smashed religion.


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