Losing Your Religion: Reconciling Experience with Beliefs

When heavy hitting experiences like divorce, infidelity, death, or job loss enter our lives, there’s no going back to how things used to be. These are the times life pushes us to find a new way of being and believing.

Losing Your Religion

On my third Easter Sunday as a single mom, I struggled to find my why in the day. As I assembled my children’s Easter baskets and hid plastic eggs for them to find when they returned from their dad’s house, I wondered what I would tell them if they asked any questions about the meaning of the day and its traditions.

I lost my religion a long time ago. I was raised Southern Baptist and started questioning my upbringing in my late teens. When my parents divorced and my brother came out in my early 20s, I had to reconcile what I knew to be true about my family with what I believed about marriage and homosexuality based on what the church taught me.

When Religion Clashes with Reality

My brother came out to me nonchalantly over the dinner table at my mother’s house. No one else seemed to be shocked, so I followed suit. But back at my house I cried. I felt selfish because I knew it was supposed to be about my brother, not my reaction and my feelings. Questions I didn’t realize I was struggling with at the time were: How did I grow up with my brother and not see this large part of who he is and how he experiences life? What stereotypes about people who are gay did I have and could I let those go? Who else in my life might be gay and what would that mean?

When heavy hitting experiences like divorce, infidelity, death, or job loss enter our lives, there’s no going back to how things used to be. My friend and astrologer Christopher Pridham describes it pretty accurately using the words of Steven Forrest: “A hurricane slams into ones beliefs, blowing away everything that is not rooted in the truth.”

Sifting for Truth After Crisis

I emerged from that original crisis of belief with a new worldview. I started using “universe” as a word that better reflected my understanding and experience of what most people would call God. And for a long time I believed that the universe had my back. It was the divine aspect of life and existence that was ultimately working in my favor and for the higher good.

But then my own divorce happened, and it killed my Pollyanna approach to spirituality. Bad things happened to good people. Karma was not served, and my life freaking sucked. For at least 18 months, I withdrew my belief in a friendly universe that was working toward my ultimate good. I viewed life as a crap shoot survival show. I did not keep the faith.

Then one day I was walking on the beach soaking in the sun and remembered my longtime wishes. When I was married and lived in DC, I desperately wanted to live by the beach and my family. And there I stood in Jacksonville, FL, on the beach 30 minutes away from my mother. Divorce wasn’t how I thought I’d get there, but there I was. I also remembered how I wrestled with knowing that I was meant to write, but lamented that I had nothing to write about. Well now…a major life change solved that problem.

Today my belief and faith in the universe is stronger than ever. Beliefs I’m still struggling with are what is real and what is just cultural influence when it comes to marriage, love, and monogamy. I can honestly say I’m ready to let go and see what reality brings that I can trust and hold onto. I think it may involve letting go of judgement toward other people and striving to live in alignment with what I know works for me.

Creating New Meaning

Before I went to bed that Sunday, I found my Easter why in a Facebook post from Chris. Here’s what he said:

Happy Resurrection Day! When life puts you through an experience that crushes you to the point that nothing makes sense anymore, the death of a belief system (Egypt-Messiah) that has become old, and no longer serves you takes place. After this death (through the Red Sea-cross) a new you is resurrected, with new eyes like a child’s you can discover this world again. Chaos before the Change, behold all things are made new! This is what we celebrate today! No matter how bad things get or how lost you may feel, everyone can be born again and start life in a new fresh way.

Which of your beliefs have been most challenged by your life experience? What new beliefs are taking root for you?

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