I grew up in a Christian family in Russia that attended church religiously.
My mother was the conductor of the church choir, which meant that not only did I participate in Sunday School while the adults attended the regular service, I also had the misfortune of having to find ways to entertain myself during long choir rehearsals on Saturday evenings, as well as during any potluck or special event that most other kids didn’t have to attend.
To me, the church was like a second home. I didn’t fully understand why all of the rituals were necessary, but I knew that they were important and just a normal part of life.
A normal part of life, that is, until we moved to the U.S.
Here, assimilation into the new culture suddenly demanded priority, in lieu of church attendance.
At home, however, I continued to hear reminders of God’s power and participate in prayer.
After settling down, we began attending Sunday service again in a local church, but by this time, participation in every event somehow lost its previously-held significance.
When I brought this up to my mother, she said “what matters is what is in your heart.”
Now, as an (almost fully-fledged) adult, I still believe in God and the existence of an afterlife, but I have stopped performing the rituals that are usually used to manifest this belief.
I am not sure whether my ceaseless belief in God is a result of strong childhood conditioning to have this belief or my desire to have the comfort of feeling that our turbulent universe is held together by a higher power that has more knowledge about it than humans do.
I suspect that it’s a little bit of both.
More important questions that I often ask myself, though, are:
Is it normal to have faith in God, but not associate oneself with religion?
Does having faith in God, but not religion, merely mean that one is “spiritual”?
If one can have faith without being “religious,” is there any value in the reverse (i.e. practicing religion without having faith)?
These questions have been echoing in my mind more loudly than usual today, because I skipped Easter service.
I have yet to find the answers that I’m looking for, and perhaps I never will.
In the meantime, I choose not to associate myself with a label for fear of choosing the wrong one.
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