How exactly do we know what our religion is? In the beginning of my freshman year of high school I sat with some people at lunch talking about what middle schools we had come from. When one girl told us that she came from a Jewish school, I asked if she believed in God. Her response, word for word, was, “Well I’ve been taught to my whole life.” It was hard for me to accept this answer. I didn’t understand how she could not know for herself whether she believed in God, especially given all the progress that I believed society had made to ensure freedom of religion. I couldn’t figure out how her only opinion on the matter came from what others had told her.
I realized as I was becoming so mad at her that I had been taught to be Atheist my whole life. After all, in first grade when I received an assignment to discuss something special about myself I talked about how I was Atheist, though I barely knew what the word meant. So that day when I got home, I sat on my bed and took a few minutes to figure out what I believed. I disregarded both religious and secular teachings from any outside sources, and I thought about what seemed right to me. I decided that it was still Atheism, but I accepted that had I suddenly realized that I believed in God, I would not have been pressured by my parents’ Atheism or a fear of change to ignore my revelation.
I encourage all teenagers to take a moment like this, because, while I didn’t discover any revolutionary new ideas, I finally solidified my beliefs (or lack thereof), and that felt really important. I would especially recommend this to one of my childhood friends. Her mother was Christian and her father was Jewish. I once asked her which one she was and she told me that she was both. In a slightly less sophisticated way (I was eight) I told her that she couldn’t be both because Christianity and Judaism are conflicting ideologies, and I told her that she had to choose. She got mad and we fought for a while until we got bored of fighting and went back to being friends, but eight years later I’m still bothered by her indecision. I don’t think she still calls herself both (in fact I don’t think she even believes in God at all), but if you or your child cannot choose between two religions, I highly suggest taking such a moment to disregard any outside pressure and really come to terms with what feels right to you, what your faith is.
It is often suggested that faith is the key to happiness. I completely understand this statement because most religions have been adjusted throughout time to appeal to society, in an effort to acquire as many followers as possible. These religions offer ideals for human life such as: the notion of bad events happening for a reason, places like heaven, and even a purpose in life. Despite this, I must disagree with the statement that faith provides happiness, solely for the true meaning behind it-that religion provides happiness.
This is my faith: I do not believe that anyone but me controls my life. I do not believe that after I die I will go to heaven or hell, or be reincarnated, but rather that the only further existence of me will be in memories. I do not believe in God. I do not believe in people telling me that faith is the key to happiness because for me that would be a false happiness. I believe in living without religion because to me, the cost is not worth the benefits. My faith is that parents should not force a religion onto an unwilling child. My faith is that every teenager should take that moment to sit down and figure out what religion they identify with best.
My faith is that everyone has a faith, whether or not they have a religion.