Yes I have changed religions in my lifetime. I was raised without religion. My parents felt religion was a decision that I should be allowed to make for myself and they did not introduce me to any religious ideas until I began asking about it.

I gave everything a fair shot

Yes I have changed religions in my lifetime. I was raised without religion. My parents felt religion was a decision that I should be allowed to make for myself and they did not introduce me to any religious ideas until I began asking about it. I did not begin asking about religion until I started third grade. Looking back, it is amazing to me how insignificant a role religion had in my young development. The only reason that it came up at all was because of school. I had an experience that I fear is all too common amongst youths of non-Christian upbringings, I was asked rather abruptly by a classmate of mine if I believed in Jesus. I responded, “Who is that?” To which he swiftly replied, “He’s God and if you don’t believe in him than you are going to Hell.” Soon word had spread across the playground that I didn’t believe in God and I was harangued daily by my peers about my certain and inevitable damnation. Which led me to ask the question, “Why?”

My parents told me about Christianity, about Jesus and God and the Bible, and it raised so many more questions in my young mind. So that weekend I asked about going to church, and so began a long story of my exploration into theology. I have to say that my childhood experiences with Christianity had soured my metaphorical taste-buds to the flavor of the Bible. Here is this book I’ve never read, that is full of these people I’ve never heard of that are literally planning my eternal damnation for no apparent reason beyond my ignorance to their self-proclaimed existence/significance. Fear is not the best tool to lure young souls into the fold.

Bad first impressions notwithstanding, by high school I decided to give religion a fair shake. I decided the only way to do that is to give all of the religions equal quarter. First I read the Bible, then the Book of Mormon, the Torah (a translation was recommended by a friend), the Quran, the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Lotus Sutra. Meanwhile I attended every church I could find time for. Sundays- LDS, Catholic, and Lutheran, Tuesdays- Free Methodists and Baptists, Wednesdays – United Methodists, Saturdays -Seventh-day Adventists. I would go to any church event invited to which resulted in a lot of stake dances, Young-Life meetings, and Bible studies. I really loved a great deal of what the churches had to offer. I even joined Young-Life and became a Young-Life youth minister, where I helped to introduce many of my peers to the Bible and to Jesus Christ. At this point I think it would be safe to say that I fell somewhere amongst the ranks of the non-denominational Christians.

Yet I felt like a fraud, because something felt inauthentic about it all. I just didn’t really feel like a Christian. Perhaps some of it is linked all the way back to that introduction to Christianity in grade school. The bitter lash of judgment and malice that I felt as a child has perhaps scarred my current religious sentiments despite my endeavors to keep an open mind. Alternatively perhaps I simply identify more with the Buddhist teachings that I’ve read, with the traditions of my grandparents, and with the Buddhist experiences that I’ve had. I remember watching my grandmother praying at the shrine in her home and feeling something inside of me awaken that I’ve never felt in any Christian service. A sense of awe and reverence that my limited vernacular cannot ever totally describe as well as a sense of completion, it was as though I had found something that my heart had been looking for my whole life. When that feeling came over me there was no turning back. I fondly embraced the experiences that all those spiritual people and texts (Christian and otherwise) had been kind enough to impart unto me and set off on a new journey of religious fulfillment through Buddhism.

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Tracy Simmons

I think it’s very admirable that you took so much time to explore different traditions. You’ve read more sacred texts than I have, and I’m a religion reporter!

Amy  Rice

Yes, I agree with Tracy. Sounds like you have given it a lot of thought.

I’m sorry about your childhood experience. I think it takes a great deal of time (and unfortunately, trial and error, in my experience) to become the kind of Christian who extends grace rather than judgment.

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