I want to put aside theology and belief for now and discuss the other side of religion – once you’ve subscribed to it, what it demands of you. It’s not unconnected to belief because when you look into what religion demands of its followers, whether it makes sense or not influences whether you believe in the religion or not.
Even when you think it makes some sense, if it’s extemely difficult and would impact on your life in what you feel is a negative way, your commitment to the religion can wane. Then if you’ve never done so before, you can start to ask questions about the theology and work out whether there was any reason to be committed in the first place.
This is what happened with me and Christianity. I couldn’t lay my dreams aside, and I couldn’t tolerate being at the mercy of nonsensical rules that allowed me to be trampled upon and then being told to just forgive.
I have the same problem with Islam. It won’t let me fulfil my dreams either. My dream of having my own home and living in it until I die couldn’t happen in a mainstream interpretation of Islam because (i) mortgages with interest are not allowed (ii) inheritance from non-Muslim relatives is not allowed (iii) even if we moved to my husband’s country, I have no idea if I’d be allowed to live in my husband’s part of the family house after his death. (He is 11 years older than me so I have to think about that.)
Perhaps there is a less literal, more spiritual interpretation to be made, which doesn’t imitate 7th century partriarchy and tribalism. But I’m under a lot of stress to find it.
My religious indecision is part of the larger stress of an unclear life plan. The fear and doubt comes from needing security every time. Needing to know that the structures I put my trust in will be good for my livelihood, not bad. Perhaps it’s selfish, and faithless, but I may as well be honest about that.
I think that we will never have children. That takes financial pressure off us, and psychological pressure off me to make my mind up about religion before my fertility runs out. And really, the world is going down… global warming, pandemic killer diseases, war, famine… is it really a good idea to make more people? Why would I want to have kids that I would love, only to make them suffer through this awful life? That’s real selfishness, is it not?
I also think that wherever we end up living, it will not be his country… he doesn’t even want to live there. Wherever it is, I am going to have to work and contribute to a house. To have some chance of not being homeless when I am old. This thought makes me so unhappy. I am not lazy to work, just don’t think I will find a job I am good at.
The demands of religion are hard enough when you have faith. Without faith, they are just extremely off-putting. I think faith grows with practice, but I also know all too well how it can be extinguished by religious pain, so I am very distrustful of religion, constantly finding reasons to ignore the cry of my heart for spiritual nourishment. I don’t trust myself to be able to have faith. Even though it’s a way of being that I really want.
I’m tired of wrestling with religion. Every way I turn it just seems to get harder and harder. Faith is not there… I can’t see the wood for the trees.