Think for yourself

I used to think, and often said, that my parents didn’t like my friends.

I sort of get it now. I admired the kids who were different from me. The ones who did and said dramatic things. They swore and smoked. They didn’t inherit conservative religious views from their parents, or in some cases, they rejected them.

One of these friends ran away from home, and I was called into the principal’s office because I was one of her few friends, and I had recently been seen talking to her.

I went out with my parents and her parents to look for her. We found some of her belongings in a wooded area, but we didn’t find her. She had cut her long hair off. Sometime during the next week she was found, and ended up in a car with my mother in our driveway, where mom suggested she might need a good spanking, and she told my mother to go to hell.

Her dad had been a Boy Scout leader, and she was used to camping. I was a bit envious because our family never went camping.

Years later, I lived with that family for a while, and then I understood why she had run away.

The last time I remember seeing her father, I think I got out of his car at a stop sign. It’s all a blur, but I think we were helping someone move something in winter. I just knew I wanted to get away, and I did.

I thought of several of my friends and relatives as rebellious. Now I just think they were normal people who expressed themselves in ways I didn’t dare to, and I admired them for it.

I was impressed by what I thought of as shocking behavior. My mom probably knew this. I never wanted to get into trouble, but I wanted to be interesting.

A lot of what I heard in church, or read in the Bible didn’t make sense to me. Naturally I had a lot of doubts. But we believed we had all the right answers, so if I had doubts, I was supposed to just accept what I was told. I was supposed to have faith. When it came to anything outside of our accepted doctrine, we were supposed to study it carefully and then reject it… or simply reject it right from the start. The one exception was conservative evangelical fundamentalism. That, we were to accept without question, whether it made any sense or not… whether it was kind or not.

One day I asked my mom how we could know that the Bible was true, and that Jesus really was who he said he was. She told me that she just knew it in her heart. She said she knew it so strongly that she didn’t have any doubt. I don’t have that kind of faith. So I asked her about Muslim suicide bombers. They believe in their religion enough to die. Was her faith stronger than theirs?

I asked this question at a youth retreat during my senior year of high school, and all the other kids gasped. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I struggled with doubt, and I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just believe what I was told.

Probably, my doubts came from it being all made up, just one of thousands of supernatural myths, the followers of each believing theirs is the right one.

I’m not trying to convince anyone to agree with me, but just to think for yourself.

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