Religion has me stumped. It wasn't always so. As a child, I attended Catholic school, went to Mass every Sunday with my family and accepted everything with faith. Just as the nuns said. "Who made you?" the Baltimore Catechism asked. "God made me," my classmates and I answered. The Trinity, a concept that should have been confusing, wasn't. I could see it as plain as I could see the look on Sister's face if we talked in church or failed to genuflect properly. On Sundays, the priests put the fear of God in me that I wasn't good enough. After all, hadn't I been born with original sin? Four more years of Catholic education in high school cemented what I already knew: depending on how saintly I was, I would end up in a cloud-filled heaven or fiery hell.
When I got married and had children, my certainty that Catholi-cism was the only way to heaven began wavering. It was difficult for me to rectify the church's refusal to ordain women in light of the movement saying we were equal and deserved the same opportunities as men. Feeling like a heretic, I started thinking of other options. When my husband and I moved to New Jersey, we attended the Congregational Church where my little boy went to pre-school. They even had a female pastor. After we came home to Minnesota, we couldn't find a religion that felt right. It had been easier when we believed there was only one true religion and worshipped at the neighborhood church the diocese designated as our parish home. Being able to pick and choose, though, became overwhelming. But just in time for my daughter to prepare for Confirmation, we found a church not far from our house. Lutheran. The religion my mother had been before she converted to Catholicism so she could marry my father.
Recently, a friend and I spoke at length about religion. Raised in a good Protestant family, she still adheres to the right and wrong she learned at her childhood church. But she doesn't believe in the God who came to earth as a man, died and controls things from his home "up there." Even though she's in awe of the wonderful world in which we live, she's uncertain of how it came to be and is shocked when she hears a scientist express belief in God. And though she has no belief in the hereafter, my friend says she lives the best life she can.
The more I learn about different faiths, the more interesting it gets. I want to take something from one and a bit more from others. Café religion, someone called it. Should I fear burning in hell if I don't rush out the door for church every Sunday morning? No. Should I continue to "do onto others as I'd have them do onto me?" You bet! Is there Someone or something larger than myself who listens when I plead for help? I pray the nuns were right about that.