Hi everyone! I started a podcast called Aberrant Behavior and I’m so excited to facilitate conversation around societal norms and mores I’ve shed on my journey towards self-discovery.
In this episode, I delve into my long and complex relationship with religion and why I had to let it go if I was ever to love myself deeply. I have nothing against religion as a whole because I recognize it’s role in providing comfort and hope to many people as it did for me. Plus, faith and belief is a deeply personal thing that I don’t really think I have room to comment on another person’s faith walk. My mental health required that I let go of that journey and embark on a personal spiritual journey of self-discovery, self-love and self-acceptance. Psychotherapy and other modalities proved to be more effective in helping me eliminate the internalized homophobia I had.
I loved religion a lot, with my entire heart. Yes, I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and I remained one until I was 28. One reason was fear of losing my family and friends if I left. If you know anything about Jehovah’s witnesses, you’d know that there is legitimacy to this fear. But also, because bible scriptures answered many of the questions I had about life. Questions like, why are we here, what happens to us when we die, where are our dead loved ones and why are there kids in the world who go to bed hungry. It gave me a deep sense of assurance that this is not all there is to life. I still have a lot of those questions and without religion, there’s no assured answers to assuage my fears and concerns and that’s okay.
It was hard coming to terms with being uncertain. Without biblical answers to all my questions, I had to face myself. More accurately, I had to begin an exploration of what *I* thought about these issues but also day-to-day stuff. Like, is there really anything wrong with sex before marriage? Is there anything wrong with homosexuality? Can I be friends with people from all walks of life instead of just people who shared the same belief as I did. Is the man really the head of the family? What if there’s no man? What if the man has no head for leadership? Etc. Many of you may not have dealt with not knowing your own personal views of these things, but I did.
I had an identity crisis essentially when I had been in therapy for a year. It was painful work to temporarily (or permanently) to set aside religion in favor of self-help. Self-help was heavily condemned in my church. There’s a scripture in James that says that the human heart is deceptive and should definitely not be trusted. So yeah, learning from the works of other humans with deceptive hearts was not the smart thing to do. I still don’t think the intension behind this message was malicious. What I think is that getting people to completely distrust their instincts is harmful intent or not. At the very least, it proved harmful to me.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with religion. It gives hope, comfort and a sense of belonging. What I think is that religion would be so much better if people were encouraged and told that their instincts are worthwhile. That we’re not inherently flawed. That it’s beneficial to engage in a personal journey in parallel with a religious one. I wish churches and pastors did not discourage members from seeking mental health care. This is especially my wish within the black community. A community with so much generational and personal trauma coupled with the intense racism they face.
While religion is still on pause for me, I wish that when I was still religious; I had also sought to embark on a personal spiritual journey. I may not be religious anymore, but I’m the most spiritual I’ve ever been. I may not pray, but I meditate often. I may not go to a building to worship, but I visit with my journal often. I love all people. I believe that love is love. My intuition is all I ever need to call on. My ancestors are ever present to guide me because they live within me.
Things are changing, people are coming into an awareness of limitations inherent in religion. Church goers are also seeking therapy, they journal while going to church. They meditate and pray and I’m here for this evolution. But as things change, things remain the same. The homophobia persists, the demonization of self-help and mental health care persists. The hate of homosexuals continues.
I’m hoping that anyone who listens to me today and is religious realizes that the world is changing and that the acceptance of all people is the way forward. And that we are incredibly and wonderfully made and that we are not broken. I had a close friend tell me they couldn’t come to my wedding because I was marrying a woman. May you not be that friend.
Find a therapist in your area: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us?tr=Hdr_Brand
Low-cost therapy for black women: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/
Low cost remote and in person therapy: https://openpathcollective.org/
Until next time, be well.