This post, by guest blogger Kat Atwell, was originally published on Medium on June 28, 2017. Thanks to Kat for letting us re-post it!
Typically, I don’t talk about my faith. I feel like it’s personal, and organized religion makes me sad, more often than not. However, a friend asked me about what I believe, and I decided today, that I’d share.
It’s interesting to see the progression of how I came to believe what I do. I was born Episcopalian, but spent most of my adolescence in the Presbyterian church. Early in high school, I participated in a Baptist youth group (although, admittedly, this was more for the social aspect than for their belief system — I never really felt like I belonged there). In the early 90s, my mom found Unity Church, and I attended their services off and on for quite some time. There was a brief stint around 1998 or so that I actually began conversion classes, with the intention of joining the Jewish faith. It was for the wrong reasons, but it did give me pause early in the process, realizing it wasn’t really authentic to convert to a religion when I didn’t have a clear picture of what I was choosing to leave behind.
It was then I started intentionally researching various religions. I took online quizzes through BeliefNet to see where my values lay (laid? lied? sat? perched?) in comparison to the organized belief systems out there. I read a lot of material that gave overviews and brief histories of religions from all over the world. It was fascinating. No kidding. I had no idea what distinct differences there were among the churches I’d attended growing up, so it was really eye-opening. Further, learning about Eastern religions was phenomenal.
I won’t lie — I found great satisfaction in reading more about cults and those religious off-shoots that just boggle the mind. If you ever want to make me happy, direct me to a religious cult documentary. I drink those …
I ALMOST WROTE “I DRINK THOSE UP LIKE KOOL-AID.”
It’s still early in my brain. Holy crap. I just made myself laugh out loud. Completely inappropriate and insensitive fact: The mass murder-suicide that Jim Jones led in Jonestown took place on my birthday when I was three years old. You’re welcome.
I know that Spirit is everywhere. I know that it’s living in the now. I know that it can take all forms, and blend itself into all stories.
As I got a little older, I visited a non-denominational church a few times, and when we moved to Denver in 2005, there were a few visits to a Universalist Unitarian church. They didn’t feel right, though. I did go back to the Unitychurch for a while.
A few years later, I found Mile Hi Church. When I mention it to people, my defenses come up really quickly. I assume people are going to laugh at what I believe. And truly, whether or not somebody agrees or supports my personal faith is entirely up to them; the people-pleasing tendencies that are so deep-rooted are what keep me from talking about religion most of the time.
So here’s what I know in my heart. I know that Spirit is everywhere. I know that it’s living in the now. I know that it can take all forms, and blend itself into all stories. I know that my god, or gods, the universe, or power — whatever, wants me to love my life, and to help others to love theirs. I believe in treating people with kindness, and consistently living with gratitude. I know that I can pray or talk to God whenever I want to. I know that the powers that be would never want me to be living in fear of what’s next. I don’t think I should need to cower as long as I know I’m doing the best I can. I know that we should help people when we’re able, and we should anticipate that good will happen in our lives, and messages are everywhere. I also believe that every person carries that spiritual love within them, so at any moment, especially if I’m being mindful, I can speak to them as I would speak to a loving spirit (again, or god, or whatever). I think that heaven is now, and potentially heaven can be forever. I have no idea what happens once our bodies die. I think we walk among angels. I think religion is personal, and while different faiths can look very different on the outside, the core beliefs are love and gratitude. To love ourselves first is to love Spirit. I think gender is a non-issue, and equality is paramount. I don’t judge others for who they love or how they love. I believe in affirmations, and that good begets good. I believe in meditation, and in slowing down. I believe in music. I believe nature to be as sacred as a cathedral, and while I love tradition, I don’t really adhere to it in my own spiritual practices. I welcome opportunities to join others when they worship, because I like to see communities coming together in love, even if I do not believe the same things they may believe.
That’s me. That’s how I go forward. I have faith in people, which makes me have faith in higher powers. At the end of the day, we’re all one.