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I am not a Christian. I identify as an Eclectic Pagan.

I am not sorry.

I am not interested in being converted to Christianity, so don’t even try.

My relationship with Christianity has been… tumultuous.

It all started at a young age, in Sunday school. My paternal grandmother would make my sisters and me go to church with her on Sunday mornings, but my little sister and I were too young to sit for the sermon. So we went downstairs with a couple of other kids for Sunday School.

That was where the trouble began.

No, I wasn’t molested or attacked (that’s a common narrative among people who leave the church, and it’s disturbing that it’s so common I have to say I WASN’T in that demographic).

At Sunday School, we were taught a song that said Jesus “loves me” because (and I quote) “the Bible tells me so.”

And I thought, “What the? A book is telling me a person who is dead LOVES me? That’s fucking creepy! Why doesn’t he tell me that himself? Don’t give me that crap about how he died on the cross, he came back to freaking life like three days later! And where the hell is he now? Dead? AGAIN?”

So I was starting to see the logical fallacies fairly early on.

Then, my older sister came out as bisexual. She was in her teens at the time, and she started dating her then-girlfriend, who was pretty cool.

At first I was apprehensive. They were the first ever gay/lesbian couple in my life at a time and place when EVERYONE told me love was between a man and a woman.

I thought about it, saw the two of them be happy, and I realized, “Their love is valid, too.”

Not according to a lot of preachers and Christians, who told my sister and her girlfriend – remember, they’re teenagers – that they were going to hell and shaming their families.

And these same Christians thought that my other sister and me were ALSO DOOMED just because our older sibling was a sexuality that wasn’t deemed acceptable. So we were doomed to also be lesbians and go to hell because of my big sister’s “sin.”

Excuse you, but that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. My older sister’s life is not MY life. Her sexuality is not mine.

This happened to me throughout high school in an even worse way. My best friend throughout freshman and sophomore year was a lady who fancied other ladies.

So by high school Christian logic, that meant that OF COURSE I WAS A LESBIAN TOO.

Which I wasn’t.

But oh wait, it gets better.

In middle school, My sister’s girlfriend started teaching me about Paganism and Wicca (FYI, her sexual preferences and her faith are not connected).

It was a different religion for sure. There were some things I liked about it (like the emphasis on introspection and communion with nature), though there were other things about it that I thought were silly. Like certain incantations and tools in rituals made me wonder. I also wondered if there really were multiple gods or just one god.

I still had a lot of questions, but to me, Wicca and Paganism was a better vehicle to truth than Christianity. Wicca and Paganism encourage self-exploration and questioning, where Christianity was about proclaiming the Bible as the answers. Don’t question anything, especially the validity of your church leader, and you will go to “Heaven.”

So, in middle school, I came out as Pagan. At the time, I called myself a Witch.

In high school, my first best friend, the aforementioned lover of the same sex, was also a Pagan.

Someone must have overheard us talk about our faith, because rumors started going around the school that we were performing magic and casting curses on the other students in the Theater club we were volunteering with.

Looking back on it now, it’s hilarious that people thought I was some kind of lesbian witch casting curses with sex magic.

But at the time, I was getting stink eyes, threats, and punches to the face from “good Christian kids” for my faith and my friendship with someone who was “going to hell.”

So, you know, if you tell me, with a straight face, that Jesus is your “buddy,” I’m going to walk away from you or give you a weird look.

I thought of this the other day, actually: I went to the grocery store to pick up dinner and there, by the entrance, was a middle-aged man who talked AT me for twenty minutes about how “Jesus is trying to talk to you” and “you need to open your heart to Jesus or you’re going to hell.”

Do Christians have NO social graces whatsoever? It’s like they don’t know how to talk to people like they’re people.

Now, saying all of this, I need to say: I do have very good friends who identify as Christians. But the reason they are my friends is because they respect my beliefs and I respect theirs. We don’t try to convert each other because there’s absolutely no reason to, and we know that. Our paths to truth suit ourselves and we don’t try to tell each other that the others’ path is wrong. We know what works for us.

Individual Christians CAN be cool. Christianity as a system amd a doctrine is a problem.

The thing is, people think religion and spirituality are the same thing. They’re not. Religion is an organized system with dates and organization leaders telling you how to pray and shit. Spirituality is the individual feelings (or soul) within you.

So when people say they’re looking for The Truth (whatever that is) they should say they’re looking for the SPIRITUAL Truth.

Religion is just the vehicle you take on your path to that spiritual truth.

Pro tip: It’s ok to change vehicles!

Everyone’s path to spirituality is individual, no matter what vehicle(s) you take. Some may find spirituality without a vehicle. Some may never find spirituality because of the bus they’re on, no matter what bus it is. Some people even refuse to get on a bus altogether.

But when you say that one person’s spirituality is wrong because it doesn’t match yours? That’s a problem.

Nowadays I consider myself very spiritual, but not very religious. I was never really a fan of religions as an organizing force. My spiritual path is for myself, and I don’t expect others to join me.

If your vehicle to truth means you’re a member of an organized religion, that’s ok! Whatever works for you.

Just don’t try to tell me that I should join your bus. I would rather walk.

Thanks for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.