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How I Defined my Own Morality and Why I Stopped Practicing Religion

Life is definitely really weird. A LOT of things just don’t make sense to me. The more I learn, the more I realize I actually don’t know… Think about it… But before I begin, I should address my stance on religion and beliefs. Here we go, let me give a disclaimer:

  1. I would be lying if I said I respect every belief. I respect beliefs that don’t promote any sort of violence or discrimination, are harmless, and carry good intention.

  2. This post is not meant to offend anyone, it is simply a reflection of my experience with religion and the opinions I have formed throughout my lifetime.

  3. Please read objectively and with an open mind in order to truly understand my perspective. I’m open to any sort of discussions or challenges to my statements.

Lets begin.

For most of my life, I identified as Catholic. I was raised in a Catholic home, went to church, prayed with my mother every night, read the Bible, and placed all my faith in this religion. I was even born on Easter! In elementary school I remember someone asking who in the class was Catholic and who was Christian. Mostly everyone in the class identified with one or the other (maybe not Robby lol). Being a young child, I didn’t know there were all these other religions. Once I did learn more, I still stayed convinced that my belief was the correct one. I was almost brainwashed into believing my form of Catholicism was how one must abide, otherwise, they’d be damned.

As I grew up, started learning more, exploring the world more, and began to open my mind up, things started to seem a little fishy and just not right…

Why would God damn homosexuals? Why couldn’t you have sex before marriage? Is there really a Heaven and Hell? Why are so many people suffering if God is real? How do I know my religion is the right one? Where is the proof?

After asking myself these questions, I decided to look more into it. Also I’m a big science girl so I guess I look at life, creation, and “fate” more objectively.

Life is not only precious, but it is rare. The odds that we are even brought into existence is extremely rare. But it must be random… Otherwise, what determines our fate?

I’m not completely atheist. There could be some form of deity; I can’t say there isn’t. But I also can’t say that there is one for sure. As I look back on history, I am shocked by how religion has divided so many people, has been the cause of so many wars, murders, and immoral practices. Despite this, religion has allowed people to find themselves within a supportive community that offers guidance, support, and faith. Going to church made me feel good, I'll admit. However, I still couldn't answer those burning questions. Is my religion moral? How does one even define morality? This is when I started to consider purpose. If everything was created randomly, if there is no afterlife, what is the purpose? With that reasoning, couldn’t anyone behave any way and not have to worry about going to heaven or hell? Doesn’t that mean that one’s existence ultimately means nothing on the large-scale?

With these thoughts, I took a step back and thought about what it is I know for sure. This lifetime is the only thing we know for sure. I know I was born into this life, into this body, and I know I will die. These are certainties. So how do I want to live my life that I know I have?

Thankfully, I was born healthy, into a loving family with decent means, and with privilege. I have no physical, environmental, or social limitations that would prohibit me from doing whatever it is I want to pursue. I lost sight of that in high school. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I lost myself in high school. I was so focused on building my resume, being the perfect student, perfect athlete, perfect musician, perfect popular teenager, that I started forgetting who I was and what I actually wanted to do. Once I realized I was community-college bound, I accepted that, and started to relax. This is my life. This is my path. So that summer, I set my intentions. I am not here to play games. Life is what you make it. So I began planting the seeds.

I evaluated what was and wasn’t working in my life. I ignored religion and began to develop my own definition of living morally, ethically, and selflessly. For four years, I’ve practiced non-violence towards all living and sentient beings. To me, this is my form of meditation, my form of self-respect and respect for others. I thought about one’s typical life choices. In America, one usually goes to school, then college, then goes off to work, and stops when they retire. I refuse to pay the ridiculous cost of college (such a scam) or go into debt, so I decided to take the cost-effective approach and try to get a full ride somewhere. Realizing community college would give me more free time and flexibility, I made traveling my priority. This summer I saved all my paychecks and put them all into a savings account, keeping my tips as my spending money. I planned multiple trips, which unfortunately I had to cancel because of COVID-19.

The reason I made traveling a priority was not because I always wanted to be on vacation. Instead, it was to learn, to immerse myself in a foreign environment, to better understand different cultures and ways of thinking, to evaluate what it is that us humans have in common. Not only this, but to learn more about myself and how I wanted to use my experiences to reach my full potential both as global citizen and as an individual. I began to meditate. Meditation had improved my focus, my happiness, and had indirectly led to a sudden period of intense lucid-dreaming. I had engraved a new pathway of consciousness in my brain, one that still confuses me.

As I explored myself, my interests, and made deep-dives into my school work, I finally somewhat defined my life purpose. Of course, I’ve made many mistakes throughout my lifetime, as everyone else does. These experiences were huge reality checks for me. So here is what I’ve taken from life so far:

  1. We must live in the present. By live in the present I mean this: no one can change the past. We can’t go back in time. Because of this, it is almost pointless to wish things were different. It is what it is. As much as we wish we could go back, take back what we said, have that person back in our lives, been honest when it was called for, change our actions, we simply can’t. We must accept the past, embrace it, and learn. Reflect, but not dwell. Acknowledge and grow. The same goes for the future. Instead of wishing we were there already, wishing for wealth, success, and/or happiness, we must focus on the present moment and how one can use this time to eventually reach those goals. Us humans always have so much going on, so much to worry about. We keep ourselves so busy that we forget to just take a moment, reflect, and be present.

  2. In order to love others or let others love you, you must learn to love yourself first. It is unfair to rely or depend on others to make you happy. If there is something you don’t like about yourself, evaluate why. Perhaps you can change it or perhaps you can accept yourself for who you are. No one is perfect. Often, insecurity can be the root of jealousy, hatred, and/or self-destructive behavior. Social media has taken over our lives, has given us a platform to say and do things we would never do in person, and only allows us to see the surface-level. Sometimes we envy the lives of others, not realizing everyone has their own battles, insecurities, and hardships. Sometimes we project unprecedented hate on others to make ourselves feel better. Again this all stems from insecurity. If we just learned to love ourselves, be confident with who we are, accept our circumstances, we could learn to support each other without feeling envious, feeling happy for the success of others, while learning and growing.

  3. It is a waste of time to care about nonsense and how others perceive you when you know your truth. Being vegan for sure taught me this one. I constantly face challenges and mockery to my beliefs. Initially, this irritated me immensely as I always felt I had to defend myself. No one really questions anyone else’s diet, but as soon as I mention veganism, suddenly everyone becomes a nutritionist. Eventually, I learned to receive these challenges with patience. I used to say I could never be vegan and I wasn’t for most of my life. After years of research, self-evaluation, and developing my moral compass, I know being vegan guides me into becoming my best self, requiring discipline, honesty, and consideration of the impacts of my lifestyle choices. I know that being vegan is the single best thing I could do for myself, for others, and for the environment. I don’t have to prove that to anyone. No one should have to prove anything. As long as you know your truth, the opinions of others shouldn’t matter.

  4. To keep an open mind is to be intellectually courageous. I find it difficult to connect with people who are confined by an inability to look beyond what they know or what they think they know. To think for yourself without letting bias, culture, tradition, unreliable media, or the opinions of others influence your perception is essential in progression as a society, relationships, and as an individual. To do so, one must let go of their ego. Being mindful, calm, and collected will allow us to see things for how they are and will prevent our emotions from tainting our discernment. Innately, we are programmed to “discriminate” primarily as a method of survival, to identify danger from safety. We like to associate ourselves with people, concepts, and environments that are familiar and comfortable. Despite this, we have the ability to break down these mental barriers and achieve our full learning potential…

I’m only 18 and I’ve got a lot to learn still. Honestly, it will be so cool looking back when I’m older and seeing my mindset at this age. I wonder how things will change, if my opinions will remain the same, or if I will form others. For now, this is how I think and how I chose to live my life.

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