by Dr Rachel Hall, Brisbane, Holistic Dentist
When I was a child, other families had or did religion. They went to church on Sunday, wore a cross or had a bible. They belonged to a certain community or had been christened, they believed in God and that Jesus had died for our sins and came to save us. But not my family; we had no religion.
My Dad was raised a Catholic but fell out with God when my grandma died when I was around 4, and from then on he hated the church. My Mom, well she had been raised under the Church of England, but when asked about God she always told me she didn’t really know one way or the other. She too despised church, and when I was around 12 and wanted to go to the local church sermon just to see what it was like, she forbade it.
Both my brother and I were never christened and we only went to church for weddings and funerals. Yes, we celebrated Christmas but we were not religious. I had no religion.
At school, which was apparently non-denominational, we sang hymns in assembly, recited the Lord’s Prayer and listened to gospel stories. I quite liked them and some hymns really resonated with me, whilst others didn’t – so I simply mouthed the words rather than sing, so as not to get into trouble.
From these teachings, I began to view God as something bigger and better than me — something out there, ever watching and ready to reward or punish me. And, if I was a really good girl, if I prayed long and hard enough, He might just might talk to me or send me an angel or messenger, so I knew I was one of the chosen ones.
So, knowing deep inside that God was real but not knowing how to be with Him, I became a very good girl. I would pray long and hard, often bargaining with God in a futile attempt to get Him to contact me, to show me a sign, prove his existence – and yet I still had no religion.
By the time I became a teenager my knowingness of God wavered to an uncertain belief, and then waned to my claiming I didn’t believe at all – after all, I wasn’t even religious.
I found it easier to deny His existence than consider He had deserted me, left me out in the cold, or that I hadn’t been good enough, or prayed properly – and that’s why He never showed Himself to me.
My atheism continued for years. I would ferociously declare that God didn’t exist and religion was merely a crutch used by the weak and feeble to prop them up and excuse their behaviour.
Yet, when I was 20 and I received news that I needed to travel from Leeds to Birmingham because my Dad was seriously ill, I prayed and pleaded with God the whole journey to let him live long enough for me to say goodbye – even though I had no religion.
My Dad had actually died of a sudden heart attack, aged 47, and I never got to say goodbye in the flesh. However, when I visited the chapel of rest I was overcome with the unshakable feeling of my Dad standing next to me with his arm around my shoulder. I felt at peace knowing we didn’t need to say goodbye and that he was OK.
I started to question God’s existence again, so much so that I started to explore the religions. No one religion actually spoke to me and I was surprised to see so many similarities running through them, yet couldn’t fathom why they all seemed to be fighting one another. To me, if God was an all loving being there could be no chosen ones, punishment, judgment, hell or eternal damnation. So once again I had no religion.
That is, up until a few years ago, where I came to understand through attending Universal Medicine workshops and exploring the concept for myself, that God is about love. By allowing myself to feel and connect to God, and know love, I came to understand that organised religion was about reinterpreted scriptures and man-made doctrines which had very little love in them.
When taken back to its earliest definition, the word religion essentially means relationship. A loving relationship with self, nature, others and God.
I realised that if I were in fact from God, then I too was love. And that by being loving with myself, my fellow man and nature, that I was deeply religious. I also understood that each individual’s way of being religious was very personal to them, yet carried a common thread of union, love and equalness: that our religion comes from a way of living that is known inside of us and not from a book or a preacher in a church.
By being able to experience religion in its true sense, I know God as something I feel within and around me. I understand that being religious is a natural way for us all to be.
Now I can say, “yes, I have a religion” – a loving relationship with myself, others, nature and God. My religion is the way I live. It is called The Way of the Livingness.