Why I’m choosing to unlearn my religion

**Writing helps me to wade through feelings and thoughts, so when I meet a difficult situation or a uniquely emotional challenge, I turn to the keys and process through my art. I wrote this post two months ago — on the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s funeral — and I think it still very much applies.

I don’t find myself awfully religious these days. I’m not interested in religious talk or ceremonies or rituals. Prayer is never something I’ve been good at doing — I’d rather make a difference than ask for it to be taken care of. And I’m probably more interested in identifying with “Slaughter-House Five” as scripture than anything else at this point. I’m sorry if this upsets you. I’m sorry if this isn’t what you expected to read from me.

Growing up, I was always the religious-ite of my friends and family. Grandparents expected me to grow up and be the good preacher. A lot of responsibility and expectations were thrust on me. I’m not complaining. Certainly, I loved it — it brought me into a very early maturity. But I think all that early maturity caused a burn out. For the past three years, I’ve moved further and further from anything to do with religion and religious people.

But, today — and very intentionally — I’m wearing the tie I last wore a year ago to my grandfather’s funeral. And it’s different. I tie a tie every morning. But today, there was something spiritual about it. And I’ve been thinking about that feeling a lot this morning.

Hear me out: perhaps religion isn’t what we’ve turned it into.

You pray to your god that I’ll become like you and I’ll pray to my god that you become like me. It’s just passive aggressive spiritual warfare. Perhaps religion doesn’t need codifiers and explanation. (Of course, phrases like “It’s a relationship, not a religion” and “Yeah, but I’m not that kind of ___” come to mind.)

Perhaps religion can be about remembering and about making memories worth remembering.

I remember my grandfather. The stories he told. The smell of his cologne. The drawl of his accent and the cackle of his laugh. I find comfort in these rememberings.

But I also find comfort in knowing I’m not alone. The nation recently watched as the vice president walked through the steps of mourning in the wake of the loss of his son. Vice President Biden has lost people he loves. In the same way, Governor Abbott has experienced loss like me and like you.

And that means this feeling of loss isn’t the only connecting quality of humanity. President Jimmy Carter gets nervous. Hemingway had writers block. Jim Wallace had a family he loved. Tom Hanks worried about money. And even Henry Kissinger…well, I don’t know if I’m that enlightened yet. So we’ll say: Even Henry Kissinger had hair — yeah, I can cope with that.

Secretary Clinton, Dr. Carson, Senator Sanders and Senator Cruz have each experienced these same feelings of joy, sadness, pain and exhaustion.

Because we’re all human. We’re all connected.

So just because I don’t pray or don’t read a certain book or don’t go to a certain place at a certain time doesn’t mean I’m not religious or that we are at odds. We’re humans — and, if you’ll let me borrow some ideology — that means we were all made by the same god. And whether that god is Zeus or Yahweh or Mary Tyler Moore, I think she wants us to enjoy each other and leave lasting, loving, impacting memories behind.

Because — when you strip it back — no one really wants war. No one wants pain. No one wants to be alone.

I say all this because in remembering my grandfather, I realized that someday people will remember me. And I don’t want that to be a fake me. So I’m opening up with people I respect and love and trust. Because life comes easier that way.

At least, that’s how I see it.