Agnostic Humanist In The South

What I Miss From Religion/Church.

If you grew up in any sort of organized religion you probably had events/holidays/retreats of sorts that were meant to ignite your faith/dedication/spirituality. I think of Southern Baptist Revivals or Lent or Ramadan. There’s aways youth-focused events too, often wrapped around trips to conferences or spiritual retreats or lock-ins. In the Catholic church I attended SEARCH as a teen and in the Episcopalian Church I attended HAPPENINGS.

I’ve been thinking about all of these types of things lately.

When I was separating myself from religion and church I kinda looked down on these type of things because I always felt there were elements of brainwashing wrapped up into them. Make me exhausted as a teenager after sleepless nights at retreats and then stick me in a powerful spiritual moment where I lay open my vulnerabilities. Prey on my fears of hell at a revival. Starve me with fasting. All of these type of things I associated negatively as I was separating myself from all of it.

But now that I’m very far away I can look at it all with clearer eyes and I have been thinking a lot lately about wishing I had the secular equivalent of these type of events.

I miss the spiritual intoxication that came with these experiences. I miss being with others in the same moments in searching and being inspired by their vulnerabilities and motivated for self-improvement. I miss that feeling that I attributed to GOD that filled my heart and made me sad when it was over.

I am tangentially connected to some spiritual women’s groups in my town and so I’ve been attended some events and been invited to others but…something always felt off about it. Not necessarily with the event, but with me. Like…it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Or that I wasn’t looking for the same thing the other women were.

Sometimes I watch a TED talk or read a Medium article or open a self-help book and I get a twinge of the call to change/rise up that I remember feeling in these religious events. Specifically right now I’m reading UNTAMED by Glennon Doyle and there are definitely moments while reading that when I feel inspired and motivated for renewal. But they’re just these glimpses because I’m experiencing them in the middle of my normal life.

What was great about the religious events like Lent or retreats or conferences is that we were all focused on bettering ourselves as a GROUP and so these moments of inspiration had nutritious soil to grow and expand during the fast/event/long weekend. If I’m just reading or watching these things in my own life without some sort of nurturing group of like-minded people to commune with at mass or in group sessions or at meal-time…it’s like the inspiration fizzles a bit.

These religious events worked because there were MANY of us and I just haven’t figured out how to recreate that in my secular world.

I mean, y’all, I went to a Southern Baptist Revival in the late 90s and got SAVED. I answered an alter-call I was so swept up in everything! I GOT DUNKED IN A BAPTISMAL POOL A WEEK OR TWO LATER. I mean, I was a sucker for big moments of inspiration…

…because I was overwhelmed with shame and was desperate for some feeling of forgiveness or love.

Maybe you have to feel that lost to be that moved by something? Maybe the reason why I’ve struggled so much to recreate those feelings in my secular life is because I’m at a much more level/stable place to begin with? Maybe it’s hard to feel the surge of inspiration if you aren’t at a metaphorical rock bottom?

I don’t know. Like the glimpses I mentioned above, sometimes I also get glimpses of it on difficult trail runs with friends. Sometimes I get glimpses of it listening to a personal story on a podcast or a video. Maybe I just need to learn to savor those flashes of light and quit longing for something I don’t necessarily have the foundation for anymore.

My point? Read UNTAMED. It’s really good.

3 thoughts on “What I Miss From Religion/Church.”

  1. Oh I loved that book! And I’ve read a few of Jen Hatmaker’s books too even though I’ve been out of the church (grew up Baptist) for over 20 years now. I’m not a believer but I sure can get down with believers who truly do things Jesus would do and fight for a more just world. Another woman I’ve found is Nadia Bolz-Weber. I think I would actually attend her church and feel comfortable. Have you read any of her books?

  2. I don’t know if you will feel more connected using meditation, but I love the Oprah Wifrey-Deepak Choprah “Hope in Uncertain Times”. I know the feeling you miss. Meditation helps me connect.

  3. I know I’ve said this before, but you are LITERALLY describing the reason why Unitarian Universalist churches still exist! UU congregations are full of people of varying levels of faith (from “spiritual” to pagan to atheist), but it’s all about the community and shared search for meaning in life. If Hunstville has a UU church you should check it out…

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