Saturday, May 26, 2012


Did you grow up with religion?

Did you 'practice'


Give yourself over,

have faith,


I grew up blissfully unaware of religion. Blissfully.

So what does that mean? It meant as a small child and throughout my formative years I was my guide. Myself alone. I knew right from wrong, avoided 'evil' or bad, gravitated towards the good and the 'pure' and was content and happy.

I had a great innate moral compass working for me, it was borne of innocence and hope and my hopes were of beauty, peace and harmony as I would imagine most children's wishes might be.

At primary (grade) school there were children with their crucifix's hanging around their necks, girls wearing earrings that were gifts from their confirmation - to me they were odd statements the value did not translate. I wore on trend 70's Avon jewelery and I thought it was the Harry Winston of the day. I did not judge  as it had never occurred to me to do so.

 As I grew older I caught the disparaging cold glare as children my age recoiled from me when they learned I had no religion to claim.  Were they visualizing my poor barren heathen soul writhing in purgatory for eternity? They flinched as if I had told them I had just played with black plague infested rats and offered my hand.

We had just finished playing 'Charlies Angles' in the play ground I didn't understand how one query might alter things so much. It seemed that any religion was better than no religion. Agnostic, atheist and gnostic had never entered my virgin ears I had nothing to hang my hat on and was light and free. I did not understand there intense vibes of doom.

I grew up north of Melbourne in a very ethno centric area full of migrants. Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Seventh day Adventist, Muslim, it was a fairly kaleidoscopic mix dominated by Greek Orthodox and Italian and 'Australian' Catholics. There was no normal, no dominant pervasive belief.

The local kids joked and often used the phrase 'spot the aussie'. We all mingled and learned catch phrases in languages from Macedonian to Maltese. For me there were no barriers. Naivety is a blessing indeed.

My family life was I suppose very liberal and like a hippy ideal with enough tradition to keep the large family machine well oiled.


on a very non eventful day my brother and I sat in the kitchen and the discussion began. I asked my mother why was everyone else - my other three siblings baptized and my brother and I were not?

What happened?

The reply was an honest one about the internal battle within a marriage Church of England vs Irish Catholic (from parents whose parents were born here - generations of Australians), my mothers oppressive teaching at the hands of sadistic Nuns doling out corporal punishment at whim, the argument ran the full gamut, from the beauty of the full Latin Mass to the hypocrisy and heightened spiritual experience.

As I recall I was about 11 years of age. My questions were very basic. What does this mean? What if I am not baptized what if I am, why should I etc. Then came a very clear and singular message...perhaps it was my filter but it was very plain.

You invite God - love and acceptance, comfort and guidance...
but beware
with God there is perceived sin and if you sin there is punishment.
So what does this mean?
It means you are no longer free and pure - you will be judged.

I wanted to embrace it, I wanted god to take my hand but just as the door opened there came with the concept of a god was 'wrong doing', was pain, was judgment and the concept of hell. As a child why should I be threatened with hell? It struck me as terrifyingly harsh.

My brother till this day is fascinated and studies various religions, we are both very open.

Ninety percent if not more of people I know brought up with religion either reject it or talk about the guilt, the inner conflict, the fear of not wanting to displease their church or god, the burden of the guilt, the confusion.

The times I have 'missed' religion in my life have been during times of deep emotional crisis, a death, many deaths over years, personal challenges, and the odd monumental test. At those times I was aware that a sense of belonging a scripture and tradition to follow was lacking. But despite my godforsaken soul I have come through, I have had enough within me to steer me through - there were and are things I instinctively knew.

I have values and beliefs that I am proud of they are borne of me not doctrine. Do not pity me do not judge me.

Acceptance unites

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grew up very religious and became open to other perspectives anyway. But then again I also managed to be a bartender for 5 years without taking up smoking, so I'm something of an exceptional case I guess. Then again, it would seem that you too, Lisa, are rather exceptional among agnostics! Kudos on developing that sort of openness in life!

For my own (long winded) perspective on religious matters I'd recommend this essay as a starting point: