A lot of us around here have been through the experience of leaving the religion we grew up with, or are in the process of doing so. It tends to be a very messy life event, and can even be dangerous, depending on your family and the particular religion you’re leaving. I think a change in religion can be an eye opening experience, and has the potential to be a wonderful thing. I know in my own case, the switch from Catholicism to Kemeticism has opened some pretty massive doors in terms of spiritual growth and health.
But changing your religion can be really hard. It’s not an overnight thing, even if you feel like it is, and sometimes we are ready to move on quite some time before we admit it to ourselves. Letting go can be really hard–often we find ourselves embedded in communities, and find people we really love, but who we only connect with through that religion. It can require rethinking your entire worldview, and admitting that some of your once treasured beliefs may be wrong. In some cases, you may even literally have to start your life over from scratch (I’m thinking of some of the cases where girls have left fundamentalist Christianity and not even had a birth certificate because their parents refused to register their birth). At the same time, sometimes those risks are worth it to become the people we are meant to be, and to actually live our lives.
How, though, do you know if you should change your religion?
This is a very personal choice, and I can’t really come up with a list of signs for you. But generally, speaking, if you aren’t getting anything out of it, it may be time to admit that you need a change in your religious life. Now, that’s not to say you can’t go through times of questioning, sorrow, or doubt. Those are a part of any religious path, and I would argue that a certain level of questioning is not just healthy, but essential to a good practice. Based on my own experiences, I would say that if your worship time (whether it’s in a church or at a shrine in your own home) brings you more sorrow than peace, that’s a red flag. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t think I believe in the Gods/God” that’s a red flag. If you find yourself alienating other people within your faith because they don’t believe the way you do, that might be a red flag. If even thinking about your current religion makes you cry (or want to cry), that might be a red flag.
It is my firm belief that a healthy spiritual practice will encourage you to better yourself. It will encourage you to take care of yourself and others. It will encourage you to grow and explore the wondrous world around us. It will provide you with hope when you are lost, and it will give you a firm foundation to stand on when things get rough.
If that’s not what you’re getting, it may be time for a change. Now, that’s not to say you should just give up your religion–only you can know for sure if its the right thing to do. It may be that you just need to change things up a bit, and find a new way to practice. In that case, talk with others on your path, and see if you can get any ideas that will liven things up and help you reconnect. But if you try this over and over with no or little success, it may be time.
And this is okay.
I want to say that again. It’s okay. If you need to leave your religion because that’s what’s best for you, that is completely okay. Even you left another religion for the one you’re leaving now, that’s okay. And it’s okay to feel sad and upset about it. It’s okay to leave your religion even if you’re not leaving it for another. It’s even okay to leave your lack of religion to take up a new one.
Now, I’m not saying that you should just up and change religions whenever things get hard. And it’s probably not a good idea to change religions every couple of years or so. But well, part of the reason I named my blog The Meandering Path is because sometimes we may have to try several different things to find what works best for us. I know I’ve meandered a fair bit in my time, that’s for sure. It’s okay to explore. It’s okay to say, this worked really well in the past, but it’s kind of screwing up my life now. And when you hit that point, it’s okay to let it go. Your religion is your choice–unless you are a minor still living with your parents, no one is forcing you to believe anything. It’s scary, and not a little painful, but it can open your life back up to new opportunities, and allow you to become the person you are meant to be.
(And of course it’s okay to love, be happy with, and stay in your religion, too. And it’s okay to have a nonstandard relationship with your religion as well. But if you don’t believe in it, and it makes you miserable, for the love of all that is holy, do what’s best for yourself and find the next stop on your path.)
(originally published Apr 21, 2017 on my tumblr)