Rafed English

Women Who Felt a Pull Toward the Religious Experience

Disillusionment, confusion, unanswered questions-these describe the early religious experience of many of the women. However, in spite of frustration, their stories show their devotion, of being in the "search mode" and looking for stability in their religious life. +My father is Presbyterian and my mother is Catholic. My father was never active in any church, but Mother tried to raise us Catholic. I was baptized in the Catholic church and received my First Communion at about the age of eight. After that, we only went about once a year. When I was about ten, I became a very active member of a small Presbyterian church nearby. By ninth grade, I was helping the minister's wife teach Sunday school. In high school I started a church youth group by recruiting four of my friends to join me. It was a small group, but we were content to get together to study the Bible, talk about God, and raise money for charities.

These friends and I would sit together and talk about spiritual issues. We debated about questions in our minds: What happens to the people who lived before Jesus came (go to heaven or hell)? Why do some very righteous people automatically go to hell just because they don't believe in Jesus (we thought about Gandhi)? On the other hand, why do some horrible people (like my friend's abusive father) get rewarded with heaven just because they're Christian? Why does a loving and merciful God require a blood sacrifice (Jesus) to forgive people's sins? Why are we guilty of Adam's original sin? Why does the Word of God (Bible) disagree with scientific facts? How can Jesus be God? How can One God be three different things? We debated these things, but never came up with good answers. The church couldn't give us good answers either; they only told us to "have faith." +I was raised Catholic, but stopped attending services in high school due to disenchantment on my mother's part. I enjoyed the traditions of the Catholic church and liked the conservative values. There were always many unanswered questions for me even as a child-I could not accept the vague or nonsense answers. I knew even as a small child that these vague areas of faith and philosophy of blind obedience to the clergy were not right.

+I was a Christian by birth. I had always loved Sunday school and church. In a mixed-up, divorced, dysfunctional family, I was looking for stability, not just from a community but from God. After the age of eighteen I searched from church to church looking for "the answer" only to find more confusing messages from each minister and pastor. I remember always telling my best friend that I wished I could find a church. I always had an empty space inside of me. She would empathize with me and try to encourage me to go on Sundays. But by the age of twenty-two, I had given up on "man-made religion" but not on God.

+I was raised as a Catholic. My mother practices her faith but my father is not attending mass regularly. Since I was in elementary school, I questioned the teachers (nuns) and parents about the Trinity (who should I pray to: Jesus, God the Father, Holy Spirit? How about the Saints?). I was told there was no explanation and I just had to accept it the way it is. It was too confusing to me. I was never satisfied with Catholicism. I stopped going to church at age seventeen, but I was still praying to God as I had from very early childhood. +I was a Baptist and I was attending Catholic school. I was very involved with the activities of the family church, but I can't say that I had any real commitment. As a teenager, I was constantly searching for what was correct.

+For many years I "bounced around" from one Christian church to another. I was not happy at any of them. If something didn't work out with one church, I'd go to another. I thought that's all there was. Eventually, I became disenchanted with the whole idea. All I had seen were hypocrites, anyway, so I stopped attending church all together. I then entered the darkest phase of my life. I literally sank to the bottom of society. These women were discontent with what they found at church and were questioning and searching for something to fill their spiritual void. There was a sense of readiness on their part for that which would meet the religious and spiritual needs they felt.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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