I hope everyone had a marvelous and debaucherous Mardi Gras! I went to a spouse social at a friend's house (I always feel so 1950s wife when I talk about "spouse socials"), and brought along a homemade king cake and wore my crawfish beads that Colby informed me are actually shrimp. I don't care. I'm still calling them crawfish.
I used this recipe for the cake, and it turned out pretty well. I think next time I'll bake it at a lower temperature, and do some kind of an egg wash to give it that nice shiny finish. I'm also going to search for some kind of fluffy cream cheese frosting, because I hated how the confectioners sugar just turned into a messy drizzle. Furthermore, gel food coloring is a tool of the devil. Who decided that was a good idea? Give me my food coloring drops back, immediately!
Anyway, today is Lent, and for the first time in years, I'm not giving anything up. Over the past few years, I've given up dessert, Facebook and Twitter, shopping, and chocolate, but I've had a lot of revelations over the past year in regards to religion, and I feel hypocritical taking part in a tradition that I'm not certain I put any stock in.
I haven't talked much about my personal religious beliefs in this space, just like I try to avoid talking much about politics. I try to keep things fairly noncontroversial for the most part, but it does feel inauthentic to share my life, but pointedly avoid the areas that make me who I am and drive many of my personal choices.
I'm still not going to go into great detail (unless you'd like to chat away from the blog!), but I can tell you that just as having faith is a difficult road, realizing that you simply don't believe the things that you were raised to believe is just as frightening. To hear other people putting their hopes and dreams into a system that I can't accept as fact is jarring. I am envious of people who believe that their life has a God-given purpose or reason. Because instead of feeling that my life is driven toward a preordained destination, I am the one who is responsible for my own life. Me and my choices. Not a deity.
Colby and I talked about this a little bit a couple of months ago, and through our conversation as well as years of reading and education on a number of different religions and their histories in various civilizations, I came to the place where I am now. I would not say that I am an atheist. I don't know that agnostic is the right term either. I'm still working through a lot of what I am and what I label myself, but suffice it to say that though I believe in the basic tenet of Christianity--kindness to others--I don't find the rest of it believable.
I think religion has caused more trouble than good on this planet. I think it is silly to argue whether Buddha, or God, or Allah or any other god is "right" or "wrong". It's mindblowing to me that any one religion can look upon the stories of another belief system as "myth", but believe wholly in their own myths.
I believe that there is so much more to the universe than what humans are able to conceive of. That we use religion as a tool to explain the unexplainable. To control people. I believe that when I die, I will simply cease to exist, and I don't find that frightening. Heaven is for those of us left behind. To believe that one day, we will be reunited with those loved ones who have gone before. To make the loss less painful.
I could go on and on, and honestly, I find religion completely fascinating. I have absolutely no desire to convert anyone else to my way of thinking, and would never want to take away anyone's faith if it is what sustains them and keeps them happy. But for me, finally accepting that I had made my way onto a different road was incredibly freeing. I still pray with the belief that putting good energy into the world can bring good energy back into your own life. I don't judge others for what they believe or ask that they not pray for me if they feel so compelled.
I am very much a live and let live person, and just as I have no desire to convert others, please don't try to convert me. I'm on a lifelong journey, and there is no guarantee that in ten years my beliefs won't have changed again. But for now, this is where I am, and I don't feel that giving up chocolate for 40 days will bring me to any higher spiritual level. Instead, I will continue to read and learn and think, and be forever grateful that I live in a world that allows this religious freedom.