Spirit

Keeping the Faith, but Losing My Religion

Struggling to reconcile a decreasing attachment to traditions in the midst of a steady relationship to the Divine.

by Jarrett Hill

There are moments when I feel quintessentially millennial: when a friend of mine, a Gen-Xer, rolls his eyes when I refer to something or someone as “problematic.;” when I’m walking down the street, looking at my phone, not paying attention to what’s happening around me; when I ask Alexa to… well, do just about anything.

But in the years since becoming an adult I’ve found that a phenomenon that was occurring inside me is not just me but is something widespread amongst my peers: I’m falling more and more out of love with religion.



Now, it’s important to make a distinction here, upfront, very quickly. I distinguish faith and religion as two very different things. For me, faith is what I believe in, that there is God. I refer to God as God, as the All, a Divine source, it just depends on the day. I do not –  at least, when I’m thinking about it – refer to God as male with male pronouns.  I just don’t think of God as a guy (or a girl for that matter).

When it comes to religion, I think of it as the verbs associated with how I exercise, practice, or enact my faith. If the Bible is an instruction manual, I see religion as the actions I’m being instructed to do. And church is sort of the arena where we go to watch, to learn, to fellowship, and (for some) show it off.

That is, frankly, where things start to get hazy for me.

I’ve been a member of a church for nearly my whole life. I’ve almost always had a pastor, a preferred place to sit, and an impressive repertoire of gospel music ready to participate in most praise and worship moments post-haste. I’ve served in various forms of church leadership, sang in church choirs (two right now), volunteered in many of the ways. But the more I participate in church the more questions I have, many of which I don’t know have satisfactory answers. Some of these I’ve asked myself as far back as childhood.

“So we, the Baptists Christians, are the only ones going to Heaven? Really?”

“Why did God only use men to write the books of the Bible?”

“If the book is only by men, is it inherently sexist?”

“Why doesn’t church have more female leadership?”

“How much of this sermon is God’s language and how much is actually the messenger’s?”

“What’s with the church dress codes?”

“How is it that a church can changed the rules on what they believe?”

“If there are new rules, were the things that weren’t ok before always ok and we just didn’t know it?”

“God needs me to do something? But… why?”

“How is it that we’ve translated this into every tongue, then into endless interpretations, but then get specific about semantics, syntax, and language?”

I could go on for hours – ask my friends, I have – but I promised to keep this to about 700 words.  I feel like the more I find myself in church, the more I find myself asking if this is a business that’s aiming to sustain its relevance and business model, or if it’s a divinely necessary practice to get in at the pearly gates.

“Are there like… actually gates? Why do we need security in Heaven? Is Heaven like… really a thing?”

And there’s data to show that I’m not really alone, as you may have heard. According to Pew Research from only a few years ago, the younger you are the less likely you are to believe religion is “very important,” to attend weekly services, or to pray “daily or more.” What’s interesting-er is that study also finds that all age groups have pretty similar responses on questions of their senses of wonder about the universe, feeling a sense of gratitude or thankfulness, and spending time in thought about the meaning and purpose of life.

Moreover, my faith and connection with God doesn’t seem to wain. I’m more grateful to God than probably ever before for all of the wonderful blessings in my life. I probably spend more time trying to express that gratitude than ever before. I find meditation to be a better form of prayer (for me) to connect and hear than standing hand-in-hand with a stranger.

While my parents are undoubtedly in fervent prayer by this point in this piece, and knowing it probably sounds counterintuitive to many of those in the community of believers, I think losing my religion is helping me keep the faith.



5 Comment

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  1. I’m a 52 been a member of a church for close to 30 years and things are going backwards & haywire if I could use such term! This article was just a conversation between me and my friend yesterday standing in the middle of a closed down “toys r us” building that is now being used for a seasonal Halloween store! We talked on tradition, dress code( they said come as you are then put pressure for you to change your attire)! Wow! We wear white every first Sunday for communion which is more are less a requirement but your clothing is not what God cares about( everything in moderation of course)! Just so many stipulation (made by man/woman)! One of the questions that was address in the article is one I’ve asked over and over we can’t be the only ones going to heaven with all this religion stipulations! Some churches and people act that way! I could go on & on but let’s just say good article and I total get it!

  2. Amazing article….thanks

  3. There are questions in this life we are not meant to know, i believe the more you read the bible and the closer you become to Jesus a lot of these things don’t matter and thats where faith comes in and tells us that God has all the answers and that when he wants us to know, we will, whether in this life or the hereafter.

  4. Thank you Jarrett Hill for this article. Your article was right on point and the reason why there are so many wandering through life today without a relationship or who no long serve in a household of faith.
    Most grew up in a church attending worship and other Biblical study with messages empowering them with a roadmap of how to live and organize there lives. Depending your age, you lived the ten commandments and learned the ten commandments. Then there was a shift in the mindset? Many houses of worship became a place of who can give and do the most, forgetting the word and foundation of faith. There were distinct divisions driving people away along with their family. The family has always been the cornerstone of the church and the place where the family could seek not only spiritual food but strength, resources, and guidance. Sadly, that has changed leaving many with church hurts and lack of faith.
    Your relationship with God and prayer are the most powerful, elements to change behavior and enlarge your territory.

  5. Great article. I was an atheist. Hated religion. Still do. It killed my Boss & Best Friend, that Jewish carpenter who I reached out to on the brink of suicide. He reached back, healed me of an incurable disease and instantaneously in the same blink of an eye, delivered me from prescription drug addiction. No one will ever convince He isn’t real or the best thing that ever happened to me. Nothing else nor anyone else in the Universe could have done that. Churchianity is a turnoff even though I was a pastor for 23 years. Religion is only mentioned 3 times in the entire Bible; 2.5 time its negative. The biggest problem I’ve discovered is that people preach a false gospel: turn or burn, pie in the sky when you die, social justice, fundamentals that aren’t fundamental, liberalism that doesn’t Fred anyone. Jesus had one gospel. It was and is His divine obsession: the awesome great news of the Kingdom of God. It’s mentioned over 160 times in the New Testament and it carries the essence of everything anyone in the world would ever want in this life and for all eternity: righteousness (the secret to satisfaction), shalom (the essence of well being, wholeness and prosperity) and fullness of joy which speaks for itself. Oh yeah, and total unconditional love which heals us of every dis- ease we will ever face. Study the kingdom of God, it takes a lifetime to embrace and discover its priceless secrets. Religiosity will become irrelevant. I’m Ken R Unger. California. Let’s talk. My books on Amazon. You can find me.

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