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.

16 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

  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.

    1. I love God, I love Jesus, he has performed many mericals in my life. I wouldent be here today if it werent for him.
      I was.raised baptist but I went to a friend of mines catholic church. A priest aproached me the other priest wouldent give me a blessing but this one did. I told him I wasnt catholic. He asked if I believe in jesus and his sacrifice and praid for forgiveness. Yes I do and meditate. He told me there were going to be many religions in heaven. That tjat was all I needed. I knew that but was shocked to hear it coming from a priest.
      It doesent matter as long as.you have that, faith is our biggest assett, God doesent care how you wear you’re clothes, clean or dirty, rich or poor, we all have a soul and that has no color or race attached. God loves us all and all souls are pricless. So religeon dosent grant you salvation. Repentance, and faith as well as helping your fellow man and woman with kindness.

  6. All the questions you just asked can all be answered though.

    1. Hello Jarrett,
      I believe that many of your questions are valid and can only be answered with the scriptures. I would suggest that you forward these questions to The First Church of our Lord Jesus Christ in Philadelphia, PA. To our Pastor, Teacher and Guide Apostle Gino Jennings, qnd prayerfully he can open up the scriptures to answer these concerns you have. B Blessed

  7. dress code is a thing for all religions. not just the christian church. i would said, dress accordingly to the respected function and premises. no harm doin that. even in other places, there’s dress code, for example a bow and tie party. who’s who goin to heaven and hell, well judaism, christian and islam seems to be more exclusive on those term. unless you’re a budhhist or hinduism, where reincarnation and inclusivity is adhere. men wrote bible, so were other holy book such as the quran, confucious, taosme, buddhism and hinduisme. the main religion in this world are mainly patriarchy by nature. religion has always been diversify, u think they are many churches and reform rules, so were other religion such as islam, budhhism and hindusime. the point is, either u ditch christianity and becomes an ashiest or do your own soul searching.

  8. I’ve listened to all the above comments, and for some reason they all leaving out the heart of their understanding and that is Jesus Christ, There is no ture understanding in no religion if Jesus Christ is not the foundation. How can you understand anything about the word of God if the spirit of God don’t live inside of you. Christ comes first ,then understanding. Let this mind be in you thats also in Christ Jesus.

  9. But you know, a lot of people who go to church are not into religion either. It’s about the richness of your spiritual life. That’s why many church goers are maintaining their faith without even going to church because of the pandemic rules. You CAN have religious practice and still have a rich robust relationship of spirituality with God. I don’t believe that God has called us to leave what only He has started – the church. He wants us to use our gifts and abilities to build up the church and not tear it down.

  10. 1. You don’t choose God, He chooses you!
    2. Everyone will not be First Fruit in Gods Kingdom. Just those called and chosen to accept Christ, but God will save every human before He cast satan and his demons to the fire! This is His Will that His creation be saved!
    3. Stop trippin Because only God deserves the Glory and the praise!

  11. Thanks for posting this article, If Looking for the churches in south Wichita, then visit the restoration church, Here you can learn that We should believe that it’s God’s desire to restore us into a right relationship with Him. that how to give all attention and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ in your busy schedule. For more information, please visit at https://restorationchurchwichita.com

  12. Church is simply a place where we fellowship to strengthen our faith. It some how have some capacity to keep us on track, if church leadership does not lose focus. The focus is to keep our faith consolidate it with others faith. The goal is till we all reach the unity of faith. Because of contention on leadership fragmentation has taken over the vision, we are divided and the vision is fast divided. Christianity has no flaw it is our practice that is flaw.

  13. I couldn’t agree more! Right on point. I am 76 and I have always said that religion was the first big business. It’s still true today.

  14. 1.(IITim 2:15- Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.) The questions you submitted can be correctly answered by “rightly” dividing the word of God.
    2. How we feel or think is irrelevant. We must worship according to the will of God. Then the question must be asked, “How can we “know” the will of God to obey him?”
    3. Through the scriptures, the Bible. 1Cor 2:11&12- For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
    4. God’s will for us is found in the Scriptures, the revealed word of God.
    5. IITim 3:16 &17-All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

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