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What Do You Believe In?

What Do You Believe In?

RELEVANT magazine talks with Lindsey Roberts, who does not identify herself as a Christian, about where she stands on religion, Christians and spirituality.

[RELEVANT magazine:] Do you believe in any kind of supernatural creatures (anything, from demons and angels to fauns and unicorns)? How about miracles?

[Lindsey Roberts:] I do not believe in God. I do not participate in religion. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t be spiritual. I believe there are forces at work in the world. Sometimes I think they’re the souls of people who’ve died, who stay behind on earth to pass on the feelings that they have left over from their life. Maybe when they’ve gotten rid of these emotions, they will go on to rest—in heaven or somewhere else—or maybe they’ll start life over as a different human being or animal. I like to think that these spirits look after us and try to help.

[RM:] If you turned your worldview into a religion, what would its basic tenets be?

[LR:] I’m not concrete in any of my beliefs, but that doesn’t bother me. I think the uncertainty of the world is what makes life so interesting and exciting. I like coming up with my own explanations, because what I think of is certain to suit my mind. I never liked being given answers and told that they were the only explanation. I never liked being told that actions were either good or bad, with no room to take into account each person’s experiences or intentions. Over time, I began to realize that much of what I’d been taught as a child as the absolute only way to be a good person no longer made much sense to me. I felt like a horrible person, doubting what I was supposed to believe without question. Then, gradually, I realized that just because I didn’t agree with some of the teachings of my church, I couldn’t still be a good person. I began to disregard some of these teachings and was left with a void where those answers once solidified my view of myself and my place in the world.

Eventually, after searching through the teachings of several other religions, I came to the conclusion that no set of answers existed that fit my beliefs. I realized that I no longer had a guidebook for life, so I began to write my own. I feel secure with my place in the world even though I don’t have a religious institution to help me define where I stand. I think that some people need a religion to help them find their place and feel at peace—to give them the answers. I am totally fine with that, and I understand those needs, but I have found, through years of doubt and questions and searching, that I do not, after all, need the answers that some people are so desperate for.

[RM:] How do you feel about the interactions you’ve had with Christians?

[LR:] I think the world would be a better place if everyone could understand that each person is different, that their needs and wants are different, and therefore their answers may be different. Part of what turned me off of Christianity was being approached by so many Christians who weren’t really interested in what I thought. They thought that their way was the only right way, and they wanted me to believe the way they did. I understand that when someone finds something that works so well for them, that makes them feel complete and alive and worth being alive, that they want to share those feelings. All the people who have tried to re-convert me to Christianity or to their specific branch of religion have acted out of the best intentions. Some of them just didn’t seem to want to understand that I had made my decision about what I believe and that I wasn’t going to be swayed. I don’t begrudge them their religion and their happiness with it. I simply want them to understand that everyone deserves the freedom to look for happiness in their own way.

What makes me happy is respect, love and hope. I don’t think that people need a religion in order to be good. I think that all they need to do is look at the world with a sense of hope that even if the good in people is sometimes hidden, it still exists and is worth fighting for. I wish that people would respect everyone in the world, including themselves, and be open-minded about beliefs and actions and cultures different from their own. I wish that people would respect our world and everything in it. I wish that everyone had the ability to love unconditionally and would do so with abandon. I wish that people would pass on hope and strength and love instead of hate and hurt and close-mindedness. I wish that people could find the joy they seek in sunshine and laughter and family instead of searching for it in money and possessions and others’ pain.

[RM:] Would you say you’ve ever had a truly spiritual experience?

[LR:] Our world is a complicated place, and we all have our own ways of dealing with the difficulties we face in it every day. The way I cope is to see each day as a new and different miracle. I was clinically depressed for most of the past ten years of my life, and, after such a long time with most days filled with apathy and hopelessness and sadness, I had forgotten I could actually be happy to be alive. During those years, even when I was having fun, I wasn’t truly happy, because each of those fun times would become bittersweet when I’d look back at them, and they’d contrast so sharply with the rest of my time.

When I started on antidepressants, the world opened out to me. I am happy so often now—all the time, really—and because I was so long unhappy, I realize just how special good times are. Everyday life is a spiritual experience for me now. Every time I pause, I send thanks out into the universe, so that any spirits, saints or gods out there can see that they are appreciated. I can only hope that every person can someday be happy and fulfilled, with or without religion.

[Stephanie Gehring is a 22-year-old self-employed portrait artist, high school math tutor and freelance writer. She spent the first 16 years of her life in Germany and lives in Portland, Ore.]




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