Katy’s Korner: You don’t have to lose your religion
I’m feeling really alone right now. I grew up in a very religious household with amazing parents, but many parts of my religion greatly impacted how I lived my life. Since coming to college, it’s been difficult for me to merge the two worlds of my college social life and the comforting religious practices of my youth. Sometimes I feel like my friends are judgmental of my beliefs, or assume that I am their stereotype of my religion. I’ve really fallen out of touch with my faith, and feel like I’m living a double life at home. How can I keep all the good parts without sacrificing my friends or my religion?
Losing My Religion
Religion on this campus isn’t a clear-cut thing. There are people who are ingrained in religious communities through and through, people who live split time between their faith-friends and their other friends, people who merge both worlds peacefully, people who abandon their religion completely and people who have never been exposed to religion in the first place. It sounds like you might be moving away from something you’re not totally comfortable leaving. It can be really isolating to live in the middle of these two worlds.
I understand how this school can make faith a difficult thing. Students make an effort to tout their accessibility, accepting nature, and all-together goodwill, but in reality, it usually just comes out sounding like a competition of who has a longer service section on their resume. Not to say that people here aren’t as nice as they seem, but sometimes religion falls to the wayside in terms of tolerance. A lot of times, this disparity can arise in people who practice different religions. It’s an age-old problem, and the reason why mom always told me to never bring up religion, politics, or money at dinner—you could have a great fulfilling conversation or it could all go down in flames.
Now we could talk about the origin of this problem, have a philosophical debate, or make a spreadsheet of the pros and cons on religion, but I’d like to just consider you for a moment.
This faith is a part of your history; it shaped who you are as a person, at least partly. It’s something you shouldn’t have to give up for the sake of fitting in, or feeling at home. Yes, you might have qualms with parts of your faith, but you’re probably still able to identify positive parts if it’s something you can get this torn up about. What I’m saying is, don’t give the good parts of faith up if you don’t want to. There is a way. Faith can lead to hope and hope is everything.
I don’t have a clear-cut answer on how to keep the best parts of your faith and your social life. What I can tell you is that your friends should be expected to respect your faith. Maybe you have to have tough conversations on what that exactly means concerning sensitive issues, but gossip, passive-aggressiveness and bigotry shouldn’t be dished out by the people considered your go-to’s. If you aren’t living up to the traditional expectations of your faith, make it clear why. Explain your personal interpretation and justify it. Just have the conversation.
As for at home, maybe some things have to be a secret. It sucks, but you have to consider consequences. Try to focus on the things you don’t have to lie about, the parts of your faith that you’ve held onto. Maybe have a frank conversation with someone who’s just affiliated with your specific practice. If it can’t be your parents and it can’t be your friends, just find someone who gets it. That will be a great resource for you and a space where you might feel most at home. I encourage you to reach out to trusted individuals in the appropriate communities. I encourage to tailor your own practices even if it’s just mindfulness. Even if you don’t believe anymore, don’t lose those benefits and don’t lose that history. You don’t have to abandon your religion, but you also don’t have to be the most devout.
This is a great time to figure out this balance and where religion fits for you without your parents. Use it. Don’t let peer-pressure decide your relationship to your faith.