I was born into a not really practicing Irish Catholic family. My grandmother is very religious. I went to CCD, had an Advent wreath and made the sacraments in time with all my peers. At no point was it ever explained to me who Jesus was or why I should love him. No one participating in my religious education ever had the vaguest interest in answering my questions about Jesus, Catholicism and the Bible. It pretty much just reinforced that it wasn’t something I would ever feel connected to.
When I growing up, my great aunt showed me how to read tarot cards. It was something several women in our family had done. She told me about crystals and herbs and our spiritual connection to the earth. She lent me books about the old Irish religion (Celtic paganism) and showed me how she incorporated some of these beliefs into her life. This felt real to me. This was the connection I had never had with Catholicism.
I grew into a teenager and read more about Paganism and met other people who believed in the same things. The major tenet of Paganism is to do no harm. It is one of the few world religions to accommodate the validity of multiple belief systems. Paganism does not purport to be the only true religion. It purports to be a religion that shares the world with other religions. It preaches good works and that the universe will punish or reward you according to your actions.
A very common misconception about Paganism is that it is Satanism, which it is not. There is no Satan in pagan religions. We do not sacrifice animals. We do not eat children. We are just regular people.
I had a really hurtful conversation today about Halloween. I explained the origins of Halloween from Samhain, the Irish end of the year festival. I explained that it had nothing to do with the devil. I was really not expecting the response that all gods other than the Christian God are guises of the devil, which implies that all of us who worship them are worshipping the devil.
Here’s the thing: I’m getting really tired of people judging me because I’m not Christian. I’m not Christian. I’m probably never going to be. Not everyone in the world is Christian. I am okay with not being Christian.
I have MANY close Christian friends. Many. I have no problem with their being Christian. They are respectful of my choice in religion. I participate in the important religious events of their lives. Sometimes we discuss the differences between our beliefs. We can agree to disagree. Neither of us feels superior to the other. Many of my friends post religious quotes or parables online and offer prayers when I am struggling. I have no problem with these things, and think prayer offers are kind and helpful. Crossfaith friendships are a thing. I have many.
This conversation in particular really upset me because of the events of this week. I stood out front of the entire mast cell community and wrote a public statement that has been read over 1000 times since first being posted. I answer hundreds of questions every week from everyone who asks me. I am actively putting together new initiatives to raise awareness and foster patient and provider education about our diseases. Two hours before this interaction, I was giving a presentation on mast cell disease to 40 researchers to spread awareness about our conditions. So when I’m doing all those things to improve the quality of our collective lives, it’s no big deal that I’m a devil worshipper? Just the rest of the time? Are you kidding me?
This post is not about Christianity. It’s about the fact that judgment is ugly and hurtful. I do not believe in helping a select group of people. I believe in offering the same help to everyone equally. But this is getting hard to live with. I shouldn’t be crying on my couch because someone who I help without question is judging me for my spiritual beliefs. And in the larger context of today, I have realized that this sort of thing is a lot more prevalent in my life than I was allowing myself to realize. My willingness to accept people just the way they are looks a lot like tolerance for this sort of thing and that’s my mistake.
I am a good person. I treat people fairly. I help people as much as I can, sometimes to the point of not getting enough sleep or talking to people in the ER in the middle of the night or reading obscure papers in bed with one eye open so I can find the answer someone needs. I am flawed, but I try hard to improve the lives of those around me. And I don’t judge people for their religious beliefs. Not even a little.
I accept your right to worship however you like and don’t make presumptions about the existential consequences of your religious choices. I am just looking for the same respect. You either accept me or you don’t. I am tired of overextending myself to help people who turn around and judge me in this way. It is unbelievably hurtful. I am not easily upset and I am not easily shaken, but this has got me questioning a lot of things.
I’m going to make myself scarce for a bit outside of my own MastAttack forum on Facebook (feel free to join if you haven’t) because frankly my recent experiences with social media are proving to be bad for my health. I feel like I haven’t written about the science of mast cell disease in ages so I’m going to return to doing that for a while.
As always, I’m here if you have questions. I just ask that you leave me alone if you think I’m a bad/ mislead/ confused person because I choose not to follow your faith. I think I deserve that much. No one needs to feel this way.