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Religion, Faith and Spirituality

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Religion, Faith and Spirituality

Amplify Blog

By QFCC Youth Advocate Laura


“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

What could teenage me have said to get that reaction from a very beautiful, smart, (and malicious) girl in my class?

I think it was about 6 months after my Nanna passed away. I was weathering a delightful storm of teenage hormones, whipped into a Category 5 cyclone by some classic undiagnosed ADHD, complete with emotional dysregulation and regular screaming matches with my mother. We were all sitting around, discussing life, the universe, and everything, and I had been casual enough to mention, that because of my faith, I truly believed that nothing would happen in my life that I couldn’t handle.

I wasn’t a stupid teenager. I was just as smart as the beautiful, smart, (and malicious) girl above, in fact we literally tied for an Academic Scholarship, and I kicked her butt in the Grade 9 NAPLAN with the best results my English teacher had ever seen. I read more books than anyone I knew, and I didn’t have a social life to interfere with my documentary watching – yet the minute I mentioned I believed in God, I became a moron.

I keep thinking about that moment even now. The shame I felt, red hot, right from my cheeks down into my very core, still makes me as viscerally ill now at 25 as it did at 15. And now, as a youth advocate thinking about what affects young people,  I wonder, if not for that snide teenage comment, would I feel more comfortable in my place in the world?

“I am religious.”

It’s amazing what people hear when you say that. For the vast majority of people I know, “I believe in God” comes across a lot like “I am a sheep. I am a prude. I do not believe in climate change or that LGBTQ+ people have rights. The world is flat, and vaccines cause autism, and I dream to grow up and marry a man who will keep me in submission my whole life.”

Can we appreciate how messed up and insulting that is?

If I keep my spirituality a secret, I am an educated university student. I am an outspoken feminist, and advocate on multiple state and national councils. I have received numerous scholarships and awards for my intelligence, my determination and my dedication to the causes I am passionate about. But despite everything I’ve done and achieved, I was made by my peers to be ashamed.

I don’t even go to church, I just try not to swear and have fish and chips on Good Friday! Last time I checked, those weren’t the actions of a pariah.

Now, stepping back, I know we have real prejudice in this country, and that my experience pales compared to the very real violence that occurs between religions through the world, but I don’t believe that a greater threat cancels out this one.

‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown, is one of the most popular books of all time, selling over 200 million copies. Despite some very valid literary criticism, it had over 44 countries reading about Mary Magdelene and the Holy Grail – and hey, I enjoyed that book too… but you can’t tell me it was a smash hit just because of it’s murder mystery. People came out in droves to hear Christian history proved wrong. And while I’m desperately awaiting Season 2 of Good Omens like any other David Tennant fan, I know Terry Pratchet’s smash hit relies on the familiarity of the Old Testament to sell a subversive narrative about the issues with religious (specifically Christian) dogma. These massive pop culture moments reinforce every negative idea my high school friends had about my beliefs.

Critics of traditional Christianity aren’t wrong either, let’s establish that now. Absolutely awful things, from the Crusades, to the Stolen Generation, have been done in the name of a God who I don’t believe would have sanctioned any of it. As a children’s rights activist, I agree with everyone else that religion-based institutions need to take accountability for the past, and to take action to look after their flock, but I also believe the vast majority of normal good people who attend a church are often painted with a brush they do not deserve.

The question of religion is an old one. An anthropology article I once read described religion as a ‘necessity for hierarchical social structure’, and theorised that without any form of religion or shared spirituality, a group of more than 300 people would not be able to survive. A common belief, and a shared set of societal rules, create the motivation necessary to care for others as well as yourself. There are hundreds of examples of a common belief in a common goal (Valhalla, Paradise, the Elysian Fields?), and just as many guides to get there (10 commandments, Pashtunwali codes of honour, Asimov’s laws of robotics?). And I’m honestly not fussy which one anyone chooses to follow. In fact, I encourage everyone, including myself, to look into as many different theories about the universe as possible.

If pushed, I almost consider myself an Omnist. I can divine water with a stick, and I get serious ‘vibes’ in some places, a skill I’m developing with mentors such as a local Aboriginal Elder, and a friend who’s an atheist. I love crystals, and herbalism, and know my horoscopes pretty well. I’m a white Australian who’s 4x great grandfather was an Anglican minister somewhere in Wales, and who’s ancient ancestors were likely Celtic pagans. Humanity is driven by the search for something more, from the space race, to the pursuit of the arts, we are constantly looking for a glimpse of the divine, and after a lot of critical thinking, I am comfortable calling whatever is out there, God. I don’t blindly accept everything in the bible, but I’m not desperate for scientific evidence of His existence either. It’s taken me a long time to figure this much out, and next year I’ll probably feel different again, but that’s my right and my journey to take, and I think a respect for that right is something we all should share.

 I don’t have the authority to tell anyone their beliefs are wrong. I’ve done Ramadan one year, and I’ve prayed in a Shinto shrine in Japan. Faith is a personal matter, and one that no one should feel ashamed to admit to. When I call my beliefs ‘spirituality’, I am making myself more palatable to our modern world, but I think it’s doing myself a disservice, and maybe I’m not giving today’s young people enough credit.

In a world where #witch, #witchcraft and #babywitch get 2 billion views on TikTok, maybe now there is a place for that 15 year old girl who had faith she could handle anything, even being told it was “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”