The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008


Losing My Religion, Then Searching, Hoping to Find It

I half expected that having kids would make me lose my mind from time to time, but I never dreamed that it would make me lose my faith. Well, not quite lose yet, but definitely shake it to its inner core.

It started when my oldest son was old enough to understand Christmas. When I began telling him the Nativity story, it felt strange. I found it uncomfortably similar to brain washing. Here was this trusting little mind, willing to believe everything I told him and there I was talking about angels speaking to shepherds.

A “cradle Catholic,” I had stopped going to church regularly in my twenties but always had a strong belief in God. I certainly didn’t hesitate to call on Him in tough circumstances. When my atheist husband and I got married, I absolutely wanted a Catholic ceremony. It was important to me to have God bless our relationship. Ditto with baptism for my two boys. I instituted a nightly prayer with my sons, giving thanks for the day and running through a litany of “God Bless Mommy, God Bless Daddy” and various family members.

It was when I needed to start passing on the teachings of my faith that things got tricky. Why did I believe that Jesus died and then rose again three days later? Did God really make everything? What happened to the gold that the three wise men gave to baby Jesus?

A great book, “Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Traditions To Raise Self-Reliant Children” by Wendy Mogel finally identified the problem. Mogel writes that if you only learned about religion and faith as a child and did not study it as an adult, then you only have a child’s understanding of your faith. It’s no wonder that you find yourself questioning things if you try to pass on the same child-like information as an adult to your own child. We are used to simplifying things for children in other areas of life (“Where do babies come from, Mommy?”) but in this case, I only had the simplified explanation without any of the adult depth.

And so my search began. I started reading religious books. I tried going to a different church. I’ve even accidentally started a faith-sharing group with Catholic mothers where we have frank, sometimes raw, discussions about our faith and motherhood.

But what scares me is that this quest seems to be weakening my faith, not strengthening it. The more I question, the fewer answers I have. My eldest son asked me the other day why some people don’t believe in God. I equivocated. “Well, I guess it’s because He’s invisible so some people think He doesn’t exist.”

“Cool, he must have an invisible machine,” my son said. “I wonder if He’ll let me use it.”

The rational, logical side of me – listening to people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens – says that I have essentially been brainwashed. There is even an evolutionary theory behind it. Children who believed their parents and did what they were told – don’t go running off into the jungle or you’ll get eaten by a tiger – were more likely to survive. Our brains are hardwired to believe what our parents tell us.

Yet, the convent-educated Catholic in me whispers that this is just Satan trying to trick me. I’m reminded that if I make the wrong choice, the consequences will be ever-lasting.

I’ve gradually peeled away the layers of my beliefs and am down to the most basic question. Is there a God? Asking that question seems to have knocked out my communications system with Him. When I used to pray, it was like centering myself around my inner core and reaching out. Now the core is hollow. I’ve even lost the power to pray.

I know what I want. I want certainty. I want to be completely convinced about my belief in God and choice of religion. Then I will know what is the right thing to teach my sons.

Until then, I’m in my own personal limbo, trying to take the leap of faith.

By Suzanne Skyvara

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this is a thoughtful essay about a challenging subject. thank you for writing it.

only you can find your own path, of course, not that that makes it any easier. asking questions is the first step toward discovering answers.

consider metaphor.
I really enjoyed your essay on a complex subject. I believe the strongest faith--whether it is in self or God or whatever we call it--comes precisely with the grappling you describe.

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