Regardless of Faith

Being ambivalent about my choice of religion shouldn’t ­really surprise anyone, especially when I’m still wading through the notorious teenage years of angst, when authority exists to be questioned. Nothing is set in stone, and religion is no exception. I think I have a right to be religiously ambivalent due to my family and the variety of religious experiences I’ve been through.

My dad is unquestionably an atheist, and my mom is a converted Baptist, although I suspect she may have converted simply because of peer pressure and her very limited understanding of English at the time. However, my mom eventually grasped the concept of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and has come to like the idea of having someone to pray to during difficult times.

My dad, often the source of those difficult times, chides my mother for her new devotion to God and finds sport in undermining religion. He suggests that logic rules the world and spends ridiculous amounts of energy teaching me to depend only on myself. This conflict in my household might explain the lack of any serious conversations about religion, although neither of my parents has any problem saying the word “God” – my mom when she is appreciative of something, and my dad when he gets hurt badly.

In the end, it is up to me to determine how I want to deal with religion. I know what the word “faith” means, so nobody can accuse me of not having any. I have faith before each tennis match, straightening my strings and jumping up and down. I have faith that no matter how unkind the late night gets as my head bows over my homework assignment or textbook chapter, the morning will eventually come to make it all worthwhile. And I have faith that my 81-year-old grandfather, who was denied a visa to visit the U.S., will keep his promise to quit smoking so that I can go to China to see him one more time.

I’d like to believe that being ambivalent about religion means I am ­allowed to dabble in both area of belief and apply them as I see fit. As I go through my academic career, being ambivalent about religion means I can push through using my belief in myself and my willpower to succeed. It also means there is nothing wrong with whispering, “Oh God, please!” when I receive response letters from colleges next spring or closing my eyes and praying when I need strength or solace from sadness.

While religion is a touchy topic for some, I find that kindness, forgiveness, perseverance, and hope do not fall under any specific doctrine. And I’m glad that my desire to go to college and discover intellectual enlightenment is a secular pursuit. If a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or atheist can do it, why can’t a religiously ­ambivalent person?

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