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1. Is religion or spirituality important to you in your daily life? If so, how? Yes, religion has always been important to my life although now I am more interested in it academically. I am a Religious Studies and WGS double major, which means I spend more of my classes at University thinking about how to connect religion to other parts of life. It feels a little bit like living on the other side of the veil while discussing religion with professors because it feels like we’ve all been let in on a big secret. This was particularly true when I was in a class about the History of Christmas with one of my favorite professors. He mentioned that “we all know that most of what was written about Jesus’ birth narrative are absolutely false, so let’s just continue on…,” and that made me realize that the majority of people don’t know about the study of how accurately (or not) religious scriptures are to historical documents. 2. How has your understanding of “God” evolved throughout your life? The concept of “God” has always been prevalent throughout my life. Both of my parents are born-again Evangelists, my mother was raised Buddhist, my father Catholic. From the beginning of my life, my parents told me how lucky I was to already be born into a Protestant family, thus I should take advantage of that fact and read the Bible myself. So most of my childhood was saturated with reading through the Bible (not even skipping the gory books like Kings) at bedtime. However, my understanding of this Biblical “God” figure abruptly changed once I realized I was gay. It was very confusing to suddenly see myself on the side of the people God wanted to smite or punish. My new understanding of myself also opened my eyes to the injustice I saw of God making trans people and then punishing them (both in this world and next) for what they were. That in itself was what turned me away from this particular God and religion since I just couldn’t push this out of my mind ever. For a few years, I was forced to be agnostic. Although I loved being a part of the Church, it felt dirty to me after seeing what a large portion of Christians thought about people like me. Around this time, I started researching other religions and the concept of religions, which ultimately turned me towards paganism. During this soul search, I realized that my personal philosophy was that humans had created their Gods and not the other way around. Thus it was refreshing to find a religion that corresponded with this belief, in which a patron God(s), or just a God one felt strongly tied or called to. 3. What do you think about religions other than your own? One of the reasons why I decided to study Religion is because I thought it was mind-blowingly beautiful how devotedly humans believe in and practice religion. Thus I am always eager to study religions other than my own, especially as that was how I found my current one. However, I believe it is very important to remember that a lot of what some view as religion is actually culture, and is a big part of why some religions are practiced in many different ways depending on the region. 4. Can you share a time when your faith helped you understand a significant event in your life? Shortly after I realized I was gay, I was feeling very suicidal and lost. This was not helped by my mother repeatedly telling me that my “choice” was going to send me to hell. I couldn’t sleep and all I did at night was listen to Christian radio. At one point, probably 3 or 4 in the morning, I started questioning out loud what I could do about this emotional rut I was in. A very peaceful song came on and I sat up, feeling like a blue light was wrapping around me, making me feel completely safe. I heard a voice in my head saying, “Now you know. I’ve been waiting for you to know, and now you do. Now you know.” And for the first time, I felt completely safe and confident in myself. Of course, my mother was convinced that it was Satan reassuring me about my sexuality. However, I think that whatever presence that was there was something otherworldly. At this point, I think that was Rhiannon, one of the Goddesses I worship, who has become a sort of a matronly deity to me. 5. What is your faith in one word /phrase or image? Philosophical. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Read more OnFaith Five member responses here: https://www.onfaith.co/a/onfaithfive