I am a Christian. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a devout follower, I would say I devote more time and effort to my faith than most of my friends. Not really any of my friends are aware of how religious I am or my outlooks on life. I find these difficult to share because they are very personal to me. I’ve learned that these things so dear to me can be used to hurt me, whether just being made fun or used to stereotype me.
Religion plays a major role in my culture. I have always been a regular churchgoer, thanks to my mom. We have lived in three different states since I was born, and one of the first steps after moving was to always find a good church. Outside of school, I spend the majority of my time at church, with church friends, or doing church related activities because they have become very important to me. My closest friends throughout my life have been people I went to church with. My religion helps to form my views and values of my culture.
I often find myself struggling to understand the culture of extremely religious people, specifically Catholics. I do not see why people consider the Pope to be such an important person.
One of the hardest things for me to share about with others is my Catholic culture. I was born and raised Catholic and have had many experiences that keep me part of the Catholic culture. I am part of a minority because most other Christians don’t like the Catholic Church let alone the American public. For example in class there were about six people in a row that said they felt weird or didn’t understand the Catholic Church. Heck even my friends question me for why I believe what I do just because it is a Catholic view. Like most cultures that are persecuted I feel like it all comes down to a misunderstanding of their culture. The Church comes off as an authority figure, but people don’t like being told what to do. I can understand this since I am also human and don’t like being told what to do. However, the American culture is all about free speech and being able to think how you like and express those thoughts. So, how does the church speaking its beliefs become something so terrible people need to seek to shut that down?
I think one of the hardest aspects of my culture for me to talk about is my religion, primarily because I am a Christian and have found that many people in Madison become very adversarial when it comes to speaking about religion. However, my faith is an aspect of my culture that I actively try to talk about and make attempts to step out of my comfort zone in order to share, because it is very important to me, and shapes my views about many common topics and, most importantly, guides the way I choose to live my life and many of the decisions that I make.
For the majority of my childhood, I genuinely wanted to be a pastor when I grew up. I’m not sure when the changes started to happen, but now I am on the opposite end of the religious spectrum from where I was growing up. I do not believe in God, and even typing this sentence is hard to do.
When meeting people for the first time, or when I’m in a public setting, I find it very difficult to explain or talk about my Catholic upbringing. I attended a Catholic school from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. I am neither ashamed of this nor I am a practicing catholic anymore. However, often times when I tell someone I went to a catholic school he or she automatically thinks I am a “Bible Banger” or that I judge other people based on their “loose morals.” I do not like this stereotype, as it is not the case with me, or the majority of Catholics.
I am Irish Catholic. In both the media and often times in popular opinion, being Catholic is negatively associated with strict behavior, close-mindedness, and controversy. Often times I find it hard to convey to people that Catholicism in meaning and practice may differ greatly from what it is believed to be, and that not all Catholics hold identical beliefs or conduct themselves in the same manner. Often times when I express to others that I am a Catholic Christian, I am met with skepticism (and sometimes criticism) about my beliefs as well as my personal conduct. While I am willing to explain what Catholicism and being a Catholic means to me, it is often difficult to successfully express and defend myself to others, especially if their own personal religious beliefs differ greatly from my own.
Catholicism has been a significant facet of my culture since I was young, and the difficulty of sharing the questions I have regarding the faith extends through difficulty sharing this part of my culture with the public.
Many people from my hometown are very Catholic and it’s hard to be respectful towards them when they believe things that are harmful to people and to society. For example, their stances on gay marriage and birth control. I normally avoid these topics when talking with people of these groups because it’s difficult to change people’s minds on these issues and discussions often end with someone being offended.
I am hesitant to discuss religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic and was fortunate enough to go to a parochial school from K4 through eighth grade. Being that my city has three parochial schools and two public elementary and middle schools, it was almost the norm to go to a Catholic school, and I did not question the essence of the faith. The transition to a public high school was difficult for me and I was so close-minded about the different cultures people were coming from, that I almost did not give anyone a chance. While I still practice the Catholic religion, I questioned some of the ideologies that this religious culture encompassed. I am proud to be Catholic, but that does not mean I follow or believe in every single aspect of the religious culture, and I feel as though this is definitely misunderstood by people in the public—even listening in class while various students describe their encounters with the Catholic religion was frustrating. Usually, I choose not to disclose that I am Catholic or went to a parochial school for ten years because judgments about my beliefs, behaviors, or my expected behaviors are sometimes misconstrued. Yes, I do practice the faith, but no, it is not my only defining characteristic of my cultural background. I have three friends who are Catholic, but we have completely different viewpoints on various aspects of the religion. This has definitely made me realize how even within one similar facet of culture, people are dramatically different.
I have a difficult time sharing my religion with the people especially close to me. I was raised in a religious, Christian family, but upon the individuality granted to me in college have become non-religious. I find it difficult to dissent from my family in this way because I know it is something that is important to them, especially my parents. I feel like moving away from the way I was raised has disappointed them, and therefore it is something we rarely, if ever, speak about.
The aspects of culture that I usually have the most difficult time sharing with those closest to me are my faith in God and my political views. My view of God, what I consider to be a relationship with God, is the most intimate relationship I have and will ever have. I am in love with God and Jesus Christ, whereas my family is merely acquaintances with him. Having a relationship with God is about not just believing, (which is what my family does), it is also about following God. Because of this vast difference in beliefs that my family and I have, this makes it difficult to have a conversation.
The false notion that atheism correlates to a lack of a moral compass is the primary reason that I keep this part of my culture to myself. I expect that it is quite common for close friends to be similar in many areas, and many of my closest friends here on campus share my lack of belief in any religious doctrine. This doesn’t mean that we are right, but it does mean that I feel much more comfortable sharing this fact with them, and it has become a real part of our group culture.
The facet of others’ cultures that I find myself judging is religion. I am not opposed to people talking about their beliefs, as I enjoy hearing what different people believe and it is a way for me to learn more about other religions. What I struggle with is when a friend, or acquaintance for that matter, tries to tell me why their beliefs are better than mine. I do not consider myself a religious person, but it is the way I was raised. When I am at home, I often go to church with my family because that is what is expected of me.
Despite being raised Catholic and attending a Catholic school for nine years, I disagree with many things the Catholic Church preaches. All of my extended family is Catholic and many members of my family are exceptionally religious, making it difficult to share this facet of my culture with them. I believe in a woman’s right to abortions, extramarital sex, and gay marriage – three things the Catholic Church is strongly against. Many of my relatives would be shocked to hear my stance on these three topics and because of this, I try to avoid talking about these topics or simply remain silent when they come up in conversation. I am not ashamed of my beliefs nor do I look down on members of my family for having beliefs that differ from mine. Nevertheless, I know that discussing some of my beliefs would cause a great deal of drama and controversy within my family – something I wish to avoid, mainly for the sake of my parents. Even though I question many things about Catholicism, I still have faith and believe in a higher power.
I think the cultures I have the most trouble with once again tie into the religious category. I often feel uncomfortable, or even annoyed, when I am exposed to, what I would consider, over-religious personalities. It is not that I do not respect their beliefs. It is more that I often feel irritated when it exudes from people in abundance and in multiple facets of everyday life. Moderate amounts are tolerable, but if someone is exceptionally adamant about projecting their religious stance on to me, I find myself thinking judgmental thoughts. I have never expressed directly to another person that I think their religious beliefs are wrong or irrational, even if that is what I’m really thinking.