My decision to leave my parent's faith and find my own path
I haven’t gone to church in I don’t know how long. I stopped regularly attending church services, of my own volition, two years ago. This is a fact that would probably shock and confuse twelve-year-old me. I went to church three times a week, sometimes for hours and hours on end, for the majority of my childhood and adolescence. This happened because my parents were pastors, and very strongly invested in their faith and passing its narrative to their children.
When you grow up being told that there is only one right way and that it’s already been determined for you, I think it’s normal to accept it and participate in it. For my parents, the right way involved heavy church attendance and a rather strict doctrine. So that was what I did, until I changed my mind.
There’s been an ongoing debate about why millennials are leaving the church in the religious spectrum. Many consider it to be a sign that today’s youth are growing more socially aware and ideologically tolerant, and that the extremism of the fundamentalist Christianity that’s held sway in the US for so long is finally beginning to lose its power over new generations. Depending on who you are, that’s either a welcome move towards progress or a sign of the end of the world.
While I do agree with popular assessments on why millennials aren’t sticking with their parent’s faith, I think it also has a lot to do with personal development. We find out so much about who we are between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. We evolve so rapidly, trying on new personalities and styles in the ongoing quest to uncover our truest selves. I’ve gone through the rites and rituals of both high school and college now, and I can see so many different aspects of myself that I adopted and then discarded along the way. There’s always been a common thread at the core of me, and I believe it’s gotten stronger and more defined as I’ve grown up. What I’ve discovered is that the core of me does contain a form of faith, but it doesn’t fit with the one my parents wanted me to have.
I don’t pretend to speak for my entire generation, or even a percentage of it. When I look at my friends, I see all sides of the spectrum. Some of them are completely on board with following their parent’s faith into adulthood, all the way down to still attending the church they grew up in. Some of them are farther gone from their parent’s beliefs, to the point where they disagree with them completely. Because I come from a really strict religion, many of my friends who’ve discarded their parent’s beliefs did so knowing that it would cause them to be ostracized, and in some cases, completely disowned.
Then there are those like me, who’ve had to pick apart the faith they were raised in to find the pieces that stick, and discard what doesn’t. I find myself in a middle ground, one that I think is growing more common with people my age, in which we still want to have a faith to ground us, but we cannot participate in the organized version of it. For me, it has a lot to do with past trauma at the hands of religious organizations, but that’s certainly not the only problem. The reasons my peers have for leaving their parent’s religions are as varied as my generation itself, and for some of us, it’s less of a deeply personal development and kind of something that just happened as we grew up.