Constant Change: As I stopped believing

How my relationship with God changed


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Oishee Misra

The house smelled of sandalwood incense. I shuffled around awkwardly in my sari, feeling weird yet powerful draped in red silk. My anklets and bracelets clinked as I fidgeted. I stared at the altar brimming with sweets and fruits. I listened to my dad chant Sanskrit prayers and watched my mom sway back and forth with her palms folded. I was entranced. It felt like we were talking to God. I closed my eyes and prayed too, prayed for whatever five-year-olds pray for. Maybe it was that I’d get to eat those sweets on that altar, but I like to think it was little more meaningful — maybe that the little homeless girl I saw on the street that day would find a home soon. But that was then. Now, I pray for my grades (not that it works).

Religion used to be magical for me. I loved the idea of this overarching power watching over us all, fixing our problems and making sure our lives ran smoothly. I felt safe. Throughout my childhood, as I sat through numerous pujas, I was reminded to pray everyday, to ask the gods for help before important things (in my mom’s eyes, math tests, and in mine, more time to play outside). I was reminded to apologize to God when I lied to make sure I was being a good human being so that God wouldn’t get mad at me. I wouldn’t say praying or religion was forced on me, but I didn’t question it. I simply believed.

But soon enough, I wasn’t five anymore and life stopped running smoothly (I don’t mean to be overdramatic, but the day my friend stole my candy was the day I lost hope in humanity). I began to question the point of religion. If there’s really someone up there, why do bad things happen? (There’s that five-year-old piece of me peeking out). I just didn’t understand it anymore. If things kept going wrong in my life and for the rest of the world, then clearly there was no God.

I’ll admit, I sound a bit … naive. Obviously, everyone knows that religion isn’t just believing in a higher power that will solve all your problems — but I didn’t know that. And it took me a long time to realize religion doesn’t work this way.

Religion is a beautiful thing. It’s hope. It keeps people going even when it feels like there’s nothing left to fight for. I wish I could say that this realization came quickly, but it didn’t. It took me a while and I still don’t know if I truly believe it. After all, I tend to only turn to God when I need something (I know, I’m a terrible person, but what if God can help my grades? … you never know).

I wonder why I turned away from religion in the first place, beside my misunderstanding of what it really entailed. Maybe it’s because in many instances, our society has marred religion’s portrayal. Maybe it’s because sometimes it feels like numerous conflicts in our world stem from religion, when in reality they often stem from misinformed people misinterpreting religious texts. Or maybe it’s because I grew up and decided I wasn’t going to believe in something I didn’t understand.

I wish I could turn back time to when I was five years old, believing that there was someone up there watching over me. In the end, my tumultuous relationship with religion has rendered me — much to the horror of my grandma — atheist. Maybe I’ll fall back on religion and believe again someday, or maybe I never will. But I’ll never stop believing in its beauty.