Religion isn’t defined in church

God may banish you from this “Holy Land” if you eat red meat on the Friday after you get a symbolic black smudge on your forehead the day after confetti and colors make the skyline.

Some stale bread and watered down wine is served as the body and blood of Christ. The worshiping place is filled with hymns about love, repenting sins, and forgiveness.

Water from the sink, maybe boiled, who knows, means… well it means something because the ordained priest has “blessed it.”

Did I mention I’m technically a Catholic? That “I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church?”

This third party is serving as a barrier between me and God.Whether God be female, male, black, white, have eight limbs, whatever, I don’t need to be part of an organization to have a relationship with the divine figure.

The aroma of my hot meal in front of me makes my mouth salivate like crazy, but I can’t eat. Everyone at the table bows their heads and closes their eyes and recites words like poetry, but my eyes are open, sneaking bites.

Drowned in holy water only a few days after birth declares me a member of this faith. I had no choice of whether I wanted to be a Catholic, it was passed on to me like an extra finger. I was denied the option to be a Muslim, to practice Judaism, to think like a Mormon, to study Hinduism from infancy.
Now that I can, I make it a habit to not offend my family while I dabble into the beliefs of other theologies.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” my mother said because my nina was in the room, my godmother, as I groaned about going to church.

The same day I was scolded for expressing my opinion, I was forced to go to confession.
Entering the room with a man who claims to tell no one of my sins, to act as a psychiatrist whose only prescription is to read the Bible or pray a few times, I was scared.

“It has been over 10 years since my last confession” was my first confession, and fear is not the feeling I should have sitting across from the “closest man to God” I will encounter.

What followed terrified me. The priest yelled at me. I told him of my doubts, and he yelled at me. What more reason do I need to be able to say, “I don’t want to go to church from now on?”

It’s even more funny that as I write this and as you read it, there is no convincing. You believe in what you want and that will not change, but establishing peace between people like you and I is vital.
When writing this I am not scared you will call me an atheist and demand that I be hanged.
Instead of thinking about my religious status, take a minute to reflect on how the need to identify the validity and dedication of one’s religion has altered the world.

Men, women, and children across the world are killed because of their “incorrect” beliefs. We religiously profile to identify a terrorist group. We start wars for land because it was “promised.” We deny religious freedom to some because of sexual orientation.

So much anger and hate apparently spawns from the book that tells us what to accept and what not to serve as the divider of people and the bringer of chaos.

Yet I do acknowledge that I stand as a hypocrite. What will I do with my children?

My family will probably ask when my child will receive the first sacrament. They will plan a day, pick the church, learn the requirements, even shop for the infant’s outfit, and I will probably let them without clearly expressing my frustration with the labeling of my child before it can even eat on its own.

But at the same time aren’t we all hypocrites in some way or another? Do you pray every day? Do you never commit a selfish act? When you woke up this morning did you think about how God has blessed you with another day, or today’s agenda?

Banish me and I guarantee that in the afterlife, we will meet again inside the gates we both believe in.