Sunday, March 3, 2013

Outgrowing Faith

As I've made my "spiritual" journey, I have been surprised to discover how very ordinary it is to leave the God of one's childhood. Perhaps I shouldn't be startled, considering what resilient and adaptive creatures we humans are.

So many passionate artists have painful experiences with religion woven into their past lives. Stories of changing their belief, of trying to make it fit better, or of abandoning it altogether.

Below are a few names you might recognize.

Brad Pitt, raised evangelical, is now an atheist/agnostic. He was "brought up being told things were God's way, and when things didn't work out it was called God's plan."
“I had questions about Christianity that I could not get answered to my satisfaction, questions that I’d been asking since I was in kindergarten. I realized it didn’t feel right to me, that one question just led to another.  It was like going down a rabbit hole, each answer provoking another question.”
Madonna, third of six children, lost her mother to breast cancer when she was only five. The cancer was diagnosed, but could not be treated because Madonna's mother (a devout Catholic) was pregnant. By the time Madonna's youngest sister was born, it was too late. "My mother was a religious zealot," Madonna said in an interview. Madonna now practices Kabbalah, an ancient Jewish mysticism.
"There was a time I was happy in my life
There was a time I believed I'd live forever
There was a time I prayed to Jesus Christ
There was a time I had a mother
It was nice"
                                (Madonna's "Mother and Father")
Michael Jackson had a contradictory childhood in the Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower). Much has been written about his confusion, his guilt, and his faith. His tense and unhappy relationship with the group ended in the 1980's when they shunned his sister.

Ryan Gosling grew up Mormon. In his words: "My mother admits it: She says, you were raised by a religious zealot. She's different now, but at the time, it was a part of everything - what they ate, how they thought ... " In another interview, Gosling marvels with gentle sincerity "that somebody can say, yeah, it doesn't make sense but I'm going to believe it anyway."

Amy Adams' family was Mormon when she was young. She says that early exposure to religion shaped her values (and created lasting religious guilt). From an interview on her blog:
"I don’t think a child’s brain can really grasp religious concepts without being indoctrinated a little bit. I remember being really upset because my grandfather drank coffee. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Grandpa’s going to hell for drinking coffee!’ I cried in Sunday school. But religion can be a positive thing in people’s lives. It provides an amazing support system if you embrace it. There’s always that part of me that wishes that would have been enough, that I could have been happy with that."
Anne Hathaway left the Catholic Church because of the way it excluded gay people, like her brother. Anne, in an interview with Terry Gross:
"Faith is important to me. You know, being raised with one faith and having to go out into the unknown and try to cobble together another, that was hard. But I wasn’t really leaving something because I realized I couldn't have faith in this religion that would exclude anyone, particularly my brother, for the way he’s born and for loving someone."
Hugh Jackman grew up attending Billy Graham's Australia crusades after his parents were "born-again". "But ultimately, the Christian religion didn't really click with me - it left too many questions unanswered," he said in a British interview. "I couldn't get past the fact that 95 per cent of people on the planet are going to hell because they are non-Christian. I believe more in cause and effect."

Katy Perry couldn't eat Lucky Charms as a kid, watch the Smurfs on TV, or call eggs "deviled". She has rejected her evangelical charismatic upbringing and her parents' intolerance. She told Vanity Fair in 2011:
“In my faith, you’re just supposed to have faith. But I was always like…why? At this point, I’m just kind of a drifter. I’m open to possibility…. My sponge is so big and wide and I’m soaking everything up and my mind has been radically expanded. Just being around different cultures and people and their opinions and perspectives. Just looking into the sky.”
And lastly, a hero of mine,
Alan Alda was raised, schooled, and married in the Catholic Church, but ultimately found science much more compelling than faith. (Believe that a priest can turn bread into God? Really?) Alda has written about his religious upbringing, and his response to it, in his memoirs Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.

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