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My Experience Does Not Define Your Religion.

I'll admit that many personal perspectives I write about reference my harsh religious upbringing. Some readers take this personally as if I might suggest all religion is a problem. On the contrary, I attended two extraordinary churches as an adult, but I won't deny that the churches I grew up in as a child were hell.

I don't want readers to feel offended. It's not something I set out to do. There's enough shocking and dramatic noise in the world. But I don't want to give false respect to a place that hasn't earned it. If I'm going to be vulnerable as a human sharing my journey, my formative years will be a part of the story. Religion was a big part of those years. Very big. So it comes up. And honestly, it wasn't playing with neighbor kids, gardening with my dad, sewing with my mom and grandma, or watching TV in the evenings that planted the seeds of emotional struggle. It was events centered around or brought on by the religious school and church I was in.

No religion, god, or interpretation of what a god says or writes is perfect. So don't take offense when someone has a less favorable opinion of religion. Even if it's the religion, you practice. Maybe your god has provided you and your loved ones with a joyous, near-perfect, and practically flawless life. Great. But like any other human experience, others may not have the same luck as you.

The experience I had in my formative years was unhealthy. It set me on a course of a lifetime of anxiety, fear, shame, and narrow-minded views. It wasn't just me; I've talked to the kids I knew back then, and they had the same opinion that all kinds of harmful acts were being committed by the adults surrounding us.

I hope when you read an author's work, sharing their heart, their guts, and the day-in and day-out feelings they walk with, you'll give them, me, the fundamental acknowledgment of our firstmost identity. Human. Pliable, vulnerable, and impressionable. The younger, the more so. Religion, society, authority, and community all surround us to form us into the living creatures we are and will be until our last days. And reflecting on the influences that have gotten us where we are, is our story to tell. Our legacy to own, disown, or call out for its truth.

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