I’m thrilled to publish this beautifully vulnerable, relatable and humorous article, written by Laura Buckley. In this post Laura traces the continuously-evolving journey of her own beliefs across her life so far and invites us to do the same.
How did you come to your beliefs?
When I was seven I wanted to be Christened, because I wanted to feel connected to God. I heard people talking as if they were engaged in an ongoing conversation with their Creator, and I was jealous. My parents were nominally religious, and their parents were active believers. I wanted in. I went to Sunday school for a while, I got into a white dress and Godparents made promises about raising me in God’s light and guiding my religious journey. I went to church, and I listened to the priest, and I tried to hear God. I wasn’t sure if He wasn’t speaking to me, or if I just didn’t know how to listen properly. I prayed, but I felt like I was talking to myself. Perhaps I lacked sufficient faith? I liked the way church smelled, and I loved the beautiful church building, but I never felt connected to the people around me or the words I heard, and so I drifted away from Christianity.
When I was fourteen I turned to Wicca
I was ready for a female deity, ready to feel like I could exert some influence on the world around me, ready to feel some kind of powerful. I bought crystals and essential oils, I lit candles in my room, I spilled wax on the floor and melted it with a hairdryer so it soaked deeper into the carpet because I couldn’t work out what else to do with it. When I spoke to the Goddess I felt something, though I was never quite sure whether that something was externally or internally generated. Does it matter? I wasn’t sure whether it did or not.
I taught my brother a spell I’d read about for warmth, and we practiced it on the winter walks to school. We convinced ourselves it was working, and so maybe it was? I did spells for dreams, spells for protection, spells to see the future. I poured handfuls of salt into the bath and emerged feeling light, purified. I had a vivid imagination, that had always been the case, and I was in love with Magick. I struggled, however, with a feeling that I couldn’t tell anybody about this beautiful belief system without feeling a little silly. I knew most of my closest friends wouldn’t believe in it, and if that bothered me so deeply that maybe I didn’t truly believe in it either. Without a community of fellow practitioners around me I never solidified my conviction, and it shifted slowly from a thing I believed in to a thing I liked the idea of, and then to a thing I didn’t think about any more.
When I was eighteen I went to university to study chemistry
I embraced the philosophy of science. Until you’ve proven it, it is not so. I was around like-minded folk, and of the many brilliant, hilarious, wonderful people I met very few seemed to have a belief system beyond the scientific method. I met and fell in love with a man who is as firmly anti-religion as anyone I’ve ever known, and while we agreed on many things I winced when he equated a belief in more to understanding less. Then there was a death in my family, and at the funeral I saw so many people who spoke with certainty of an afterlife, and I longed for that inner knowledge. The thought of my “self” disappearing into nothing filled me with horror, the kind of dread that claws its way up your throat in the middle of the night and chokes you awake. It wasn’t just fear though, it felt wrong to me. My partner, fiercely intelligent and an adamant unbeliever, was by turns amused and bewildered by my terror. I mentioned once, wistfully, that it would be nice to believe fully in an afterlife, and he scoffed. To even want to believe in something false, I think he felt, was a kind of cowardice. And maybe so. Is it weak to want to believe something comforting, something beautiful? I asked myself if the desperation for faith was just me reaching for a security blanket, a night-light to keep the monsters from creeping out of their hiding places under the bed. Still, it didn’t feel like self-deception.
It wasn’t a scientific thought, but it persisted nonetheless: consciousness seems so wildly improbable and inexplicable that I rebelled against the idea of a total ending. The scientist in me rolled her eyes at the idea of a continuation of the soul, at the very idea of a “soul”, while another part of me was utterly unconvinced by the cold comfort of our atoms going on to make up other, unrelated entities. This tension is ongoing for me, although I feel like I’ve come to a slightly more comfortable place. I no longer identify as a purely a spiritual scientist, and whether I believe in a universe with some guiding or invested force because I’m too afraid not to or because it feels right to me is no longer a question I’m deeply bothered by.
I think we are more than our cells, more than a collection of atoms that just happens to be arranged in this way for the time being. I believe we are connected to each other, as humans, in ways that we don’t fully understand and probably never will. I have faith in forces beyond myself, even if I’m still not entirely sure what form I think those forces take. I’ve taken a meandering path here, and I wouldn’t call my version of spirituality a destination (or even a particularly satisfying rest stop on the way to a destination), but it’s where I am. For now.
How have your own beliefs developed across your lifetime? Let us know below!
Laura is a chemist by education, a teacher by training and a writer at heart. She lives in the North of England and writes blog posts and YA fiction in her free time to stay sane.
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