Struggling – Religious “Crisis”

Good morning! Not sure if this is in the right place – it seemed the best fit as it touches several subjects.

I stumbled upon this forum in the midst of my religious soul searching and it seems the best place to post what I’m feeling to get some feedback. My feelings are pretty all over the place. This is going to be long, so thank you for reading patiently.

I was raised southern Baptist. I wasn’t initially allowed to read Harry Potter or watch the movies until my mom accidentally stumbled on the first movie on TV and fell in love with it herself. My extended family is deeply entwined with a particular church in the area as we have all been raised in that church. I’d say, outside of the younger generations, my mom and I were the only ones who didn’t really hold the full beliefs of that church – honestly, my mom was the sweetest, most kind-hearted, open minded, and supportive person I’ve known. She was my best friend.

No one in my family had ever been diagnosed with cancer before, so it came as a shock when, at 65, Mom was diagnosed with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma – bile duct cancer, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. By the time it was caught, it had spread to her liver and lymph nodes. Because her liver was in such poor condition – multiple large tumors – she could not undergo chemo, and she passed less than two months after her diagnosis on December 5th, 2018. Her last two months came with much suffering in many different ways, a fact that angers me and confounds me to this day.

A couple of weeks before she passed, a kind man from the church came to visit her to give her comfort and peace of mind. I think she was so receptive to him above others because of his kind nature. While they were talking, she turned to him and asked, “Why is this happening to me? Am I being punished? Did I do something against God?” I think, in that moment, my belief began to crumble. If my mom, who was a woman truly representative of the heart and soul of Christianity, of the kindness and compassion and forgiveness that’s supposed to be there, who never drank or married more than once or did anything that broke the “rules” of the church, felt like she had done something wrong to be punished for, then the world is doomed and my beliefs were shot.

I do feel a lot of fear about rejecting Christianity and finding a new spirituality. Not so much for myself – I worry for her, and for my husband. If I stop believing in God, what does that mean for Mom? Where is she if not in Heaven? I can’t imagine another place for her. I can’t bear the thought of there just being nothing after this and her being completely gone. The thought of never seeing her again, even in the afterlife, is soul-crushing. The same goes for my husband, who is alive and well, but no one lives forever. I can’t imagine only being with him in this short life and never being with him again after death.

I’ve always been drawn to things that the church was blatantly against, and mostly used music to “scratch the itch,” so to speak. I started with Marilyn Manson when I was growing up – I remember feeling guilty when I’d listen to “The Reflecting God” or “The Fight Song” because the lyrics were so blatantly anti-Christian. My current favorite band is Ghost, a band chock full of blatant (albeit satirical) Satanic imagery and lyrics. Music has always been such an extremely important part of my life, it’s my way of expressing myself and feeling and healing. If something that’s such a huge part of my life is the complete opposite of my belief system, then what does that mean for me?

While most of the music I listen to isn’t specifically “pagan”, I’m leaning toward paganism now. There are few “rules” to follow, it’s much more fluid than a more rigid and strict religion. I have changed over time, my beliefs have changed over time, thus my spirituality should be able to change and adapt over time. I’ve also desired some sort of ‘ritual’ to follow – I always admired that about Catholicism.

For myself, I’m comfortable reading more and seeing where this path takes me. But I can’t shake that fear, that “What if?” about the afterlife. It’s holding me back and keeping me stuck in crisis. I do wonder how my husband will take it, but we have both been on the same page religiously for a while – disillusioned with church but still believing in God – but I don’t see it being anything that will cause a rift in our marriage, it just might be concerning for him.

I’m sorry if my post was rambly; I tried to include any relevant information. I’m just not sure how to go forward at this point. Going back to the way things were would probably be easier, but I think it might be too late for that at this point.

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