I typed this as a comment to someone else's blog on the subject of heaven and hell. It seemed easier to cut and paste than to re-create it. This summarizes MY beliefs on that subject:
I can't stand the belief that "my religion is the right religion". I was
raised Catholic but my views of religion, God, heaven and hell have changed
several times over my 40 years of life. Currently I believe hell is living here
on Earth. We'll have to continue living here until we've learned everything we
need to. I believe in souls, heaven and reincarnation. When you die, if your
soul in that life did not learn everything it needed to, then at some point
you'll be reincarnated. You get to choose your parents and gender and see
tidbits of the life you'll have. (deja vu's). The saying "he's an old soul or
she's a new or young soul" makes sense to me when I think about how many lives a
person might have had, the experiences and lessons they've already or haven't
yet lived. I also believe in guardian angels. If I'm wrong and I'm going to poof
into dust for not living the correct religion or having the perfect relationship
with God, I say Oh well. It's not like I'll know it when it happens. LOL
Now, with all that said, I can say that for a long time I was agnostic at best. Atheist even came into my head a few times. But strangely enough, throughout all of it, I believed in ghosts, reincarnation and souls. So my quandary was how can you have those things and not have God? It was a dilemma I struggled with especially after I had children. Baptism. God Parents. Religion. What is one to do about those things when your not sure of anything? As a mother I felt it my responsibility to expose my kids to religion so that they could make their own choice, but given my lack of beliefs how was I going to do that? Todd and I don't attend church and didn't plan on adding that to our weekend routine.
We became close friends with our neighbors from our first house. They were very involved in their daughter's school (catholic school). I also had a co-worker whose daughter's went to a different catholic school. It seemed these people were being put in my path for a reason and I didn't deny it. What was nice is I could openly talk to them about my beliefs (or lack of) and they were fine with it. They're two of my closest friends now.
I don't pray. Why? Because I don't believe anyone is listening. I do believe in the energy of thought. Like if someone is suffering from cancer and a huge prayer request goes out, I actually believe that the energy from everyone thinking, "please help Janet through this chemo treatment, please cure her cancer" can make a difference.
Last year my sister-in-law Janet (the afore mentioned who actually was battling breast cancer) mailed me a book on CD, which I found very enlightening. It was called "90 Minutes In Heaven." Janet and her family live in WA state and are strong Christians. Very very involved in their church. Their daughter married the youth minister and their son is engaged to the ministers daughter. The narrator was the man himself that had the experience. It's non-fiction and very well written. And I believe him. Meaning, I don't think he made it up to sell a book. Again, something put in my path that I paid attention to.
When it came time to put my girls into a preschool I applied to the catholic school our neighbors go to. Paula was accepted. For kindergarten I had her enrolled in the public school near our house, but agonized over it for a couple weeks. The school is not very good. Rates 6 on a scale of 1-10. There were some other factors like the kindergarten was part-time which I didn't like. The class of kids that went there was a wide spectrum but I knew from reading the Internet that discipline was a problem even in the lowest grades. How does a kindergartner get suspended??? I understand it, but didn't really want my daughter going there.
So, we decided to have the kids baptised as catholics to help us get into the school. I can say that during medical procedures I've been asked my religion in case something bad happened. I like having one to pick from. I wanted them to have a religion they could call their own. I'm technically catholic and Todd is technically Lutheran. We picked Todd's brother and his wife for Paula's god parents and our old neighbors as Shawna's god parents. They were 5 and 3 yrs old.
A couple months after that we applied for Paula and she got in. Shawna will start their kindergarten next fall. She attends their preschool now.
We don't attend church unless it's for an event that the kids are in. We don't pray as a family unless Paula asks us to do so at dinner. Todd and I let Paula say the prayer. The girls talk about God and God's creatures and how they love him. When they get older, if they choose to change their beliefs fine, or stick to them fine. As I said, my beliefs have changed over the years and I'm sure they'll change some more.
For summer school I have Paula in a christian summer school program where she receives religion daily. I'm not sure how much different what she learns there varies from her regular school but either way I'm happy for her to have different view points. For her first communion it's all taken care of through her 2nd grade class, which means I don't have to drive her to CCD like my mom had to do with my brother and I. Yay!
Speaking of which, my mom and her 5 siblings were all raised catholic in San Francisco by her parents. Her Irish Mom was about to say her final vow to become a nun, but instead married my 100% Italian grandfather. They all went to catholic schools and church weekly. They ate fish EVERY Friday, which was how it was done back then apparently, until the church said they could eat meat on Friday's except during lent. That made many catholics mad apparently, including my grandparents. Also, only 1 sibling (my mom's sister) practices Catholicism religiously. Many others don't practice any religion, 1 practices Buddhism and another is an episcopalian as well as a minister. She's the oldest sister. My mom has not practiced since before I graduated high school.
Paula asked me to take her to church once on a Sunday so I did. I'm letting her guide me. I'm very happy with my decision to send them to their school. We've met some awesome families. We truly love their school and that community. I believe this is something they need and my own soul needs, even if I do battle the truth of it all.