I once tried to believe.
Cup your palms around the rosary, but do not finger the face of Jesus, flattened on the cross. Breathe ten Hail Marys. Open your eyes.
Open your eyes.
But what you don’t know is that I have opened my eyes. I opened my eyes when I was going about eight, when I learned there were religions other than Christianity, and confusion clouded my mind because how could my religion be true when there were other religions, too? How could any of these religions be true when each one conflicts with the other?
I was baptized when I was seven in a Korean Christian church, my childhood friend Catherine beside me. We were in white dresses, our hair adorned with a halo of white flowers, perhaps the white symbolizing purity. We were ready to speak to the Father behind the curtains and pledge our faithfulness to God in exchange for our sins being cleansed. It is what it is: a premature matrimony to purify children who do not understand religion yet. If that was not what it was for you, if it was instead, a euphoric experience that brought you closer to God, I am envious. The life of certainty was not for me.
Catherine and I stood in a line among many other children, ranging from babies cradled in their mothers’ arms to adolescents. When it was my turn, I stood in front of the opaque sheets, the Father behind them. He was kind, but he was supposed to be kind. He asked I affirm my belief in God and I did.
I was handed a rosary, the string of knots a fuchsia pink. Catherine received a coral-colored rosary I thought was prettier than mine. That was my only notable thought after my baptism: that my friend received a nicer rosary than me. Clearly, I should not have been baptized as a child.
Yet for a while, I still longed to believe.
What my mother doesn’t know is the overwhelming frustration that choked me nightly as I repeated prayers, so many prayers. Our Father, who art in heaven—and then I would finish and wait for a feeling of finality. A feeling of redemption. A feeling of piety. Any feeling. But it never came.
What my mother doesn’t know is the sadness that comes with the inability to believe. What my mother doesn’t know is how much I wanted to believe.
I grew up to be an atheist. I considered agnosticism but refused it. After some time from my initial stage of disbelief, I was convinced the foundation of any religious principles was unfounded.
But there is not a passing day I do not wonder if I am wrong, and that there really is a God and a Jesus and a heaven and a hell. If that is the case, I envision meeting death by peering over the lips of hell, the fiery depths, and knowing all along I was damned for this end because I did not believe.
Claire S. Lee is a junior at Canyon Crest Academy. She particularly enjoys reading and writing historical fiction.