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Why I Went Back To Church (Even Though I Don’t Know If I Believe In “God”… Yet)

*I just wanted to start this post by saying that this post has been a year and a half coming. I finished writing weeks ago – right before it all started spiking here in the US and distancing efforts were began in earnest. We held off posting this because we were (and likely still are) all consumed, like most of the world, with the tragic state of things. But I suppose now is as good a time as any to talk about a higher power, our existence, and purpose. Of course, the irony is that I can’t go to church for a while, but that doesn’t negate my feelings and thoughts on the subject. Here goes…

Plot twist in the Emily Henderson story. After being raised Mormon, then spending 25 years agnostic, I have found myself wearing an ankle-length skirt, carrying a bag full of coloring books and snacks, sitting in a pew surrounded by stained glass. AND LIKING IT. What most of you have been wondering (and asking on social media) is, how the hell did I get here? 

Well, a long-winded analogy seems only appropriate to help explain. Here’s how I look at it: Spirituality (and religion) is like exercise or playing a sport – you can dabble in it (the occasional hike), join a local team (a casual church), or dedicate your life to playing a professional sport. Some people like to do it on their own (the rock climber?), some need a group to stay motivated, some like a friendly coach, and some might prefer or need a strict regimen with a lot of discipline and punishment (NFL player). YOU GET IT. There are a million different ways to exercise your body and get those endorphins (if you are even into that) and finding the one that works best for you is the challenge. I think it’s the same with spirituality. There are too many “religions’ and non-religions to count, all with pretty much the same goals – to add or find a larger meaning to life and enrich our day-to-day while we are here. 

I grew up LDS, aka Mormon. I left when I was 15 for the reasons that most people do – I didn’t identify with the conservative values, felt like there were a lot of hypocrisies, and didn’t feel seen as an individual who had a lot of questions that never could be answered. I also likely wanted to act like a normal teenager and make choices that weren’t aligned with the LDS doctrine, because as some of you might know, Mormonism is strict. But mostly it’s because I never really believed in God, which made all the above even harder. In all honesty, leaving the church didn’t feel like the hard part. But upsetting my parents was. Looking back now, I realize that rejecting and feeling rejected by something I’d known all my life, during such formative years, was perhaps traumatic and certainly skewed my view of organized religion. Not to mention affected my relationships. I wasn’t “kicked off the team”. I guess I just didn’t want to play anymore. I could write a whole book about that, and I realized it would be a big question in the comments so I wanted to address it. However, it’s not the point of this post. 

So most of my 20s and early 30s were spent without religion, having no spiritual life, which seemed fine because it’s really easy to not have something that you never had before. Plus I was a bit angry at organized conservative religions and really wanted no part of it. When people said “I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual,” I thought it was BS because I didn’t know how to divorce the two. I didn’t realize all the options that are out there. I’d think, “so you believe in what??? Spirits?? What does that even mean??” Now, I know. 


In my later 30s I softened and started to see more of the good that churches can do – including the LDS (although their support of prop 8 set me back a lot). I started thinking about church probably for the same reason a lot of people do: The longing for community, to connect deeper to others outside of our bubble, to find a potential higher power for guidance, and to know that there IS more than just “this.” Also let’s not forget the nostalgia for an easier life, fear of how to raise our children to be good, the desire to help others, and generally help to be a better person. I look at my siblings and parents and I can’t help but think “gosh, Mormons are just the nicest people,” and clearly I want that part for my kids. 

Let me be clear, you don’t need religion or a church to do any of those things above, and many people would argue that there is more harm done with religion than good (I think the singular, and extreme view of the world is what causes problems – the interpretation of religion, perhaps not the religion itself). But historically, that small building in the middle of town could also help provide a lot of those things (when done right). “Working out” on my own was clearly not working. I needed the right “team,” the right church, one that was open and accepting, believed in science, but does that even exist anymore? 

Most importantly I started wondering why we were here. The whole meaning of life thing, and thus began my existential crisis. I couldn’t get my mind around the idea that if one of my kids or Brian died, that was it. No way. I knew that if/when that happens I’d search for answers which prompted me to find them earlier. Also, surely I’m here to do more than just play with pillows and beg for a “swipe up”. I certainly didn’t think that church was going to be THEE answer, but I knew that it was one way that was clearly popular, and one that I was very familiar with.

But I didn’t believe in God or Christianity. I believe in equality and science and radical inclusivity. Also, I was generally nervous to be in a room where another flawed HUMAN BEING MAN might tell me how to think or what to believe. I just couldn’t . . . yet. 

But I still had to find out the meaning of life, obviously. 

So I began my detective work to “find my purpose” and shopped around for the type of spiritual “exercise” that hopefully checked all my boxes and got me a bit closer. 

I listened to podcasts: The Liturgists, Super Soul Sunday, Goop. I read 7 Steps to Spiritual Wellness and Many Lives Many Masters amongst MANY OTHERS. I saw a spiritual counselor and mediums (tarot and palm reader), did sound baths and reiki. I tried meditating and read more about Buddha, and modern-day prophets like Gandhi and MLK. I even became more open to the idea of Joseph Smith – yes, the 14-year-old that founded the Mormon church. In my mind all of the philosophies don’t negate each other, you don’t HAVE to choose one, in fact, it’s my assertion that they are just different access points to the same higher power/s. 

I believe in it all, total religious fluidity, and think there are many different “languages” (or types of “exercises”) because there are many different types of people and we all communicate and function differently. You might see this as a cop-out or even offensive if you believe more singularly – that there is only one true religion – but in a subject that has zero conclusive answers, who is to say anything is off the spiritual table? 

So I suppose at this point I was spiritually lubed up and emotionally ready to step into that door because most of my individual research didn’t yield the community and service aspect that I craved for my family. I still wanted a physical place to meet, an organized way to help, and maybe I could connect more with others outside my bubble instead of me just complaining to my friends or shouting at the stars. 

But before we go further here is a little video I made, talking out loud about my feelings…

So where did I go? What church did I choose? 

**First off, this goes without saying, but I feel like I have to state it – I’m not supportive of any organization who interprets their doctrine to make people in any way feel bad about who they are or their choices, who supports political causes that exclude or seek to take away rights from people. It has to be progressive. For me to attend a church I need radical equality, Evolution is going to need to be recognized as a thing, and anyone can marry who they choose and all families are celebrated. Also, don’t lecture or tell me how to think*

My friend Suzanne was also searching for lots of answers and guidance and as raised Christian herself she felt the most comfortable going to a Christian church. She invited me and I was excited to go more as an anthropological study, definitely unsure that I would “fall” for Christianity. I didn’t the first time around, so why would I now? But the church was a 10-minute walk and only a 1-hour service. It felt like a healthy risk for a good story. 

I prepped myself and dressed in what was almost a sister wife costume and my former church “uniform” – a cute, ankle-length skirt, modest white blouse, and a bandana headband. I didn’t know that at most progressive churches you can really wear ANYTHING. We shuffled in and found an empty pew while the kids focused on their wrapped peppermints (Candy!). The pastor (Bishop? Reverend? Priest? I didn’t know) was wearing a plaid button-up, slacks, and sneakers. Neither hipster nor formal. As he spoke he reminded me so much of my older brother – genuine, funny, self-deprecating, relatable, inspiring and very, very caring while being seemingly unjudgemental. 

As the music started, and we were asked to stand up I held Birdie like a security blanket, swaying with her in my arms, singing in her ear the new words displayed on the projector screen. It was uncomfortable how comfortable it was.

I thought, “I can’t believe I’m at church
And I like it.” It was shocking, but not surprising.

The tears came, as they are right now. I guess I was overwhelmed, maybe by “the spirit” (I’ve heard of that:)), more likely nostalgia. I was my mother. I had done all the things – packed a “church bag” full of snacks and coloring books and yelled “kids get ready for church!” as if they even knew what that meant – they had never been. I found myself shushing them gently the same way my mom shushed us. I was dying to listen to the pastor, as likely my parents also did the bishop 30 years ago, because now it mattered to me. I didn’t hate this nostalgic feeling, because the intention behind all of it, 30 years ago and now, was good. My parents had good intentions and so do I, despite all the mistakes I’m surely going to make when my children are teenagers. The sermon made me ask myself some hard questions in such a non-judgemental and casual way. There was this undeniable sweetness and earnestness from the few people who were there. 

Why this church?

I suppose I found the type of “spiritual exercise” that works best for me at this point in my life. Let me explain. 

I’m going to continue with my sports analogy, because now I’M READY TO HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK. This church is the super fun “community softball team,” with a really nice encouraging coach, and people of all different levels, that accepted me for my average talent but eager demeanor. It’s an “anyone can play” team. This isn’t dissimilar from growing up where I played every sport with such enthusiasm, despite my undeniable mediocrity. And every single year, I won the – I kid you not – “best attitude” award. I’m the exact same here. I’m not necessarily GREAT at the game, but I really, really, really want to play because it makes me feel good and for whatever reason, I will give it my all. 

I like having a team because I’m not that disciplined on my own – I’m too scattered and get bored so easily, I won’t push myself on my own and I’m pretty social (as you can guess). I need a coach who encourages and teaches, but doesn’t yell, lecture, scream or make me feel bad when I mess up (or when I don’t show up). He wants me to be better and gives skills, tips, and tools that help, but no extreme punishment when I fail. I like teammates to share in the same experiences and I respect that some people are going to take it more seriously, be amazing, and leave me in the dust – I literally don’t care. You do you. I just want to set aside some time to be with them and my family, work on what I need to work on, and share some values. Basically, I want to “exercise” and leave feeling really good, taking that experience throughout the week.

This church is new and un-organized in the BEST way. It’s full of people that are in our community, yet outside my normal social circle, and it’s so refreshing. It is earnest and sweet and there is zero dogma and indoctrination (thus far). I told the pastor the second week (when he asked) that I didn’t believe in a “Christian God, per se.” He smiled and said, “I get that,” and then joked, “well …. at least not yet” with a proverbial wink, which was actually very funny and we both laughed at the challenge. I was totally accepted there even though I couldn’t and can’t say that I take Jesus as my Lord and savior. And I’m not sure I ever will. It just felt like you could be the worst version of yourself and still be accepted and loved.

I also really ENJOY learning about history. Despite your spiritual beliefs, a lot of what is in the Bible happened historically (with different versions obviously – no one REALLY knows) and I was gripped with a “what is going to happen next” curiosity, as if it were the hometowns of The Bachelor. And by the end of the never-long-enough talk, the sermon is always brought back to 2020 and how the message could somehow pertain to us now. We always leave wanting to be a better person in some way, with more introspection. Suzanne and I usually have a 2 hour debrief about what we learned, and how we are going to take the message into our lives, as I roast my Sunday supper chicken and sip orange wine or prosecco.

This church also cares about local causes and has provided a place for us to volunteer and help the community. This was one of my original drives towards a physical church versus just practicing my own spirituality. Of course, ideally, we’d be doing it more on our own, not needing the reminder or someone else to organize. But again, like working out, with busy lives it’s easy to forget this. There is some accountability, but most importantly it’s nice to do it TOGETHER. It’s very bonding for a community, hell it’s what makes a community. We aren’t perfect and I’m not saying that I’m using all my time to help others, but it’s more top of mind with more real opportunities.

Wait, What type of church is this??? 

The third Sunday I jokingly ask Suzanne “What are we again?” Oh right, Presbyterian (reformed). Now I currently don’t necessarily identify as being a Presbyterian, nor am I baptized (or however you become an official member). That may or may not happen. If you want to know what makes them different from other Christian sects here is my very rudimentary understanding (approved by our pastor): 1. Reformed Presbyterians let women become pastors and elders. 2. They accept science (evolution) and approach religion with what they say is a more intellectual viewpoint (like I said, so much history is taught). 3. They have open books and you know exactly how and where your donations are being spent, which is inspiring and makes you care more. But beyond that yes, it’s more progressive, with very little shame or emphasis on guilt, no “going to hells,” etc. It probably helps that the Pastor is in AA, so there are a lot of great messages from that philosophy.

Do I believe in God now?

I believe in a higher power that I have a strong connection with, which does give me a sense of calm, guidance, support, love and yes meaning. I also think that we are all connected, including animals and even plants/our soil, which has given me a much greater sense of connection to the earth and empathy. There is something bigger and greater than me, and I feel that pretty solidly in my soul. 

However …. 

I still struggle saying “God” in the Christian sense, and often transcribe “God” to “universe” or as my brother does “GOOD” in my head when it’s spoken. I think the easiest way to explain it is this: I’m open to it all, but Christianity is my “Native Language” – it’s my “way in,” because it’s close to how I was raised (Mormons are Christians). It’s comfortable and easy for me, but as I said earlier there are so many others “languages” that you can also speak (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism – ANY and all of them that I’m forgetting . . . .). I don’t believe it’s the only true religion, it’s just culturally the easiest for me to identify with. 

I hope that saying I don’t believe there is only one religion or one God isn’t offensive to those of you who have more of a singular view, that is obviously not the intent or the *spirit* of the post. Spirituality is so individual and cultural, and I think whatever feels good, gives you a greater purpose, and helps you find meaning is right for you. Again, it’s a type of religious or spiritual fluidity that is working for me.

And listen, some times it gets too “religious-y” for me and that’s ok! I am at a church after all. I just think “this part isn’t for me” and then I listen, without judgment. It’s a lot to go from being agnostic for 25 years to attending a Christian church, weekly. I’m making small steps with an open mind and I’m sure as I learn more about Christianity and that undeniably great guy Jesus, some sort of faith will grow. I’m totally open to it (honestly I think I just need to understand the story more to “get” the story of Jesus, and our pastor agreed to give me some one on one time to ask all my questions).

Are we raising our kids religious?

Mostly we are doing our best in every way, and certainly not relying on church to teach them morality just as we don’t rely on their school teachers to teach them how to behave. For now, they are coming with us and enjoying it, but I’m nervous, Brian even more-so. It seems so far that they are just learning a simpler version of what we are learning. Hopefully, they are just taking away the idea of being kind and helping our neighbors, loving our enemy, etc. Although I know that there is a level of conditioning that is really hard to avoid in a church when you are so young. I try to casually ask them about what they learned and if they have any questions, without being too weird about it. Birdie just likes to color the cartoon angels, but Charlie sits with us in the service and listens to Every. Single. Word. It’s both impressive and kinda scary, fearing that he’s too young to hear the grownup bible stories (guys, the old testament is not G rated, and yes we had to leave once during the service where we learned about why it was called “Passover.” He got scared of blood on our door). 

When Charlie asked me point blank if Jesus really came back from the dead, I said “I don’t know, bud. These are all stories that a lot of people believe are true, and you can learn and think for yourself. Ask all the questions you need and maybe someday you’ll decide if they feel true to you, too.” He accepted that answer, as I wiped the beads of sweat off my brow. I truly think we should foster the openness to faith, and create a space and conversation for their potential beliefs, inspire hope, etc. I personally don’t actually think telling them that these are the facts and that they have to believe helps them develop a healthy sense of spirituality in the long run. I resented that as a child and teenager, and I don’t want to repeat that. 

We want them to enjoy it, not have it be forced upon them and Brian and I are even remodeling the kid’s ministry rooms to be more fun and inviting (coming to a blog near you soon) so it injects the new church with good energy. (See? I’m an ENTHUSIASTIC player.)

What does Brian think? Does Brian Henderson go to church?

The back story. Brian has always been a pretty atheistic, barely admitting that maybe there is something out there, referencing “science” all the time and needing “proof” (boring). His “know it all-ness” has infuriated me at times and we’ve actually had so many heated “debates” and wine-fueled fights about it over the last 10 years. How does HE know there’s NOTHING? 

So when I first started taking the kids he was psyched to get 2 hours alone on a Sunday morning. He would listen to podcasts, clean the house, and watch sports. Then I’d come back in a GREAT mood and make us all a huge Sunday supper of roasted chicken and farmers market veggies. Yah . . . he loved “church,” with no intention of ever going himself. 

But he wanted to participate in the service projects and knew that it was important that we do it as a family. Turns out he enjoyed the people, pastor, and the work. In fact, a couple of months ago our family spent the entire Saturday with some other volunteers cleaning and organizing the kid’s rooms. Not only did Brian not complain about how he was spending his weekend, but I could see that he really enjoyed it. This has continued and the past couple of weeks he has spent a large portion of every day putting down Flor tiles in the new kid’s spaces so the church didn’t have to hire someone. 

He’s opted to come to the last two services and really enjoys the conversation – it’s thought-provoking and historically so interesting. Don’t tell us (or our kids) how to think or believe, but it’s hard to argue with inspiring people encouraging us to be less of an asshole, love more, and feel more universally connected. Knowing that something great exists beyond you, is good for all of our souls (and egos). But spiritually he’s still up in the air, but becoming more open.

How do our friends feel?

Ha. Well, it’s funny. They are watching from the bleachers, nay, across the street inside a house peering out behind the curtains, mostly thinking it’s weird and scared that we’ve changed and become super conservative. After over 10 years of friendship, it must feel odd to text “Brunch?” And get back “Sorry, going to church!” I try to explain it, but it always feels like I’m proselytizing and that’s not what I’m trying to do AT ALL. I also find myself feeling defensive. It’s kept kinda quiet here in LA (by others, not me), with people sharing political views and educational philosophy much earlier than mentioning any sort of church affiliation. I think there can be a lot of judgment about religion and “church,” mostly because of the stereotypes. The ones that say churchgoers are extremely conservative, hate gays, love Trump and hold “you’re going to hell” signs on street corners. Sure, that exists, but definitely not the case here. After years of angrily arguing about how some Christians are the least Christ-like, I’m relieved to finally be exposed to so many Christians that indeed are carrying more progressive views and are so open, loving and inclusive. It’s so refreshing.

Since I’ve spoken openly about going to church, people will perk up and say “me, too”. There are a surprising amount of “secret Christians” in LA (that’s what I call them). The irony is thick – that they/we are fear being judged out in society, as others do when they are in a church. Extremism in every religion is what people fear, me too, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, I know some Mormons that believe wholeheartedly in the gospel but disagree with a lot of the interpretations of the doctrines that human men have put into place. This blew my mind – that you don’t have to buy into the whole thing. You can believe in the macro but know that some of the man-made rules and rights restrictions are perhaps not for you. I will pay $500 to anyone that can explain why they forbid drinking coffee but encourage diet coke. These kinds of inconsistencies distract (and taint) the entire religion, but I respect the individuals who are progressive enough to realize that there might have been a “language barrier” or a “lost in translation” issue with some of the doctrine from God to prophet. 

But again, this post isn’t about why I left the Mormon church, it’s why 25 years later I’ve found myself in a church at all. It’s still shocking to me, and yet somehow not at all. 

Would I ever go back to the Mormon church?? 

While I have truly endless appreciation for how I was raised until I was a teenager (#mormontil15) I don’t identify with how conservative it is. I do however realize that no one does service and gives back more than the Mormon church – they just don’t shout about it. They do SO MUCH for so many, locally and internationally, and for the most part their intention is wildly pure. I am a highly positive person, with a crazy work ethic, and a very good moral compass because I was raised Mormon by people who dedicated their lives to the church (could be anecdotal, but those are the facts). But until the church can accept gay marriage, encourage more questioning and curiosity, and allow flexibility in rules then I know I won’t be able to make it my community. I’ve talked to the big guy about it, and he’s fine with me 🙂 My beef with religion has truly been more with the conservatism/extreme teachings.

This post felt premature to write. I’m only a year and a half in and I’m just learning my “spiritual language,” I’ve just joined the team. Plus I have a lot of residual religious resentment that I’ve had to work through. It’s creating a pretty big hurdle for me to dismantle or jump over. So while I’m comfortable at a Christian church I still have some triggers. I suppose that’s why it’s shocking, that after all that injury, I’m back up playing again at all. And writing this post over the last couple of months (the first draft was 23 pages) helped a lot. 

So that’s where I’m at, March 20, 2020. I go to church and I like it.

For someone who apparently LOVES a cheesy long-winded sports analogy I find it hilarious that I can’t handle the word “journey,” but I suppose that’s what I’m on – a spiritual journey. And in five years this might be a completely different post. But using that analogy truly helped me understand where I am spiritually and why I am currently choosing the experience that I am. And that is a keyword for me – “choosing.” It’s my choice. It’s my kid’s choice. And sometimes you need to sit out an inning, bench yourself, or play something different altogether. I think we are ready for this modern version of religion – less polarizing, extreme, and dogmatic and shift it to more acceptance, community, connection, and love. I think that generally, it’s the human beings that have corrupted religions because we are all flawed and full of fear. It’s a hard jump to make to let’s say, still support the LDS church when their doctrine doesn’t support gay marriage. But there seems to be an increasing amount of people who are seeing things this way – interpreting it for themselves, translating it to 2020, and leading with progressive kindness, rather than just sticking to laws that men interpreted from their god. 

So have I found my purpose? Do I know the meaning of life? Maybe. I’ve definitely made some shifts in my career to ensure that I can focus on what I think my “calling” might be. Again, you don’t need religion to help you come to any of these decisions or make any shifts in your life, but it helped me think more macro. It helped me look at things with a lens of longevity and purpose, and there can be nothing wrong with that. 

Maybe someday I’ll be ready for the big leagues, but I’m pretty happy here, showing up when I can, and asking a ton questions to myself and others. Sometimes just getting out there and playing feels really, really, REALLY good. 

So, guys, that’s me, in this very moment quarantined up at the mountain house, thinking about bigger things. Now you: What spiritual team do you play for? Did you grow up going to church? Are you too someone who never thought you’d go back but find yourself craving it?? Would you go back? Did this infuriate/enlighten you? Have you also been seeking some of the same things? I’d LOVE to hear it. 

**Any discussion about religion will be inflammatory, thus my apprehension of posting this for over a year. I realize that for a lot of people religion has caused them so much rejection, pain, and trauma, not to mention wars and genocide. But for others, it has brought nothing but joy and security. It seems to me if something can be so polarizing it’s likely because it holds a lot of emotional stake, and therefore is worth a conversation. I hope this can be a productive dialogue, where we can be open to other’s viewpoints and grow by appreciating other’s views. Don’t waste this opportunity to connect by adding fuel to a negative fire. Instead pose questions, and thoughtful open opinions (like I know you will). 


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400 thoughts on “Why I Went Back To Church (Even Though I Don’t Know If I Believe In “God”… Yet)

  1. Hi Emily, I am a huge fan of yours and I have read your blog for years. I have been anxiously awaiting this post because I had just no idea what it would say. I’m in the category of “NFL player” Christian, having grown up in the church and later worked at my church for several years and now live overseas working for a church here…I’m all in!

    Your story is extremely encouraging to me because of countless conversations that I’ve had with other Christians or on our church staff whether or not “un-believers” or “not-yet-believers” would feel like they are welcomed in our church. It’s a very uncomfortable question to wrestle with and I am grateful for your story to know that it’s possible and to hear from you what exactly those things were that made you feel welcomed wholeheartedly. I think it’s a very courageous choice for you to be in this phase and I hope that others will be encouraged to “try” church without feeling like it’s going to be an extremely pressuring environment…maybe it’s helpful to think about dating the church/Christianity without feeling like you have to marry it 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your heart and for your kind and generous perspective. It was brave of you to write about your journey (sorry!) and I’m glad you’re willing to open this conversation.

    1. thank you. I was very nervous to click on the comments this morning and when i saw ‘long time reader, NFL player’ I was nervous that I offended. I was so relieved to read the rest of your comment and feel your support for those of us still wrestling with our spirituality. I really liked your ‘dating a church’ analogy (I love an analogy if you can’t tell). Thank you!

      1. Emily! I also go to church here in SoCal and I like it. I like it a lot! It’s my team and I play in it with all
        my other members. Currently sewing face masks for those in the frontline of the Quarantine. This was such a beautiful post of your journey. Encouraging too!

    2. Hi Emily, I too am a huge fan of yours and saw you win the design contest years ago, also I’m in the NFL. This is such a beautiful post and it was so good to hear how you felt going back to church. I was reared in church, but sat on the sidelines until I was in my late 20’s and then decided to actually play on the team. I’m a very happy team player now and in my late 60’s so I’ve been on the team for awhile. I hope you grow and find a place (position) to play and it sounds like you’re well on your way!

  2. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt, deeply personal post. Lifelong Catholic here, and so much of what you said resonated with me. The Catholic Church has done so much wrong, but has also done a lot of good in the world. There have to be systemic changes. But I feel that my individual church I go to is welcoming and inclusive. It doesn’t preach on laws and rules but rather on doing good in the world (taking “church” beyond the walls). And some of the most wonderdul people I know are Catholic. I love the sense of community and the sense of refuge. Now, having said that, I rarely talk about my faith because of my similar experience that some Christians can hide behind their faith to judge and shun. I take what works for me and realize that won’t work for everyone. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. I love that view and I think that more people hold it than we think. Its the same in politics – just because I vote democrat doesn’t mean that I agree with it all. thanks for sharing. xx

  3. I was raised going to church, and loved it. But when I went to college, it seemed like everyone on campus who went to church was so preachy and self-righteous and overzealous…it felt performative, and I hated it. It turned me off of even just wanting to go to church for years. Fast forward a decade, and, like you, my husband and I have felt that pull to find the community of church again. It took over 7 months of trying different churches every Sunday. Finally we found one near our house that felt right. The second time we went, we realized the church does a monthly “gospel Sunday” where the service is led by the huge, amazing gospel choir. At the end of the service, they asked us to stand up, walk to the center aisle, and all hold hands, and we sang “We Shall Overcome”. It was so touching, and obviously such a close community of people, everyone leaning on each other and singing this wonderful message together – it made me weep. (I’m tearing up again writing this!) The woman next to me, a total stranger, noticed my tears and smiled at me and wrapped her arm around my waist. It was so kind. Not much more to add, other than – I totally get the feeling of wanting to find a community of people trying to do the right thing and make the world better, and how special and comforting it can feel when you find it. 🙂

    1. that made ME tear up. The music, singing with people, really does something to you. I originally wanted to write a post called ‘shopping …. for a church’ almost like a review and I would try out so many different types and write about them – again more as a curious anthropological study. But I found my church so early on (I tried two others) that I didn’t want to keep looking 🙂 I would love to have read your review of those 7 months. xx

    2. my FAVORITE part of this story is when you talked about how you and your friend actually discuss the sermons afterwards. As someone who has been a Christian almost my entire life, I know that many of us go to church and walk right out without a second thought of what was said. The times in my life that I have spent discussing and talking through my faith, my beliefs, my doubts, my fears, with my church friends are the best times of my life. Living my life with them has been everything to me. But there have been so many times when I have not done that…. Just went along with the routine of going to church because that’s what you’re supposed to do. So, how awesome to be reminded the purpose of going to church! There is a promise in the Bible that says if you look for God, you will find Him. I believe that for you. Thank you for sharing!

  4. This was AMAZING. So happy you chose to write this and it is so absolutely relatable. I just recently started going to church again in my mid 30’s after a LONG period of just showing up for Christmas Eve service with my parents– not because I had some philosophical falling out with religion but more because life got busy and I felt uncomfortable as a single adult showing up to something that felt geared for families. I also came to the dilemma of “is this really all there is?”. I hope I can find a similar sense of peace as you seem to have found.

  5. I love that you shared this. As you mentioned, religion can be a polarizing topic, so I hope that you are met with love because that- love- is the basis of my Christian faith. May God continue to guide you and your family as you navigate this journey. <3

    I didn't grow up going to church until friends invited me to their youth group in 7th grade. 20-some years and two kids later, I desperately love Jesus but have wandered from my home church after the leadership changed. Reading about your journey inspires me to live-stream a church service tomorrow to explore other options for us so that we can actually find a new church home after this social distancing ends.

    1. thank you 🙂 I was nervous about comments, too but so far so good! (only like 8 in) I know there are a lot of podcasts out there, too – recorded from church. I’m going to watch the livestream (I think) tomorrow or maybe later. I really miss going now but maybe livestream will be a good temporary substitute?

  6. I can totally relate and I’m sure many others can as well. I was raised catholic and definitely wish they were less conservative in many ways, however going to mass reminds me what is important in the world – family, giving back to those less fortunate, and treating others with love and respect. Living in NYC for 10 years can make you forget that, going about your busy life with distractions every day, and sometimes need a reminder to take a quiet moment and pray for those you love and strangers that need it. 5 years ago the church brought me my now husband who happened to be there only because a friend of his had recently passed away. We met that day, got engaged after a mass 5 years later, and then got married at that church. We are always kind of afraid/embarrassed to tell this story to our liberal, hip New Yorker friends but other times we are proud. Our priest there is young and progressive and always ties the homily back to modern day as well in a very relatable way and in these trying times is even doing Instagram live masses. The music is performed by a cantor and organist who are Doctors of music so every mass is also a concert (which might be my musician husbands favorite part). We all find our own things to love and believe in and that’s what’s important.

    1. that sounds so lovely, honestly. I want to watch! and its a bummer that our stereotypes of religious people (because they are out there) tend to be so extreme that you edit yourselves. I’m sure a lot of New Yorkers would love to know where it is if you wanted to share?

  7. Thank you. I appreciate your thoughtful post and your honesty and your courage in sharing your thoughts.

  8. Fascinating!

    Not religious, never have been. I do feel a pull toward ‘community’ and church is the, hmm, default? place for community. But I hate organised religion for the damage it does, the supreme hypocrisy and the yelling outside clinics.

    Really interesting reading though. You wrote it well and balanced. I think I’m more a Brian, show up to do some good (halftime oranges?), but I’m not getting on the field.

    1. HAHAHAHAH. I love your “halftime oranges”. Extra credit for referencing my sports analogy in the comments, guys 🙂

    2. Maybe consider a Unitarian church? There’s no Jesus, just a spiritual, open-minded, inclusive group of folks getting together to do good.

    3. Halftime oranges! You just described me — non-believer but spiritually curious and always down for some social justice/action. Thank you (and Emily) for the extended metaphor — it’s giving me some new understanding.

    4. I was also going to recommend Unitarianism if you hope to avoid the baggage. It’s so nice to be part of a community with a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

  9. Loved this and resonated so much with it! Thank you. The group “house” for organizing our political and ethical commitments is so key, right? As you say, I’m sure many people can do this on their own, but it’s a powerful thing to be part of an organism bigger than ourselves. My church’s weekly soup kitchen was transformed into a robust brown bag operation in about nine seconds this week, thanks to folks knowing immediately how to reach out and organize. Much love and support from this “secret Christian” in another big city. xx

    1. 🙂 so it is a thing!! ‘secret christian’. Oh the irony. Non-christians feel judged by christians and vice versa, and Christians feel nervous to be judged by non-believers. Seems so silly, and yet there is a reason for it – so much judgement out there (and listen, its understandable for some). I think thats one of the things I’ve loved about this over the last year and a half – being outside of my liberal bubble gave me opportunity to have conversations about spirituality that I likely wouldn’t have had and yes, has made me way less judgemental. xx

  10. What a great post! Thank you for sharing your “journey” with us. I’m team Christian all the way, been carrying that church bag of snacks for years. I loved reading your perspective, as it is similar to many I love and it helps me understand. ❤️

  11. Thank you for sharing this story! I think many of us struggle with organized religion (especially if like Emily we self-identify as progressive or liberal) and yet have some beliefs or wondering or recognition of a spiritual part of us, and of life. I used to worry about these questions for myself until someone told me, “doubt is a form of faith.” By that definition, I am full of faith! This is an individual journey but I am thankful for the faith I do have, even if it is as small as a mustard seed sometimes.

  12. Wow just wow! Thank you so much for sharing! I was raised in the Church of Christ and have been a “Christian” since I was 12. Now in my late 30s, I’m struggling with what my actual beliefs are. I’m tired of being told all the time that I’m doing it wrong. I’m tired of every sermon or class telling me I’m going to hell. I need hope. I need love. I need people who truly care about others and want to help, not because they are trying to convert someone. There are so many rules in this church that are pushed as if they are straight from God, but it’s actually years and years of tradition and doctrine. I really appreciate your perspective and share so many of the same thoughts. ❤️

    1. thank you 🙂 I think just asking those questions will hopefully help you find somewhere that maybe makes you feel happy and more loved? Good luck finding your team 🙂

    2. My husband I were raised cofC too. We no longer identify and attend. It’s difficult since both of our families are so disappointed in us for that. I’m longing for a community again, but I don’t think I could ever go back to cofC. I hope you decide what’s best for you and enjoy your experience.

  13. Hi Emily! I love your vulnerability and your willingness to really think for yourself and not just do something because your parents did it. It feels like you are being very authentic!

  14. Hello Emily,
    I’m so happy you are searching. I encourage you to read the Bible to find the answers you are looking for. The King James Version that you may have grown up reading is difficult to understand. I enjoy the New Living Translation and The Message Version. They are the same story but translated in a more modern and easy to understand language. I am so thankful I have come to know God as a personal friend through reading letters from him, the Bible. God bless you as you continue your search! ❤️Amy

  15. Wow, lots of mental gymnastics going on here. I guess that’s what you need to do when there’s no evidence of something.

    1. Patty. I’m an atheist, too, but it’s pretty darn cool of Emily to share her own spiritual “journey,” including all the parts that aren’t totally figured out. In fact, that “not-knowing” stance makes me relate to and respect a person (any person) even more. We don’t need religion to help us to understand that before we comment, we should consider whether a) it’s true, b) it’s necessary, c) it’s kind.

      1. It’s funny, I didn’t read it as rude but I see that it was likely intented to be, and thats ok. It is a lot of mental exercise to figure out the meaning of life – it takes curiosity and a lot of research only this one there is no proof or evidence, which makes it a lifelong process – that i’m very much enjoying 🙂

    2. Patty – It can be argued that it takes more mental gymnastics to believe we are here because of an accident than we are here because of a Creator.

      1. I encourage you to educate yourself on scientific principals and the origins of the universe. Stephen Hawkings, Einstein, Neil Tyson deGrasse are all good places to start.

        1. Patty, I don’t believe in religion, particularly, but first, none of said scientists can /prove/ exactly when and how life started. Nothing explains the “switch”. All we have is theories.

          Also, being rude and patronizing about any topic doesn’t make you any superior. Just a regular jackass.

          1. I’m for realism and rationalism. When I see someone spreading magical thinking as if it’s based in reality I speak up. If that makes me a jackass, okay.

        2. Humans endowed with specific knowledge, confined to the realm of current science are hardly the end all be all to a soul search. If I want to buy a house, I use a broker. If I want to feel better, I go to a doctor. If I’m looking for spiritual nourishment, the last place I’d look is a scientist. I might use the scientific method to test different spiritual practices. I’d try prayer, meditation, test it myself. Only through personal experience can you truly know something intangible for certain.

        3. Assuming we came here buy pure coincidence, one that caused this so perfectly attuned world and gave us exactly what we need to survive and reproduce. Now, science claims we are made of chemical particles. If so what is one’s subconscious made of, and how can you explain your own dreams?

    3. Lots of mental gymnastics needed in science, as well, to theorize, extrapolate, cross-reference and prove/disprove. I, like Emily, crave community…but like Brian, am still not ready to join a team. However, I won’t begrudge a human being the desire for community and comfort. As Muriel Rukeyser said so eloquently, “The Universe is made of stories not atoms.” I hope everyone finds the story that gives them peace in these turbulent times.

  16. This was a very interesting read. Love your work and love following you. Thanks for being so vulnerable. So very brave of you. Like you said, not very “typical” in the LA world. I am in no way trying to start a discussion or argument, but was wondering if you could define, what “religion” means to you? I am asking that in the nicest way possible like we were best friends just sitting and sipping a latte together. I know what it means for me and am just curious as to how you would define it. Keep seeking!

    1. I guess it’s an organized belief system? or maybe just a belief system? A spiritual path? But that’s a good question 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing Emily! I really love how you were open about your “journey,” as there is so much confusion and stigma out there with Christianity. Jesus was (and still is ) the master at “radical inclusivity”…he kindly accepted everyone when he was alive, regardless of their different religious views, gender, or socioeconomic status. I believe he still does this today. He sees the questions, the hesitency, the hurt…and he accepts and loves you as you are. Once I realized I could actually have a relationship with Jesus (and kick the religious “dos” and “don’ts” to the curb) my life has never been the same.
    Side note…you mentioned your calling…but I think you can definitely live out your calling in any career. Bringing joy and order through design is a beautiful gift, and God can definitely use you to make a difference in the world through it! ( Blog posts like this, for example). Thanks again for your transparency and inspiration! ❤️

  18. Thanks for sharing your story. I am a member of a Unitarian Universalist church because I like that I don’t have to believe in a specific doctrine. They encourage spiritual exploration and emphasize community. If any of you are “spiritual but not religious” you might want to check out a UU congregation. Belief in a god is not a requirement, or even the goal. I go to church because it makes me feel connected to something bigger than myself in this crazy world.

    1. I was going to try a UU church when I found mine so I didn’t. But am VERY into the idea of them, too. It seems like a good fit also because you learn so much about other religions. xx

    2. Hi Megan, Just thinking as I read your comment. I found it Interesting…if you don’t believe in God, what else is there to believe in and worship? Why worship the universe(the creation) when you can worship the Almighty Creator who holds all power and created all things? Just a thought, created things have no supreme power, only God has the ultimate supreme authority and power. I know many people look to the universe, or creation to worship but what can those things do for you? The God of the Bible created all things, he is the giver of life, loves each one of us and wants to have a personal relationship with us. It’s not about religion, religion is tradition and rules of men. God’s word the Bible tells us everything we need to get to know him on a personal level. A church that bases its beliefs on the Bible is everything you need. God is simply amazing and has done so many incredible things for me. I encourage everyone to get to know him. You will see as well what an awesome, loving, powerful and holy God he is. No judgement for anyone here, just genuinely asking questions and sharing my personal experience. Definitely as Emily would call me an NFL player. Been following Jesus since a small child and growing in him for my 57 years and wouldn’t do it any other way, because I know who God is and who his character is. Everyone can know him too. The Bible says, He who SEEKS ME WILL FIND ME. Earnestly seek on Emily, you’ll find him, he promises you will if you do, and when you do, if you decide to go all in, hold onto you’re hat, you’re in for an amazing, joyous life filled with hope amidst times such as this, ride. When you know God, no matter what comes our way, we don’t have to be shaken. If God is for us, who can be against us. We are not promised that we will not have trials, but we are promised that God will never leave us during them. I lost 2 husbands, my first one when I was 5 months pregnant with our son. January 2019, lost my second one to cancer at 54 yrs old, we were married over 10 years. God has comforted me and has walked this road with me every step of the way where I don’t need to despair, he has ben my help and refuge in times of great hurt and pain. He has brought such great comfort and provision for me. He has proven over and over again to be so faithful! When times in life get hard, and they will, who will you turn to when no human in their power can dig you out of despair? But God.
      He will help us through. Jesus is the answer to life’s everything. Love that you shared your heart Emily. Dig into his word, it is
      God’s way of reaching toward us and getting to know him. It’s written for all of us to taste and see that the Lord is GOOD! Please keep us updated on your search and trek. ??

  19. You’re so wonderful! Thank you for (yet again) being so honest and open and thoughtful and smart and showing us something us a perspective that I truly haven’t read like this before. I grew up Quaker (Christian but v social justice oriented), and haven’t gone in years (mostly because everyone is really, really old), but I’m feeling inspired to revisit after reading this post! Also–love the 3 minute video of you talking to just us 🙂

    1. ah, thank you 🙂 so glad to share a new perspective. I honestly thought i’d NEVER write about religion, and it took forever to figure out how to frame it to where it felt right (if ever). its very polarizing and even last night when I had anxiety that this was finally going up, Brian was like, ‘stop feeling paranoid that your beliefs or lack therof will offend someone else – that doesn’t actually make any sense’. xx

  20. What a thoughtful and honest post. Thanks for sharing. Your openness to faith and to others’ faith is a beautiful thing.

  21. “When Charlie asked me point blank if Jesus really came back from the dead, I said “I don’t know, bud. These are all stories that a lot of people believe are true, and you can learn and think for yourself. Ask all the questions you need and maybe someday you’ll decide if they feel true to you, too.”

    Thank you, Emily. My daughter occasionally goes to church with my in laws and I never know what to say to her when she comes home with questions (I consider myself agnostic). This is a beautiful, respectful answer that I will definitely give her going forward. This whole post resonates with me as I personally search and question, especially in these last few weeks. I would definitely be interested to read the long version of this post if you were to post it.

    1. thank you 🙂 And believe me, the longer version was juicier, but I think it was more therapy for me (about my feelings about leaving the church and how I think it formed me). Its awesome your child is asking you – that she feels safe to ask questions. My kids are so young and i’m dying for them to ask me questions, but at 4 and 6 its mostly about jesus and santa clause 🙂

  22. Emily, thank you so much for this thoughtful, honest, and encouraging post. I was also raised in a very conservative, but not Mormon, church. I also saw all the inconsistencies and as I have grown older ( much older than you!) I have been so discouraged about the state of Christianity. But people like you are giving me such hope! We all can embrace the mysteries of God. He meets us where we are and loves us totally. I believe that he is using you “for such a time as this” , as he did Esther, to be brave and speak truth. Thank you for this post—it means so much to me and to others.

    1. “We can all embrace the mysteries of God”. Stefanni! I loved this. I am a Christian and have spent the last five years learning that my value (and everyone else’s value) is completely separate from what I DO and what I don’t DO. My value exists because I AM. Thank you for your encouraging and inclusive comment.

  23. Born a Catholic, will die a Catholic. Just don’t go to church. Too much bad stuff going on.

    My husband and I tried another darling little church in the California wine country where we used to live. The 12 regular congregants warmly welcomed us with open arms. We were feeling all fuzzy. Right up until the Baptist minister started vehemently yelling about how all gay people were going to burn in hell. I’m not gay, but I will defend to my death the rights of others to live their life in peace.

    When we moved to the East Coast, we went to mass three times in a small, darling little white steepled church. We were feeling all warm and fuzzy. Right up until the Catholic priest started telling all 12 of us how wrong the doctrines and beliefs of all the other churches were. And right up until the male priest seemingly flirted with some of the husbands. I’m all for gay Catholic priests, but really, at church?

    We now live in a dry county. As in no bars. (Yet the wine and cocktails flow at fun, delightful parties!) But churches, wow, have they got churches here. Haven’t worked up the courage to try another religion out. I hear they are all pretty strict, even the liberal one that gets several hundred people per Sunday.

    My religious bent is more spiritual. I don’t need someone telling me how how evil other people or churches are. Don’t see that as anything more than spreading hate. What’s getting me through stuff right now is rereading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” book and her little green “Brave Enough” book, which is her motivational thoughts and quotes. (Warning: this last one contains some occasional serious cussing, which I personally find quite helpful at the moment in this strange, new world.)

    1. OOh i want to read those books. And agree with your completely. I love some church charm, but can’t stand some church hate 🙂

  24. This was so good. Thank you for expressing exactly how many people feel about religion. Wanting a little bit, but not all of it-I feel the same way you do. As a parent now with two young children I feel like I need to do something and do a little dabbling in churching (after soo many years of hating being forced to go to Catholic mass and religion classes) I completely reject any kind of conservative teachings and I do not want to engage in passing judgement on anyone’s lifestyle or choices. Maybe a cool Presbyterian church would work for my family too! I mean…when the pandemic is over. Whenever that is. Stay safe!! ❤️

  25. This post was so encouraging! As a life-long Christian, it’s my hope that more people will see the church and its members as grace-givers.

  26. We learned about ancient Egypt in 4th grade. At a sleepover with my bestie we giggled about how silly it was that people believed in the gods and I went “ooooh” and realized there are many religions who all feel they’re “right.”

    I do miss the community of religion, the aspects you share. But I’ve gone back a few times with my mom (Methodist, which isn’t crazy conservative but bit progressive either) and I cannot handle it.

    Christianity and Islam are aggressive religions, wanting to make you “join their team” and very forceful (in my experience) on the “rules of the game.” Buddhism, Hinduism, etc are friendlier – join us if you want, we’re here for you! Then Judaism is the exact opposite: “you can’t join our team.”

    In lots of major cities there’s something called Sunday Service I’ve been meaning to try. It’s all the community elements minus the religion. Instead of sermons related to the Bible, they bring in guest lectures from local colleges to share on an interesting topic, kind of like local TED Talks.

    1. INTERESTING re Sunday Service. I’m very curious. And I agree that the perception of christianity is definitely more forceful, this one just happens to not be – but again, i think that is kinda rare (thus my love for it). xx

      1. Wow! I’ve never commented on your or any blog before — ever. I follow you for your style, of course, but can’t believe this is the post I’m commenting on. This topic is so perfectly timed for me right now as I search (again) for a community rooted in spirituality. I too, Emily, church/religion “shopped” when my kids were the same age as yours to help me help them “feel” the power of faith. I grew up Catholic, but had no interest in going back. After several Sundays, I landed at a hipster “big box” Christian non-denom which felt inclusive and warm at first. I loved so much about it, but cut to months later when the pastors offered incentives (and guilt) to bring friends, family and others to join — I just couldn’t continue. You write about just taking the bits that you like and leaving what you don’t, and I desperately tried to do because the music and prayer felt great, but I couldn’t get over my girls asking to invite friends for the goodies promised. I’ve joked with girlfriends for years about how all that searching and disappointment was leading me to form my own religion that included all the good and no pressure. And what a blessing to read this today. I’m now going to research this thing called “Sunday Service” which is EXACTLY what I dreamed of being a part of! My girls are now 12 and 16. They’re academics and love science and finding answers. I’m proud of the thinkers they are, but I find it hard to get them to embrace the concept of faith when I speak of it now. I hope it’s not too late. Thank you, Emily for sharing your faithful journey and thank you to your followers who felt compelled to share so many beautiful comments and tips. The search continues.

        1. wow wow. The pastor offered incentives to bring guests to church-maybe he had been watching too many late night shopping channels? Inventive and yet demoralizing, I agree. Who knew straight out love would need an incentive to sell itself?

    2. Sat on this a minute because I didn’t want to counter your claim that my religion was aggressive with aggression and I can’t discount your personal experience. However, seeing as I’ve scrolled through a good chunk of the comments section and this is the only mention of Islam so far, I don’t want this to be the last word on things. So, here goes…

      Muslims view Islam as a complete way of life. Hence, the insistence on the “rules of the game” Rites, ritual, tradition, good works on everything from what we eat to how we travel are all aimed at fostering taqwa (god-consciousness) even in the mundane. We also believe that “there is no compulsion in religion” (this is a verse in the Quran) and thud view proselytization and conversion in all their messy complexity.

      I’d implore you to consider the implications of describing a religion already so maligned in the larger culture as violent and extremist as “aggressive” and the opposite of friendly. I doubt this was your intention but felt a little PSA was needed.

      1. I think you could replace Islam with evangelical Christianity and the same paragraph would be true. They also believe it is a way of life. That doesn’t make it “less aggressive”.

        1. Just like some denominations of Christianity do not represent all or even most Christians, the same goes for the branches of Islam.

      2. To be fair, it’s an overgeneralization and a mischaracterization of Judaism to say it’s ‘you can’t join our team.’ Jews are happy for people to convert, we just don’t ever go out seeking conversions or evangelizing.

    3. Wow, it’s hard to know how to respond to this post. Today’s culture wants to create their own truth and most people tip toe around the truth for fear of offending anyone. I personally want to surround myself with people who care enough about me to boldly but lovingly speak truth into my life even if it’s not necessarily what I want to hear at times. For those genuinely seeking the truth, we need to look no further than Jesus’ words: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

      Ironically, you said that you want to be “the worst version of yourself and still be accepted and loved,” and that is precisely what Jesus offers us. We are saved by grace alone no matter how ugly our sin, our past or future mistakes. He paid the price and we are offered salvation despite our constant shortcomings or how many times we screw up. What a great comfort to be so fully loved!

      Lastly, please don’t be fooled into thinking that by not teaching your kids what to believe that you aren’t teaching your kids what to believe. I genuinely pray that God will continue to soften your heart and draw you closer to Him and that you may come to truly know who He is as a faithful, merciful, loving, sovereign Father.

      1. Agree.
        2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Keep seeking – reading the Bible and praying for understanding. John 3:16

  27. Wow. This was/is so beautiful! Thank you. My husband and I are pastors in a reformed Presbyterian Church (yay for women elders/pastors!) and this is our vision for our amazing community. Everyone on the team, all different perspectives, learning and growing together. I have a lot of peace with the doubt and a lot of hope in the grace. Thank you, sharing this with everyone I know! Xo

    1. amazing! Where is your church? Maybe some other readers would be curious, too? I love a good pastor husband/wife team (we have a couple/friends in LA that run Bread – an awesome local progressive church). we just happen to have started going to this other one before we met them. xx

  28. I was raised Catholic. In my family, we were given the choice of whether or not to confirm (at 17 years old). My sisters and I opted out. At 40, my “religious distancing“ (humor me) is still painful. I was devout in the sense of feeling connected to and a friend of God, Mary and Jesus (Joseph be damned). I adored the stained glass, incense and hand shakes of “peace be with you.” When I learned that my church thought that my Auntie Mary Jean should go to hell because she loved a woman and that science was not to be believed, I was out.

    I’ve explored religions, cultures and philosophies in an attempt to connect to that higher power. I miss it. Nothing is as accessible and reliable as my before bed convos with imaginary people in the sky (I mean this genuinely). And, yet, my moral compass says that the financial, political and lobbying power of the Christian church is harming more than its helping. I’m torn.

    “I believe in a higher power that I have a strong connection with, which does give me a sense of calm, guidance, support, love and yes meaning. I also think that we are all connected, including animals and even plants/our soil, which has given me a much greater sense of connection to the earth and empathy. There is something bigger and greater than me, and I feel that pretty solidly in my soul. “

    Girl, I got you 100. This is where I am.

    I so value your open discussion of your values and choices. I feel uncomfortable. I am definitely rooting for you to continue to value religions without singularity and to discuss that with your children when they are in high school and beyond.

    Alright, come on with it – how is it that Mormons own the design world of blogs and instagram?

    1. Megan, You might want to check out Father Richard Rohr. His Franciscan alternate orthodoxy is very much in line with some of the things you are saying.

  29. Emily, I read every word of this post….so well written and funny. And, I can completely identify with you. Thank you for including your readers in your journey. It took a lot of guts to explain all this and you did it well!

  30. Oh no. In my previous comment I suggested “Sunday Service” as a non-religious community but I meant Sunday Assembly! Apparently Sunday service is a Kanye West thing….ha!

    Also I should have said thank you for this post! It’s refreshing to hear and it’s good to know there are churches out there who are redefining what religion means and how to practice the true elements of love, service and community.

  31. Emily, thank you so much for sharing this. Your open, honest, still-in-progress point of view is refreshing! I’m a Christian and very much so believe the church is meant to be a place that welcomes and loves all unconditionally (in sentiment and action). Happy to hear about the meaningful experience you’ve had so far. Love to you and your family as you explore ?

  32. Emily, this post was truly brave. I am a Christian who grew up in a conservative denominational church, then considered myself an evangelical, but now have deconstructed a lot of what I was taught and examined if what I was believing was truly Biblical or just an interpretation of that. I too have enjoyed the Liturgists podcast and the Robcast (have you listened to that yet?)

    Right now my hubby and I go to a church called “Journey” and do believe that we are on a spiritual journey. We have changed our thinking on so many ideas of Christianity — and now instead of believing that we are growing in faith to “know God better,” we are seeing that as we grow our view of God expands and we can’t possibly know all the answers.

    Your church sounds great and I’m glad you’ve found a place with open hands and hearts.

    1. Thank you 🙂 And I haven’t listened to the Robcast but will now. Your church sounds lovely, too. xx

  33. So interesting! I had a similar experience, but with the Catholic church – even left at about the same age. About three years ago my husband and I started attending (and eventually joined) a Unitarian Universalist “church”. I think if you’ve found a spiritual home that’s fulfilling to you that is fantastic and you should stick with it, but just wanted to throw the name out there in case you’re still doing independent reading because they practice/teach pretty much exactly what you describe thinking. Non-dogmatic and pulling from lots of traditions (what they call the six sources). Every week I can feel good saying with everyone else “Love is our doctrine, the quest for truth our sacrament, and service is our prayer.” About sums it up! (Again, not a recruitment attempt, just an FYI if you hadn’t run across it yet.)

    1. I know! I wrote another UU commenter above that I totally agree and would have thought that’s where I would land (and maybe I still will) but happened to find this place first. Currently there is just something I LOVE about it being down our street, near our elementary school and home. But I can’t stress this enough – this place is so unique and the pastor is crazy progressive and lovely, so I can’t vouch for other presbyterian churches, whereas I think that UU is such an amazing progressive option for those out there searching. xx

  34. I was raised Methodist but I was the quiet kid who sat in the back and observed. I saw lots of hypocrisy among my peers and the adults that didn’t match the words/lessons that we were being shown. It’s been a long journey but I’m now mostly just incredibly spiritual and very comfortable there but I do still read my Bible and often use its verses to convey my thoughts as it is familiar to me. My favorite Bible story is of the Tower of Babel in Genesis when God scatters the people across the earth and confuses their language in order to keep them from trying to build a shortcut to Heaven. It makes me think of the game ‘telephone’ that we played as kids and how after some research so many of the worlds religions are so similiar at their core. I can see how we got here and it is why “love your neighbor” is the second most important commandment.

  35. I love that you shared this! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it all out—and in such a thoughtful & sensitive way. So happy for you and your family that you are finding a community to be apart of. I think that’s the very best part of a religion (and truthfully, oftentimes the only part that keeps me in)—the people. Finding like minded people who help each other, keep tabs on one another, and want to do good is such a wonderful benefit. Thanks again for opening up. I’ve been a big fan of yours since Design Star and love when you share. Sending lots of love in this crazy corona virus chaos. ♥️♥️♥️

  36. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. It is a gift to be invited in to someone’s journey and as you’ve mentioned snippets, I’ve been intrigued. I’m one of those NFL Christians that’s all in (really, probably minor leagues/farm teams/whatever the jr version is called.) The question for me is: How can I help the world have hope and pursue truth? I find my answers in the Bible, and on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, and then try to take those responses out into the world with grace and love. There’s no way that this sentence won’t sound cheesy, but I will be praying that you find truth in your journey!

  37. Hi Emily,
    It was so encouraging and exciting to hear of your decision to investigate the church again. I also grew up in the church in the Baptist denomination and consider my parents role in introducing me to God through our church as the best thing they’ve ever done for me. They modeled their faith, but gave me space to question and make it a faith of my own. Losing my mom to breast cancer at age seven became the real point at which I seriously considered God because I was told that’s where my mom had gone to be with Him in heaven. God has since healed me and grown me in ways no earthly person or thing could ever do…and since then my relationship with Him has grown into by far the most important part of my life. The best gift you can give your kids and yourself, I believe, is the opportunity to learn and grow in the love of God. I am confident you will find Him to be worthy of your investigation. He will prove Himself to be way more than what you’re hoping He is.

  38. Emily, THANK YOU for sharing this. Your story Truly resonates with me and likely so many others. I’ve been on a similarish journey wanting to dip my toe back into church, even considering catholocism (bc if Richard Rohr does it, maybe I can too)? I appreciate your openness and honesty and search for more and really I just wish that more people in the world were like you so I could have one of them as my best friend.

  39. Hi Emily! As always I appreciate your thoughtful vulnerability. I’ve always thought you’re an exceptional designer not only in that you make spaces beautiful but strive to make life more beautiful. This was so interesting to me! I related in a similar but different way. I probably came at church from more the angle Brian did. I wasn’t raised going to church and knew fundamentally nothing about it until one day I ended up in a catholic mass with my friend when I was 16. I felt like it was a foreign language and my feelings of “being on the outs”, which I had built so much resentment towards throughout my childhood was only made worse that day. Quickly the bit of curiosity died and I had resolved that anything relating to God was nonsense. Now, being from a very (now I know culturally) Christian area, I wanted to at least be informed in my claims against Christianity. So I started reading the Bible so I could refute Christianity as an informed atheist. Now as I read the Bible and learned and consulted different resources and pastors, started going to church and “doing Christian things”, about 2 years later I found myself in tears on my dorm room floor reading Isaiah, on the brink of failing a class (I came out of high school with a 4.25 GPA so this was earth shattering to me), finally coming to terms with the fact that my performance is NOT what gives me value. How smart or successful I am does not change how God feels about me and NOTHING can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 8:37-39). And I just wept because I finally got it and accepted Christ, looking back shocked at where I started this journey. Now I share this 6 years deep into my walk with Christ because I see so much of my story in this post. I remember being bitter but…kind of liking Church when I started going. I remember feeling like I had to constantly qualify my attendance to anyone who asked with “well I don’t really believe any of this I’m just exploring”. I remember feeling like I was a fake when I was there, developing my “spiritual vocabulary” and telling myself I didn’t care about this anyways but deep down caring enough to be there… I seldom comment on anything but just felt compelled to give a piece of advice (whether you take it or even see this). You’re going to probably hear a lot of different opinions and interpretations as you navigate through this if you continue. As I sifted through them all it was alarming and kind of daunting in my search for truth. Now I think we may differ slightly here but for me I wasn’t looking for something good “for me” or “for him” or “for my pastor”. Some things are a matter of opinion like what the best season is but some things are a matter of truth, like who God is. Unless one believes the truth is that there is an individual God being assigned to each person and the individual’s opinions and preferences change this God being into whatever they want, then there cannot be more than one “true” view of God. Now I concede there are some things we can never know for absolute certain about God. That’s why it’s called faith. And even if we believe we are right, we should never persecute someone who holds another belief. But we should still believe that we are right, or through an open-minded discussion conclude that the other person makes a compelling argument, and you now believe they are right. But my charge is to seek with the mentality that whether or not you have it all right, there has to be one thing that’s true. And with that in mind, my advice is to figure out what you think the Bible is saying. If we’re on a quest for truth and we want that to be life-giving, I don’t know about you but I’d much rather try to make sense of a text that has withstood the test of thousands and thousands of years than a friend or even a pastor who invents their own truth based on their thoughts/opinions of 30-70 some years. That is why it’s important to have pastors offering their best well-researched interpretation of the Bible rather than sermons about “what they think”. Join a bible study (I resonate with what you said in the team analogy about needing others to keep you disciplined or hold you accountable). Not that the leader knows exactly what’s right, but so that you can have thoughtful discussion and accountability for reading the Bible and making time to figure out what it means. Spend personal time reading it, reading credible pastors books about it. There’s a lot of (sometimes scary and destructive) untruths that will be claimed as you navigate Christianity that sound believable unless you reference scripture. So equip yourself to not be vulnerable to being preached something fake and believing it. Thanks again for sharing Emily!

    1. My thoughts exactly. There has to be One Truth. That’s why it’s called Truth. Search for Jesus and you will find Him.

    2. I really appreciate how kindly you put your thoughts and feelings here.

      My issue with “there’s only one truth about who God is”, personally, is that if religions are correct in the existence of a higher power, then doesn’t it make sense that all roads lead to Rome?

      In my understanding, it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s just that God can be known by many names, reached by many roads, as long as heart, intention and love are pure and good. So if a person does not have a religion, but is good and loving and kind, then I’m sure God will be loving and forgiving as well. Would it matter to a loving, graceful God that a person that lived life kindly and humbly believed in ‘the wrong faith’? Or called God by another name? It doesn’t sound right to me.

      I don’t know if there is a God. And I don’t need to know. I fully embrace that not-knowing is one of the most fundamental parts of my life. I choose to do good and to love as much as I can, as many people as I can, because I feel like that’s the right thing to do.

      Now, I know some might disagree, based on the bible, but – and I mean no offense by this – the bible, as any other sacred scripture, was written by men, in the context of their lives and beliefs. It should be regarded as beautiful, valuable and teaching. But, for me, that’s the end of it.

  40. Well I could (should?) write my own 23 pages on the topic, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I was full NFL level Christian for a long time, transitioning from a more conservative evangelical upbringing to a more intellectual, reformed theology as I went through college and adulthood. I was happy in my imperfect (reformed Pres, actually) church, but then church leadership learned that I’d moved in with my then-boyfriend and it all sort of fell apart. I was suddenly just ignored, when I had been given liturgical duties most weeks, and my guy, who had been curious, felt like he was seen as some kind of “bad influence” that i needed to be saved from. So, we moved on, got married, had our kids, and are just out here trying to teach kindness and equality and all the things you mentioned. It’s strange since it wasn’t really a “crisis of faith” that sent me away, but the result has been one. I don’t know what I believe now. I do miss the music though.

    1. Church music touches me deep down in my soul. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I cry, and sometimes it sends my mind wandering….

  41. I have been waaaaiiiiiting for this post and am here to learn about the whole journey! Thanks for being so honest and vulnerable. Any talk about religion is SO scary. Especially because of the stereotypes that come along with it. Can’t wait to see how it all ends 🙂

  42. My husband and I grew up in Orange County. He was raised in a practicing Catholic household, I was raised in a non-religious household (the kind that judged anyone that was a devout believer, because Science people!). About a year ago, we moved to a small coastal town in Northern Indiana (about an hour outside of Chicago) to be closer to his family. While my husband is now a non-practicing Catholic, his family is still practicing (they’re Irish!), and so we find ourselves at a lot of Catholic events. We also made the decision to enroll our daughter in a Catholic school, first because the public school system here needs improving, second…it’s literally down the street from our house, and lastly it’s the same school my husband went to when he lived here. Not to mention it’s a historic two story brick school house with a bell tower – I mean it doesn’t get more charming than that.

    Anyway, as I’ve gotten older, my contempt for religion has faded (I highly recommend reading Philip Pullman’s young adult series, “His Dark Materials”, which oddly enough was life changing for me in regards to how I view religion, and yes there is a show now on HBO which is fantastic). I would say that I’ve shifted from being an atheist to an agnostic for sure. We still don’t attend church, unless it’s for a school function, but the community we have found ourselves in here is AMAZING. They’re kind, open, down to earth, non-judgemental, salt of the earth and I have never felt more connected to a place than I do here. I’m so glad that we decided to move when we did and that our children will get to experience this sense of belonging to something so connected. While it may be still a little uncomfortable for me to hear my daughter recite the lord’s prayer before she eats her snack, lol, I know that she is surrounded by love…and that is the most important thing.

  43. Hello Emily.

    My heart was so warmed by your honest post.

    I was raised, and am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    While reading your post, and watching your video, I felt impressed to share an experience I had.

    A few weeks ago, I attended a women’s conference, not of my faith (I was the only Mormon there, lol.). As I sat around the table, sang evangelical songs, and prayed with amazing women, the thought kept coming back to me, “Oh how we need each other!”

    One woman, sitting at our table, didn’t “belong” to any particular faith. She was searching, just like you. I had the distinct impression, “Any place (faith), she lands will be part of her journey. If she finds it here, she’s one step closer to knowing God (or a higher being), and feeling his peace and love.”

    Wherever we are at, in our journey, we need each other.

    Thank you for being vulnerable and honest, on a subject that’s not always easy to navigate.

    Continue sharing, it’s part of your journey.

      1. Emily, I don’t know you personally, but I’ve gotten my hair cut like you ?! (Side note: my hair isn’t as thick and luscious as yours so it’s not quite as cute, but I’m still glad I did it ?) I just want to tell you that I’ve watched and learned from your decorating, etc. the past year on Instagram and have honestly always seen so much light in you! You are darling! I loved reading about your journey today and loved hearing that you are gathering more light along the way. It’s such a blessing to walk in less darkness in coming closer to God! He is the Light and Life of the world. He’s always there. It’s up to us to *choose* to come nearer. And yes, our choices are a gift! Keep sharing your light! I’m brighter because of how you share!

    1. Thanks for sharing something so personal and something that is met with soooo much resistance by most. Church is really not a building but people. While you are still hesitant about God here is the thing. He accepts us where we are and he never forces us to do anything. He just softly Cal’s us and draws us. People will always try to Interpret him and they will get it wrong. Here is something to look at in Christianity there is a clear line drawn between pre Jesus and post and he marked the shift from keeping the law and relying on the spirit or holy Spirit which came upon his death. His life was example of how to live. He never judged. If a person asked what they should do he clearly spoke truth. He hung out with those people of his time who were rejected lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes. He loved. So keep reading and studying. We are all in a journey and only God knows our true self and that is what he appeals to. Welcome back to the game (using your analogy).

    2. Antonia (and Emily),
      I too am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have to say that as I started to read Emily’s post about returning to church, I was filled with dread because I had a feeling that she had been raised LDS. So many people who have left the Church bash the Church and are critical of the members, leaders, theology and practices. But, Emily didn’t do that. Instead she shared HER journey, HER path to understanding, HER experience in searching. You’re so right . . . we are all on a journey and we need the support, not the criticism of each other. As women. As sisters. As friends. As mothers. As daughters. I would no more think I had the right to criticize my Catholic, Jewish, agnostic, Muslim, atheistic, as I have to criticize my LDS friends for their varying degrees of faith and practice. We now, more than ever, must support each other in our search for peace and happiness. In turn, our world with be a better place.

      Emily, I am not sure if you will ever read this, but thank you for not blasting the LDS church. Thank you for promoting tolerance and understanding as we all try to do and be better. Intolerance cannot and should not be a part of our voice. Honoring the journey each of us is on – that’s our voice, and I cheer you on.


  44. Emily, what a beautiful story. I love the sports analogy! I’m a cradle Catholic and love my church family. I feel so loved, inspired and “full” when I step out of mass on Sunday. What I have learned after being raised in church but not having a spiritual life until I was in my 30’s is that I can’t expect the “religion” to fix me. I have to do the work, to contribute to my team to get the most out of the game. Church is an active experience!
    “inspiring people encouraging us to be less of an asshole, love more, and feel more universally connected“ Yes!
    By the way, I love atheist conversion stories. One of my favorites is Jennifer Fulwiler. Check her out. Funny, smart, good stuff.
    Peace be with You. 🙂

  45. “We always leave wanting to be a better person in some way, with more introspection.”

    That’s exactly what religion should do for us.

    My religious path is very similar to yours though instead of going back to church I ended up going deeply into Yoga – the Gitas, Pantajali, etc through the Art of Living. It has become the community that I have missed from my younger church going days.

    My kids weren’t raised with Bible stories but interestingly my son played God in his high school musical, Children of Eden. His impression – why does the devil get such a bad wrap for getting Eve to eat an apple that gives her wisdom while God was the one who sent them from paradise instead of forgiving, as well as destroys the people with a flood and is constantly punishing his children? I never even thought of it that way even though I had heard those stories so many times.

    1. Kel, i had/have the SAME questions as your son. I really want a one-on-one with someone to ask all these questions to that don’t make sense to me – going to ask the pastor. Also in my longer draft I wrote about how yoga was my first way in. I used to go to this yoga studio in New York that had the most amazing sunday class that people waited in line for because it had a lot of spirituality involved – and so I called it my church. it was when i first realized that i missed the sunday ritual. I haven’t found anything like it in LA, mostly either good instructors or perhaps a little too much for me. finding that guru that can really walk that line is HARD, but i’d love to in addition to this. xx

      1. The short answer is God is love AND God is holy – set apart, perfect. Since he is holy, he has to be just. (Imagine a world where judges didn’t had out consequences to criminals. Would that be loving? In the moment, the criminal might think it’s loving because they don’t want the punishment – but what message of love does that send to the greater population? And shouldn’t someone be held responsible?).

        God is Love. God is holy AND just – they go hand in hand. Therefore when the free will of adam and eve disobeyed God, God had to take action. There were consequences, a lot of them. But there is/was still mercy tied in. Same in the case of Noah. God had to take action. The world had such disregard for being obedient to a loving, holy God. God could have destroyed the world in it’s entirety BUT he found that Noah and his family were faithful and God-fearing/respecting, not God-mocking, so they were spared. That’s because God can be just and merciful at the same time.

        I had to pare this way down because my “short answer” was 400 miles long. I’m a Christian – all in for Jesus 100%. I have been a committed follower of Christ since I was little (not forced upon me, 100% by choice.) And now I’m a Sunday School teacher, and only since I began teaching did I actually start to understand the whole story of Christ woven in with History; and how Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham, etc all weave together with the life of Christ. Pray for wisdom, you’ll get wisdom; pray for answers and you’ll get them.

        A great book (aside from the Bible, and easier to read in one or two sittings. 😉 ) that tells the “entire story” is Jesus Storybook Bible. Yes, it’s a kids’ book, but it’s AMAZING. Start to finish – the whole beautiful story (including the difficult/beautiful account of passover) start to finish. (See also Pilgrim’s Progress – movie or book)

        This is now NOT a short answer. I get excited b/c I love Scripture and all of the beautiful ways it works together.

        A verse to keep in mind: Jeremiah 29:13 “And you will seek me and find me if you search for me with all your heart.”

        1. I guess for me God is so much more than a bearded man sitting on a cloud with a lightning bolt coming out of his finger, doling out punishments where they are do. God is infinite, God is Love, and Love is our very Being. The Bible stories come from Middle Eastern mythology which is seen through a male authoritarian filter as well as a warrior culture. I’m not interested in those except from a historical point of view (which is truly interesting in itself). Jesus’ teachings can be traced to Eastern philosophy and during that era where he is absent from Biblical history, it is theorized that he was off studying in the East (remember the Three Wise Men from the East at his birth?) He was trying to lead everyone on a different path but his life was cut short and then his teachings interpreted by men who were products of their environments and not educated the way Jesus was. So for me the Bible isn’t as complete as it is for some. I respect where everyone is on their own Paths and respect your perspective J.

          1. I appreciate your respectful responses, both of you. And, in general, I appreciate the entirety of the respectful tone in all of the comments, in spite of the wide variety of beliefs. .

        2. thank you for your time/answers 🙂 hilariously our babysitter bought the kids that kids bible last year and I jokingly grabbed it saying, since I don’t remember how it all went down I should read it. I did was like ‘Oh right!! that happened, and then that, and then that’ I even shared it with my friend when she was like ‘i don’t get what happened when ….’, I pulled it out to read. It still doesn’t give me the macro picture that i’m searching for, but it was fun to read and follow the history better 🙂 I have thought about going to some sort of progressive bible study to help me understand it because truly simply from a history and anthropology perspective I want to understand. 🙂

      2. There is an Art of Living center in LA if you are interested. It’s more than yoga. I always felt a true connection to Jesus but felt the Church interfered with my Connection. My current practice feels closer to Jesus’ teachings than I ever learned in the Church.

        1. Interesting. I’m going to google – hoping its on the east side 🙂 thank you, Kel. xx

  46. I’m a lapsed Lutheran, stopped going to church in college. Like you, it was a lack of faith. Over the years, I’ve shifted to “open minded”. There might be something greater in the universe. I do believe there are many paths to the light.

  47. I grew up in the Presbyterian Church (St. Andrews in Newport Beach if you’re ever down that way!) and agree with everything you have said here. I always loved how the minister would tie things back to modern day. I would have to imagine that especially during a time like right now, that it’s especially comforting. Finding the right church (clergy, congregation, etc) is really important…loved this post, thank you!

  48. I’ve always had a casual relationship with church. I go with my parents sometimes for high holidays and every once in a while when something is happening in my life and I need a boost. My husband is an atheist and has no interest. I’m baptized Anglican and have never felt too much pressure to attend because my parents also believe you can be spiritual without attending weekly. At this point I’m so unsure on how to introduce my children to church, how to involve them and how much. All I know is that when I attend, I leave feeing GOOD. Lighter and happier. I might not believe in all the teachings, but I want to believe that this life isn’t it, that there is something more.. and I think for now that’s enough?

  49. Cradle Episcopalian here! While I was raised in the church and still attend, I totally understand your apprehension about organized religion. I live in an area of the country that is heavily conservative, evangelical Christian and growing up I knew so so many people who were incredibly hateful or just completely misinformed and ignorant about the rest of the world. Their pastor said anyone who drank wine or did yoga was going to hell so they would go to church or work and just spout hate at people. My mom was more religious but when she died, my agnostic father faithfully took us to church each week. Sat in the back pew and participated in all the service projects but kept the religion part fairly at an arm’s length. Now as an adult, married with kids, my husband and I try to take the kids to church each week (we’re batting 50/50). Fortunately the Episcopal church is pretty good about encouraging openness and love (and female priests!) Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, likes to say – If it’s not about love, its not about Jesus. Such good advice for all of us, religious or not. If it’s not about love and kindness then what is the point?

    1. Enough preaching ya’ll.
      I was raised Catholic and never believed a word they tried to brainwash me with. I don’t need a God or religion to remain strong. I can do it on my own.

  50. “This post felt premature to write. I’m only a year and a half in and I’m just learning my ‘spiritual language.'” I’m just here to kindly say, don’t feel like you have to figure it all out before you’re qualified to talk about it! We all need to be encouraged to interrogate things, no matter if we’ve been on our “spiritual journey” for our whole lives or 1 month, although I’d argue that our spiritual journeys can move along far away from church too. Thank you so much for this post. I wish we could all talk this openly about our beliefs and questions (that don’t necessarily all need a “right answer”). Thanks for opening up your world to us a little more. So glad you’ve found something that feels right for you right now.

    1. thank you 🙂 I guess like most of my posts I like to have a thesis, but then I realized my thesis IS the journey and the native language, idea. I didn’t realize that until I started writing so I was actually really grateful for all of you who asked and to my team who actually gave me a deadline 🙂

  51. Thanks for the post. I really appreciate it. I was raised Catholic and feel very similarly about it to the way you feel about LDS. I was wondering, if Brian had not wanted your children to attend with you, or if the kids were a bit older and said they didn’t want to go to church, would you still have gone?

    1. Nope. As of right now if Brian said he didn’t want the kids to go then I’d like not be going either because doing it with the kids is part of it that I really love. I’d likely find a family sunday ritual we can all do – like a service project every week (which was the plan before I found this church). And if/when the kids beg not to go to church, I don’t want it forced upon them and that isn’t my battle. That’s how I feel as of right now – but as of right now they like going. I wonder if they like going though because it makes them and me feel good and they get that sense…. that we as a family are doing something that feels good. Again, Charlie says he likes the gentle music and he likes the stories 🙂

  52. So great of you to share this with us, and I understand what a risk you’re taking to do that. I’ve been following Jesus all my life, and though it hasn’t always been easy, I have no regrets. The most helpful thing for me has been reading my Bible and getting to know Him better that way. The book of Mark is a great place to start, as it’s both interesting and to the point. Jesus is honestly so different from anyone else I’ve ever met. Don’t be afraid of doubts — is there anything in life where we know everything about everything beyond a shadow of a doubt? — and I don’t think God is ever threatened by our questions. Knowing Him has given me the hope and love that I need, and it’s enough. I hope you find the peace you’re looking for, Emily.

  53. Really enjoy this blog and this post! I would highly recommend you check out the podcast, “Scripture Unscripted.” Their tag line says it all — “we are two normal people talking about scripture in a normal way…we just happen to be pastors, but don’t hold that against us!” It’s refreshing, funny, engaging, and honest, and talks about scripture in a way that makes it accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are spiritually (I grew up in the United Methodist church but now consider myself agnostic, and I still love this podcast).

  54. Wow, Emily! You are so brave! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your feelings with us. Your post really resonated with me and it couldn’t have been more timely. I’m not courageous enough to leave my heart in a comment, but I just wanted to say I get it. And the sports analogy is spot on.

  55. After 42 years in the Mormon Church, I just left about 3 years ago for pretty much the same reasons (and a few more) that you mentioned. Oddly enough, I too, found myself most happy in our local Presbyterian Church. They are caring, inclusive, open-minded, and care about social causes that matter to me as well. Thank you for this beautiful post. I feel like you were so thoughtful and careful in your wording about the Mormon Church. I have so may friends and family that are still in and I love them so much. Thank you for sharing this. Beautifully written.

    1. Thanks, Julia. I think you are the first former LDS commenter 🙂 most of my family is still active and wonderful so I definitely didn’t want to offend. Thanks for your support. xx

  56. Hi Emily! Loved this post. I was raised Catholic and left at 18 for similar reasons. My biggest hang up I could NEVER get over that the priest couldn’t get married and have kids if he wanted. “But what if he loved someone??”
    I did quickly understand “spiritual but not religious” and called myself that for awhile. But then later in my late 20s ended up in an Alpha program which is usually done thru a non-denominational or progressive church and loved it! It’s all about showing up “messy and with lots of questions” and learning more. I was sold when I met a mom of 2 young kids who lived a seemingly “perfect Christian life” and then she started opening up about how she does have moments of messy & questioning and I thought “you can do that and still be Christian?!?” Thru that I got plugged back in with a similar sounding church as yours and consider Jesus one of my best friends now.
    You should google “Alpha Christian” and see if there’s a program near you. It actually might be REALLY great for Brian!

  57. You are awesome! I appreciate how open and candid you are in such a public space. I feel like I’m where you were a couple years ago and this post has encouraged me to find an intramural team. 🙂 Lots of love!

  58. So happy to here the story of your journey. Our hearts are designed to worship, and to find meaning and guidance in this life.
    A dear friend is attending Westminster seminary in Escondido. They attend a Presbyterian Reformed church (gathered in a rented Golf School auditorium in Temecula). There’s something so refreshing about this “church”. I think it’s what millennials are longing for.

  59. I could almost have written this post myself! I’ve been through all those stages and I’m close to where you are now. I was brought up strict Catholic but was fortunate to have a father who taught us to question everything. He believed that anything you believe with deep sincerity, that didn’t hurt others, was right. In my time away from religion I always thought of myself as a Christian because I do believe in the philosophy of Christ, Love thy neighbour as thyself.

  60. Thank you so much for sharing this! I too rejected a Christian church in my teens, much to my family’s dismay, and to this day still consider myself agnostic. I went on a similar…..journey (groan!) and ended up as a member of a Unitarian Universalist Church and it has added so much to my life. It’s funny to hear how different it is in LA; here in Alabama, one of the first questions people will ask upon meeting you is what church you belong to, and if you don’t have an answer or if you’re not religious, it gets awkward fast. Church is *such* a big part of so many people’s life in the South. From my teens to early-thirties, I often wished I were religious, and envied the belonging and meaning others found in religion. In my thirties, I became more intentional about building community and meaning in my life, and started looking into various spiritual traditions. I’m in the Bible Belt of the US, so churches here tend to be very conservative. Visiting a Unitarian Universalist church was SO refreshing and exactly that I needed. From the moment the (young, woman!!) minister started the service with “whomever you are, whomever you love, wherever you are on your spiritual path, you are welcome here,” I just broke open, eyes filled with tears, and knew I’d found my place. Our congregation includes people with all sorts of beliefs (and over half agnostic/atheist), and incorporates wisdom from a variety of spiritual traditions – Christianity, Buddhist, Islam, Paganism, Humanism, etc, so I always feel like I’m learning something and being challenged to be a better person. I too very much believe these spiritual paths are all different routes to a similar end. Having a community of people who share my progressive values and is committed to social justice has been such a refuge, especially here in the South, and it has added so much meaning to my life. I’m so glad it sounds like you’ve found something similar!

    1. Oh that’s so awesome. yah, so different here. There are a few really large hipster millenial churches that people (and celebrities) go to but I feared it would be a scene and wanted a smaller experience (but to be fair I didn’t try them out). I personally think that its beneficial to most of us (especially in this insanity) to be transparent about questioning life and why we are here. Lets all talk about it, with wildly different view points. 🙂

    2. Charlotte, your story is my story! I grew up and still live in Tulsa, OK. When I found my UU church I couldn’t believe something like it existed – especially in Oklahoma!

  61. Great post! Happy to hear you have an open mind about Christianity. One simple piece of advice, if you’re really searching for the truth, pray that God would reveal himself to you ❤️

  62. This was a great post. I didn’t grow up religious (something my mom will never forgive herself for lol) and pretty early on, maybe 7th grade, realized I didn’t believe in God and religion was just not for me. Its stuck this long and the older I get the more cemented I am in this. But my children attend a Lutheran preschool and they have Christmas plays and easter stuff and when I sit and watch I think how lovely this would be to just have an instant community! I mean I live in a town that I’m not from with no family around and making friends as an adult is freakin HARD, church really would have made it so much easier to make friends. But the idea of having to have conversations with my children about Jesus and god makes me very uncomfortable-mostly because I don’t want to blurt out “God doesn’t exist honey”-I mean they’re 3 and 5 they won’t understand. But its funny how having children makes you want a bubble and place that hugs your family in close even if its only once a week.

    1. Totally get it, believe me. What I didn’t put in there because its not my story to tell is that there were some things that happened in that year that seemed very very very much orchestrated by something bigger, even brian was like ‘yah, the universe was definitely involved’. once that happened i started opening up. otherwise its hard to just start one day and believe … its like you need a push, prompt or a reason to ask the questions. But what do I know, that was just my experience.

  63. Hi Emily, I love your blog, thank you for being so open and honest about your experience. I found Jesus in my early 20’s and I’ve never looked back. Community And joining a church (Reformed Bible Church) is a big part of how I became a Christian. I would encourage you to buy a study bible (ESV, etc.) and read through the gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) to learn more about Jesus, then Romans, then Daniel (my favorite). Also, pray… even though it won’t feel genuine it first, God will change your heart (sounds cheesy but totally a life-changing experience).

    “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

    – Praying for you.

  64. It is very interesting to read your experience because I also do not know much about that religion. I am a Catholic, I grew up in a mostly Catholic country, and my religion is what defines me and is the engine of my life. Thanks for sharing your experience is so refreshing to know the human behind the flash.

  65. THANK YOU for writing this!! I grew up Catholic (even went to Catholic schools) but stopped going to church in college when life got busy. Over time I just felt like I didn’t “need” it and started to see the inconsistencies in the church and how it contradicted my political views — and I married someone who is a staunch atheist and got burned by religion in the past for standing up for what was right (gay rights). But as I enter my 30s I can see the benefit of the community that churches provide, and I wonder if I will want I give my (future) kids the opportunity and structure(?) I had.

    It’s all… complicated. I felt SEEN by this post. It reminded me that it’s not all or nothing. I can explore and try things and figure it out and believe what I want to believe. And I can let my kids (and husband!) feel the same way. Just gotta find the right team 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kate. Your ‘I felt seen’ made me tear up – because isn’t that all we want? Thank you, thank you. xx

  66. Emily,
    Thank you so much for this post! I am a progressive Christian living in LA. One thing I wish more people realized is that there is a huge range of traditions in Christianity, and many more progressive and inclusive churches out there than people realize, especially in the Los Angeles area. You mentioned gay marriage as a crucial issue for you, there are some awesome churches in LA that are not only “open and affirming” (LGBTQ inclusive), but even have LGBTQ individuals as part of their pastoral leadership (New Abbey and All Saints to name a couple). I go to a church that has a strong value for social justice (FBC Pasadena). Issues like gay marriage, immigration, women’s rights, and racism, regularly get talked about from the pulpit, and my pastor kindly and eloquently encourages us toward a progressive stance on these issues every week.

    Just wanted to throw in my two cents! I understand why people have a view of Christianity that looks a certain way, but it makes me sad that it closes people off to more progressive and inclusive Christian communities that do exist.

    1. Yah, that was definitely one of the points of writing – not all christians are the same 🙂 Glad to knows those are in LA, too! I’m sure there are people reading that might start exploring (I’ve heard good things about them – just love a local, small experience). xx

  67. Thanks for being so honest, Emily. As someone who grew up in the church but found a slightly new path (a much more progressive inclusive one that felt right to me) as an adult, I really relate. There’s something so comforting to me about the traditions, the hymns, the prayers of church that make me feel connected to generations of people before and after me. I very regularly cry in church feeling a belonging I don’t feel elsewhere. But it is so hard to dissociate from the negative Christian stereotype. I find it such a challenge to reconcile the Jesus I know to be wildly progressive and inclusive with what some claim under His name. It can honestly infuriate me, and I’m trying to work through that because I know it isn’t showing love to people with good intentions who for whatever reason have (what I believe) are misguided interpretations of what Jesus taught. Curious for updates on how this continues for you! And in case you haven’t found them already- I love reading Jen Hatmaker, Bishop Michael Curry (my bishop as an episcopal), and Rachel Held Evans- all progressives who came from very conservative denominations in their upbringing and have such rich insight on how they reinterpreted the same teachings with a new lens.

    1. This is the second time someone mentioned Michael Curry. I’m going to google – thank you 🙂 xx

  68. I mostly just wanted to say thank you for making it feel so inclusive 🙂 A reallly wonderful read and a lot of what you said resonated with me even if I’m in a different place myself. Thank you for giving me something to think about and thank you for being so thoughtful about this very difficult and multifaceted topic!

  69. As someone with a very conservative, often demeaning and hypocritical father, I have struggled with how you can “talk the talk” but not “walk the walk” as a “Christian.” My father would consider himself a devote Catholic and yet he is so judgmental towards anyone who doesn’t believe what he does. I left The Church in college and have never looked back. I now consider myself to be agnostic, but I do absolutely miss the community and service aspects of church. It is inspiring to see from you Emily (and the other commenters) how I might be able to find these aspects of church without necessarily believing that “Jesus is our Lord and Savior.” Thank you for thought provoking Saturday morning conversation. xx

    1. Note- upon rereading this I do not want any Christian to be offended. When I say “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk” I am referring only to my father 🙂

      1. …and mine!

        My father went to mass every Sunday, but he was a cut throat businessman the other six days of the week. Before I put my foot down, he called every Sunday morning after I got married demanding to know what mass we would be attending…even though we lived in another city!

        My mother, from the outside, looks like a very pleasant, elegant woman. On the inside she is mean and hateful, and worst of all, a racist. Beyond me how you can faithfully attend weekly mass and still generate so much hate.

        Walking the talk is very important to me as well.

  70. Hi Emily, I enjoyed reading your post. I like how open minded you are. It made me realize that we’re all very similar in what we’re looking for: reassurance, love, compassion… learning the right things about this life. I thought I’d suggest to you looking into Islam. It describes the purpose of life so beautifully in the Quran. Talks about prophets since the beginning of life. You’ll find out that Christianity, Islam and judaïsme all three once came from the same supreme being. You’ll find more similarities than you think, and also some differences that are worth knowing. But the sure thing is that you’ll find answers to your questions :). I’m sorry if I’m out of place to suggest this, but it’s coming from a good place of care and love. I connected with the search your going trough and felt like why not speak my heart as you did so bravely.
    Good luck

    1. Oh I totally appreciate it. Again, i’m a religious history nut (just forgot all of it since college) and I would love to learn more about this. Thank you for sharing. xx

  71. Grew up Catholic but not a strict Catholic. I left any form of organized religion about 10 years ago. We went to church occasionally while raising our son mostly to educate him on religion. We always had open conversations about what was good and not so good or even bad when it came to the teachings. He made up his own mind about religion and now at 24 is agnostic. I personally feel organized religion does more harm than good but everyone is on their own “journey” and I respect that.

  72. I loved this! I identify with your “journey” a lot. And as someone who exclusively won “best attitude” awards as well, I’d encourage you to never “join the big leagues” and keep being “best attitude”—we need more positive attitudes than pros in our world right now. Thanks for a great post!

  73. You are love & light ✨ so many struggle in the same way … your transparency is admired! You do you & may you find all the peace, love & good stuff on your journey ?

    An online non-religious option you may like during social distancing from the comfort of your stunning mountain home … we’ve just been introduced to it & like it so far!

    1. thank you! gosh, so many great resources today shared in the post – makes me want to do a follow up post after I’ve looked into all of them. thanks for sharing. xx

  74. I was raised in the LDS church and have a similar trajectory. I left at 15 after always struggling with what felt like was a biased and non-inclusive environment.
    Now I’m pushing 40 with 4 kids and we’ve been flirting with religion again. I love it when it feels like motivational speaking and helps me align my priorities. I’m not in hook line and sinker. I also feel that I benefitted greatly by the spiritual teachers in my life and I want that for my children, but with a more inclusive church. It’s uncomfortable at times after living without religion, but I’m taking the positives for now.

  75. I wasn’t raised in the church, though I’ve always been a little curious. To be honest, the community aspect is what I’m craving the most. We don’t have a big friend group where we live and I feel like a church offers that. However, I am very leery of being preached to and don’t necessarily believe in a “God.” I get very uncomfortable if I feel like someone is trying to indoctrinate me. So I’ve never actually gone to a church. If I could go and just sit in the back and have nobody talk to me so I can feel it out, then maybe I would. But I also just don’t even know where to start. All this rambling is to say, thank you for your post!

  76. I hope you are genuinely met with love after people read this post. I grew up going to church and was honestly all about it. It was something that was “easy” for me. I believe that if the church I had belonged to hadn’t changed leadership during my later teenage years my life would have been so different. I ended up at 16 standing up to church leaders over several subjects that I knew with my soul were wrong, I left but still sought out other church communities.

    I completely stopped attending church in my early 20’s. I’m in my 30’s now and still don’t see myself attending services but still feel the desire for community and spiritual coaching.

    Reading your post gives me hope that maybe what my soul desires is still out there. Thank you.

  77. Fellow former Mormon here. I was all in for the first 35 years of my life—and it has been an incredibly painful transition out. Taking some time on the sidelines is a great analogy. I miss the community (and yes, certainty) of church and have been exploring the Episcopalians but it’s like playing hockey when I’ve been playing baseball my whole life. Still a team, lots to learn, but have no idea what’s going on. I appreciated reading your perspective and wish you well.

    1. Thanks Erin – there is a lot of connection there. Also much appreciated that you kept the analogy going – it totally made me smile (and laugh and then I had to read your comment to Brian). The sports analogy works! xx

  78. Love it! Thank you for taking all the time and energy to put this into words. Your words are exactly what I have been thinking but have not been able to sit down and put into words. We must stay progressive as the bible is a living word (alive, changing, has a beating heart)
    PS. I am a life long dedicated team player

  79. Emily, thank you so much for sharing. I guess I am the NFL player, but there are days I still wrestle with aspects of my faith (Christianity) too. It’s ok that it’s a little mysterious in my opinion. If God could be understood by my human intellect so easily, why would he be God? Anyways, this was such a brave post – you are awesome. This probably sounds nuts to most, but to me tried and true – life with God is truly a FUN adventure. Best wishes for your adventure with him!

  80. Lots of comments from Christians here, so I thought I would chime in as a Jew who is going through a similar re-connection with my faith to how you describe living yours, Emily. I am slightly surprised at how much I am getting and feeling attached and connected and a part of my shul (synagogue/temple/community) as an adult. I didn’t grow up being part of a religious community, and didn’t have a Jewish practice at home or with my family for a number of years. But we wandered back into it a few years ago, and it just…feels right.

    I do think much of it, whether that is your experience, mine, or many of the stories other commentators are sharing, comes from the specific community you find. I happened to find a warm and welcoming religious home right down the street from me, in the first congregation we thought about joining, much like it seems you did.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Kelly, I think you are exactly right. The exact church, with the exact leadership and exact community does have a HUGE affect on it. I wasn’t like ‘ooh i want to be presbyterian – i literally didn’t know what that was’. So its been hard for me to recommend that religion when that’s not why I go – its the specific, pastor and place that i’m enjoying so much. xx

  81. Thank you for writing this Emily! And for leading the conversation so many of us need to have. Sharing this with everyone I know who also has a complicated relationship with the church. I’m so glad you found a positive church community. I’m still on a journey back to finding my own.

  82. You may be interested in reading an incredible book called “Mormon Feminism”, edited by Joanna Brooks. It is a collection of all the notable mormon feminist writing and speeches from the 20th century. Of particular interest is its spotlight on the LDS historical revisionism regarding internal feminist activism. The book shows how the LDS church strategically silenced and excommunicated vocal feminist activists within the church, implemented the conservative values only halfway through the 20th century, and basically rewrote the LDS image.

    It’s incredible reading the earliest writings from mormon feminists, who were way ahead of mainstream feminism during the suffrage movement — the mormon feminists were able to point out the patriarchal nature of even monogamous marriage long before those same critiques emerged in mainstream Christian critiques. Anyway I could go on and on about this book but as a PhD student who is non-religious but curious about the history of religion, I was blown away by how much I learned reading this. I hope you enjoy it, too, and find it a healing reflection on your own religious upbringing.

    1. i’ve heard and read of much of this, but not that book. Going to order it now. I swear, mormon women are STRONG and those pioneer women? Forget about it – amazing. it would absolutely make sense. Can’t wait to read. xx

      1. Hi! Thank you so much for this post. Loving this discussion. I am a former-Mormon and actually guessed you were Mormon when I first started following your blog years ago. I then did some digging in the archives and learned you were a past-Mo…but isn’t it crazy how strong the culture is? When you’re raised in it, it stays with you in many ways even after you’re long gone.
        Anyways- I feel almost exactly the way you do and crave spiritual community but have a major hang up. Here is my question… what about the patriarchy? “God” is a man. Jesus is a man. When I was in I remember yearning for female examples of spiritual leaders. There are a few in the Bible but overall it’s pretty sparse. Children absorb that culture. You mentioned being preached to by a “human being man” so I think you understand where I’m coming from ?.
        What are your thoughts in this area? How will you broach the topic with the kiddos (I realize this is a super personal question so obviously no pressure to answer)? Would love to hear, if you feel so inclined ?.
        To Emily the commenter… thank you for that book suggestion! Sounds fascinating, I’m going to check it out.

  83. Dude, I could also write 23 pages on my experience with religion. I grew up in the Christian church and I mean IN – my dad was a pastor at a non-denominational Christian church and we were there 2-4x a week. Faith was never an option for me, it was basically mandatory. And while my parents and the church were somewhat open to questioning, they were never open to the result of that question being anything other than Jesus as the one way to God and all other roads leading to eternal separation from God.

    I, like you Emily, never believed in God. Despite going through the motions for 20 years. I also saw so much damage organized religion can cause, and the hypocrisy of so much of it killed me. I felt guilty and relieved when I walked away.

    But also like you, I feel a need to connect spiritually with others and the universe/a higher power. Right now yoga is my best church. Chanting in classes brings back so much nostalgia – the sense of transcendence from singing as a group is incredible. I miss the rituals too and the sense of purpose they bring.

    I still have so much anger at organized religion, but I’m intrigued by UU, Buddhism, even more progressive Episcopalian churches. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s encouraged me to keep my heart open, look for the good instead of the bad, and keep exploring.

  84. Thanks so much for this post! I’m glad you shared at this stage of your exploration. I appreciate your vulnerability and willingness to share your struggles and thought process. I grew up with no religion or spiritual belief structure and the snippets I’ve been exposed to have always made me feel very uncomfortable for many of the reasons you addressed (conservatism, all or nothing belief in a personal savior, no room for differences and questions) and so I have avoided it all together. It is a scary thing for me, because I don’t even speak the language or feel like I belong in a church community because I don’t know the norms. I have always felt like I am ok without religion or knowing if there is more after this life. At times I have felt there is a bigger presence in the universe but mostly not and that’s ok, but I do envy the sense of community that church goers often seem to have. But truly, thank you for your story and for being such a feelings sharer!

  85. Love this! Thanks for sharing. I’d consider myself and NFL-er but maybe one who sees a fair bit of bench time. Haha. I’m an active Mormon. But I’m also pro-gay marriage (just because I believe a certain thing doesn’t mean others have to believe it too), pro gun control, pro legalization of marijuana, pro-immigration, found prop 8 to be disappointing as well and I’m definitely not a fan of Trump. Sometimes mormons get a bad rep for being close minded and ultra conservative. But it can be dangerous to label or judge a person based on their faith. I think that’s why there are so many “secret christians” out there. Because people will make assumptions based on another’s actions or some stereotype that’s been created. When really we’re all our own person, with our own innate moral compass’s, despite what our religion has taught us.

    We pay 10 percent of our income as tithing to our faith. And a while back, after we had sold a house that we made a fair bit of money on (And paid tithing on that income), my brother, who’s not active in any faith commented “won’t you be upset after this life if you realize this isn’t all true?” And my response was no. Because I feel like my faith has helped give me opportunities to serve and connect with people. And that it has given me a sense of purpose, and comfort, and peace in times when I’ve needed it. And has really made my life happier. And I hope the same for everyone, regardless of what faith they follow.

    Ps. I have a friend who is Baha’i. Which is basically a religions that tries to see the truth in all religions. Which I think is super cool.

    1. I should have said what faith they choose to follow or NOT FOLLOW. Happiness for all, even those with no belief system.

    2. I agree a lot with Amy, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints there are some things that you can not fully understand and support but still attend because it is your team. I also support all other religions, faiths and spirituality as similar entry points as you stated. I appreciate you sharing your experience and for me I didn’t actually understand or crave the teachings and community until I had been married for a number of years and had three children. So for me if I had stopped attending at 15 I might have truly missed the good part I enjoy now at my speed. There are so many different speeds of an LDS person and the home centered, “it’s up to you” approach the LDS church is taking now is a great step to approaching religion at your own pace. My sister who lives in NYC was asked to be the Young Women’s President and as she was talking to her Bishop she said I have concerns or doubts about gay marriage, and a few other topics. He said that is great, that is fine, we all do and you can share your thoughts anytime. She is the president and does it in her own unique way.

      1. You are all my people! Or should I say teammates?? Thanks Emily for bringing us together and for sharing your experience so far. I would also need 23 pages to describe my experience, but can so relate to much of this. I’ve lived all over, most recently in Japan and now Italy, and find the most peace when I notice the similarities between cultures and religions and focus on the simple, pure elements of faith. We have so much in common! I don’t think this equates to blind faith or ignoring what makes us uncomfortable. I stay because the church has proven to progress a long side of me – even if sometimes I’m a few steps ahead. (Side note: I might be a 6 on the enneagram and loyalty is just my nature, so take all that with a grain of salt) BUT at the end of the day, the desire for community and togetherness is so real. I attend a Protestant women’s bible study for this very reason since our LDS military branch here is so small. I admire anyone who steps out on this journey and know there’s a different path for each of us.

  86. From a HUGE fan — who also happens to be a gay UCC (close cousin to the Presbyterians, just a little more liberal) minister: Thanks for letting all of us walk alongside you from afar on this journey. The spiritual integrity that shines through here is inspiring, and I’m cheering you on as you ask spicy questions, challenge your pastor (do it! we love it!), serve others, relax into a way of being and believing that works for you, and, of course, continue to make the world a more beautiful place.

  87. Love this, Emily. I was also raised LDS (still practicing) and have a lot of the same concerns with current policies that you do, so I liked hearing your take on those. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us!

  88. I’ve been waiting for you to hit the “post” button on this topic ever since you mentioned it sooo long ago. Yaaay!
    You wrote with such inclusivity and sensitivity, it shows your deep compassion and care for others as well as your devotion to your family. ?

    My parents were both raised with church, different ones (in the USA), and decided that we, (their 7 children) would do our own thing. And we did, raised in Australia. When I was @8 years old and living in a very small farming community in Western Australia, I asked my parents about God and church and they both shared their experiences. My mother was brought up Methodist, but preferred the music at the local African American church, so she went there … we’re talking the 1930s people!! So, this was extremely accepting and open-minded of her parents to happily support her choices! My dad’s experience of church was a bit more constricting in the Lutheran Church.

    Nonetheless, there were 3 churches in our tiny town and I was supported in my ambition to research and experience, so I trundled off to each one twice, on my own! Aaah, such a brave little explorer I was! ? I liked the vibe, except for the Catholic church, that plain scared me! I even said my prayers every single night for @ a year, mostly because of the fear instilled in me (Ha!), and despite my older siblings teasing. Ha! Then I moved on … to Yoga (it sounded like a religion). Again, I discussed this new concept with my parents and, much to their entertainment, I perched on my head in the corner of the living room for as long as I could and became adept at flat kneed lotus position (still really good at that!) for several weeks. This time my siblings tried to out-perform me since I’m the youngest! Then, I became a teenager and ended up in the city at 14.

    Fast forward decades … I was working as a freelance writer and as an ex-teacher, applied for a contract project writing curriculum for Harmony Day – we hold this each year in Australian schools and wider community – the client was The Churches’ Commission on Education. During the interview, they asked me about myself and I said “My family is like the United Nations … I have 5 sisters and a brother … we have Muslims, Catholics, Uniting Church, Atheists and Transformers!” I got the job.
    I learned so much!!!

    Each major religion in Australia was included and what I wrote had to be approved by a senior member of each religion. Christianity was dealt with as ‘one’ with different flavours, if you will. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam were summarised (and approved, phew!) and festivals from each, including foods, costumes, you name it, formed the basisof many activities. Other activities were wide and varied, all grounded in learning tolerance, compassion and friendship… harmony. I loved, LOVED, working on this project and it changed my life forever!

    Since then, I’ve felt truly connected to something bigger. Waaay BIG! I also solidified my “calling”, which, while sounding a little lame, is my truth: To make a positive difference in people’s (and all sentient beings’) lives. It. Just. Is.

    This is why I get up in the morning. Helping other people brings me so much joy. I feel honoured to have skills, empathy, whatever, to BE able to help. THIS is what I was searching for as that 8 year-old!!!

    I’m still not pulled to any, singular religion and have friends from many, diverse religions (even close married friends who are Catholic and Hindu – they do both rituals!). This is my fit. I truly believe that whatever it is that is “Its Biggness”, is sooo verrry BIG, that we little humans cannot possibly even come close to understanding It until we evolve some more as a species.

    I hope that as we *journey* together, as that species, through this Covid-19 chaos and uncertainty, we can all put some more “being kind and compassionate” into who we are as Human Beings.

    With Love, Rusty ❤

  89. Hi Emily, I will add, to support what are doing, that you are teaching your children history – specifically about what is arguably the most influential book ever written, the Bible. I think when people avoid religion for many of the legitimate reasons you mentioned, they do a disservice to their kids who should honestly know what Christianity teaches, as well as other religions (later on) in order to be smart, tolerant, comparative, well-taught humans. Religion has shaped the world immeasurably. You owe it to your kids to not hide that from them. (And maybe find some great purpose to life as well) Good work!

  90. Hi Emily! Having been raised in a Christian church but struggled as a young adult to fully accept everything some Christian churches insist you “must” believe, I highly encourage you to check out any book written by Marcus Borg, but particularly “The Heart of Christianity.” Love this post and commend your willingness to share. ❤️

  91. Thanks for the heartfelt post. I was raised Mormon and left at 18. People expect me to be bitter. I’m not. And I don’t hate Mormons. I actually believe much of it, but I can’t live the interpretation of it, if that makes sense. It’s better for me to love it from afar. I never thought much about it until I had my son. He’s never been to church, and like you said, I had a wonderful childhood. So I’ve thought many times about going back for him. I related to many of your thoughts. I think you are just a couple steps ahead of where I am. Thanks again for sharing.

  92. So interesting to read this and see it from a fresh perspective. I was on the NFL team ? but in the past few years have gone through what we call deconstruction, after beginning to question everything we’d been taught vs the reality we saw around us. Would highly recommend the For the Love podcast with Jen Hatmaker. Her books, along with those by Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, have been life giving and so refreshing! Lots of other amazing, affirming and inclusive leaders out there, too. Jeff Chu, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Barbara Brown Taylor… Last year my daughter and I went to the Evolving Faith conferencr. It’s not been a matter of losing faith, so much as losing the baggage of bad theology ? “I believe loving people fits perfectly under the umbrella of loving God, so when ‘loving God’ results in pain, exclusion, harm or trauma to people, then we are absolutely doing the first part wrong.” ~ Jen Hatmaker in her new book “Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire”.

  93. First thank you for your eloquent, open, honest and introspective post! I understand the “secret” religious/Christian/enter-whatever your faith/spirituality etc word, and not wanting to be judged or stereotyped.

    As a professional in science on the East Coast and one of those “NFL” Christians, it has been an interesting journey for me too. I grew up in a non-demoninational Christian home, and my parents were and are very solid believers, but they knew I had to come to this personal faith on my own, with the ups and downs and challenges of life. The current church I go to is a wonderful Evangelical Christian church (currently livestreaming of course 11:15am EST). Faith and science can and do exist. There are a lot of loving and inspirational Christians out there. Do I know all the answers to all the questions? No. But am I happy to continue growing in this Bible based church? Yes. 🙂

    Thank you for your bravery in posting this! Looking forward to where God leads you and your family next. 🙂

    1. Glad you found a good church. I also believe in Faith and Science. Many folks believe the pastor and adults from Footloose still populate most churches. The majority of church members are female and/or minorities. Many churches have female pastors.
      My church has a service organization that helps people and many people work on their projects and may not attend the service.
      We are live streaming too, and I’m thankful for social media at this time where we can virtual meetings and discussions.

  94. Loved this post! I have a hard time explaining my own journey in faith. I’ve gone to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every single Sunday for my entire life. But I question and I question hard and I question a lot. (I do feel like those questions have been encouraged by my faith, family, and church–the church in recent years has been much more transparent and open to any questions, which I am very grateful for and hope that trend continues.)

    I’m still in the church and I plan on staying my entire life because of the direction and joy and peace it has brought me. Growing up in Utah, I had this long line of my grandparents and ancestors who were members of the church and who were really good people who did a whole lot of good. My Grandma died last week, and she was one of the best people I have ever known. It would be hard for me to leave my church in part because of my family and the love and strength I have felt from them.

    I actually try to search out and find any questions that I can about my faith and faith in general. And sometimes I simply don’t have answers and I don’t have much figured out–I feel like the more questions I ask, the more truth I find, not because I find answers, but because the truth is in the question. I have found more strength in asking the question than in finding answers.

    I have been trying to open myself to more truth wherever I can find it. So I do teach my kids evolution (we actually really love learning about evolution). And I love, love learning about philosophy and ethics outside of religion.

    I try to love other people and I’m going to keep trying to do more loving and more accepting and more understanding. There is way too much judgment and cruelty and hypocrisy (I have been guilty and I’m working on it). And I think that everyone needs to make their own choices and we need to respect and love them for the whatever good they do.

    Thank you for your compassionate words and post and place for people to talk.

  95. I’m not sure what I am…I don’t think an NFL player…more of a third string player asking all the questions and probably annoying the coach and quarterback?? I love that you are sharing this. I love how transparent you have been and can’t wait to hear where your journey takes you. I believe in Jesus…everything. The historical data has a lot to do with that belief. I too have questions…and always come back to what He said…”the greatest of these is love”. If we can do everything in love. Love everyone. With humility. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Thank you for your message. I would love to hear your thoughts/ questions as they come…

  96. Hi Emily,
    Thank you for sharing your “Spiritual Journey”. It resonates with me and I’m sure many others. I’m constantly reminded that “ An unexamined life is not worth living”. Having faith does not exclude having doubt and many will identify with your feelings. God bless you and your family.

  97. Hi Emily, thank you so much for your willingness to share these kinds of posts! I too had a bad experience with religion as a teen and spent most of my late teens/20’s floundering around for what I truly believed.

    I have reached much the same place you have in that I am just out to LOVE people. It’s not my job to do anything else. Jesus was about radically loving even the most unloveable. If that’s what he spent his life doing, it’s certainly worthy for me to do so as well.

    I would still say I’m more spiritual than religious and I still have a lot of questions about what I feel are some grey areas, but I’ve found a church that is active and supportive and very in to meeting people where they are at. You don’t have to change to be accepted.

    I admire your willingness to jump in with an open mind and I look forward to more updates!

  98. There is a wonderful quote from Eat, Pray Love that, to this day, explains and validates my thoughts on faith than anything I’ve ever read. It’s long, but worth it:

    “ Your job then, should you choose to accept it, is to keep searching for the metaphors, rituals and teachers that will help you move ever closer to divinity. The Yogic scriptures say that God responds to the sacred prayers and efforts of human beings in any way whatsoever that mortals choose to worship—just so long as those prayers are sincere.

    I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s the history of mankind’s search for holiness. If humanity never evolved in its exploration of the divine, a lot of us would still be worshipping golden Egyptian statues of cats. And this evolution of religious thinking does involve a fair bit of cherry-picking. You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.

    The Hopi Indians thought that the world’s religions each contained one spiritual thread, and that these threads are always seeking each other, wanting to join. When all the threads are finally woven together they will form a rope that will pull us out of this dark cycle of history and into the next realm. More contemporarily, the Dalai Lama has repeated the same idea, assuring his Western students repeatedly that they needn’t become Tibetan Buddhists in order to be his pupils. He welcomes them to take whatever ideas they like out of Tibetan Buddhism and integrate these ideas into their own religious practices. Even in the most unlikely and conservative of places, you can find sometimes this glimmering idea that God might be bigger than our limited religious doctrines have taught us. In 1954, Pope Pius XI, of all people, sent some Vatican delegates on a trip to Libya with these written instructions: “Do NOT think that you are going among Infidels. Muslims attain salvation, too. The ways of Providence are infinite.”

    But doesn’t that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed … infinite? That even the most holy amongst us would only be able to see scattered pieces of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone? And isn’t our individual longing for transcendence all just part of this larger human search for divinity? Don’t we each have the right to not stop seeking until we get as close to the source of wonder as possible?”

    Hope it does for you what it does for me. Thank you for sharing so bravely. ❤️

  99. Really interesting! Thanks for sharing your story – I’m sure we’ve all had points in our lives where we find ourselves doing something we thought we’d never do. It’s usually a moment of growth.

    I am personally not only atheist but antitheist, which I try to reconcile with the fact that plenty of perfectly nice people are actively involved in spiritual organizations and communities. If I got to design the world it would look at a lot different, but I’m only one person. Regardless of what we do or don’t believe, it is always a good idea to step back and see the big picture. As long as it’s not harming or excluding people (which can happen unknowingly or indirectly) I can support people pursuing whatever sort of spiritual practice they want!

    I should also note that I see why it’s hard to accept that we might just die and then there’s “nothing,” but the fact is that we are one part of a huge web of interconnectedness that stretches over millennia. I think that I get the same sense of comfort from reading the works of naturalists and scientists as others get from religious texts.

    I really like this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye:

    “Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.”

    And an excerpt from Aaron Freeman’s eulogy from a physicist:

    “…you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

    1. Thank you so much for this comment Isabelle! I’ve been an atheist my entire life, raised by non-religious parents who always encouraged me to question and explore, but who warned me of the perils of some organized religions. I grew up on a farm in rural Maine, and though I never once heard my father say the word “god,” he always talked about our purpose here on earth. Be kind to the land around you. Respect the soil. If you take from it, give back to it, twofold, threefold. Feed your neighbors. Always feed your neighbors. Growing up, I never identified this as religion or even spirituality, but I now know that my dad was onto something. There are a lot of paths to goodness. When faced with extreme moments of adversity in my life, I’ve often thought, “damn, I wish I believed in something!” But now I know that I do, it just has nothing to do with a god, it has to do with how we care for the natural world around us. While I used to feel more unsettled about the big, dark nothing of death, now I see it a little differently, and I think about the earth and returning to the soil. We’re all looking for comfort and goodness, even the non-believers among us. We’re all human, right?

      1. Exactly. Can’t we be loving and generous without having to be “told” to do so? As a woman I also bristle at the idea of being preached at by a male authority or subscribing to a belief system that keeps women subservient to men by wielding the fear of eternal damnation. Regardless of our gender, race, wealth, power, we will all return to the earth. I would just like to be a positive force in the world while I’m still here!

  100. Emily, this was such a beautiful post. I truly appreciate you finally deciding to publish it. As someone who grew up Catholic, I have felt ashamed of my upbringing the past few years as all of the stories about the Catholic Church have unfolded. So I walked away in order to preserve myself….but I’ve always felt that I was missing that community you talk about. It’s one thing I admire so much about the Mormon faith – their community. But like you, the strictness of Mormons and Catholics has kept me away. I’ve lived in my current home for 3 years now and as my husband and I have begun to grow our family, religion is something we’ve discussed often – especially since we want our children to attend daycare at a church! We’ve met with the pastor and are encouraged by what this church has to offer in terms of community and a sense of belonging. Meeting with him has given me a sense of peace that I couldn’t put into words – until reading this post! So thank you for your insights and encouragement and just know, that your thoughts and feelings resonate with someone all the way in a small Wisconsin town! Xoxo

  101. Ohhhhhh man. Emily I just love you.

    I’ve been reading for years, since the Brass Petal. I’m an agnostic Christian, raised pretty conservatively, not unlike yourself.

    I relate to what you said about the existential crisis of death. Before I had kids, I could pretty easily consider the *theoretical possibility* that we all just die, and that’s it.

    But once I became a mom, that concept became anathema. Unthinkable. Impossible. The thought that my kids would cease to exist** is just….. totally inconceivable. Not just that, but the additional possibility that I would, in my inexistence, ever stop loving them, is equally unfathomable to me.

    Obviously my passionate feelings re: this subject might just stem from the deep biological instinct that all animals have for their offspring. Evolution won’t let me tolerate the possibility of the deaths of my progeny. Makes sense.

    On the other hand, something different might be happening. It *might* be that, in having kids, I’ve discovered a glimpse of the true value of every human being. EVERY person is that special; that the love I have for my boys is a window into the love of God (Universe/Source/Power/Force/etc) for every person; and maybe, individually, we just don’t have the strength to bear the weight of that much love for the whole of humanity. In that case, my feelings re: the impossibility of death are a deep universal truth revealed by love.

    Sounds like you have lots of awesome resources. I’d also add to that list a blog called Experimental Theology by Richard Beck. He comes from a conservative Bible-based tradition but is really progressive. I enjoy seeing how he bridges that gap.

    Thanks so much for this post, and your voice, and your transparency. I love reading everything you write, whether it’s about religion, decorating fails, politics, or 2020 kitchen trends.

    **Here is something that troubles/stumps me, though. As far as I can tell, when my boys were born, they began to exist out of seemingly nothing. As far as I can tell, there has ALREADY BEEN A TIME when THEY DID NOT EXIST. If we are talking about a real eternity, with no ending, there is also no beginning. I have never heard anything taught about this. Does anyone coming from a different faith tradition have any insight here?

  102. I loved your post, I have been raised Mormon, I still am active in the church, I resonate with many of the things you are saying.

    I also believe in the desire for a sense of community, love for all of God’s children and wanting everyone to feel apart of the community at church. I have seen the judgmental people in church too and I find it discouraging, but I view church as a hospital full of sick, imperfect people who come together because we all need help in making our weaknesses into strengths! And I have equally met so many amazing people in the church, who are full of love, acceptance and kindness, it probably evens itself out with those who annoy me!

    I did not have the best experiences as a youth with some of the other girls at church and my daughter has experienced the same feelings of rejection from a few of her peers and I often struggle with taking her to church when it seems negative for her.

    So I have had to do a lot of soul searching. I feel like as my relationship with God has grown and adapted and I have come to understand him better, I have such a different perspective than I used too. I have come to know God is truly full of love, forgiveness and long suffering for us, I had gotten the wrong impression as a child that I needed to be perfect, and when I did not measure up, I felt so inadequate. Even though my parents always made me feel loved, I have the kind of personality that wants to be so good, but is also hard on myself when I make mistakes.

    So I am learning how to rely on his strength instead of my own (which is not enough). And I have found so many blessings from trying to follow and live by his commandments.

    I still have a lot to learn. I think it is wonderful you are discovering your relationship with God and that you found your community! I am thrilled you feel such happiness in your decision. And I am glad you shared your journey with us! ?

  103. Awesome! Sometimes as Christians it feels like we have to hide it for fear of being labeled…thanks for taking one for “the team”. Also check out this group on facebook “The Christian Left”- I find it helpful

  104. I actually work for a church… I’m in the “NFL” if you will. Haha. I love your post, your honesty and articulation. I have travelled (and still travel) through the same trenches of thought and struggle with big questions and I’m ok with that. I think the juice, the stuff, true life is found in the tension of asking the questions rather than landing on all the perfect answers (as if those exist?… maybe?).

    SO, thank you for being brave enough to write this, it encouraged and enlightened me to be better at what I do.

  105. Loved your honesty and hearing your journey! Laughed at the secret Christians of LA too funny.
    Thanks for speaking positively of the LDS Church and acknowledging it’s humanitarian efforts. I always cringe when I start to read things like this, afraid of major bashing of the LDS church (my church of choice) but this was positive.

  106. Thanks so much for sharing your journey! (I think that is the best word.) I look forward to seeing where this takes you and appreciate your openness.

    p.s. This church I used to go to in Madison, WI is doing online services during this pandemic situation if you want to church from home. It’s certainly not the same as being together, but it’s something.

  107. Emily,
    I have loved your design for a while, especially your use of blues and your touches of antiquity! What a beautiful post. I’ve been following Jesus since I was a kid and fall more in love with him every day. It’s a wonderful journey. The more I press, the more he shows me he’s faithful and good. Religion says we need to meet the standard to come near. Jesus says to come as we are and watch him mend.
    Thank you for this.

  108. I admire your open-mindedness and authenticity! I grew up in the Christian church (still practicing), and I’m so grateful I did because it has had the biggest impact on shaping who I am today for the better. I grew up Baptist but have since moved around and been to churches of different denominations and non-denominational churches. I want to recommend the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I hesitate slightly, only because I think it might be more “one lane only” than you want to hear right now, but I think Lewis has a way of explaining complicated things with simplicity, and when I read his words I always feel like a kind, witty English grandfather is speaking to me (and who doesn’t want that?). Thanks for including us on your journey!

  109. I loved this post! I loved hearing your journey through all of this! I grew up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor since before I was born, and my mom always served so much in the church and later became an ordained pastor herself! I loved being in the church! Like you, I need the group setting for socialization and to keep me accountable and remind me to serve and help others. I actually studied to become a pastor and served in churches for awhile, (my husband did too), but right now I work in Early Childhood Education and love it. I love that church taught me to love and accept everyone, gave me a strong work ethic, and brought such peace and hope to my life. I also loved that the church denomination I was a part of growing up helped with the Underground Railroad, and held one of the first meetings for a woman’s right to vote in it’s building!! Recently I was attending a Presbyterian church and loved it! We have recently been trying another church closer to our house and like that too. The thing I like about both is the emphasis they place on service to others. They consistently do real, tangible things to help others and encourage people to be a part of it! I hope your journey with church continues to go well!!

  110. I feel like we’re leading parallel lives…minus the fact that you are a wildly successful entrepreneur, and I am not. But I’ve been reading for about a decade now and have often experienced the same major life events in tandem (buying a house, having kids, etc.). It’s uncanny to read we had similar experiences in upbringing, too. Replace Mormonism with Catholicism, and it’s essentially the same story, from rejecting my faith at 15, resenting all the hurt and conflict that generated for the next decade or so, experiencing an existential crisis as I progressed into my thirties and faced the increasingly inquiring minds of my children. Even the detail of tearing up during the worship music is the same! I’m not an overtly emotional person, so I absolutely hate how every time I go to church, I find myself silent crying as the music plays, probably a manifestation of some complicated emotions related to religion. I cannot thank you enough for continuing to post such honest and personal stories, especially in this era of trolling and triggers. It is a brave thing to do, but it means so much to people like me who have come to value this space as a source of community and connection. I wish I could find people with a similar faith trajectory in my area, because I have found that it is hard to be motivated to be a more enthusiastic “team player,” even at the rec-softball level, when so many people who regularly attend church are a bit more all-in on the actual details of faith. I’d love to be in a Bible study with fellow recovering-agnostics/default-skeptics, but we don’t seem to be a very significant subset of churchgoers.

  111. This is a beautiful and heartfelt post. I am on the firm non-believer team – not sure where that fits into your sports analogy? Non-player? I never have, although I was raised Catholic. I didn’t tell my mother until I was in my 40’s (although she obviously knew I’d left the church at 15) and I know she was initially heart-broken, but she came to some understanding once I told her why I don’t believe, and what I DO believe in instead. What I do believe in is the power of humanity to do SUCH GOOD THINGS, we all have a purpose, we are all worthy and deserving of love and respect, we are all connected (people, animals, the earth we live on and the universe we live in), and yes, I believe in science. But I also believe in magic, which is what a more religious person might call a miracle. I never really thought there was anything missing in my life. I felt NO void. But one day, 20 years ago, I took a yoga a class just for fun. Two years (I LOVED it) of taking daily classes later I realized what I’d previously been missing and now was getting – a wonderful sense of community, more knowledge of MY purpose in life, and the complete knowing that I have everything I need already inside of me. Pretty much the same thing many people get out of church.
    This has gotten way too long but just wanted to mention a book – “Buddhist Bootcamp” by Timber Hawkeye offers a secular and non-sectarian approach to being at peace with the world, both within and around us. He is not buddhist (which is not technically a religion by the way – it’s a philosophy) but he gives you ways to add a little bit of buddhist thinking to whatever you already are, whether Christian, Jewish, or whatever.

  112. I appreciated the fact that you are honest and have seem to come to terms with this in your life. I greatly admire you for doing this for your children’s sake. My husband was raised Catholic and has similar feelings about the church. He was thrown out of the church because his parents divorced. Yes, truly humans do the things. And I being raised Methodist with non attending parents, had no strong belief but did have some. At the age of 62, I have chose no organized religion. I can understand the need you feel as a mother to give you children this opportunity to choose for themself. I applaud you. I think you have made a huge breakthrough we all have to reach for ourselves in life and seems also to be dealing with past feelings about religion.
    I just cannot help but wonder… do those so devout people ever question anything in life? So, if they lived in the times of Hitler, would they have believed him?

  113. I come from a long line of Methodist (which is usually more moderate/progressive) clergy and missionaries and was raised in the church for many of my young years. However, I was “kicked out”/highly encouraged to leave Sunday School when I challenged the teacher on the plausibility of Jonah and the whale, and endured multiple corporal punishments in my private Baptist elementary school for arguing in favor of the greater likelihood of evolution and the Big Bang. I learned early on that there wasn’t much room for questions or open divergence in beliefs, so I quietly became an agnostic.

    Fast forward about 20 years, and I’m now firmly an atheist with a great appreciation for spirituality, except that I find it in nature and humanity, not a doctrine. I’ve been on the verge of death twice in my life and as such, I no longer fear it and what happens after (hint: it’s an extreme sense of peace). The love that I’ve shown my family and friends and my devotion to protecting the planet will live on after my body has ceased to live, and I’m ok with that. In fact, my scientific side gets excited/humbled at the prospect of my body serving one last time to enrich the earth and the life that lives upon it (yes, I refuse to be buried in a coffin).

    Have you heard of the Unitarian Universalist church? I encourage you to look them up. From what you’ve said in your lovely post, I believe their “doctrines” would resonate strongly with your views. My husband (also an atheist) and I regularly brought our kids to the UU church before moving states. They offer “Religious Education” for children where all veins of spirituality are explored and explained. I highly recommend it and had been looking for a branch in our new town just before the coronavirus hit!

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful post. Spirituality truly is a lifelong exploration.

  114. I love this post and your open heart explaining such a vulnerable part of your story! I think an author you would LOVE is Rachel Held Evans. She tragically passed a year or so ago but left a HUGE wake of openness and real ness for the Christian church to follow. I have gone through a similar but different faith story (bought in fully, life happened and a lot of questions followed and now my heart wants more with more real and more questions allowed) and her words are like reading something written just for me.

  115. Emily, I am so impressed with the vulnerability and transparency of this post. You never had to write this, but you did. Well done.

  116. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in a way that questions but does not disrespect other religions. I am born and raised LDS and I am still very much a part of the church. At age 25 (married with a baby) I have been able to question my religion and realize that the things that have bothered me are cultural not doctrinal. There are many cultural things about the LDS community that I do not agree with but the way I feel when I learn about God and the plan that is in place for my family is what keeps me believing. I find so much joy in teaching the 8 year olds each Sunday the simple lessons about Christ and I think the simple part of the gospel are what I have a testimony in the most. I have found a place within the religion where I can support others 100% in who they want to love & how they want to be all while still knowing that there is a loving God who wants what’s best for all his children (regardless of their beliefs/choices). Thank you for sharing your journey! I agree that regardless of belief there is so much joy in doing good in our world/community and helps raise good children who are kind.

  117. Hi Emily!

    This gives me so much hope and a positive outlook on where I’m at spiritually. My parents were raised in different denominations (Pentecostal and Southern Baptist) and they struggled to find a church where they both felt like they were part of the team. We hopped from church to church, trying every denomination out, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t sold. Church never made sense to me. As soon as I turned 15, I got a job at a restaurant where I knew I would have to work Sundays and ditched the problem altogether. I’m a closet non-believer within our family because they are all wholly dedicated to the sport(Grandpas are either pastors or worship leaders; you get the idea). I’ve always considered myself spiritual, but I have very similar qualms with the rules and teachings of organized religion.

    Cut to 20 years later, I have recognized the need for nurturing my spirituality and finding my purpose. I’m trying new things, but the church has yet to be one of them. My husband is a musician and plays at a local church, but I only go when my in-laws come to town. When I do attend, I am incredibly uncomfortable and can’t even bring myself to sing because I feel like a fake. I feel like I’ll be disowning myself for participating in something I don’t believe in.

    I do see the good in these communities. I see how many people they help, but I also can’t join a community who doesn’t share the same values as I do. Your post has given me great perspective and courage to keep hunting since you have found your community. I truly appreciate you sharing your experience! Thank you so much!

  118. This is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read during this difficult time. Thank you for infusing light into the internet.

  119. Good on you for this post, and your honesty. When I got to the part about the pastor being an AA member, I nodded. I joined a 12-step program to get sober, but found so much more: a community of people working hard to be the best versions of themselves, to confront life on life’s terms and remain sober (and serene and useful), and to communicate gut-honestly and learn from one another how to do all the above. I’ll be gosh-darned if I didn’t unexpectedly find community, meaning, and a set of steps for learning about everything you’ve discussed, not to mention a willingness to do so and an openness to an HP whom I never really expect to understand. (Crucial point: I’m not sure I get who’s ‘in charge’ of this whole deal, but I definitely get that it’s NOT ME.) We’re all in this together. Thanks ever so much for your post.

  120. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s so interesting and not something people talk about in LA. My parents are Catholic and raised us going to church, catechism classes and summer camp. I always asked too many questions. The one thing that really bothered me as a kid was that only Christians would go to Heaven. That seemed grossly unfair – someone who was born Jewish or Hindu would have to go to hell? That couldn’t be right. If my friends weren’t welcome then I didn’t want to be a part of it and I refused to go. As an adult I do miss the community of church — the support, acts of kindness and the singing together. I imagine a lot of parents want that for their own kids. I would be interested in trying a different church that was all about Love and nothing about judgement.

  121. My religious lifetime: baptized a Catholic although we rarely went to services. Attended a Lutheran Sunday School until about 5th grade. Dad would drop me off at the church in the morning and pick me up when it was over. I insisted on no longer going because I wanted to sleep in on Sundays. Can anyone relate? LOL! Plus, kids just didn’t talk about going to church! In 7th or 8th grade, a friend joined a Baptist church where girls did not dress like men and therefore they only wore dresses/skirts. I went to church with her a few times, but I certainly loved my jeans! No more church until my early 20s when I started attending what I might call a contemporary church, chairs/not pews, contemporary music on the overhead/not hymns a few times with neighbors at my apartment complex. Though I didn’t attend church often, I still believed in God. My kids were both baptized Episcopalian because that was the church my husbands family had attended when they were little. (I grew up in Portland, husband near Detroit). Once hubby out of Navy, we moved to Detroit area. Sister in law is godmother to my son, so she started taking the kids to Sunday School. When she moved out of state, I took the kids to Sunday School and got more involved with the church community, heading up Vacation Bible School, the outreach committee and eventually becoming church secretary. I got cancer during this time, and started attending more church services than I had been. I really believe my faith in God grew during my cancer treatment. Then I was fired when a new priest came in and I was devastated! I didn’t go to church for several years. Then I saw a local Presbyterian church needed a secretary. I was hired! This members of this church were so welcoming to me! They invited me to everything. They took me in as one of their own. I didn’t feel any clique-iness that I felt at past churches. I don’t attend church services often, but I do participate in their Bible studies. I am a member of the family regardless.

    Emily-I am so glad you have found a place where you feel welcomed. Perhaps you would be interested in reading what “my” pastor wrote for last Sunday’s sermon that was emailed to everyone (or I printed and mailed to those who don’t do email.) It really spoke to the here and now we are facing.

  122. Emily,
    This is Michael Silva – I worked to prepared architectural services for you 5 years ago. My christian path is over 35 years long.
    This was a good message. Finding the path for your journey, involving your family and having a consistent approch to the week is good.
    Talking to your children about their new group of friends will ease the conversation into what they are hearing… we are to consider our walk and understanding “like that of a child”. When they also encourage you to go on Sundays because their friends will be there, the community you are seeking will include your family.
    Brian will see a change as your heart fills and you love him more– he may want to share that love back to you.
    Blessings to you and your family as you journey on your own path, Mike

  123. Thank you so much for that. I think a lot of people are looking for hope right now. That took a lot of guts to do. God bless you for doing that. I grew up in a Christian church and left it for the same reasons as most, a lot of hypocrites and very closed minded. But 10 years ago I got healed from prostrate cancer and it was only after I went to church prayer with my mom and dad. When it happened I felt a big weight lifted of my shoulders and I had tears in my eyes, to know that not everything depends on me and that God had my back. I was 32 at the time. Anyways that’s just my 2 cents.

  124. If you earnestly seek God and ask him to reveal Himself to you, He will. You don’t have to figure anything out. Just say , “God, show me who you are.” and he will. If there is a Creator and you are his creation then you should know eachother.

  125. This is the first time I’ve read a post on this subject that so accurately mirrored the way I’ve been feeling for the last fifteen years. I feel like these words could have been penned directly outta my head. I have struggled and struggled and felt resentment towards the church while also craving what I can only call Nostalgia for literally years. I still socialize regularly with people that are “NFL players.” I enjoy them and their company immensely. We even vacation and go camping together. My feelings on the subject are known to them and I’ve never felt judged ever, but I miss the church life I knew as a child and young adult. my struggle is I can’t see how that lifestyle fits into my current belief system and I know that if I/we do decide to go, it’s only a matter of time before I’m exposed as a fraud or non believer. I’m not really sure why that scares me so much. Despite this I miss and crave the community I remember. I want my kids to grow up with those kinds of friends, but I do NOT want them indoctrinated. That was my biggest beef with the church for all these years. I never felt like there was space to figure anything out. The Bible says what it says and believe it or be shamed. I won’t go back to an environment like that. I do feel like the answer has to be out there though. I just haven’t been looking hard enough.

  126. Emily, for now, just thank you so much for opening your heart to us. I love this post so much. Thank you for being honest. It gives me hope.

  127. Emily–longtime reader here, and am currently practicing in the LDS faith. I loved this post. You are so brave. Your words about choosing resonate with me so wholly. I believe in Jesus, and I believe it’s because of His choices and life and death etc. that WE are able to choose. That is the whole point: to choose for ourselves, and to love other people. Period. I definitely carry doubts and frustrations about some doctrinal points (my opinion on the coffee/diet coke thing? diet coke isn’t good for you–it’s a cultural substitution because so many need to be told every little detail instead of taking a principle (be healthy!) and applying it appropriately by themselves). That said, I love being part of an international community; I am floored by how much the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives back, and supports so many humanitarian crises; I love the increased focus on the gospel, on love and support, and am reallllly grateful for a noticeable shift in decreasing emphasis on cultural traditions. Thank you so much for this post–thank you for sharing your struggle and sharing the awareness that no one has it all, spiritually/religiously speaking. We are humans working stuff out and helping each other, and that is a huge source of spiritual meaning. You were gorgeously vulnerable today, and I am so grateful for your courage.

  128. Emily, thank you for writing this! I appreciate you so much for your authenticity and humor! I relate in so many ways! Excited for you and your family in this new season of life. <3 I have been a follower since you were on Design Star. (:

  129. Hi Emily! This post was amazing and just what I needed on this day. Having grown up in Salt Lake (like half Mormon) most my life and deciding not to play as well I can relate to your experience. I am interested in hearing more about your “journey”. I did want to recommend a book I read recently that helped me feel connected to all. “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle was an incredible read for me. Thanks again for being you, you are truly an inspiration in so many ways.

    1. I would like to echo Jen on recommending “A New Earth”. I also grew up Mormon, pretty much left the church when I went to college and took my first philosophy class. I had the SAME lightning bolt moment when I realized all the great spiritual teachers discovered the same thing, the one universal truth, that not just one was the “true church”. They were possibly ALL the true church at their core. I’m 43 now with three kids. My dad is a bishop. Poor mom and dad. I know it pains them, and to not have their grandkids raised LDS. That’s the hardest part right? Reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (15ish years ago) was the book that changed my life, and put me at complete peace. Right now I say the mountain is my church, because I’ve found more spiritual connection in nature than I ever have anywhere else. Best of luck to you!

  130. The was an interesting read-thank you for your brave voice. I have rarely (unless you sign a secret be-my -friend-anyway agreement) told anyone that I went to a conservative Christian college. The conversation that followed was too nuanced and I had too many questions to answer. It colored peoples thinking of me and as I have aged and am an artist, it is less asked. I have slowly let go of my families belief systems and carved out my own espeically this last couple of years, as it seems so many of extreme faith seem so…”right?” about a lot their beliefs. I am happy to be wrong about a lot of them! I realized it doesn’t make me “less” or in jeopardy to get some beliefs wrong! So my term for God became “New God” -one that gets me and gets it, has my back, is ok with my belief system. It’s been quite freeing and I am not sure my parents have figured it out-I don’t feel compelled to explain it to them since they are aging (an oddly becoming more extreme). I could discuss this for hours-turns out apologetics is my thing, haha!

  131. Love this so much!! Please continue to write about your “workout.” (I go too and can’t imagine what my life would be without it after a childhood of not really being interested—it was because I thought it was just about rules.)

  132. Thank you for sharing this very personal journey to discover what faith really means and where it exists for you. I’m happy your husband is with you (for now) in this adventure as it may add a completely new dimension to your relationship and to that of your little family. Godspeed!

  133. I identify with your quest. What worked for me was asking myself : Who do I most admire? What role did the presence or absence of a religion play in the formation of those people? Were they still believers? Do I want to be comfortable with the answers now or in my old age? I always seemed to come up with the same answer.

  134. I am lds and I just wanted to thank you for how you spoke of your experience. I have loved ones who have had similar stories as yours so I know a bit about the trauma you mentioned. How amazing that you can extend grace to an organization that hurt you and has doctrines you disagree with. I love my religion and believe it to have the most truth yet I feel deep pain regarding some of our policies and our shaming culture. I am so grateful that you left room for members like me in your post when it would have been easy to give a more simplistic view. As for the coffee and Diet Coke; no one knows ?.
    I agree that there is one higher power with many different access points. I love religion and spirituality and have studied all the major world religions. I have found light and truth in all of them.
    What a wonderful post and what a happy thing that you have found something that is working for your family.

  135. This is very cool, Emily. I’m excited for you!
    I’m a Christian, with a background similar to the church you’re attending now. I grew up in the church but continue in it as an adult because nothing else has the answers for me. And Christianity is so foreign to my earthly brain and heart, so counter-intuitive, so opposite of how people are naturally wired, it tells me that it MUST be true. Obviously no human would invent something so upside-down as the gospel (literally, “good news”).
    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to hearing where your journey takes you!

  136. Thank you for sharing your journey. Faith/spirituality is always a journey—our whole lives. I too have resentment against the church I was raised in, but chose to raise my kids Catholic too. I refused to be married in the church, and disagree with so many of their rules. But it’s the only faith my husband and I know, and we want our children to have the avenue/path to faith, because it can definitely be a lifeline in trying times. I think part of being a good parent is exposing children to religion, whether it Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, whatever faith community you can share.

    My husband and I believe that following Jesus’s teachings, how to treat each other, is the important thing, not the interpretation of the Bible, not the rules created by men over centuries of extreme power and influence. And the sense of community is huge. I love the people of my parish. We feel better when we attend mass on a regular basis, but we often fall out of the habit. Kudos to you for sticking with this good habit.

    I have family members who are super strict Catholics, and I often fear that The Catholic church is going more extreme, that the strongest parishes are the most conservative ones because they have people with such deep faith, and their dogmatic approach is in a way, powerful. This scares me, because so many of us are leaning the opposite way, of acceptance etc, and the doubling down on rules and doctrine are driving the liberals away. Many times I’ve thought of trying an Episcopal church. But my Dad is 89, and my youngest is preparing for Confirmation, and my husband says the Catholic Church will eventually change….

    A few years ago I was teaching a second grade religious education class, and it was a chapter about Family Values. And it discussed a man and a woman as husband and wife…and nothing derogatory, nothing about “must be” the book did a good job of being generic. But the 7 year old kids started raising their hands and saying “what about 2 dads?” “My cousin is a girl and she married a girl, those are families too.” And I was happy to say “I agree” and just left it as “this book is giving just one example.” Maybe my husband is right.

    I like being a part of my church community, and it’s unfortunate that there are church doctrines created by MEN ages ago, that some people believe are straight from God, and can never change. But I do not feel forced to follow them. Many of us are there for the good–the community, doing as Jesus taught us. We shrug about the “rules.” Societal norms have changed, eventually the church will catch up. Or we’ll just flock over to the Protestant side…

  137. I’m going to be 70 in May. Been a believer all my life. After giving birth to three children I finally understand the heart of God. It became a revelation of accepting my frailties as I accept the frailty of others. It took being a mother to realize I would never turn my back on my kids. No matter what kind of problems or character flaws they exhibited I love them unconditionally. I have my own issues that aren’t Christ like. I am confident that God loves me as much as I love them. It’s easy for me to love Him. Faith had sustained me through divorce and cancer and disappointment. I’m steady. I’m at peace. I don’t try to sway people. God meets us all where we are. Blessings to you and your family as you figure this out on your own

  138. Thank you for this post! And thank you to all your readers who provided supportive feedback – regardless of their own personal faith standing!

    I’m almost 60 and have been comfortable just believing in a higher power and the innate goodness of people. But I feel my husband and son would like for me to have more traditional beliefs (I think because they want me to feel the peace and comfort it can provide).

    At any rate, I plan to try out a Unitarian church and, if available in Houston, a “Sunday Service”. Options I hadn’t considered. Your article provided new info.

    Good luck to you.

  139. I enjoyed reading this and appreciate your willingness to be transparent on such a sensitive topic. It’s a topic that has been top of the list for me in the last few years. I also grew up in a very strict Christian home and took a hiatus from church/religion for 15+ years. I always believed in God, I just didn’t pursue spirituality much for a while, taking time to know God or what that meant to me. Like a lot of people, it took some difficult times for me to feel a renewed desire for that in my life, and to prioritize and discover what was “missing.” For me (an introvert) it’s mainly been a private, individual “journey”, searching for relationship with/knowing God. Finding a church that fits is still hard to work out but I’m learning to appreciate good, truth and love wherever it is. There is a peace in simply seeking God and letting all the rest come from that place. I believe God is love and will lead the way for the open and sincere heart. God bless you on your path. ❤️

  140. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good standing. I grew up in Orange County and now live in the Inland Empire.

    I am a Democrat, as is my husband. We are feminists, as well. I voted for Hillary. I voted for Warren. I understand I am in the minority, but the Church favors neither party (the state of Utah is a different story).

    If the prophet asks me to vote a certain way, which is an incredibly rare occurrence, I do, including voting Yes on Prop 8. That was a difficult choice for me. Since then, after many years of studied thought on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that God’s purpose for marriage and family differs from what I perceive to be kind or fair. I do not a fault others who come to a different conclusion.

    I think that with a lot of doctrine, including the stance on gay marriage, the question is not: Is it bad? but rather: Does it do more harm than good or more good than harm? Gay marriage is not bad. Two consenting adults wanting to become a family is not bad. But such a marriage only fulfills one of the three purposes of marriage and doesn’t reflect an eternal perspective. The detriments outweigh the benefits.

    And why caffeinated soda but no tea or coffee? No answer has been given. However, my thinking is that it has been easy for people to figure out that soda is bad for them, no commandment necessary. People who drink copious amounts of diet soda to stay alert know they have an addiction and can attempt to self-limit, just as those with other food addictions do. But coffee and tea have been given an aura of health by our society. They have been associated with productivity and even wellness, while soda is still just associated obesity and aspertame. Therefore, a commandment was necessary to prevent confusion.

    As for women holding the priesthood, no thank you. I don’t need to do any more unpaid labor.

    Also, I’m looking forward to watching a very sparsely attended General Conference the first weekend of April. Hearing from the President of the Church, who is a world-renowned retired heart surgeon, will a be welcome respite.

    (I spent way too long writing this. Just felt like I had to represent.)

  141. You must read the book “Roll Around Heaven” by Jessica Maxwell. She is hilarious and her journey is beautiful! You won’t be able to put it down! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on religion and spirituality. It’s a great conversation for all of us!

  142. My mother’s famous quote: When God wants you to know something, he will tell you. You’ve chosen to listen and so begins your conversation.

  143. Loved how you found yourself back to church. Jesus is wanting you to accept him and I believe leading you in ways that only will work for you. Jesus is the difference. He gave his sinless life to pay for our sin and was resurrected so if we accept that fact, he wants to have a close relationship with us as our Father through the Holy Spirit. Check out Sacred Romance by John Eldredge- such a progressive beautiful way to understand Christianity as it was meant before religion and corrupt churches messed it all up

  144. Religion all comes down to “who is your authority.” You can’t pick and choose what you’re going to believe if you worship the God of the Bible and use Him as your authority. Otherwise, you are just desiring to become part of a like-minded social group. If you desire to serve Jesus and give your life wholly to Him, He dictates your beliefs, not society. There’s no greater calling than to know the Lord, but it takes a submissive and repentant heart, and I think that part is left out in a lot of “churches.” When I hear of anyone wanting to find a church that agrees with all of their social ideologies, I wonder if their quest is to find Truth, or to find comfort and acceptance in being who they are, regardless if it lines up with God’s truth as proclaimed in the scriptures.

    1. There is nothing wrong with wanting the comfort of a loving community, while also being unwilling to become “submissive and repentant.” Sounds like a nightmare to me…

  145. Emily, thank you for your honest and beautiful post.
    You are very brave. Thank you for sharing.

  146. Let me start by saying, I am an Atheist. Hinduism is the religion I grew up with. My parents were not the kinds to go to the temple often, but over the years they have become more religious (may be because all their kids left the house, and they needed something), and I have become the opposite. It’s been more than 20 years I haven’t stepped into a temple.

    Here’s a bit (among many) on how I started looking at religion in a different light. I was boarding a flight, and the lady in front of me was wearing a jacket which supported a church. My immediate thought was, ugh! She must hate colored people, she must not believe in equality, she must be all that I don’t believe in. To my surprise, she sat next to me! My “ugh” feeling continued. She sparked a conversation, and she was soooo nice to me. In that moment I kicked myself. It made me realize, if I hold such extreme views, I am no different than an extremist. Now, that was earth shattering!

    I had to nurture the idea that all religion is not evil, extremism is (singularity, as you put it). Thinking of religion in this light made me more compassionate to those who believe in religion. You do you. As long as you do not tell me how to live my life, respect my way of being, and be kind. Not everyone who believes in religion/spirituality supports Trump or holds extreme views. Stephen Colbert doesn’t!

    I haven’t thought of going back, but I do fondly remember that the bells ringing at the temple, the smell of the incense sticks, people walking in silence, and of course the yummy food, was incredibly soothing. Over the years I recognize that the most difficult part of being an Atheist is, not having “faith”. When shit goes bad in life, you don’t have “something/someone” to go to. I am working towards developing faith – faith in humanity.

    PS: I despise the word “journey”. But, I am going to be compassionate to those who are on a journey :).

    BTW, thank you for writing this! If I may suggest a book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, is worth a read.

  147. Hi, Emily
    I forwarded your lovely post to my nephew, who is a young (40’s) pastor in LA. His Sunday services are open and welcoming and mirror many of the topics you cover. Young families are joining his church, because it is informal, inclusive and full of art, music and open discussions about the Bible, faith and belief. I am a lapsed Presbyterian and probably an onlooker or “fan” in your analogy (and I guess you could call him a team coach?). His services are also streamed live on FB on Sundays. I watch, and I question, but I am always renewed afterwards. I am so encouraged to see what he is doing, and to read your post and the comments. So many good people in the world.

    Thank you for your wonderful words.
    P.S. I’m purposely not including the link to his church, because I don’t want it to seem that I’m advertising for him. That isn’t my intent here.

  148. Let me start by saying, I am an Atheist. Hinduism is the religion I grew up with. My parents were not the kinds to go to the temple often, but over the years they have become more religious (may be because all their kids left the house, and they needed something), and I have become the opposite. It’s been more than 20 years I haven’t stepped into a temple.

    Here’s a bit (among many) on how my view towards religion changed. I was boarding a flight, and the lady in front of me was wearing a jacket which supported a church. My immediate thought was, ugh! She must hate colored people, she must not believe in equality, she must be all that I don’t believe in. To my surprise, she sat next to me! My “ugh” feeling continued. She sparked a conversation, and she was soooo nice to me. In that moment I kicked myself. It made me realize, if I hold such extreme views, I am no different than an extremist. Now, that was earth shattering!

    I had to nurture the idea that not all religion is evil, extremism is (singularity, as you put it). Thinking of religion in this light made me more compassionate to those who believe in religion. You do you. As long as you do not tell me how to live my life, respect my way of being, and be kind. Not everyone who believes in religion/spirituality supports Trump or holds extreme views. Stephen Colbert doesn’t!

    I haven’t thought of going back, but the bells ringing at the temple, the smell of the incense sticks, people walking in silence, and of course the yummy food, was incredibly soothing. Over the years I recognize that the most difficult part of being an Atheist is, not having “faith”. When shit goes bad in life, you don’t have “something/someone” to go to. I am working towards developing faith – faith in humanity.

    PS: I despise the word “journey”. But, I am going to be compassionate to those who are on a journey 🙂

    BTW, thank you for writing this! If I may suggest a book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, is worth a read.

  149. I just wanted to say I was surprised to find this interesting to read! I tend to get defensive about religion because it’s an emotional topic and my particular branch often unpopular. My story wound all over the place. In my childhood years, my parents/me by extension were Scientologists. Then they did a leaving the cult life disruption move and we were nothing for years. Didn’t ever think to talk about God at home so that’s how I knew he wasn’t important. I was sent to Catholic school with mandatory masses for 8 years but never remotely had strong feelings for or against the religion, it was just the best available education in our area. I went to a college I loved and was surprised to find myself seemingly randomly surrounded by very smart, funny, lovely people who acted like Jesus was real in their everyday lives. And I ended up falling in love and gratitude with Jesus myself, and glad to follow Him (still am, 20 years later).

  150. I’m a non-believer born into a primarily Jewish household. I still very much equate “Christian” with exclusion and anti-semitism. Especially like watching shows like the Bachelor with contestants from the Deep South and bible quotes in their Instagram handle — I just think bigot!! I relate to your post and realize maybe the resentment is on my end not theirs. Anyway, I’ve done some reading about Unitarianism. It seems like it would be a good fit for you?

    1. Kelly, it makes me sad to think you equate “Christian” with “exclusion & antisemitism.” This is not true for so many Christians. I am a Christian and am terrified of the Religious Right. Just because we are Christian it doesn’t mean we want to evangelize…there are some that do, and some that don’t. I respect all religions, especially those who support peace and faith and equality for ALL people.

  151. Thanks, Emily, for your openness and willingness to share so much of your life, including your spiritual life, with us. That’s not easy. Your never-ending kindness, quest to do good, and create and share happiness is inspiring. 

    I’m a huge believer in the power and goodness that religions bring to our communities. I love driving thru my town on Saturdays and Sundays and seeing cars in church parking lots–no matter the denomination. The fact that people take time to pause and dedicate a bit of time to worship, I think, is lovely. While I don’t think anyone needs religion to be a good person (I certainly know plenty of good people who aren’t religious!), I do find it’s easier for me to carry out those good-person-type actions with the help of my faith community. 

    And, like another commenter said, I often look at religion (including mine–I’m LDS, too) a bit like government…There are plenty of things that drive me nuts or things I don’t quite understand in federal / state / local government, but I’m not ready to leave the country. The same is true for me and my faith. I don’t quite fit the stereotypical mold, I have a hard time with some aspects, but there are other aspects that I really love and cherish. For me, faith is a choice. I’m regularly questioning and wrestling with faith and my faith’s culture, but that searching and wrestling has helped me personally.  

    Here’s to making room for faith in our worlds. Thanks again for your candor and kindness. 

  152. Hey Emily! Lovely post. I am an ordained pastor in the PCUSA and serving a Presbyterian church up in Washington state. If you ever need a person to talk to or ask questions of I am always available!

    1. I would extend that offer to anyone actually. I know the Church has done ( and still does) a lot of damage to people, it breaks my heart. It is one of the reasons I have stayed in my profession, to combat terrible and violent and cruel theology. I am always happy to chat with folks no matter what they believe or how they feel:)

  153. Thank you so much for this post. Your openness on this subject is a gift. I don’t know how to share even 1% of my thoughts in comment form, but I did want to say thank you and ask if you’ve heard of/tried unitarianism. It’s pretty great as far as religion goes…

  154. Emily,

    I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I grew up in a very conservative Christian church, attended a conservative college and seminary. I served as a missionary too. I just got bogged down by the legalism. I did not agree with their views on women in ministry, emphasis on being a homemaker, limitations on people who were divorced and all of the control by middle aged white men. I found it challenging to be in that environment as a single female who felt led beyond those limitations.

    I went many years without attending church at all or being connected to a small group, Bible study, etc. And it left me wanting. So I totally understand that lack of and need for community and extended family. And I missed a relationship with God.

    In the last year or so I finally got off the bench. It’s been slow but I have found that it hasn’t been healthy to neglect the spiritual side. I am attending a non-denominational church (online now thanks to Team Corona). I feel stronger bit by bit and more connected. One day I may join the team too. The most important thing is I feel more connected to Jesus. I’ve often heard it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship.

  155. Thank you so much for sharing this Emily! NFL player here, on the Mormon team, and these conversations can some times be triggering so I was nervous to read but it’s so important to understand other’s perspectives. After reading this it is interesting to me how even within an organized religion, so much can be tainted by the opinions of individuals in the religion. For example, I grew up always accepting evolution and don’t see a conflict between science/evolution and God. After reading this I want to be more outspoken about things like that and hopefully show people on the sidelines that there is room for everyone! As always, thanks for your brave and open posts!

  156. Hi Emily! I’m a long time reader and an active member of the LDS church. I really appreciate the courage it takes to put yourself out there and share your feelings about religion, especially to such a wide audience. I also appreciated how you were honest about your feelings/thoughts about the church you were raised in without being super derogatory or hyping up religious stereotypes. Your post was thoughtful and open, and I really respect that! Good luck on your journey! ?

  157. Emily, I have read your blog for MANY years and was beyond intrigued by this post. Bless you for your courage and vulnerability to post something so personal. I am now and will always be a fan and I encourage you on your spiritual journey~we are each on our own path and I am grateful to hear about yours.

  158. Hi Emily ! I would like to make a suggestion for you, it’s a movie called The Case for Christ it’s a true story of an atheist that sets out to prove there was no Jesus, since his wife was a Christian and he hated that! It’s a very good movie! Very entertaining and also a lot of history as from reading your beautiful blog today you seem to enjoy!

  159. Emily,

    Thank you so much for sharing. Your journey, your thoughts, all of it. It can’t have been easy to put yourself out there. Thank you for sharing something that’s truly personal.

    I think the timing is perfect, and I pray that your words help others who might be struggling today, with all that is going on in the world.


  160. I’m glad you shared what is a personal thing practiced in community for lots of us. I have enjoyed lifetime church as home and know it is usually a friend inviting that brings folks into the pew and church’s life. A word from experience : Be patient with us. Church will disappoint at some point because it is human (trying to work higher but messy). Your gifted pastor will eventually move and it feels like such a loss-BUT church is the people and God’s steadfast love. Hang in there even when you wonder…If your children’s questions are welcomed/encouraged and they are told, “You are beloved child”, you’ve chosen well. Curriculum can always be checked for openness but volunteer teachers embody the best of our efforts. Walking to church building, worship services and activities is idealic! Enjoy it when we are back together as a body and virtually while we are “together apart“. You are brave and creative! I follow, seldom comment but recognize the Mountain House in others ads. You have people cheering you on!

  161. Never commented before…love this post. I was raised Jewish by a non-practicing Catholic Mother and Jewish father. A few years ago I started attending a congregational Church and an Episcopalian Church. Timing is hard and my husband is a traumatized Catholic so super against Church but I find it wonderful. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  162. Emily,
    I am post-Mormon (semi-pro; never really felt NFL status, though I faked it pretty good,) and I loved reading this and hearing your perspective. We moved to Oregon a couple of years ago. Our first move without being a part of the Mormon religion, and it has been a struggle not being a part of, and having an instant family of people that love and care about you. I have, more than ever, questioned my purpose and what the meaning of life really is.
    My mom, who has Alzheimer’s, is constantly asking my kids how old they are. When she asks my son and he says he is 8, the first thing she says is, “Oh! Are you getting baptized?!” We have told him to just say yes to this, even though he isn’t. My mom forgets that we have left the church and it would be like breaking her heart over and over again.
    There is truly so much to unravel, and I agree with much that you have shared. Let’s talk more about this when you come to Oregon, once I win the Velux skylight windows and room makeover. ???

    Thank you for sharing!❤️

  163. Really beautiful. I was raised in a progressive, liberal Christian church by parents who were probably just like you and Brian. They were/are agnostic, but wanted their children to be part of a church family. I loved it as a kid and have many fond memories. However, I am now 45 and have basically not attended church since I was in my early 20’s and my 3 children have never been. My husband is an atheist and would not go with us, but he has no problem with me taking the kids, as long as it’s a liberal congregation. I feel some longing to be a part of this type of community again, but also…I’m so put off by so many Christians. Honestly, just reading some of the comments to your post just set my teeth on edge. I was not raised in what I think of as this almost obsessive Jesus love type church and it’s just so not me. I truly don’t want to be associated with that. Ugh. I now live in a small town and I kind of doubt I can find the type of church I’m looking for, but I think I will try. Oddly enough, I attended a wonderful bar mitzvah last month that made me so long for the connection of a faith community. There is something so beautiful about a group of people learning, praying and believing together. I loved it so much I seriously thought about converting to Judaism, but man I am way too lazy for that. 🙂 Anyway—I loved this post very much and look forward to hearing more about this from you.

  164. Hi Emily,
    I’m a little late to the comment party, but just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing your story – I have a very similar one. I grew up in LA and while our church wasn’t super conservative, I didn’t feel like it answered my deeper questions about life/theology, or truly respected my personal understanding of God. I also felt like my spirit was stifled in Church and felt much closer to God through prayer and out in nature. As I grew up, I searched for other (cooler) alternatives; Buddhism, Transcendentalism, Judaism, and eventually Agnosticism on the verge of Atheism. But, I always felt (deep down), that there was a God that knew me very personally and that I needed to find my way back to. I was afraid to explore it in a more traditional sense because of all the stigma organized religion, namely Christianity, has in our popular culture, but I eventually got to an internal place where I was able to let all that (mostly fear and my own ego) go and felt brave enough to step into the most beautiful Church in the East Village of New York, where I was living at the time, and was met with the most inspiring preaching, loving community and gospel choir made up of all colors and stripes. I went every Sunday for an entire summer and cried my eyes out every time. I eventually came back to LA, got married and had a family. Now we go to an equally beautiful Church in Studio City. It’s so grace filled that several of our friends who had been previously wounded by their religions or non-religions growing up are finding a place of healing and community. I suppose I’ve been an NFL player Christian for a while now but I think a true walk of faith is always questioning, learning and growing. I think the point of faith is not having all the answers but always moving forward in love and trust. I love your openness and your questioning nature. I also love that one of the previous commenters said that “doubt is a kind of faith.” If you’ve ever read any Kierkegaard, he’s alllll about that. I think you would love any of the books by Anne Lamott. Traveling Mercies was a great one. She’s definitely on the more progressive/crunchy side of the christian faith 😉 and her stories are so raw and inspiring.

  165. Hi Emily! I had a similar experience growing up in one denomination and thinking as a teenager “I’m
    not sure if I’ll go back.” After meeting my husband we attended his church……Greek Orthodox which I thought was going to be even more strict and conservative than Baptists. It has been the most uplifting journey and I believe most of it is we have the most wonderful Priest AND I just put my faith in trusting Him. It even sounds too simple to me but it’s working. Our Priest speaks more of helping others and loving one another more than anything else. I hope you continue to find faith and comfort in this journey and thank you for sharing.

  166. I find this all so interesting because I wasn’t raised with religion. My Dad was Jewish, my mom a protestant and neither cared for religion. However, we still had strong cultural connections to being Jewish and I think thats where the sense of community comes in for me. I found yoga to be very community like and used to go on lots of retreats. And was my first venture into separating spirituality from religion. Instead of God, for me it’s Mother earth, or the universe, and we are all connected through it. It is amazing to feel that sense of connection to everything.
    Now that I have a family, we found a Waldorf inspired preschool and that’s where I found my community. Most Waldorf schools really strive to make families feel connected to each other through festivals, community service, camping trips, etc. It’s been really nice to go this route instead of religion for me.
    I did dabble in religion as a teenager but the one church my friend went to spoke in tongues and pushed me to the front of the church to be born again on the first time, so you can imagine how that went!! It was terrifying!
    I am happy that others are happy going church, just want that to be clear!! Thank you for talking about this with so much grace and thoughtfulness towards everyone’s views, that is not an easy task!

  167. At this point I’ve read many of the responses though not All yet. I found only one from an active LDS which kind of shocks me. Thank you for sharing where you are at, your “Journey”. I am one of your long time readers , daily since Design Star. An 80 year old Designer myself and an active, lover of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (you know i had to do that, don’t you?) By HAD I don’t mean forced, just kind of an in joke. Anyway love your forthrightness, your family, how you have become a Star in this business and in your life. You are a blessing in this world, Emily, and I wish you the most wonderful life ongoing and since I believe wholeheartedly in God and His son Jesus Christ I know how much they love you and are rooting for you in every way. As am I! I am curious at the silence that I hear from the many “Morman” readers that love you and I am sure also root for you.

  168. I think one of the beautiful things about you is your vulnerability and openness to ask questions and seek answers. You desire deep meaning in conversation and life and I admire your willingness to create open conversation about it. I believe that if you truly seek the Truth, you will find it. So keep seeking. Keep asking questions.
    Following Jesus is a way of life for me because I am acknowledging my need for Him to be in authority over my life. Because I don’t have all the answers, I don’t love perfectly, I don’t know how to raise my kids to be kind, compassionate adults, I don’t have infinite wisdom, I don’t have the solutions to world problems. But He does, and He has so much love for us.

  169. Hi Em. I am a SF bay area mormon where many of us stay in the church and believe the fundamentals but question anything that feels unkind, judgemental, and harsh. I have a daughter who is gay and I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m happy you are finding a community that uplifts you and I hope that for her too!

  170. What a great post! I think it’s such an interesting topic and love hearing about other people’s “journeys.” I grew up in Catholic Church and schools. I stopped going as a teen/very young adult not bc I had a lot against it but it just wasn’t a priority. My senior year Of Catholic HS we were encouraged to go to a different denominations service and write about it. I had gone to a Non-denominational church and felt like a sinner for enjoying it. Fast forward 8 years and my mom and I went to a random Christian church service at a movie theater and felt an overwhelming sense that that was right where we belonged. This wild child eventually joined their “moms group” and met some of the most non-judge mental girls, enjoyed reading my bible and journaling, then co-led a life group. Never would have imagined that. I don’t agree 100% always but in feel like it’s a great pep rally for life. Always leave inspired and wanting to be a more loving person. I’m all for everyone finding their right fit and don’t believe on pushing my version of God on others even though it’s my belief. I’m excited you’ve found you thing. Let’s all just do our best to love and support one another. ?? Thank you again for sharing.

  171. I am 100% parallel to your post except I was raised in a different church. That, and I haven’t made the committed jump back in. I started to dabble, told myself I was going to start taking the kids, but things come up, the weekend is short, etc. etc.

    I had a pretty good church experience as a kid with a great community—so no traumatic bitterness like some friends—but I always felt like deep down, I was so much more doubtful than others. People just believed…but I had questions, couldn’t believe hell was real, wasn’t sure any of it was real. Rarely attended church after I went off to college (except for holidays). Yet I started to feel this increasing “calling” in my 30s. Except why? I’m still not sure what or if I even believe, so it’s incredibly hard to understand the calling (I kinda think of it a quiet vague voice or yearning). But I have three kids (two of which are the same age as yours) and if nothing else, I feel like I should want them to have a shot at the same feeling of community I had as a kid. And my 8-year old seems to have a strangely earnest interest in God and Bible stories…which took me a little off guard, since he hasn’t been exposed to much religion.

    Anyway, really appreciate your post because it’s so nice to hear someone else trying to sort this out. Thanks for putting it out there.

  172. Emily, thank you for sharing your heart! I don’t even know if you’ll see this now that there are so many comments – which is so awesome, it HITS HOME(run) for so many people!

    I grew up in the Presbyterian church (love that you found one!), we had a female minister and it was so empowering for me as a young girl and through adolescence. She ended up marrying my husband and I and is still a family friend.

    I always felt loved, accepted, encouraged, supported, and I love the emphasis on equality, inclusion, grace and peace. As a mom now, I want that for my son as well! He loves church and his friends there.

    What a gift you’re giving to your children!

  173. 100% not a believer but I really appreciate and respect your putting this out there and asking big questions. Been curious to read this post since you first mentioned writing it. Organized religion makes me really uncomfortable but I feel, like some others have stated, that if someone else wants to believe something and it’s not hurting others (and they don’t try to convert me), I am cool with it. I definitely don’t think you need to go to church/temple/etc to be a good person who serves others. Spiritual belief is deeply personal and I applaud you for writing this post even if I get the heebie jeebies when people start talking about Jesus.

  174. This is fantastic. My sister and I met you at the Hewing last year. After we freaked out and asked for a picture with you, you asked if we heard you talking about leaving the Mormon church. We hadn’t, but it made me so curious and I’ve thought about that off the cuff comment several times since. Now reading more of your story gives me this odd feeling of friendship…like we’re finishing a conversation. Hm, that sounds kind of weird… But seriously, beautiful insights, thank you for sharing. I do love Jesus and I’m excited for you to have found a place that seems to model his love so well. I’m reading a book right now- ‘Surprised by Hope,’ N. T. Wright- and his observations about the resurrection and science are brilliant. I’ve been reading it for like a year, so not a real page turner, but super thought provoking. And we’ve got some reading time on our hands these days. ?
    anyway, thank you for sharing this!

  175. Beautifully said Emily. I’m right there with you. I wasn’t raised LDS but I HAD to go to church as a kid and HATED it. When my parents divorced when I was 10 I was quite happy to ditch church, (broken family silver lining?) as my dad didn’t take my brother and I anymore. I knew my mom was concerned that we wouldn’t be In the same place in afterlife. I would stop her from talking to my kids about Jesus because I didn’t know what direction I was going spiritually. This was a knife in her heart. I wanted to remove some of that worry from my moms heart so I felt like I wanted to look into faith a little more. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose if I tried it on for a while. And yes I wanted answers for all of those deep questions our kids always ask. I’m actually giving the Bible a chance now and like you, really enjoy the history of it. So much depends on the church you walk into and that first impression. I love my church now and am so proud to be a part of an amazing community that really helps the community. And I look forward to going every week. Thank you for talking about this. Really. So many people are “secret Christians” like you mentioned. And maybe if more people admitted to going and weren’t shamed because of stereotypes, others would give it a try too. But basically I really want to thank you for having the courage to put it all out there. I have always connected with you through the screen and felt like we’d be great friends if we ever crossed paths. Might not be in the cards for us though. Lol. You do beautiful work and make people so happy in their spaces. It’s a great use of your gift.
    Xo, Marie

  176. Beautiful post. Good for you for finding what feels right for you and sharing about it with such openness and honesty. ❤️

  177. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. I am happy for you, this made me smile. I am one of those pretty conservative long time Christians, but I have also been an Emily Henderson fan since Design Star, so I guess you can say when I commit to something, it’s legit lol. You have used this platform to discuss some not so comfortable things before, but here I still am. I appreciate your honesty and openness, even if I don’t always agree with it. God bless❤️

  178. I was raised Catholic and I am in camp Brian today – more agnostic than atheist though. Nonetheless, I did send my kid to Catholic school until she started to question their teachings. Then I knew she had enough insight to make up her own mind. I really don’t mind people being involved in their churches as long as they don’t try to preach to me and try to convert me. Along those lines I am also pretty upset that this country cannot separate church from politics and this is my real issue with religion: so many people interpret something into the bible/religion that benefits their agenda and was never meant to be. I usually tell these people “I don’t need religion, I have a conscience!” A good religion is an all inclusive one, not one that Mike Pence vigorously worships while excluding and denying Pete Buttigieg the same rights, simply because he doesn’t respect his sexuality. The minute a religion becomes non-inclusive, there is a problem!

  179. Emily, I grew up in the Coos Bay ward. Your dad-my bishop, seminary teacher. I graduated and left OR but kept going to church. I still do. This of course is an oversimplification. Faith is a muscle. Hope too. Life is difficult and having that weekly reminder on the bench that God loves us…. that rings true. Families forever? Sure. My husband and I do not consider ourselves “orthodox” Mormons and frankly it can be exhausting… all that shoulder to the wheel business. But there is a sweetness in the values of family. Prayer. Scripture study. Service… especially service…And even temple attendance. I am so glad you have found a place. Connection. Peace. A place to learn. Thanks for your post. I whole heartedly agree about the languages of faith being “ true!”

  180. Very interesting! I’ve always had the opposite problem…wasn’t raised with any religious education, just holidays but more of an Santa/Bunny vibe than anything to do with religion if that makes sense. My parents were from pretty different religious and cultural backgrounds but neither had much of a connection to theirs. When I was young I remember we tried the Unitarian Church a couple of times because my mother wanted us to have something and I guess that seemed more realistic than choosing one of theirs but I think my father didn’t care one way or the other which made it harder (and I think also he didn’t care about his religious background but also felt odd about taking on a different religion) and my mother was young and busy with three kids and living in our area outside NYC, religion was not a huge factor (although in some other areas, culturally religion was a big part of identity)…so it never went anywhere.

    Cut to my 30s and 40s and I’ve always had a desire to be part of something and have a community and faith of some sort. But also felt nervous that I would be an outsider or interloper or always perceived as “not really” part of the community or never really be accepted or have to explain\defend myself. I’ve thought of going to try some Churches out but worried about not knowing exactly what to do or not do…and just an overall sense of “not speaking the language”….which is an odd feeling as a pretty confident, capable, experienced person. I’ve never really felt I could discuss it because in my world I only personally knew people who are lifelong members of their religion and give off a very “insider-y” vibe, or who are not active, or not of a religion I would likely join. Also being a single woman, creates hurdles..really with almost any social activity!

    While you are in totally a different boat, your experience does make me feel more like maybe I could/should move forward and try to have some Church experiences and see how it goes….especially now that I am in LA half time..maybe easier than NY area. Thanks for sharing!

  181. Your story has really resonated with me. I went to the same church my entire life and I still consider the people there my family, but stopped going while in college. After graduation and getting married I would drag my husband to church periodically because I wanted that larger community to build things with, but my husband is an agnostic if not atheist . Once our son was born my in-laws took my son with them to an Ash Wednesday service (with our blessing) and brought him home with his forehead smudged with ash. I realized we needed to take our child’s spiritual guidance into our own hands or he might end up with the same damage we received from growing up in very conservative churches.

    I had known about UU for a long time and was pretty sure my beliefs aligned with them (I considered myself a spiritual humanist, but have more christian leanings). My husband was willing to try it when he saw on the website of the local UU that one of the children’s curriculum goal was to teach youth “to accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” It’s such a lofty goal, but it really resonated with us. We visited and basically immediately decided it was right for us despite actually being a brand new church. The minister spoke with us and mentioned that a lot of UU’s have experienced what he called “spiritual abuse” in the religions they were raised in and that resonated so deeply with us. It felt like a weight had been lifted to know that there are other people with beliefs similar to mine and that I have a network of people supporting my family and me in our spiritual growth. To find people in the south who are like minded when discussing things like patriarchy and privilege is also a relief. I am thrilled to have other adults with shared values to help mentor our child and will encourage him to be an independent thinker and find his own truth.

    Anyway all this to say is that you and your family’s spiritual journey and growth is just that a journey. I’m glad you’re being proactive about it, but if you need to move on again I really encourage you to try a UUA.

  182. Thank you for your heartfelt and vulnerable post. I was raised Mormon and am very active in the Church because I know of the happiness it brings into my life personally. I know many who have left religion and I always wonder if they feel happier and that their lives have improved. Returning to a community of faith when as you say it isn’t the most popular choice in LA must have taken a lot of courage. Hope you continue to find fulfillment and answers in your journey.

  183. Oh my goodness, I love this and I appreciate your courage in being so vulnerable! I was raised Mormon, and now find myself so utterly on the outside of that religion. It is a place that I never thought that I would land. I have hurt my immediate family as well as my extended family by leaving the “covenant path.” It has taken me a little bit of time to fee even a sense of a higher power in my life because when I lost my faith in Mormonism, I lost any sense of a connection with a God. I have not yet been ready to try out any other church. I loved your sports analogy and have realized that for now I am needing to sit out. I am working through a lot of hurt and anger that came as a result of imperfect people and leaders. I am wary of entering an environment that could cause me more harm.

    I hope that you will continue to share your spiritual journey. You have helped me to feel not so alone in mine.

  184. There’s so much I could say here but I really want to start off by saying “thank you!” for sharing this very personal and very individual part of your life with us. As someone who feels like I’ve been on a spiritual quest my whole life, I love hearing about other people’s journeys. It’s not easy to share something so personal, intimate, and conflicted, so thank you. I was raised Catholic and tried to stay and reform from the inside (especially after Pope Francis was elected because I adore him) but when my daughter was born, I became an Episcopalian like my husband was raised. I couldn’t be happier with our church and our parish: there is truly Life there.

    Anyway, 2 book recommendations for you (not that you asked! lol):
    1) Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill. Interesting, easy to read history about the cultural context of the New Testament and an earnest examination of the “character” of Jesus. Cahill doesn’t get much into dogma or theology but he does get into some great textual reading of the bible and gives you the context and history around it. The apostles are examined as well. It’s very down to earth and though you can tell Cahill believes Jesus did what people say he did, it seems considered and isn’t TOO obvious. This book helped me realize that I’ll most likely never be completely and totally CONVINCED Jesus rose from the dead, but that if I wanted to believe, I had to CHOOSE to believe. Strange contradiction there, but spirituality is full of those 🙂
    2) Original Blessing by Matthew Fox. What if instead if viewing creation through the lens of original sin, we looked at it as our original blessing? After all, when God was finished creating the world He looked and “saw it was good.” Viewing the world, nature, animals, and ourselves as blessings opens the church up to be more inclusive, welcoming, and reconciling.

    As a long-time reader, first time commenter, I feel like you’d enjoy the open, refreshing, and intellectual examinations of Christianity in those books. (Though if you have to choose just one, I’d go with Thomas Cahill’s for now.)

    Way longer than I meant to write! Anyway, thank you and many blessings on your journey!

  185. Emily, the situation in the world is ramping up just as the bible predicted, this time we are in is called the Beginning of Sorrows. Things are going to get worse and worse. God is about to lay a very heavy hand upon America, I do know you need to get right with God. His judgement is upon the nations, trust in Him before it’s too late. The bible is infallible. It is God’s Word. Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

  186. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal. I loved reading this. Also, I’m LDS and I have always appreciated and admired the way you talk about the LDS church. You have always been so kind and respectful. And I love the way you talk about your parents and your upbringing. You do such a great job honoring them even while choosing a different path than them. And thank you for always fostering an open, thoughtful, considerate community here on your blog and in the comments where people feel safe to share their beliefs and doubts. It was beautiful to read through everyone’s comments 🙂

  187. Look up “the Bible Project” channel on YouTube! It is incredibly educational (and entertaining!) if you are wanting to understand the Bible and the intention/meaning from the original Greek/Hebrew text!

  188. Very brave of you to share with such a large audience.

    My first thought, perhaps inappropriate.. was holy shit. so brave.

    I think I’m saying that because I didn’t grow up with Christian friends in SoCal and I come from an Indian Christian family. So I sort of was the secret Christian; felt more like the lone Christian (later realized that you never really are). It makes me sort of sad to think about how being Christian, I felt sort of talked about and like the “weird” one in high school and college. Now closer to 30, I’m so grateful to have had the last decade to sink my roots in and learn to enjoy God (enneagram 1 still learning!). I got to absorb so much wisdom from a lot of Christian women in formative years. All that “training” and “practice” has prepared me for “big games” aka breakdowns. 🙂

    I grew in my faith when churches and bible studies were led by people that encouraged you to ask questions and seek answers instead of telling you “the answer”. So your attitude is super refreshing and a good reminder. Thank you! Your answer to Charlie’s answer seems perfect to me! I remember being his age and asking about where God comes from. I remember basically being told that we don’t ask that or like you just have faith. Eeh I guess?? I actually became a stronger believer when I was 18 and was invited to ask questions and find the answers in the Bible for myself instead of having someone interpret for me.

    And for real, there are all sorts of churches out there. I mean, I grew up going to formal liturgical services with female priests up front. I thought that was normal.

    Oh and I feel you, I STILL feel awkward when I tell people I can’t meet up because I’m going to church.

  189. Oh and random add on, I wanted to see how your architect solved the added a bathroom in your Tudor, because I love floor plans and problem-solving. Your new website format is perfect for that. ?? This is coming from someone who does not like change. ?

  190. What a brave, open and lovely post. It takes a lot of courage to follow the conviction of one’s heart and follow what, to that person, is the right path for him or her. Thank you!

    First, I would say that you need never worry about offending anyone by stating your beliefs. They have nothing to do with anyone else, so any offense is unwarranted, and if someone is offended, well, that’s just too bad.

    I am a practicing Catholic — perhaps not by others’ standards, but I do go to church and practice my faith. My formerly Catholic aunt, however, converted to the Mormon faith, much to my grandmother’s great sadness. But she eventually she came around. Maureen, like you, followed the conviction of her heart; who can blame her for that? I also have several good Mormon friends and was once helped by the Church in my then-job search, even though I wasn’t a member. FREE. I mean… I sometimes listen to the Conference speeches and find wisdom that helps me in my own faith. And I have been to some LDS services. So nice! I do see both the issues with the Church and the goodness inherent in it. (By the way, I was curious about the no-coffee vs. Diet Coke issue myself, so I looked it up, and apparently (correct me if I’m wrong), in the Word of Wisdom, there is something about avoiding hot drinks, which was interpreted to mean no coffee or tea, which have caffeine (or many teas do, at least). But Diet Coke, unless someone pulls off a weird experiment, isn’t hot, so even if it has caffeine…maybe it’s okay because it doesn’t have as much as those two? Not sure, but I do remember reading that, because I was surprised to see that Diet Coke was on the table for Mormons.)

    I think you’re doing just fine. Atheists, agnostics, believers in any higher power, I’m good with it all. I was raised to be faithful but also to THINK and place a high value on the role of abiding by *conscience* in one’s life. Blindly following anything was frowned upon by my parents. I try to show God to others through my life and example; that’s my job — to be an example. Not to arm-twist convert. You, too, are an example of a good, moral and practicing person — of your own faith, however that manifests! 🙂 I share your frustration — oh, do I — in that the Catholic Church isn’t exactly known for being progressive. But for now, I’m there, still, born and raised.

    You and Brian will find your answer. 🙂 And if, by chance, it never is fully clear to you, know that you still will have done very well in simply and earnestly seeking it. Blessings.

  191. Thank you for this. I left the Catholic Church many years ago for a lot of the same reasons you left LDS and found such a refreshing and welcoming home in the More Light branch of the Presbyterian Church. My family relocated about four years ago and my participation has lapsed because there are so few More Light options near me. Your experience has reminded me why I so connected with this particular faith experience in the first place and that perhaps there’s other ways I can still find and join “a team”. All the best to you as you continue your spiritual exploration and inspire us with great design!

  192. Thank you for sharing! I feel like as a parent finding a church home is such a great sense of community that is a lot harder to find these days. My husband is Jewish and I am Christian so we never really thought we would find a place where we both felt we belonged. But then we found our church and it is lovely. For a long time I told people it was a Quaker Church (it isnt at all) and was so surprised when I found out it was called a Congregational church (which basically means the congregation determines the teachings). We are in Brooklyn so this obviously means they are progressive and inclusive. I love the service opportunities, childs activities, and general sense of support. I see the pastor out walking around and he always says hello and calls me by name. If we can we stop to chat and if we can’t we wave happily. My husband also feels fully welcomed in the community and they even had the local rabbi come preach one Sunday. I as well don’t talk to my friends much about it but I do when appropriate. It’s unique for all but I am glad you found a place where you feel at home as well.

  193. I really do understand—I’m a recovering Southern Baptist. You expressed beautifully much of what I’ve felt over the years. I never left the church; I just boycotted and finally found a way back in through another denomination. I admire you for sharing—I hope you will continue to explore and grow in new ways that bless you, your family, and your world.

  194. I recently went to hear Lee Strobel, a diehard atheist and former investigative journalist at the Chicago Tribune. He set out to prove that Jesus was nothing more than a kind man. He took the role of investigator and worked diligently to disprove the claims surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Christ. This search is chronicled in a book, The Case For Christ. The book was later made into a movie and is on Netflix at the moment…. I highly suggest that you watch it… is life changing at best and thought provoking at the very least.
    Blessings and keep searching!

  195. Hi Emily,
    Oprah and Joel Osteen have ruined church for me. Lol! I was raised Catholic and as an adult, I’d go to church and craved to hear an inspiring homily (something along the lines of the 2 people previously mentioned). I wanted to leave church feeling good about myself and the world. Catholic priests didn’t deliver this. One church service, the priest’s homily was about how people don’t go to church and I thought, we’re here, why are you lecturing us?! I love how you said your preacher relates the teachings to what’s happening today, Catholic priests take note! Maybe I’ll try a Presbyterian church like you have, although more importantly than the actual religion, is going to be the leader. Wish me luck!

    1. Btw, I know Oprah isn’t a religious leader but damn, she has had some great sermons in her life!;)

  196. Thank you for being open writing about religion today and in the past. When we moved into our house 5 years ago I noticed a neighbor with a similar aged baby who I guessed was Mormon based on her BYU sweatshirt and Utah license plate. We live in the Midwest. I grew up Catholic but after learning new history and science concepts in college couldn’t believe like I used to. I was nervous about connecting with the neighbor and feared her trying to convert me. But I had read your blog and how you talked about Mormon people being the nicest. Several months later I was on my porch with my 1 year old when she was walked by with her daughter. I started talking to her. We realized we had a lot in common both having been English majors and with first kids almost the exact age. We became fast and good friends. She did end up being the nicest person ever and I really liked the friends of hers from her church. And I never felt any religious pressure from anyone. They moved last year to another state but I still consider her a close friend. I guess this is only semi related to your post today! But seemed like a good time to thank you ?.

  197. Good convo Emily. It makes total sense that you/me/our general age group, having been some of the first to really question and reject en masse the overly dogmatic and conservative organized religions we were raised in, would also be broad minded enough to be able to reconsider, redefine, and reclaim religion in a way that works much better for us and our modern times. I was raised as a weekly churchgoing Episcopalian and the sleep-away forest church camp I attended each summer, heavy on the singing and community, was THE highlight of my childhood, I loved it so much! It taught me some deep and lasting lessons about selflessness and universal love/humanity. So yes I think there’s certainly a place for educated, modern, churchgoing progressives these days. Also as a highly political progressive type, I get really fired up by our freedom fighters like MLK, Gandhi, Mandela, Romero, and ANY church or organization who truly uses their platform and voice towards service and social justice vs oppression and coercion. I am SO on board with that and like you I want to be a part of it, and I want to raise my kids to know that kind of service. The LA church that I’ve explored and enjoyed a lot in that regard is Agape, but anywhere that type of vibe (I liked “radical inclusivity”) is happening sounds good to me. Thanks for sharing.

  198. Emily, I am sure it was hard to share all of this with the “world”. Thank you though for sharing your heart with all of us. You are a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, infectious person. I enjoy following you and your team. It is awesome that you are searching for answers and that you have found a church that is meeting your needs and helping you find answers. I am a Christian. I do go to church and I do read the Bible. I am a person that hasn’t figured it all out but I am walking in faith. Believing is a journey and it takes many steps of faith. I like to listen to podcasts too. I can recommend several for you if you would like. Timothy Keller Gospel Life, He is a pastor of Redeemer in NYC. He is very intellectual but relatable. Happy Hour w/ Jamey Ivey, She interviews a lot of different women and she is refreshing and fun. The Complicated Heart w/ Sarah Mae She also does interviews with a lot of different women. Thanks again for sharing!

  199. Good morning Emily. I read your post all the way through and it is an eye opener for us who profess Christianity. I did not grow up in a strongly religious household all though I attended a Christian school in my younger years. It wasn’t until I went to college and got tired of the everyday ups and downs of life that I sought after Christ. I wanted the relationship with Christ not “religion” that everyone talks about. As I gave my life over to God and placed it in His hands, my life had more meaning and life became more doable. I liken building a relationship with Christ as the same to building a relationship with a spouse. It first starts with a free will choice. As you get to know each other, converse on many topics together, spend quality time together, and share special life moments together…. you find yourselves inseparable, trusting of each other, on the same page, respectful of one another, and most importantly in love with each other.

    May God’s many blessings and love surround you on this journey.

  200. I love that you’ve shared this about yourself! I’ve been a Christian since 15. My husband is a high school youth pastor and he’s used the Bible Project (can google or it’s an app too) to help in teaching Bible. They have really amazing video drawings to help understand the books of the Bible. Just wanted to pass along to you! Watching them has helped me! And the drawings are fun to watch.( Since we have loads of down time now, being home with kids and all!?) happy searching! I am so glad this world has you in it!

  201. It’s great that you like going to church and I have no criticism of that at all. I do want to say that I think it’s dangerous and harmful to people from minority groups to propagate this idea that Christians in the U.S. are persecuted and judged. Christians are such a massive majority in this country that there is hardly any separation of Christianity and government; in fact, many Christians complain that separating Christian religion from government is discrimination against them. That is exactly the opposite of the foundation of this country. Maybe people in progressive communities feel ashamed about their Christianity because of the hateful and bigoted agenda of most Christian churches, and not because of judgment from non-Christians. I understand that some people feel like they can have Christian church without the hate and that works for them, but to me it’s inseparable and not a group I would ever be part of.

  202. Hi Emily, I grew up Mormon too and just left the church a few years ago. I am 23 now and am still wrestling with all the things. I do fear the unknown of navigating the world without organized religion/ raising kids someday without it etc.. but this gives me hope that maybe I don’t have to figure it out RIGHT NOW.

    The whole time I was reading this I was like “wow, is this me?” Thank you for posting. I look up to you so much! 🙂

  203. Loved this post. Being a Mormon myself, I love hearing people’s “religious journeys“. I too believe God/light comes in many different forms and we all feel and see it differently. I teared up when you described you being your at church. I have those same nostalgic memories. Have you made your kids any felt quiet books yet ?

  204. Emily, Thank you! People’s stories are always the way to understanding. Read Take This Bread by Sara Miles and Tatoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle and you’ll be forever changed in the way you see people and see Jesus. Also, Anne Lamotte!

  205. This is such a wonderful, authentic, and brave post. Thank you. I really think you would enjoy reading a book I just read called “The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi” by Kathie Lee Gifford. I didn’t realize that she is a Messianic Jew before reading it, but it’s all about her trip to Israel and what God taught her there. She gained some amazing insights into the bible through the trip’s guide and also through a Rabbi, and it’s an especially good book to read during this time leading up to Easter.

  206. I have so much to say, but first thank you, wonderful honesty and something I was able to share with my thirty something kids. Sent with heart and love.
    I also replied to an email asking you about sourcing an item you pictured. I found no contact info for you, is there some?
    Many, many thanks amd heartfelt appreciation.

  207. I’m really happy you decided to share your story. It’s encouraging to hear the joy of the struggle. Cheering you and your family on.

  208. Thank you for this. After much inner torment, I’m sending my son to Catholic school and am bracing myself to “out” that to friends. I despise what the Church has done, but I love what Catholic school did for me, my friends and family. My son’s dad is the biggest proponent and he is an atheist who grew up Protestant with very little spiritual connection in his family.

    My son and I have been talking about “the spirit world” (his words) and what Jesus and God may or may not be since he was two. The conversations will continue.

    Today I’m a tarot-card carrying member of the woo-woo crew — LOTS of ex-Catholics in there. I truly believe in my heart there is only one GOOD that shows up to people as they can receive it, and the harm done in God’s name is the fault of humans.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become far less judgey about whatever people practice and believe as long as it does not oppress others.

    We are all connected, energy is real and our impact on the world in thoughts and deeds matter. The building you go to is beside the point.

  209. Wow, Emily! It takes a lot of guts to walk back into a church after years away, to do so without the initial support of your husband, and even more guts to share it with the world! Good for you! I’m happy for you.

    I have to point out something I thought was interesting. Even though, in your current state of “I’m not sure”, you still have reverence enough to capitalize the G in God. The fact that you do that says something about what you do believe. Proper nouns and singular titles are capitalized in our language. Not nouns, or abstract ideas, or unformed somethings.

    One difference you’ll find in Christianity that doesn’t exist in any other religion is this: brownie points do not exist. You cannot earn acceptance, there is no working toward favor in God’s eyes. God already loves you. God already made a way for you, through the person and workings of Jesus Christ. Jesus loves you, Emily. And Brian and your children.

  210. Hi Emily,
    Ive been following you on instagram for maybe 2 years now because I am an artist and I love your style. This is the first time I have ever read one of your blog posts. I didnt think I would ever become a christian because I didn’t think I would ever be good enough. I started thinking about God when I looked at nature…being a very observant type of person I noticed the amazing detail, design and beauty especially in flowers. I was raised in a conservative church and also didnt think I would ever fit in because i couldnt get myself together enough to conform to the rules. In my church Sunday school Was until age 16. I had stopped reading the Bible and only started reading it again because I wanted to be “smart” in Sunday school. I told myself I would read the Bible just as a history book. I had heard the Bible was no ordinary book but I told myself it wasn’t going to change me. Well I found myself thinking about God more and more and one day as I was reading the Bible I finally understood why Jesus was significant. In John He is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Although i went to church all my growing up life I did not understand why Jesus was important. Somehow i missed it! Finally I understood that it had nothing to do with my goodness…I was right – I would never be mistake free, Id never get it right. The piece of the puzzle i was missing was that Jesus died on the cross and took on all of my mistakes on Himself. He was the only human who walked the face of the earth without a sin nature…so infair that he would pay for my sins yet I finally believed this. The day I believed this I was at home, in my bedroom, with my Bible open. Jesus called to be on His team. I have no idea why he chose me but I know for sure that I am on His team and it has something to do with His glory and that He has given me a most amazing promise – that whoever believed on Him will not perish but have everlasting life! Im so thankful to have been given this faith. Yes, even faith to believe comes from Jesus! No person or church or religion can control this or take it away from me because I have direct access to God now through Jesus. Jesus enables me to stand before a holy and perfect God. I guess you could say Im on Jesus’ team. Thank you so much for your post. This is no time for “secret christians” or secret church goers. Im coming out of the closet as Ive been a closet Jesus fan too long.

  211. Much of your spiritual story sounds like mine. except I was raised Catholic. I did a brief stint as a Evangelical Christian and then became a disillusioned agnostic.

    A couple of years ago, I was lying awake one night wishing I had something new to read. I opened Instagram and saw a story you had posted about Many Lives, Many Masters. The title intrigued me, so I ordered the book on Kindle. I found it to be pretty life changing, opening up my mind to the possibility of a higher power. I read book upon book about spirituality. The one thing that stood out to me as a commonality in all of them was the idea that God is love, we all have God within us, and we are all on a journey to reach a higher state.

    Thank you for sharing that book. It changed my life and I am a happier more optimistic person as a result.

  212. Wow, all the Christians are coming outta the woodwork on this post to show you just how loving they are now that you’re on “their” team! Lol Was raised a strong Christian, pretty conservative, but always felt there was SO much hypocrisy and using Scripture erroneously to support weak arguments. Or covering hard questions with “faith” rather than welcoming the process of searching. My husband and I now practice a blend of Judaism and Christianity; we eat Kosher, celebrate feast days instead of traditional Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, practice a 7th day Sabbath, don’t believe in a literal hell, but also still uphold the New Testament. In our experience, soooo many of our Christian family and friends are fine with welcoming in the “worldy”—those who don’t affiliate with church, have liberal worldviews, curse and drink and have sex and support homosexuality. They want to shower those people with love and acceptance, because they assume they’ll eventually come around to their way of thinking about the Bible. But if you call yourself a “Christian” already but practice a different lifestyle, then suddenly you become highly offensive to their doctrine. We’ve had so many tell us that we have “lost our faith” because we redefined it and are still constantly searching for answers, while we feel that our spirituality is stronger than it’s ever been. I love seeing all the people here who call themselves Christians and are TRULY OK with others who don’t view things the exact same way as them and most likely never will. Loving others does not mean evangelizing them to your viewpoint. Thanks for opening up such an open minded discussion, Emily. Very happy for you that you’ve engaged in such a beautiful, soul search and already found so much peace therein.

  213. Oh, this resonated for me on so many levels! I was raised Catholic, lost any faith I might have had when I was a teenager. And having travelled in non-Christian countries extensively and read much and studied philosophy, I cannot say that I believe in any “higher power” other than simple Nature. But I am still attracted to church, for the sense of community. I haven’t found a “church” with the intellectual approach I need yet, but I’m still looking. Having lived in Asia for almost 14 years (nearly 12 of them in Japan), I’ve assimilated a great deal of Buddhist teaching, so I tend to think of myself as a Buddhist Christian (as in the Sermon on the Mount).

    You made me think of one of my favorite writers, Graham Greene, who joined the Catholic church when he married, even though he was an avowed atheist. He later came to call himself a Catholic agnostic. A fascinating writer–you may well enjoy his work.

  214. Holy cow! What a great post and terrific comments! I played on the Catholic team – I lived the team. We lived across the street and I went to school there as well although I never really understood all the rules of this Church’s game. I loved growing up there but when the Church stepped in and prevented my father from opening a business on our property because they didn’t like it and discussing it during the homily at Mass (asking everyone to agree with the Church) I was pretty sure I didn’t want to play anymore. That Church really messed with our lives. Over 30 years later and my 95 year old mom lives with me and my husband. She doesn’t get why I don’t go to Mass and it hurts her. It’s hard for me to get her to understand but I take her to Mass occasionally. I love the music and the story but still don’t agree with all of the other rules. Thanks for getting me to think more about this. Maybe I could find another team that will be willing to teach me the game and allow me to play with the big kids. Love your blog – thank you for writing.

  215. I love how you’re not afraid to “go there“ – whether it’s discussing your political views (I remember the post when you genuinely asked why people voted for Trump) and this religious one. The more we talk about it with civility and an open mind, the more we can realize that the “other side” is not as terrible as we think/or are told.

    With regards to whether there is a God… I read this amazing book a few years back written by Dr Mary C Neal. It’s a NYtimes best seller about a doctor’s near death experience. Kinda blew my mind. My brother is going through a very similar journey to yours and this book really resonated with him as well.

    Good luck with your journey!

  216. I love your honesty. I am a believer and I know that you and yours are loved by a loving and kind God. We all are: flaws, screw ups and all. I am grateful for that and I love reading about your journey. Carry on and keep doing beautiful things: in every possible way!

  217. I always loved your transparency in everything you write about Emily!
    Great post!
    I was born and raised in socialist “atheist” Yugoslavia to parents that come from Serbian Orthodox and Croatian Catholic. We celebrated all of the holidays without religion involved. I was raised to love and respect everyone and to look at everyone the same.
    1991. came I was 11 years old and all of the sudden, we had to choose what religion we are,… I ended up being a “mixed kid” that doesn’t belong to anyone… serbian orthodox and croatian Catholics got into a most horrific war in 20th centurie…
    Lots of my friends parents divorced, but my parents are still together. They love one another for who they are and not for religion they were brought up by…
    My sister and I were raised into gracious and respectful women. We are now mothers and married man that have same views. We are raising our children to love, respect and know right from wrong. I don’t know what they will choose later in life, that’s on them to decide. I don’t believe in God, and I never will, but respect people that do.
    Some of us can do on their own and some need help, no judgment there. Just spread love.✌?❤️

  218. Emily – more than anything, thank you for bringing the conversation out into the open.
    I was raised in a non-practicing Christian (parents were ex-Catholic / ex-SeventhDay Adventist) household, sent to Adventist school from k-12, though my parents never forced my brother or I to go to church or participate in church activities. My parents wanted us to learn, and encouraged us to ask questions, about the Lord and religion, and ultimately come to our on conclusions. I had the best fortune in that at a young age, I was surrounded by who I now consider to be, all the right people for my spiritual journey. For me, there was no forcing, no exclusivity, very little judgement (aside from what one could say is necessary to grow up). When I was 16, I was ready to commit my life to God – by my own will. Through my school, I was able to go on a trip to the Holy Land and see where biblical history took place – see what Jesus might have seen. I asked to be baptized in the Jordan River – it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about that moment that I gave my heart to Jesus. My 16 year old best friend (still my best friend to this day) was with me, and I remember her saying to me on that emotional day, something to the effect of – “Don’t expect that this will change your life over night, but grow your heart in Christ every day.”
    I’ve always loved going to church – but 25 years later, for various reasons, I’ve gone through ebbs & flows of attending church and not attending church. But the one thing that has never left me – sometimes the only thing I’ve had to lean on when I’m scared or uncertain – has been my faith and belief in God.

    What hurts the most today, is that when I look around, I see an entire culture of people with complete disdain for anything God, religious community, & faith. I have been in conversations with so-called friends who have literally made me feel like I am the soccer ball, getting kicked by David Beckham, going for the goal at mid-field. I’ve been told by my most progressive friends – the ones who tote the ‘love wins’ or the ‘we accept all:’ signs tell me that they couldn’t even ‘talk’ to anyone they think is Christian because they might have voted for orange-man-bad. By association to Christianity, I’ve been made fun and looked down upon for believing in something that just because ‘you’ can’t see it, or a scientist can’t prove it on paper, it must not be there. I have found so much hypocrisy from those who tout inclusivity.
    Or because we pray for them. They shun prayers.
    With the embrace of political correctness, our world has slowly lost the ability to make and enjoy comedy, and instead we have become surrounded by a non-stop-hate-filled news cycle (from the the left just as much, if not more than from the right – my politics are planted somewhere in the middle, so it’s pretty easy to see), entertainment highlighting the zombie apocalypse, true crimes, made up crimes, shows that are literally titled ‘Evil’. Shows like The Good Place, which makes you think you’re watching a good thing, but are quietly steeped in anti-religious messages. We celebrate music that encourages a kind of gross behavior – and so many people still make fun of country music because of the twang, but also because it might have a more wholesome message. We are a culture that boasts of pride – literally the deadliest of the 7 deadly sins. What have we become, where belief in God is looked at so badly, that evil is better?

    This is a very weird time we’re living in. Maybe the best time to humble oneself in the eyes of the Lord, and know He is bigger than all of us combined. I’ve dug my Bible out of my keepsake trunk, and started reading it. I’ve prayed for everyone I know – and everyone I’ve ever known, to make it through this crazy time with health and without struggle. If you don’t want my prayers – I’m sorry, you’re getting them anyways. When I sleep at night – I pray that angels watch over me, and you, and this entire world. I believe they are there – working hard to conquer the evil.

    I’m assuming that this message might get lost among what you’ve got pouring in, but dang. It’s certainly made me feel better today. Thanks for reading – if you did 🙂

  219. I can’t remember if you and Nic were friends when we started going to a New Thought church. I connected with their speak because they recognized all religions…we are all one and connected and that is what I believe. It took us along time to get there, Nic was probably 16 and Nat 11 but I truly believe that giving them a spiritual connection to something greater than them has been a comfort in dealing with the struggles of work, parenthood and partnering. I’m grateful that I provided the option to them, it was their choice but I’m happy as a parent the door was open if they chose to walk through. It’s been fun watching you grow Emily from the collage girl/woman who would pick up random stuff of the street to decorate your dorm room to you now. I’m very proud of you. Keep curious, it keeps you young. ❤️ Val

  220. I always say, be careful what you say you’ll never do… I always said I would never be caught dead in a minivan and would never be a church going person. Well, here I am a mom of 3 who drives a minivan (and actually kinda likes it) and who goes to church every week (and I love it). I was raised in an orthodox church and never understood a thing they were saying. After having kids, and going through some hardships, I was craving something “more”. I found the most loving, accepting, casual and family friendly church that my whole family loves. I am so thankful for that community. I appreciate your openness and authenticity… I think most people are aligned with your viewpoint, apprehensiveness, and overall search for a deeper meaning. I honestly think that a positive and loving church foundation for children is so important; especially in a world where they will be pulled in every direction along the way. I was thankful that I introduced my children young enough where they were stoked to go as opposed to older and resistant.

  221. Love this honest post. Thank you, Emily!
    I was raised in the Catholic Church and left it as an adult due to the strict teachings. We joined another Christian church that we felt was more progressive (allowing female pastors, etc.)
    I, like you, feel that it’s okay to not accept EVERYTHING that a church teaches–that we can question some things or, as you wrote, to just think that ‘this part is not for me.’ As I always say, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because you don’t believe in 100% of the teachings, it’s is really not a good reason to not go to church at all. By going to church regularly you can still grow spiritually, learn something new, teach your children important values, connect with like-minded people and use it as a way to give back to the community.

  222. Emily!!! I SO loved this post. It was wonderful to hear your perspective. And, I do want to thank you for not being harsh in your assessment of the LDS religion. I am an active member of LDS church, and have been all my life, though I struggled with my faith as a teenager. (Like not specifically the Mormon faith, but just I had never felt God personally, so I felt broken cause it seemed everybody else had! Turns out, I totally had felt feelings of wanting to do good, feelings of peace and love, and little thoughts out of the blue that led me to help somebody when I didn’t even know they specifically needed it. I just skeptically brushed these aside…haha! Now I see those as nudges from God!) Anyway, when I decided and felt really good about the church that I was in, thenNow I see those as nudges fromGod. 🙂 my face began to grow, and I felt good about the church that I was in, after lots of studying in prayer—then I went all in! (I am enthusiastic too!) I went from a sidelines kid who whines constantly about how everyone else was good at playing but I didn’t know how, to a major team player!! I served a mission and got to help and love many people on their spiritual journey. I met many, many people of other churches who were so kind, good, and dedicated to living their religion. They knew the Bible far better than I did!! I also met religious people who screamed at me and told me I was going to hell for being a Mormon. So, yeah—It was very eye-opening to be around people of many religions and see that, just like in my own faith, there are people who actually live what they profess to believe, just as there are people who give their religion a bad name. You’ll find people who chose to be kind/supportive and people who belittle others for their beliefs in an atheist group as well!
    I guess what I would really love to tell you is thank you that while you are being honest about what you see as the LDS church’s shortcomings, you also pointed out the good people and the good beliefs and teachings that come out of the Mormon church. We do get a lot of negative stereotypes from the media and people of influence that, at least for me and the LDS people I know, just arent true. It can be very disheartening. I’ve seen many times when someone leaves the LDS church, the only thing they talk about forever are the negative aspects they came in contact with, totally ignoring the kind teachers and leaders who loved and taught them, As well as good teachings that are part of their character. I appreciate that you gave credit to that! I think most Mormons are trying to be good people, follow Jesus, and be kind! (There are some of the older generation that need to seriously work on the “treat EVERYONE With love” bit, it’s like they have this judgements, conservative streak that is hard to get over!) I have many friends and some family members who are no longer part of the LDS church, and, though it’s always sad to see them go, because there’s usually paint involved and anger too when someone leaves, I totally still love them and I hope they still love me and will still be my friend even if I still am LDS! I try to reach out a lot to make it clear that I still want them in my life and hopefully they will be open to me! It makes me really sad when people have a change of faith, and then they pull away from everyone who is of that faith. Just as it makes me sad when someone has a change of faith and other people can’t respect that and may try to convince and argue them back into church. So stupid! Every person’s path will look different that leads them to God. We GOTTA love and respect that!!
    Also, I hear ya on the frustration over gay people and where they fit-in in the LDS church. It’s seriously a hard one. It’s a teaching that I struggle with. I just have to put it to the side and not let it taint My love for everything else in the church that I know is true and good! It’s definitely one of the biggest questions I’m gonna have for God when I get to heaven! But in the meantime, I can show by my actions that I love my gay friends and family members. I got to go with my husband to his brother’s wedding to his husband, and it was wonderful. His brothers Bishop (from his teenage years) was there with his wife, hugging and meeting everyone. And I just loved that. It felt like, this is where God wants us to be right now showing love and support even if we are living different lifestyles and if our religious paths are now different. We still are family and we still love and support each other!! ❤️
    Thank you for sharing goodness and being a advocate for people finding ways to live that help them be the best and kindest people they can be.❤️

  223. I grew up the child of devout Presbyterians, but living in a small town, attended a lot of inter-faith youth groups, Sunday Schools, teen groups, church camps, and later – did Campus Crusades, Young Life, and a women’s Bible study groups. But somewhere deep down, I never felt connected to it. I resented the pressure to remain “pure” rather than explore my natural biological urges, felt guilty about masturbation, felt guilty that I wasn’t converting my friends (I was told I’d go to hell alongside them if I wasn’t converting them!) and felt even more guilty that none of it really resonated with me. I prayed so hard trying to feel what everyone else seemed to be feeling. And one day, in my 20s, I realized – I was an adult and I could walk away. It was SUCH a breath of fresh air to recognize and accept that this belief simply wasn’t for me. While I like the idea of an organized way to give back to my community, I am hopeful I can find that in a secular format, and I’m purposely raising my children in a dogma-free household. (Though we discuss “some people believe X, other people believe Y” etc.) Anyway, I guess we’re all on our own path, seeking inspiration and meaning, and this was such an interesting read!

  224. I grew up in a very “religious” family, going to non-denominational church 3x/week. I didn’t go any anylonger after leaving for college– it wasn’t that I stopped praying or loving God but, I needed to figure out what I believed on my own. After having my first child I kinda felt like you, like I wanted to expose him to the good lessons church teaches: kindness towards others, forgiveness, and all the history that’s in the Bible. That led us to enrolling our son in a Christian pre-school (presbyterian in Hollywood) which led me to go even deeper into a personal relationship with Jesus. I love my Bible study group and our church and now both our kids attend a K-12 christian school with the nicest, most loving teachers and families. I totally get your journey and I thank you for being so brave to write about it!

  225. Hi Emily.
    I was born and raised Mormon, but left the church six years ago with my husband and five kids (ages 7 to 16 at the time). It was a very difficult decision. I actually loved being Mormon, and we were “all in”. My husband was even the bishop of our ward when we left. In a nutshell, we left because we realized that the church’s truth claims aren’t true. Many people asked why we couldn’t just keep going to church for the sake of the kids – after all, the church does and teaches a lot of good. But that didn’t feel right to me. I have always told my kids that, while I make many mistakes as a mom, I’ll never lie to them. So I couldn’t pretend to believe something that I didn’t, nor allow my kids to be taught what I knew wasn’t true.
    I love your response to Charlie when he asked whether or not Jesus really came back from the dead. You were honest with him. Perfect.
    I can relate to much of what you wrote. I’m agnostic now, but I miss the sense of community, the opportunities to serve, and the weekly introspection and motivation. All of which can be found outside of church, of course, but maybe not so conveniently 😉
    Good luck to you, and thanks for this post!

  226. So happy for you Emily! God can handle all your questions and scrutiny! He wants to be in these conversations with us. God bless.

  227. Very interesting topic Emily! As we get older I feel like we become open to new ideas. I live in an area with a high concentration of LDS members and over the last several years I’ve been diving into the history and doctrines just because of my curiosity. I have friends who are Mormons as well as my kids’ teachers. I consider myself a Christian and try to be as non-judgmental as possible to others’ religions, whether I disagree with their views or not. Which is really freaking hard! As for the coffee/Diet Coke situation – based on my research, (ha!) as part of the health code they’re not to have “strong drink.” But going further the heads of the church interpreted that as not only alcohol, but “hot drinks.” But Coke products and hot chocolate are ok. Maybe I’ll never understand that but maybe it’s not for us to understand?! This is getting really long but I guess the point is that we are all free to worship as we’d like and hopefully not judge others for doing the same. The end.

    1. The “hot drinks” thing doesn’t make sense because a lot of things about Mormonism don’t make any sense.

      1. You’re so right! It’s truly baffling to me. Changing things as it suits them. And they’re the fastest growing religion.

        1. Yeah, the more you go into the history of Joseph Smith and Mormonism it is insane that it has become what it is today. I don’t even care about polygamy in theory, as long as all genders have equal footing (and the LDS women did not). I am much more offended by the abuse, fraud, lies, homophobia, racism, misogyny and general oppression that has been perpetrated by those who call themselves LDS. I know a lot of people have had positive experiences with the Mormon community but you can’t rewrite history or erase people’s experiences with positive feelings. Mormonism is still very much a negative force in the world today.

  228. I was born into a Catholic family, and taught to believe in Jesus. and I do. But I do not go to church. I am pretty dismayed with all the different churches I have belonged to (all Christian). That said, I do feel spiritual. I do believe that all the Gods are the same one. I believe we are all connected. Sometimes I think about whether or not to find a church to join, and then I think, “nah”. Too many man-made rules for me.

  229. Emily, I have surely enjoyed reading your experiences and feelings on this subject along with the thoughts expressed in the comments. I can so relate to much of what you said.

    My husband and I raised our kids in the most amazing church where we felt very included, loved, and supported. We enjoyed being a part of all of it. However, when our son came out and told us that he is gay, we realized some of the biggest, most traumatic, hurts in his life came straight from that church. We had no idea about some of the things that had been said to him at church. This made us realized that we were loved and accepted as long as we were the same as everyone else!

    Your article made me so excited to jump right to the nearest Reformed Presbyterian church but then I read a tab on their website:

    This article definitely does not convey extreme acceptance or even a little bit of acceptance towards homosexuals. I don’t know…the search will continue for us because I just think it’s important to make sure that even though a single church feels welcoming, open to science, and inclusive, and all those wonderful things…the greater organization of that church feels the same. We could easily go to a large church in our town that I’ve heard only wonderful things about but they are part of the Southern Baptist Convention which is far from inclusive. We need to take care that we aren’t part of something small that is different in the bigger picture. Does that make sense?

    I appreciate your open talk here and will look forward to reading more comments.

    1. Kudos for doing the right thing. There are a lot of people in your position who have not only condoned but supported the harmful things said to their LGBTQ+ relatives at church. I will never understand it…love is love. And I totally get your point about the larger organization – people can say they “agree to disagree” but at the end of the day, who are they answering to? Who is keeping the lights on? etc. I hope you’re able to find a more welcoming community that accepts your whole family just as you are!

  230. My neighbor, a Presbyterian, describes it as “Catholicism without the guilt.” I really like what she shares with me.

  231. Hi Emily , I give you a lot of credit for expressing honestly your journey , finding your way and applaud your desire to find direction for your children. I grew up and remain an Orthodox Christian. It is the early apostolic church, historical . Beautiful icons ( windows into heaven ) decorate the church . I need that weekly liturgy to refocus for the week ahead, remind me that I am not on this journey of life alone, how grateful I am , pray for the sick close to me ,because Christ is the light of the world.

  232. Emily, thanks for inviting us into your journey! I’m praying that you experience Christianity in a way that is authentic, anchoring, and gracious. A resource for you:

    There are some amazingly thoughtful, scientifically-minded Christians out there, you just have to know where to find them 😉 I’ve appreciated the scholarship at which isn’t preachy or political, just a deep dive into questions about the relationship between science and faith.

  233. Interesting read! I am Australian and we are a largely non-religious country. There are certainly some people that go to church, but in my experience most who ‘believe in God’ do not actually attend church. Maybe at Easter or Christmas. I am in my mid-twenties and I don’t know of anyone in my social circle, or my larger family and friends-of-family circle that attends church. I know peripherally of a couple people through work. I wouldn’t describe myself or my friends as atheists necessarily – it just isn’t something we talk about. Personally it isn’t something I even think about. I don’t actively not believe in God or heaven or Jesus or whatever. It is more passive. Like, I don’t believe in Allah or observing Ramadan – I think of Christianity the same way. Some people do believe and that’s cool. I just don’t.

    That said, I understand how faith and a church community could be a great source of comfort and security. Sometimes when someone I love has died I have fervently wished I believed in an afterlife.

    One last thing – I find Mormonism (not sure of terminology sorry) fascinating! According to google there are 151 000 Mormons in Australia’s 24.6 million population, or 0.61%. I have not met one yet. I am always curious that so many bloggers in the U.S seem to be Mormon.

    1. Emily, I tired to type this last night just an hour after you posted this, but I could not get it to send, so will try again…obviously, this has struck deep in many hearts. I just wanted to say…I highly recommend a book “ Just Give me Jesus” by Anne Graham Lotz. Someone else may have suggested it. But it will speak to the seed God has planted in your soul. I believe there is void in each of us that yearns for God. The only thing that needs to make sense is what His Holy Spirit speaks to your soul in the quietness of seeking clarity and Him. I will truly pray that you know Him personally . maybe read “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamont, another Californian , who found that GOd chased after her in ways she never imagined. I look forward to hearing what you share after reading these. .
      PS. I do interior design too

  234. Hi Emily, happy and excited for your journey. We have you in our prayers. We are in La and would love to hangout sometime and chat.
    Check out our YouTube channel @breadwiththesisters.

    Warm regards to you and your family.

  235. Emily,
    Wow, thank you for sharing your story. This is so cool and I am so excited for you. I am a Christian and have been on the “team” then “sidelines” and now I too have started going to church again.
    I would highly recommend the podcast “Exploring My Strange Bible” by Tim Mackie. It has taught me a lot. Best of luck as you continue your journey.

  236. Hello Emily ! Glory to God !! Hallelujah! What a wonderful account! I agree with you: Jesus left no religion but love, respect and most importantly, sent us the Holy Spirit. As Paul said in his letters, “I can do everything in him who strengthens!” May the Holy Spirit strengthen you more and more in your journey! Shalon!!

  237. Hello Emily ! Glory to God !! Hallelujah! What a wonderful account! I agree with you: Jesus left no religion but love, respect and most importantly, sent us the Holy Spirit. As Paul said in his letters, “I can do everything in him who strengthens!” May the Holy Spirit strengthen you more and more in your journey! Shalon!!!

  238. Emily,
    You have definitely hit the ball out of the ball park! I can honestly say that this post/video has been so inspiring and re-confirming for me as a person. Thank you so much for your raw, honest emotions and thoughts about religion. I still attend church regularly and continue to instill in my “know it all teenage children, 17 and 14” (and somewhat very skeptical husband) that religion is more than just the bible. I hope you’ll post similar blogs on various topics moving forward. Thank you.

  239. Hey E,
    Great story! Another thing you may find wonderful inspirational is the Risen Motherhood podcast ( I in no way profit from them- just a Mama eager to share. My story is A LOT like yours (just different denominations…). I found my way back to church after having my firstborn. At the time I was struggling with all things new mom plus postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD! (why settle for one when you can have all three? UGH!).
    Thank you for having the courage to write about something so vulnerable!

  240. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. As a lifelong player (aka Christian) I still struggle to make sense of things sometimes as I’m a natural skeptic and doubter. I’m sure you’ve read some of her writing, but if you haven’t, I encourage you to read Ann Lamott. I particularly love “12 Things I Learned from Life and Writing.” I believe it was a TED talk but I just read the transcript. She is an irreverent Christian that often says things that most of us just think. It’s refreshing. Pasted a link here where someone else had added it to their site: Thanks for the honest post. I wish you the best!

  241. Emily, thank you for sharing your experience! I identify with so many of the things you said about believing in evolution and having so many unanswered questions in my teens through later 20s that kept me from attending church. What brought me back to church was actually experiencing a traumatic event that made me realize I’ve been so selfish, unforgiving, and lacking compassion for others (especially those closest to me). Going back to church really brought things into perspective for me in the way I treated people and put myself aside (because it isn’t all about me). Anyway, that is a long story… I attend a Christian Church now and I love the messages because they are about hope and true love. I’ve taken a deeper look at Jesus dying on the Cross and how it is a huge symbol of true love (sacrifice, selflessness, and forgiveness..). Even if you aren’t yet a believer I think it still has so much goodness. I know you sort of relayed that you’re not into the more “churchy” parts but you listen with an open mind. If you ever want some feel good Christian movies to watch check out the films by the Kendrick Brothers. They have inspired and encouraged me to just be a better person and I think we could all benefit from aspiring to be better…
    Again, thank you for sharing. I think it takes courage to put your spirituality out there for all to read. But maybe think about it this way: someone might have read your post and thought “wow, Emily is talking about participating in the community and instilling good lessons in her children, those are things I want to do.” In my opinion, you’ve spread some love and are impacting another’s life positively. Cheers to you:)

  242. Can I just mention one thing? All other “religions” as you put it have man seeking God. Only in Christian theology does God call or pursue the man. He is pursuing you. You have heard him and are seeking Him. I love this story. No judgment needed from anyone. Some say He is irresistible. I am thankful you have responded to Him calling you and your husband can call it what He wants to, but it is also God speaking to him. I will pray for your sweet new journey and hope you will post the day you understand giving up to Him.

  243. Hey Emily,
    I became a fan of yours as I watched design star on HGTV. I loved this post because you shared your heart. You are on a journey and I’m so glad you didn’t dismiss those promptings.

  244. Thanks for sharing this. Along with Brian’s writing on therapy, I think these acts of sharing and vulnerability have really added to your community and resonated with a lot of people, including me.

  245. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! Spirituality is definitely something I think about and loved hearing about the path you’ve been on.

    Also love the reminders from you and other commenters that just because you go to a certain church, vote a certain way, live in a certain area, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with everything that church, political party, area, etc. believe/value. Cancel culture demands that things be perfect or deems them intolerable, which is tough for anything involving lovable, yet slightly flawed humans. This middle path – I agree with some things, I don’t agree with everything, but for now, I’m here, seems so exciting. And if you disagree too much, sometimes you leave. Sometimes though, you stay and work to create changes to bring things more around to what you believe or value.

  246. This post has to take the all-time record for comments and replies to comments! I think you hit a nerve!

  247. hi emily. you could write your own book based on the comments section! I grew up NFL and went to an NFL college and promptly lost my faith- not anyone’s fault. Just woke up one day and thought, “I wonder if there is no God?” Made me on the edge of crazy. Over a period of 9 months of so where it got worse before it got better, three things brought me back into the fold of faith: I was traveling in Washington state and looking out over the stars at night that weren’t always available in LA 🙂 I told God who I wasn’t sure existed that I was hanging on by a star/thread – I just couldn’t not believe in a Creator God (6 days or otherwise) – creation was just too big a thing for man to figure out; next, I told an older wiser women: “Mrs. Dunkin (now in Glory), I have doubts.” (imagine closed throat with emotion -it was hard to say those 5 words) and she sweetly almost glibly replied: “Oh, Sue everyone doubts!” Really? they never talked about that in chapel (they should have) That simple statement was a huge relief to me emotionally. I said the same to my favorite prof: “Mr. Hills, I have doubts.” (same throat issue) “Well, Sue,” he drawled, “if God couldn’t handle our questions then He’s not a big enough God, is He?” That was incredibly helpful in a mind blowing kind of way. Mr. Hills has no recollection of that conversation. I know exactly where we were standing when we had it. (: Then I heard a Romans verse:”Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” which sounded like a formula to me – I wasn’t good at math. God doesn’t always work in formulas, but I wanted faith. I needed tethering. So I just read the bible. A lot. Every day. I realized over a period of time that my faith had returned and it was now mine, not my parent’s faith, not because I was raised that way, but all mine. I’m glad God graced me with that doubting time so I could believe on my own. I’ve raised my kids in the faith and when theirs doesn’t “look like mine” I recall that God does things His own way and part of my faith stretching is keeping my hands off. As someone said, When your kids are little, you talk to them about God; and when your kids grow up, you talk to God about your kids. You would love bob goff books, tim keller and Bonnie and I are reading The Second Mountain by David Brooks. You’re adorable and thank you for hiring Bonnie so many years ago. Now that was a step of faith! Ha!

  248. I can so relate to almost all of this post. You’re not alone! I did my quest about a year after having a daughter and the funny thing was, once I started demanding answers, really seeking, I found what I was looking for. It was a seek and you shall find type thing. Then as I kept asking, I kept getting answers and my spiritual life deepened beautifully.

    We weren’t meant to be satisfied with this shallow unquestioned life. Some people fill the void with booze, drugs, shopping or The Real Housewives. Nothing will satisfy you like those tears that spring from an indescribable feeling welling up from the soul.

    My personal path is nearby you, Self Realization Fellowship, founded by the yogi Yogananada. His first speech was titled “The Science of Religion.” It basically surmises we were given reason and the ability to question, we should be scientists, test and find out for ourselves. Nothing will ever surpass a personal experience of God. I can tell you all about an orange but until you eat it, you will never really know it. Kudos for diving in and seeking with an open heart. I applaud your vulnerability!

  249. I’m late to the game so I don’t know if you’ll even see this, Emily, but I wanted to had a perspective that I haven’t seen shared here yet…

    I was raised attending a progressive Christian church, one which sounds very similar to the one you are attending now. I was really involved in the youth group in my middle and high school years. Because it was a progressive church it didn’t make me “different” or “weird” but it did give me a safe place to land and something to do on the weekends other than getting drunk. It also gave me a head start into self-awareness which helped me navigate high school with more discernment than my peers. I still went to parties and football games and stuff, but I had an “inner voice” which was really helpful.

    I went in and out of attending church in my 20’s because of moving, general life, break ups, etc., but I never felt a need to “choose” because my church experience didn’t tell me I had to. Now I’m in my 30’s with two kids the same age as yours, and we attend a similar church. I just wanted to throw this out there that it can be healthy if done intentionally.

    I love your voice, your honesty, and I’m so thankful you are talking about things like this. Also I have ALWAYS WONDERED about the Diet Coke.

  250. Thanks for sharing Emily. I was also baptized Mormon, but for many of the same reasons you stated on your blog, attending a Mormon church is not a possibility for me. I truly believe in God, that there is a power or presence out there, but I don’t believe in organized religion for more reasons than I care to tell. These are tough times, and explaining God and religion to children is complex, although most children don’t fight the idea of having a God up there looking out for us. I think since we all have parents it’s not a stretch to look for the maker of all things around us — that something is running the show. I personally feel so bonded to nature and that complex circle of life that we all depend on. That’s as close to religion as I feel I will ever be, I can practice it anywhere and it doesn’t cost me a thing.

    Take care all,

  251. I have been looking forward to reading this post ever since you first referred to it. I really appreciate hearing your perspective on your own religious journey and on faith and religion at large.

    I started reading your blog when you used to recap design star episodes. I am also a Latter-day Saint, and so have a shared background as you, although I have found a religious home as an adult in the church.

    I don’t have anything profound to say, but I just wanted to say that I am a card carrying, fairly conservative member (but NOT politically, never that!) member of my church. I have a large family, heck (and yes, I just said heck, so that tells you right there everything you need to know), my husband is a religion professor at a church school. People see me and probably thing that I epitomize everything they dislike about the LDS church. But I also have close friends and family members who have left the church, who have struggled within themselves in faith crises, and/or with how our church runs, its beliefs, etc. I may belong to and believe in my church, but I also love people who have completely different views of life, of sexuality, of religion or the lack thereof. I even love people who voted for a president I cannot abide. I love my religion, even when it is not perfect, and when there are definitely things that I want to change in it, and hope to see change.

    And because of this in my own life I have realized that most of us are just trying, whether within a religion or out of it, whether believing in a certain dogma, or rejecting dogmas are all, which is its own dogma, of course. Emily, I think it is great that you have found a place where you feel comfortable religiously. And I am glad that you use your blog to discuss things more than just straight design, as much as I love those posts (I love the whole journey we’ve been on through Sara’s home!), because even when I don’t agree with everything, and even when I do, I appreciate the discussion, both introduced in the post and continued in the comments. I think this blog is a great antidote against echo chambers we all fall into on the internet.

  252. I’m always amazed at your bravery. To share your private life outside of the design realm. But I was left wondering why you felt like you needed to apologize, explain and rationalize for your families choice? I suspect you were worried about a backlash of not being “mainstream” like you might be a closeted Republican even (LoL) I understand wanting your kids to have community. I grew up with minimal religion, and am now grateful to not have conflict or guilt. What did my ancestors believe and practice before religion corrupted their cultures. Our lives never totally align with others. Interesting that Christianity is now not mainstream.

  253. Hi Emily,

    I’m a few days late, but I want to join the conversation. My parents raised my sisters and me Episcopalian and then Methodist. In college I went through a very similar experience as you. I was still participating in church (I was a paid musician), but I was an outsider. I had a hard time comprehending how people that called themselves Christians could be so ugly, but I didn’t really comprehend that I was having this internal struggle until a few years later.

    Skip forward and my boyfriend at the time invited me to attend church with him. I went kicking and screaming because it was a mega church, but I felt something so different immediately. People were genuinely nice, I saw people of all demographics, and literally everyone was singing and worshiping (not in the creepy tongues kind of way). (If you’ve ever stepped foot in a traditional church, that doesn’t really happen. It’s mostly the choir leading the congregation.) I felt like this is how church is supposed to be! A couple Sundays later, I don’t remember the topic, but the pastor said, “You can go to church your whole life and never be a Christian.” It woke me up. I realized I had just been going through the motions the past few years, and I was not participating in the game!

    I’ve since moved out of state and attend a new church that focuses heavily on the historical. I think it’s so important to understand how Jesus was talking to his disciples in their time and how it’s relevant to us today. There are certain beliefs that some of our leaders hold that I don’t agreed with, but I don’t let it stop me from attending. Because at the end of the day, I get to choose what to do with the information.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I appreciate your heart. 🙂 Also, you should listen to Dolly Parton’s America if you haven’t already. It’s fantastic!

  254. This is a sincere question — snark-and-condescension-free — promise! In reading your post (appreciate the candor and kindness toward others) and some of the comments (didn’t make my way through nearly all of them, though), I am reading a lot about what *people* are looking for — what meets their needs, appeals to them, turns them off, etc. I can’t help wondering, what about what *God* wants? It troubles me that religious people in our society seem not to give that very much consideration, when to me it seems like it should be paramount. I would welcome equally sincere responses.

  255. To validate your sports analogy: I am one of those “spiritual, not religious” folks, and I also prefer individual sports (swimming, running – no running partners, please!, etc). In fact, when I am pushed to explain my religious status, I typically say something along the lines of “I’ve never been one for team sports.”

    While softball games and church gatherings make me equally uneasy, what I miss most about not being part of a church community is the singing. There are not enough (any!) opportunities for informal adult sign-alongs.

    FWIW, I was raised by a devout mother and an agnostic father. I know people like to say that it will confuse kids, etc, but I see it only as positive. I had the opportunity to observe that people of either persuasion could be good, moral people. And love science. And do service projects in the community. And forgive. My brother is observant; I am not; we all get along.

  256. Awesome Emily! So great of you to share. And judging by the sheer number of comments on this post you did the right thing in hitting that publish button. I am a Christian. Married to a Pastor for 16 years and after spending 17 years in advertising, just this month I became a licensed Pastor myself in the Foursquare Denomination which was started by an amazing woman- Amy Semple Mcpherson 100 years ago in Los Angeles. You are my go-to advice for any remodel project and I am so happy for you and your family. I pray you continue to throw yourself into your purpose and meaning as you always have. Your story will pave the way for so many others. “Can Man Live without God” as well as “Jesus Among Other Gods” by Ravi Zacharias are great reads. All the best to you!

  257. Your candor, thoughtfulness, vulnerability, and transparency shine. Thank you for sharing this piece!

    At 32, I am connected to a nondenominational Christian church community that sounds similar to the one you have found–progressive, accepting and affirming, and open to big questions and doubt. One of the best gifts my parents gave me was space to find my own spiritual path. My mom believes in God, and we attended a Lutheran church growing up. My dad does not believe in God and was open about that. I think just seeing that difference in my parents’ beliefs helped me understand that believing in and having a relationship with God is a personal choice. As I grew up and communion and confirmation were sacraments that were offered through my Sunday school, I distinctly remember my mom sitting down with me and talking through what the commitment would mean (both in terms of a time commitment and what it was a symbol of in the church) and giving me the option. I felt so much autonomy, and this really made my faith feel like my own and not something that was forced on me–because it wasn’t.

    I am now in a place where my faith is deep rooted. It drives my decisions and is the source of my security. I believe that not having to unlearn messages of shame, guilt, fear of punishment, and other harmful concepts that the church can perpetuate gives my faith a freedom and safety that I am really grateful for. The tone of your post and your intentionality in how you talk about your hopes for your kids make me think that you are giving them the same gift, so I wanted to chime in and let you know that 🙂

  258. I just applaud this courage and openness here. Thank you for showing us it’s ok to “figure it out!” I am an active LDS member, BUT desperately needed the openness I’ve experienced within “the Church” in the SF Bay Area. I’ve been totally accepted as a “Gray” person and had the freedom I needed to not be OK with a lot of the ultra-conservative seemingly-anti-feminist beliefs that I upheld up until I got married and moved out here. I get allll that you said so much. Yay for church (whatever church you feel is right for you), being a part of something bigger than yourself, figuring out that God is likely so much more than we think and also nothing like we think, and also still doing what’s right for you.

  259. I’m a conservative, Lutheran. By birth and by choice. After I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14, I became an “NFL-player” religious. What I love about my corner of religion is the radical, love your neighbor mentality. We’re theologically conservative, sometime politically conservative (although that’s becoming…. less clear) and we’re also raised on the resistance to the Third Reich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s our GOAT. Radically love your neighbor because we (and they) are radically loved by God. Even neighbors that are different than you, even when your safety is at stake. Welcome to the team, even if we’re in different parts of it.

  260. Hi Emily. I spent most of my life misunderstanding Christianity. It was just a list of rules to follow and a certain behavior to exhibit. Until I fully immersed myself in learning and reading the Bible, I never understood the true meaning of the gospel. Best analogy I’ve heard is from Tony Evans, a pastor in Dallas. He talks about ordering unsweet tea and how you keep adding sugar and stirring and adding only to still find it bitter. He says the righteousness Jesus Christ offers is the end of your stirring. He’ll make you into sweet tea. He puts his sweet Spirit into you. There is no need to add goodness artificially. It produces a love for others that is more genuine than a list of rules and behaviors. May you be surrounded by sweet people and be fueled by His sweetness!

  261. Thank you for writing & sharing this. It’s pretty much exactly where I am with church again, though I started Presbyterian (rather conservative Presbyterian) and am now part of a Lutheran church that sounds as loving, progressive and inclusive as your current church. It’s been a WEIRD journey and I’m also so surprised to be here. I wonder how much the state of the world today, plus this phase in our lives (I’m around your age), have combined to push us to this moment. At any rate, I’m also so glad I’m here.

  262. Emily, I love you. I love your content. I’ve followed you from HGTV onward.

    I’m glad you were brave enough and articulate enough to be able to express how you feel about spirituality.

    You’ve inspired me. You are willing to grapple publicly with what you are seeking, what you know, what you don’t, what you wish you did. You’ve give me a lot to think about & study out.

    In LA, and in your circle when you were worried about how you’d be received by friends family or associates, your writing this is no small thing. And certainly to go deeper in what can be a shallow medium is SO needed. Thanks for your authenticity.

    Such meaningful content is SO VITAL right now. I think it is certainly your strength & the reason you connect with people so well. We know who you are, not just what you are selling.

    Religion is such a beautiful part of life and if we look at the world and what each culture reveres, certainly it is our love, deeply held beliefs, compassion, patience, our yearning for understanding, our reaching for something greater, and our reaching into the beyond for answers from those gone before that tie us and keep us together. We all want to connect with each other.

    And too, I believe religion has the power to move us into the future with new understanding and greater truth, and even more love for each other. We need to be moving forward. We NEED each other to understand more than we know now. And, we need our heavenly parents to teach us more. We will all have different experiences to bring to the table and all deserve a seat.

    Thank you for creating a safe place for people to express themselves in this way.

    And, I also want to thank you for being kind & sensitive about people who identify as LDS.

    Thank you for being open enough to recognize that not all people who practice a religion are extreme, or voted for a certain candidate, or proposition, or like the same things or live the same lifestyle.

    We are all people.

    It’s a very important skill our children need, to challenge their own perceptions of any group and to look for the diversity within it.

    I’m guessing for people who want to be religious, most of us, like you, place ourselves where we feel we can do good & where we feel we can add something or gain something worth having.

    That’s why I have stayed with my LDS congregation, because that’s how I feel. And it has helped me to be more compassionate toward people who aren’t like me. My brother and his boyfriend enjoy Sunday dinner at my place and we do brunch. I’m offended when people assume because of my faith that I hate people who identify as LGBTQ+ or don’t want them to be loved. Or that I would fight against them. Or a lot of other things.

    So, I’m glad you are sensitive to that and I’m also glad to have found someone in this creative field that I could identify with. Anyway, thanks for teaching me today. I needed this inspired post.

    It’s my belief that people are inherently good, and unity is our strength. I’m so glad you made me feel like I belonged somewhere today & emboldened me to be more open and honest with people about being religious. I haven’t really felt safe to do that lately.

  263. May I compliment you Emily for your honesty and wise way of putting your thoughts on paper! I like your questions, honesty and openness. I had to sent a link to my husband, a Christian like me and a Theologian by study and by heart. I think Go(o)d loves you for being your thoughtful you! Best wishes, Wícorel – from the city of Leiden in the Netherlands.

  264. Such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Great choice of a church it sounds like! I’m a Children’s Director for a church and would love to recommend a book for you and your kids. It’s The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Gorgeous illustrations and so very well written. Easy bedtime chapters. I recommended it to our church and some of our older widows bought it because I tell everyone it explains the Bible and all the hard stories in the most simple way. I cried the first time I read the story of Leah – a woman rejected by her husband, hated, ugly, but LOVED so much by God, seen by Him, and honored by Him. Plus it has the whole Adam and Eve and the apple deal in it. 😉 It’s a great read and available on Amazon. I hope it’s helpful for you.

  265. Just like it took you a while to write this post, it has taken me a while to read and respond to this post, but I keep coming back to it. Hopefully a comment written several days later isn’t lost in the shuffle of new posts, but much like your post itself, it’s therapeutic to share my experience regardless of who may read it.

    I was raised agnostic by a Catholic-raised mother and an atheist father. There’s a pretty stark difference between atheist and agnostic, for those who aren’t aware – an agnostic hasn’t found a sport they want to play, whether from lack of trying or from just not trying the right one, an atheist is that person who claims they’re allergic to sweat and posts memes that say “If you ever see me running, call the police – I’m being chased.” My mom and I went to Catholic church on special occasions with my mom’s family when we were around them for those things – Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms and first communions – my dad stayed home for Christmas and Easter, but came along for the rest. When I would ask my mom about religion and church growing up, she would always tell me the same thing: “I don’t think church is bad or wrong, I just also don’t believe that God cares more about whether I show up every Sunday than he cares about whether I’m a good person who treats people well, helps others, and tries to do the right thing. I don’t have to go to a church to do that, but some people do, and some people like church. Some people also go to church because they think it makes up for all the bad things they do, and I believe that’s wrong.” When I would ask my dad about church and religion, he would tell me that it’s a scam to steal your money and create power for psychopaths who want to control others, and that lent was designed by the pope to boost the fish market (I haven’t fact checked that, and I don’t really care to – take it with all the grains of salt). Needless to say, I grew up with a strong skepticism of organized religion, but I also grew up associating the Catholic church and all of it’s customs with celebration and family.

    I ended up marrying a man who was raised Catholic. When it came time to decide what sort of wedding we wanted to have, we both wanted a Catholic wedding, for very different reasons. Though he isn’t a believer in everything the church peddles (he takes issue with many of the same things you do, Emily) he felt that a Catholic wedding was the only way to have a true, complete marriage. I, on the other hand, had mostly been to Catholic weddings throughout my life and felt that our wedding would be incomplete without all of the traditions I was used to, even if I didn’t believe in the actual theology behind all of it. It’s just what felt right and meaningful to me. I think that bothered him a bit – that I liked the tradition of it without believing in what it all meant – like that cheapened the whole thing. But short of marrying someone else, what choice did he have?

    We’ve talked many times about what we’re going to do when we have children. Neither of us attend church at this stage in our lives (he still says he’s Catholic – he’ll never not be, regardless of whether he goes to church) but how will we raise our children with religion if mom doesn’t believe and dad doesn’t practice? Will it matter enough to us to start going to church then? To baptize our children when I never was? I think it matters to him, but he refuses to take a stand on it because he says he could never force me into something I don’t believe in – that it would be only performative at that point. Your story resonates with me in that if we ever reach that point, I can truly and honestly say that even if I don’t believe (yet? ever?) in all of it, I do believe in the community, the good the church does, and the right of our future children to pick for themselves what is important and real to them. It’s not just an aesthetic I find pleasing – there’s real substance behind it aside from literal belief. I think that would be comforting for my husband.

    Thanks for sharing – from the comments, it sounds like your perspective resonates with a lot of people who just don’t feel heard or understood by organized religion, media, influencers, etc. when it comes to this weighty topic. I hope we also make you feel heard and comforted that you’re not alone, and that what you’re doing is good and right for you, and that’s all that matters.

  266. A bit late here on the comments but thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading this post. I was raised Presbyterian and spent every single Sunday (the entire day) at church growing up… and loved it! I also went to a Catholic private school my whole life (pre-k to law school), so I was always exposed to “religion” and “spirituality.” I tried to keep it up going to church when I went to college — and even found an awesome church with awesome people — but waking up early on Sundays kept getting harder and I soon stopped altogether. I never missed it and I never thought about it until recently, when my fiance (who had a pretty similar upbringing) and I started talking about kids. We agreed that we’d like our children to experience being part of a community, going to church together every Sunday together as a family and using it as an opportunity to be grateful for the week/vow to be better, and having various holidays to reflect on different things together. Not that you need organized religion to do that, but it certainly makes it easier/more natural in my opinion. We are still looking for a church to “belong” to, but your experience really resonated with me because I too, felt incredibly overwhelmed (in a good way) my first visit back and it brought tears to my eyes thinking of standing at the pews with my loving parents!

  267. I love your honesty and while saying you appreciate what you had while growing up, even if it’s not for you now, that’s okay. I’m glad you found what works for you!

  268. Emily, this is a beautiful post. Please continue to speak authentically, although I can imagine to be scary for you. hope one day you feel freer of your audience’s judgement and are just 100% comfy saying what you think. This is why we come to your blog everyday and love your voice. Best wishes from Australia from a Brazilian heart.

  269. Wow I loved reading everyone’s thoughts and stories about their spiritual journeys, and I really loved how honest and open you are too Emily. Happy that you found a place that feels right to you so early in your searching. I was raised a Baha’i, and in my teen years I went off to do my own searching, and I wasn’t sure what I believed. Quite possibly this had to do with “the rules,” which are quite similar to Islam, and I didn’t really know why I should be following “the rules” or if God was real. Fast forward to my early twenties. I was really suffering emotionally and physically and I decided I needed to at least try a more spiritual path. So I went deep into studying the Baha’i Faith, joined a Christian group in college and attended Bible study and read the Bible, and also explored Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism. I found so much beauty, joy, and comfort in the writings of all religions that I came to truly embrace the Baha’i teaching that all religions come from one God. I have found that this belief allows me to truly united in heart with others, as I don’t consider their religion or beliefs as something “other.” Rather, I feel these religions are mine too in the sense that they are different chapters in one continuously unfolding and progressive letter from God to mankind…I’ve had amazing spiritual experiences attending Mass at La Notre Dame in Montreal (a bucket list experience!), praying in cathedrals all over Europe, praying with Greek Orthodox nuns in a 3 hour prayer session in a tiny chapel covered with icons in an 800-year old nunnery in Meteroa, praying with indigenous Native Canadians, discussing the Quran with some of my closest friends (who happen to be Muslim), and receiving the prayer of 300 monks in Bhutan who prayed for my baby Eleanor when she was born prematurely at 24 weeks.

    Just wanted to respond to a couple things others raised:

    1. There is always a difference between the life of a prophet and their holy words/teachings and the way human beings put those into action, because we human beings are flawed. We can all find joy and comfort in the life of Jesus and His words, for example, even if we can’t find the right church, or we feel dismayed at the behavior of those who claim to be Christian. (This equally applies to other religions).

    2. There is evidence for God, and if you research current academic and scientific thought on the matter, there is no consensus of a hard “no.” Google “hard problem of consciousness,” “evidence of design in nature/fine-tuned universe” for some interesting rabbit holes.

    3. Emily, you are wondering why the Old Testament has so many disturbing stories. The Baha’i Faith teaches that humanity has been on a continuous journey of progression and at one point we were like little children in our collective development. Like little children, we needed strict rules and stories to help us manifest the behavior that would help us progress both materially and spiritually. Now we are approaching our collective maturity and we are able to reason for ourselves and understand more complex ideas about God and spirituality. Another helpful approach may be to see those stories as religious metaphors containing important spiritual teachings but not examples necessarily of actual historical events.

    Peace to all, and stay safe during this epidemic!

  270. Religion, organized or not, depends on believing that there is a higher power. In order to believe, you must have faith.

    I am comfortable with the un-knowingness of the universe. It takes courage to simply live and learn and love. It is an amazing thing: life. Just as it is without any added extras we invent in order to explain things or to rule things.

    This post interested me because so many people are running towards religion. I’m standing still, seeing the thing unfold – the thing is love – the pure energy.

  271. Hello,
    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Mormon) I have been my entire life. Having said that, each of us are on our own spiritual journey to find truth. I do believe in God and Jesus Christ and that they love us individually and understand who we are completely and what we can become. As parents, I believe that those heavenly beings have a great interest in helping us to care for those little people in our homes.
    We lived in China and felt kinship with Buddhist as they helped us understand more about them and their God. We are on the east coast now and during this covid-19 while my church is closed, I went to pray with the Catholics at their sanctuary. We all would be well to understand one another more and extend the hand of friendship and love that so many need, not just today, but everyday. I think that makes God happy and us happy too. Good luck in your quest for truth.

  272. “I will pay $500 to anyone that can explain why they forbid drinking coffee but encourage diet coke”

    Just here to say that this made me truly laugh out loud. Thanks for the quick smile 🙂

  273. Dear Emily:
    Please, please read the Bible for yourself. Although the church and sermons are important, they cannot enrich you as much reading the Bible. I recommend the NIV version for its readability and accuracy, but several translations are good. I was raised with no faith at all, no religious books, no church. I led a completely secular life until, at age 50, a friend suggested I join a Bible study. I had to go out and buy a Bible and read it very carefully to answer the study questions. Emily, within a year, the Bible OPENED MY EYES to the truth. Fifteen years later, I am a committed Christian who reads and studies the Bible almost daily. I also encourage you to look into a good Bible study. I heartily recommend Bible Study Fellowship International–a completely non-denominational, in-depth Bible study that changed my life.
    In faith, Wilma

  274. Thanks for writing about this. I’m not spiritual at all but it was interesting to read. I grew up Catholic and had no real bad experiences or major problem with it but just drifted toward not really believing in Catholicism as I grew older. When my husband and I were engaged and talking about getting married, he wanted to get married in a church and I didn’t. Going to mass wasn’t a part of our lives, we didn’t talk about religion at all and prayer wasn’t really something we did either. So to me it felt so wrong and inauthentic to make religion central to our wedding day. But my husband was still attached to the church in a way that I didn’t really understand. We fought about it and I said that I couldn’t commit to all the things you have to vow to do in a church ceremony, raising our kids Catholic, renouncing the devil etc. So we contacted our parish priest and had a chat with him about it all. He was such a great man to talk to. He seemed genuinely happy that we were having the conversation at all and not just going through the religious motions without examining ourselves and being intentional. At the time, I had said that I felt more like a Protestant, in the earliest sense of what that meant, that I rejected some aspects of the religion and the priest was very open and engaging when talking about that. I agreed to go for the church ceremony in the end, with some modifications to the wording that was permitted. However, 2 weeks before the wedding, my husband wanted us to attend mass with this priest, so we went. It was Mother’s Day as well and it was the best mass I’d ever been to. And I never thought mass could be good! The gospel was The Prodigal Son and the sermon was so interesting, and then instead of confession, they did this thing where everyone could just walk up to the top, say “I’m sorry for all my sins” and the priest would absolve and bless them or something like that. Everyone seemed to be doing it, so we went up and at the moment when I was up there, saying the words, I realised that I didn’t believe in god. I realised that I do my best, I’m a good person, I try so hard, and I didn’t need to apologise to anyone. I remember being quite upset about the realisation that I didn’t believe. It’s a big loss to hold on to the belief that there’s someone up there and then suddenly he’s not. It was also too close to the wedding to change my mind about having it in a church and I felt like such a fake about going through with that. Now, I pretty happily and confidently don’t believe in anything but I’m totally open to the possibility that I’m wrong. I don’t find it impossible to think of there being absolutely nothing after death, in fact I find it kind of comforting, that THIS life is the one we need to make the most of. I weirdly find that more inspiring than any thought of something bigger out there. But I would like to have the conversation more and am really glad you wrote about it. Thank you!

  275. I absolutely loved your honesty and heart-felt post. I am in the NFL player Christian category. I was raised in a Christian church. My mom was the pianist and my dad the choir director at my church up until a few years ago. Through the years and all of the moves, I have found my sense of community and friendships through the church. I think our generation has become more open and accepting towards ideas and concepts that we may not necessarily agree on, but show love to each other and willing to keep an open mind. It is wonderful you have kept an open mind to church and willing to ask all of the tough questions. The Bible can be confusing at times and a little overwhelming. A pastor that you may really enjoy listening to is Andy Stanley at Northpoint Church in Atlanta. I listen to his online messages each week, he is down-to-earth and relatable. Excited to hear more on your “journey” through the church. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing.

  276. Congratulations for being brave Emily!! Religion, politics, money, design,…. all very polarizing topics, but non more so than religion… until Trump waded into your waters. As a Canadian, our leaders are also wrestling with the challenges of this crazy virus and what to do and when… and like the rest of the world we are all in unchartered waters. A pandemic would appear to be no respecter of persons.

    Dear Emily, I’ve been following you for years, and love all your sweet quirkiness… I’ve celebrated the babies and the baby rooms, and recently read your hubby’s very brave post about therapy and owning his shit… it would seem to me that being brave is kind of your family mantra – which is a great value to hold.

    I want you to know that as the child of a Mennonite minister, who married a Mennonite minister, and then left him and ran away with the baby and never came back (this means not really allowed back in the church), I can personally say that my faith is the ONLY thing that has sustained me my whole life.

    Without going into endlessly long, sordid details, I could have been extremely mad at the church. And while I was disappointed in the people in the church at times, I wasn’t disappointed in God. Not that I never yelled at Him, but I’ve found Him to be pretty good with this.

    As someone on the inside, I witnessed a lot of hypocrisy and corruption and un-Christlike behavior… I’ve been part of it myself. Because guess what… religion is man made rituals and ways to try to keep God organized and prioritized – which is why we have denominations and different churches. But God and “faith” and a belief that there is a creator who has the blueprint on your life and knows what you are best “designed” for, is the one thing I’ve know to be true my whole life.

    Proof is the one thing that you can’t get with faith. Everyone has a faith… everyone organizes their lives and prioritizes around something and puts their hope in it being the “best way” or the “right way” to live their lives … work, family, friends, tradition, money, etc. To believe in nothing requires the most faith of all.

    But I want to be clear, having faith doesn’t mean you park your brain – quite the contrary. It means you face the big questions of meaning and purpose and pain, and you wrestle with the “evidence” and you stay curious and you watch. If you want to rule it one at least has to have the balls to examine God as a legitimate option… because you cannot prove He/she/they doesn’t exist either.

    I can’t prove there is a God or that this Easter Jesus is Divine… but I choose to believe that the part of me that loves music and art and design, the part of me that sees order in nature and systems and science, cannot accept that this happened without a Creator and that perfect order came out of random unplanned chance.

    Good grief, I’ve written far too much. I’ve never written anyone on a blog post before. I’ll end with the best quote I know, from perhaps the most famous atheist turned Christian of all time (and the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – you like a good wardrobe, Emily)….

    “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    Where ever you end up in the ‘journey’ thing, Emily…keep being your courageous, bold, brave self. These are wonderful things to model for your children.You are more than enough, in fact you are divine.

    Please believe me when I say this has been totally un-Canadian-esque…. and I’m going to hit send before I completely chicken out! It must be the Covid19!

    Hugs from Canada,

  277. Thank you so much for being brave and sharing this story. Please be encouraged and know there are a lot of people out there that needed to hear your or words. Saying a special prayer for you and your family this morning.

  278. Good for you… reaching outside your world to be included in another is a good thing. It’s a wonderful thing as you know for your family unit.
    My husband converted so that he could join our son and myself at our Catholic Church – it’s a wonderful community. I still take some bible passages with a grain of salt (Lifelong Catholic) but, I’m happy to focus an hour every week to Thankful reflection.
    FYI, I think talk of Religion and Faith is at the bottom of most conversations everywhere – not just L.A.

  279. Hi Emily! I wanted to circle back and reply to this post. I was already impressed by you and now admire you even more. Love LOVE your style and your spirit. Thank you for being so open and honest and sharing what was on your heart. That could not have been easy with such a topic. I have 3 little boys and the task of raising them in this crazy world is quite daunting. For me personally, I know I need all the help I can get with positive influences and direction. For me and my husband, that help is a team with similar goals and values all of whom are constantly seeking wisdom, direction, and purpose. Life can be crazy hard. The older we get the more complicated it seems to get. The world is BIG and there are so many different stories and belief systems out there. It can be quite overwhelming. Have you watched Morgan Freeman’s, “The story of God”? It is fascinating. Anyway, for me and my family, we look to the teachings of Jesus as a guidebook for our lives. What I’ve learned in life is ‘when one seeks, one finds’. That applies to good, bad and ugly. Whatever one is looking for to fill a void in there life, he/she will find it, but gosh, the peace that comes along with seeking and finding Jesus. I hope you find that peace on your journey. We’re all trying to make it in this world. I admire you for your search and stepping into something you’re unsure about. That’s more than most of us could say we would do. You are such a light and I thank you.

  280. This post made my breath quicken and my eyes water. You put into words what I couldn’t for about 15 years. My husband and I have been hurt deeply by “members of the church” but I know somewhere inside me I believe in something. Not god. But something. I might share your post with my family so they can understand what I feel. Thank you and I hope your life is truly blessed from the experience.

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