Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wanting a God Who Looked Like Me by Debbie Kozlovich

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

I am an atheist. I came to this realization after a lifetime of searching for a god who looked like me. During twelve years of Catholic school, I realized that the Catholic god wasn't very fond of girls. As I received my first holy communion and attended mass every day, I longed to be up by the altar with the boys but because of my gender, I wasn’t allowed. I knew I could never be the Pope or even a priest. God didn’t seem to value females the way he did males. Once I graduated, I never went to a Catholic Church again. I felt I was worth much more than that religion wanted me to believe. I needed more than a man god who threatened punishment and who shamed women from the sinful Eve to the obedient virgin, Mary. That god had no relevance for me in my life. I did not fear him because I could not believe in what I considered a myth. Neither could I believe in Jesus, his son, who hung violently on a cross in every classroom and church I entered. His way of shedding blood was different from mine. I had no use for him either. He didn’t teach me how to be a better female, how to relate to sexism, or even how to love myself. So I was left with a yearning to find a god I could relate to.

I searched other forms of Christianity and found the same thing. Their gods were male and seemed to prefer men. I read the Bible and was appalled at how women were viewed. I studied Islam and Buddhism. I became friends with Thai monks and learned some of their precepts. They all came to the same conclusion: women were second class. That never felt right to me. Why would a god prefer one gender over another? Why was god referred to as a “he”? Why did god need a gender at all? If this god created us in his image, why didn’t I look like him? I had enough of male saviors.and masculine dominance.

After many years, the answer became obvious to me. In the beginning, men created god. They made him male and then they gave themselves power over women. I refused to take part in that belief system. It offered me nothing and made me feel sad and irrelevant. I wanted a female god but never found one. I needed a different vision, something that, as a woman, I could relate to. I wanted my daughter go grow up respecting herself and believing that she was equal to any man. The major religions did not offer this perspective. So I raised my son and daughter with the belief that life is sacred and we are all equal. They did not have to fear or worship some distant, male god in order to have morals. They could learn right from wrong by using critical thinking and compassion.

I have surrounded myself with a circle of women who are interested in making the world a better place. We discuss social issues and strive for gender equality and peace. It is in this circle that I learned to love myself as a woman, to value what I have to offer and to like what I see in the mirror. Although I hold many memories and beliefs inside me from my childhood, I have become a woman who does not need a religion to show me how I can become a better person or how to make a positive difference in the world. I can do that on my own. And I do.

My decision to stay away from all religion was a wise one. Now, at 61, I am comfortable in my own skin. I know I am just as valuable as any man. I live my life giving back to the community and promoting women’s rights. Women are strong, capable and intelligent, so many of them just haven’t been told that yet. We have stories that need to be written. We have the power to change religion and history by writing about these subjects from a woman’s perspective. We have been kept silent for too long.

Long ago I decided not to go through life asking, “What’s wrong with me?” because I was born female. I prefer to quote Marianne Williamson, “We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?” I am grateful to Marianne and the many other women, who have inspired, elevated and encouraged me to be the best I can be.

I take wisdom, compassion and love with me into old age. I have no fear of what happens after death. I live each day with joy and the desire to make this a better place. I have learned to embrace my own power and wholeness. I am at peace and I love being a woman.

by Debbie Kozlovich

A selection from the upcoming Girl God Anthology,
Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak.

Celeste Gurevich, Whatever Works Contributor

 Whatever Works is a unique collection of writing by feminists of diverse faiths from around the world. This anthology combines personal essays, poems and academic musings with the goal of sparking conversations among women of all faith backgrounds. Religion plays a key role in defining and maintaining value systems, and yet it is often disregarded within feminism itself. This book shares the stories of highly diverse women with the hope that we can find collective solutions to the global problems that plague women and girls living under patriarchy.
 
Available late March - pre-order here
 
Debbie Kozlovich is a professional Ballroom Dance Instructor, writer, mother, grandmother, mentor, wife, sister, supporter of those in need, vegan, women's rights and gay rights activist, adventurer and happiness seeker, interested voter and runner.

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