Teens question rules of religion

Kirsten Buchanan

Senior Haley Canada could not reveal her secret —it directly contradicted her religion. Worried about being alienated, Canada was hesitant to announce to the world she is a lesbian. The conflict between her unorthodox sexual orientation and her faith constantly nagged her.
My religion “was very controlling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had to be myself. There was one point where I got so sick and tired of it that I stopped believing in God,” Canada said. Religion “wasn’t how I imagined. I didn’t want to live my life in this certain way. I just wanted to be me.”
After a period of time where she ceased believing in God, Canada realized she still wanted religion in her life — just not a faith that tried to restrain and change her. When her friends began to talk about religion one day, Canada was eager to explore a faith again.
My friends “just started telling me about Jesus and God and everything, and I felt like it was something I was interested in,” Canada said. “Now it’s been a year since I’ve been to [my friend’s] church and I continue [to attend]…. My youth leader, he’s like, ‘Anything that you say to me, chances are it’s not going to surprise me.’ He’s really open.”
Canada believes religion should have a part in one’s life but not to the extent where it takes over a person and alter him. Senior Adam Mefrakis, however, said religion has a place in dictating how a person should behave.
“There are some ways that my religion controls [me], like [the] way I speak. It’s controlling in a way, but it’s a positive thing … because it helps me behave better,” Mefrakis said. “The thing about the way you dress is one of the biggest things about Islam; it’s very distinct. It keeps modesty and purity and keeps people not thinking about the way they look but about how they act and what their character is, so it’s a good thing.”
While faith is a big part of Mefrakis’ life, religion has no place in sophomore Kira Kirk’s life, and that is the way she likes it. Kirk declared herself an atheist and has since been living without a faith.
“I was confirmed in seventh grade, and it was cool because I was into [religion] and stuff… but then I just had questions like the fact that… Christianity in general don’t really except homosexuals and, like, I’m not cool with that,” Kirk said. “And I believe in evolution 100 percent and creationism to me is, like, ridiculous, so I couldn’t be a part of a religion that, believes that so I decided to be an atheist last year.”
Kirk is not alone. According to a Penguin Books survey, 59 percent of teenagers think religion has a negative impact in the world. In addition, 50 percent of teens have never prayed.
Kirk used to pray often, but when she left her religion, she stopped praying all together. However, she still goes to church when her family forces her to, even though Kirk dislikes attending the services.
“My dad forces me to go to church with him. Going to church on Sundays when I didn’t really like it was just like, ‘Really? Why?’ because that takes up like half of your Sunday,” Kirk said. “I never really liked it, and it’s even worse now. I hate how it takes up all that time.”
Even though she is not religious, Kirk sees the place religion has in society and believes everyone should make their own decision of whether to follow a faith or not. Ninety-one percent of teenagers believe they should treat people the way they want to be treated. Some people, Kirk believes, need a religion to control their morals; she herself does not fit under this category, she said.
“I get people that go to church because it’s how they make sense of the world. … But I don’t need that. My life isn’t really different” without religion, Kirk said. “There are some people who don’t really believe in religion and are really disrespectful to the religion. But since I was a part of the religion for so long, I’m not, like, O.K. with that. You still have to be nice; you don’t need a religion to tell you that, though.”
By Kirsten Buchanan