"My Religious Experience" by Nikki "Neversleep" This is going to be a long one folks just as a heads up.... I was raised in a Christian home by two very amazing people. My father nondenominational Black-Bahamian, my mother a Catholic Puerto Rican. I began to doubt at early ages, 13 or 15, that what they believed was true. I started to wonder how one could know for sure there was a God, and what exactly he wanted for us if there was one. I prayed quite a bit in those days, as a young girl. I asked lots of questions, and I never got answers from pastors/priests nor God himself. I was quickly becoming disheartened. I read more and more of the Bible and all it did was cause more confusion. No answers seem to come from anywhere. Later in my teens I drifted from the church, and eventually came out as an agnostic atheist to my father, who I was very close to, he took it pretty well all things considered and assured me he believed I would come to find the "truth" I don't know if he meant "his truth" or the actual Truth, but I prefer to think it was the latter. My mother took it a little harder, but she remained a loving and comforting mother always. Though it often to this day comes in conversation between the two of us. Just before turning 19 I gave birth to my daughter, in labor I was told that it was very likely I would die due to the stress it was putting on me. My smaller body had a few..... issues that prevented it from being capable of birthing a child with ease. I tried to put that in a way to keep as much graphic personal details out as possible, sorry if it came out weird sounding. The options I had were, my life for my daughter's or hers for mine. I chose to give my life for her. The doctors weren't wrong, the stress was too much for my body to take, and I "died" (flatlined) for 12 mins. Thankfully they were able to resuscitate me, though I experienced some side effects my vision dulled and grayed and my hearing was lost for a long period of time, I have it back now though neither my sight nor my hearing are where they were before. Likewise my daughter was born with hearing problems. A small price to pay for her life, and I'd gladly do it again. During the time leading up to her birth, her grandfather (my father) had become quite ill. He had a tumor in his brain, and it was killing him. Every day he seemed to be worse, but some days he was actually able to hold himself together in spite of it. There were times we would speak to him and he would not know who we were (his own children and wife) and other times he would not know who or where he was. When he was there, in his own mind, he would speak to us as my father of old. He would talk about God and Jesus, and he would tell us how proud he was of all of us and how thankful he was for each of us, which was no different from how he was before getting sick. At times I would hear him in his room.... praying, or just talking to God. He would cite Psalm 27:1 over and over again... "The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" Sometimes he would cite other verses, which in my younger days had brought me comfort. Philippians 4:13 "I can do all thing through Him who strengthens me." Joshua 1:9 "The Lord your God is with you wherever you may go." Isaiah 40:31 "But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Mark 10:27 "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." and many others. I prayed to God, wrote a letter to him even (I am introvert and spoken word does not come as easily to me as written word does.... I'm aware it is strange to write a letter to a divine being who knows your thoughts but it came more naturally for me) in which I asked him to have mercy on my father, to heal him when I could not, to save him where I had failed him. I was a nurse and I saw it and still see it, as my personal responsibility to aid in the care of every suffering person I encounter and to bring them back to good health. When I fail at this, it deeply affects me, more so in this case as I failed my own father. In his last days I could hear him in his room, reciting Pslam 27:1 and often saying "God will deliver me." My father died a Bible believing, charitable, honest, good, Christian man. Following his death, a close friend of the family and my father, a Muslim teacher approached me to comfort me in my time of loss. I had made very good friends with his daughter and we were next to inseparable as children, though as this time she had accompanied her mother to London to be with more of their family. He had known from talks with my father that I struggled with faith, and in an act of what I consider kindness despite my feelings now about the faith, he invited to become a Muslim. Which because I was searching for God, in time I did.... for a short period. I learned Quran, I even began my study of Arabic (as I had already studied other languages such as Hebrew) which I continue to study to this day. I even spoke Shahada which is the FIRST Pillar of Islam, and for many the most important. I prayed in Mosques, sometimes in foreign countries when I could visit. They were lovely and the people there (in Syria, Palestine, and others) were always very kind to me. But... something always felt wrong with it. I was hidden, in Hijab. I did not like that part of the practice. I often found myself removing it when I "should not" have. I began to discover that Islam, much like Christianity, lacked what I wanted. Answers. Truth. Some knowledge of God. I came to the decision that I would leave Islam as well..... which this at the time crushed my teacher. He was upset with me, but not angry. We still talk to this day and he's still a very good friend of the family. I would not be defeated so easily however.... so I delved into EVERY religion I could get my hands on. I made friends with Pagans; Kemets, Wiccans, Neo-Religio Romana Followers, all sorts. I befriended a Hindu with more than 4 decades in study of his faith. I met and learned from 2 practicing religious Buddhists. Of course I always had Christian and Muslim friends as well, despite some of them disowning me in both cases. I dated a Semitic Jewish Doctor for a short while, he and I are still very much so friends, our relationship began from my wanting to learn more of his culture, faith, traditions, language, etc. I simply could not learn enough. I have always enjoyed my books, I was a strange child. I have loved reading and learning all my life. I continue this practice to this day. It's a key motivator in my learning of more than 20 languages (counting primary and secondary tongues) many of which I can actually speak fluently. Religion guided me to a love of cultures I had never even thought to care about, an even deeper love of language than I had before, and overall it invigorated my thirst to KNOW not just believe. I think I have done more than my father could have possibly predicted.... but then again perhaps I'm just underestimating the old man again. In all my time learning in and of other religions, what I have found out about God is....... Nothing. This is why I remain an agnostic atheist. I'm not opposed to learning about him should he wish to teach, but at this time I'm done being the one making the calls, he doesn't seem to be getting my messages. Thanks for reading.