My own parents are Christian: my dad is Greek Orthodox, and my mum is Catholic. I attended a Christian primary school, but now I have little connection to religion, apart from attending the occasional wedding or christening. I consider myself an atheist. This is mainly because of all the bad things I see happening in the world. How can there be someone watching over us, yet ignoring the millions of refugees who have fled from war, or all those facing discrimination?
Some argue that faith provides a moral foundation, but I don’t think you have to be religious to be a good person. My own moral code has developed through my life experience and everyday interaction with others. If I’d been born 100 years ago I might have gone to a priest or read the Bible for guidance. Instead, I talk to my parents about challenging decisions, or rely on my own rational thought processes.
Many people simply take religion less seriously these days. In the 2001 census, nearly 400,000 people said their faith was ‘Jedi’. That’s more than the entire population of Antigua and Barbuda! Identifying as a Jedi Knight means you can declare May 4th as a religious holiday (think of the famous quote May the force be with you, from the Star Wars movies).
In another sense, religion still has a long way to come. There has been some progress: in the late 1970s, nearly two-thirds of British people (of any faith) considered homosexuality ‘always wrong’; by 2012, just under a quarter of people felt the same.
But much more needs to be done by all faiths to make the LGBT+ community feel accepted. Earlier this year, the Klu Klux Klan, who call themselves ‘Christian’, disrupted a Pride march in Alabama, USA. How can this still happen today?
My friend ‘Riley’ comes from a Muslim background and is bisexual. She takes part in festivities such as Ramadan or Eid, but doesn’t agree with many Muslim beliefs. While it hasn’t affected Riley’s faith, she says that being raised in an anti-homosexual household changed the way she viewed herself, for example it took longer for her to feel comfortable with her own sexuality. She has not even come out to her own family, who on occasion have said it is “against God’s will” not to be straight.
“Being bisexual is hard enough since everyone thinks we’re ‘going through a phase’ or that we don’t exist at all,” she says, “but it hurts to think my parents are so against it.”
Riley has also struggled to reconcile some Islamic morals with her own belief of what’s right and wrong.
“Why do Muslims not care that the prophet Muhammad was in his 50s when he married his 9-year-old bride, yet it’s not acceptable for me to love any given man or woman?” she says. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
As the younger generation, we’re questioning the world we’ve grown up in. We may not discuss religion often, but many of us have indeed broken away from the constraints of what our parents and family believe, allowing us to make our own decisions on what faith we follow, or whether we even follow one at all.
This episode of Exposure Listens features five young people and their experiences and exploration of religion. Their mix of beliefs in a city like London is healthy and interesting.
Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice. Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.