Growing up, I had no idea what religion I was. My mother and I went back and forth, church to church, while she (and I, by correlation) tried to discern this church's God from that one. Eventually, we found solace in the Catholic church. We found comfort in its ritualistic cleansing, the heritage, tradition, and the pageantry of it all. Here was a concept we could get behind. My mother even went so far as to teach Sunday school. I was perfectly comfortable with my religious "life."
As I my body grew, however, so did my mind. Herein lies the problem. While I never dismissed the idea of God completely, slowly but surely my rationale was nagging at me. The logic of it all started falling apart. The first thought that nagged me was this: if Christ was sent as our savior, thereby allowing the salvation of our souls, what happened to the souls of those born before the time of Christ? Were they simply left in limbo, or more specifically purgatory, waiting thousands of years for their ascension? I couldn't fathom such cruelty.
Second, the age-old question. How could a God who so loves his children allow such atrocities to occur? Of course, inevitably comes the answer: God works in mysterious ways. I accepted this as a child, but once again, could no longer understand the Divine Plan.
Third, if Life is such a precious gift, why are children of God taught that it matters so little? This life isn't what matters... it's the next one that counts. Spend sixty to a hundred years on this planet, suffer as much as possible, sacrificing yourself for the good of the whole, and you will be rewarded... someday. As a father myself, this version of paternal love, again, eludes me.
Lastly, I found if most impossible to swallow the fact that every major religion on earth claims to have got it right. My religion is the way, and if you follow yours, you will go to hell. Really? So one can live a life of complete selflessness, contributing immensely to society, to the greater good, or simply to running an orphanage, for example, and they will go to hell because they're not Christian, or Muslim, etc. That was the last straw.
Suffice it to say that I needed to find my own set of beliefs. The older I got, the stronger this urge became. I began to suspect that I did not believe in a Supreme Being in my early twenties. However, I didn't have enough information to arrogantly shout from the rooftops that the existence of God was a sham created by man. So I studied, and researched, a little at a time, knowing that eventually, if I looked hard enough, I would find myself in my research. Then, one day, I did.
I stumbled across a forum discussing Buddhism. My mother had started to look into Buddhism a few years prior, and consequently I had dabbed and poked here and there. What surprised me to no end was to find that, contrary to popular belief, Buddhism is not a religion, but rather a philosophy. There are Buddhists who believe in a Deity, but there are many who don't. Arguably, Buddha himself replied, when asked, that there was no God. Or, rather, he wasn't arrogant enough to believe that he held the answer to such a "Supreme" question.
To sum up this thought, here's an old addage that I happen to love:
Student: Master, is there life after death?
Master: I don't know, my son.
Student: But you're an Enlightened One!
Master: Yes, I am an Enlightened One, but not a Dead One.
The Buddhist philosophy, in essence, states that one must live in this moment, the here and now, because that is the ultimate gift. The past is gone, the present is unknown... the mind contains secrets that can achieve the ultimate happiness. You just have to rise above yourself. I fell in love with these principles, not knowing that I had believed them, ultimately, all my life.
What sealed it for me was reincarnation. It's kind of a prerequisite to Buddhism to believe in this. However, I couldn't fall in line with the traditional line of thinking, specifically rebirth. Rather, my belief in reincarnation held a more scientific view. Namely, that basic principle that energy cannot be destroyed. This, of course, has been proven, and is undisputed scientific fact. And what are we, as humans (or dogs, or elephants, for that matter) but energy? If I don't believe in God, persay, then Heaven and Hell don't exist. But the energy that defines us has to go somewhere. I won't pretend to know where, but it has to gosomewhere. Hence my belief in "reincarnation."
I certainly do not oppose those who hold their Faith close to their hearts. I applaud them, in fact. To each his own. I simply am breathing, so to speak, a huge sigh of relief to finally recognize what my own set of beliefs entail. That, I believe, is the greatest gift one can give oneself.