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I can remember sitting in the back pew with my family, doodling on the bulletin. The preacher was talking about what it meant to live by faith and not by sight.

I don’t recall much of what was said that day. My doodle flowers needed a lot of attention! I do remember coming back to the sermon at the point when the man said, “If you’re not willing to follow Jesus, then you should hang yourself like Judas.”

True story—at least, that is how I remember it. I remember thinking, “Whoa. The pastor just told people to follow the Bible or kill themselves.”

It wasn’t a symbolic statement about how your afterlife would be in the fiery torments of hell. To me, it seemed he was making a literal suggestion.

That Moment Tried to Destroy My Faith

In my heart, I knew that moment was wrong. As everyone in the congregation nodded in agreement, I wanted to yell out, “What if I don’t agree?”

I think I should have done that in retrospect, but I was a kid at the time. It was scary to confront a bunch of adults who should have known better.

And honestly, it’s hard for me to find a church these days because the elements from my youth are there even more. I got run out of one congregation because someone said I voted for Democrats.

There was another church that wanted to “discipline me” because I refused to cut my hair to a specific length.

Let’s not forget about the church that said anyone could be a Christian – except for the Pope, who was “clearly evil.”

I wish I were making this stuff up.

Don’t give up when you’re dissatisfied with religion. There are ways to choose a religion that is right for you.

Here’s what I’ve learned from this process: be true to yourself. Your faith doesn’t need a label, even if some people take comfort from those names. When you believe in spiritual things, it opens new doors to your perspective.

I’ve found great comfort through individual studies, meditation, prayer, and spiritual conversations with others. One of the best Bible studies I ever had was with two Mormons, a Jehovah’s Witness, and a Buddhist.

When it comes to faith, be you. Yes, search for truth, but don’t let others dictate who you should be. If there is absolute truth, it seems that if I am sincere in heart, that truth will somehow find me.

Scott Larson