Some of my friends think it's weird I send my girls to a Catholic school. When I was in high school I was the only Protestant in a class of Catholics. I had fun going to war with my classmates over the virginity of Mary or some random epistemological minutiae. But I never really believed in what I defended. It was just youthful jousting.
As I grew older I began to challenge my Christian heritage. I realized that my allegiance was more a cultural one than spiritual. I never believed, I just participated, like an actor playing a part. Breaking with my childhood religion was mildly traumatizing. Essentially I felt I was betraying my family and friends but on a deeper level I felt dishonest in continuing the act. I'm not a good actor.
I spent the following years stripping my beliefs like layers of paint. When the dust finally settled I was just north of atheism. I began calling myself an agnostic- one that does not claim to know whether God (or any deity) exists. It felt honest and I was at peace with it.
Over recent years I have begun to rebuild my beliefs. I now believe there is some larger force or energy which is tied into our existence. I have never heard this force speak to me or present itself as a conscious entity. When people speak about a "personal savior" I cannot relate. The idea of salvation is foreign to me. Same with heaven or hell. In my opinion they are interesting fictions we have told ourselves to make sense of things.
I have come to believe that most of the attributes we ascribe to deity are essentially anthropomorphic. We are channelling our human condition into a non-human being. No wonder God seems to favor whatever culture he shows up in. But I also came to realize that I'd committed a baby/bathwater error. There are many good things to be found in the religion I worked so hard to discard.
I have come to see organized religion as an excellent starting point. If you think of religion (or philosophy/law/etc) as an operating system then starting with an existing OS is much more effective than starting from scratch. The holy scriptures of this world are filled with wisdom and great advice. Who can argue with "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" It's simple and perfect.
But every good operating system needs to be versioned and personalized. Same with religion. I have come to believe that we must challenge the codes we live by to continually refine and improve them. We must make them meaningful and relevant to our individual and collective lives. Essentially I feel we should all be encouraged to build our own religions. I'm hoping that's what my girls will do as they begin to challenge their Catholic education. I'm sure their father will provide a little nudging.