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Losing my religion at Christian Camp…and finding it in art.

For some people religion is how they center their lives. By believing in the lore and moral laws of a set belief, they structure their world around believing in texts and stories. I grew up in this world. My family was very religious.

But somewhere, around the age of 12 I started to question things.

Then, I started to think all religions were kind of the same.

Then, I was sent to christian camp that same summer and I started to feel like all of it was completely manufactured and fragmented and twisted in order to manipulate the masses.

I remember sitting in one of the church services in the middle of the week and feeling completely alone as everyone around me started balling over a sermon that was given. Everyone was crying because of Jesus’s sacrifice…his life…for others.

I believe  Jesus’s sacrifice is also a good story on giving up things for others. It’s moving. But I didn’t feel like crying. Not in front of 100 teens being manipulated by adults with their own ego trips and megalomania.

These same people tried to tell everyone that Catholics weren’t true christians.

These same people tried to say that if you watched R-rated movies Jesus would be upset with you.

The camp counselors, teens, mocked and made fun of us younger kids if we were awkward or didn’t want to do a game. I was meant to lick another girl in the face.

This whole thing made me feel suicidal.

Really.

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Christian camp made me sink into a dark place that I have never fully recovered from.

Because that it was then that I realized I didn’t fit in with these masses. I was not like everyone else. I had questions and deviant feelings. I had opinions and disagreements.

Not only that but the “friends” I went to camp with began to bail on me because I didn’t “participate” or “care” enough when I didn’t cry over Jesus.

So I was left alone a lot. People I had known since I was 3 bailed on me because I didn’t conform.

As painful as it was, and as much as I was told “Jesus is watching” over things or actions others viewed as not “Christian” enough, that was when I found a part of me.

I found that I was different than these groups, and that made me stand out against mob mentality. I realized that religion wasn’t to be found in church for me. So I must seek elsewhere.

Before this time I had been learning to sew with my mother and grandmother. I made dresses and a skirt that won a blue ribbon at the state fair. I tried embroidery. I escaped into writing poetry and stories. I had been doing these things for a few years when Camp IANA in Divide, Colorado but the final nail in my religion coffin.

Barbara Casasola

There was my chance to find a new religion. One where I create. One with needles, thread, fabric, paint, buttons, patterns, clay, glass and anything I could get my hands on.

This turned into a love of art history.

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That turned into a love of design and storytelling and media.

Photography was my safe place.

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I played some music and sang too.

I did theatre and wrote essays on my favorite books and made elaborate history projects.

I found my calling in creating. Though it may not be everyone’s path or faith, it’s mine and it is very important and personal and life-altering.

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This is not to say there is anything wrong with belief in a defined religion, I’m just taking a different and agnostic path.

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