a/n: please don't flame this.  This really does come straight from the heart.

***

I try not to think too much about my religion.

That might seem odd to you; but somehow I think that if I look too hard at myself, at what I believe—at what I say I believe, at what I believe I believe—everything would fall apart.

Is it that I don't have enough faith?  Is it that, when I open myself up to other ideas, mine seem so fragile that just one simple conversation can make me question everything I've been raised to think is true?

I'll admit, there've been times when I've read something or heard about some religion other than my own, and you know, it almost seems to make more sense than what I'm supposed to believe.  But that really scares me.  I mean, if something I've been trying to convince myself for so long makes sense isn't true—then what is true?  Where's the security my church has granted me?

I don't like the questions that religious debate raises.  I want to put my hands over my ears, close my eyes, and shake my head, sing, drown out all those things that will make me doubt.  I'm a coward.  I'm a fake.  I say I'm a Christian, but how can I be if I'm not secure enough in my own beliefs to defend them against other arguments?

But how can I not be?

I guess maybe it's just that I'm afraid of change.  I'm afraid that one untruth will lead to the whole world tumbling down around my ears.

But mostly I'm afraid of death.

I think that's the main reason I'm afraid of all these changes.

You see, if I'm right—if my church is right—then when I die, I'll go to heaven.  Or at least, I'll go to purgatory, and I'll suffer for a while, but eventually, I'll get to heaven.

But it's not even the idea of eternal bliss that makes me want to believe this.  It's the idea of eternal anything.  I hate to even think about death in more than just a superficial way, because then all these doubts start slipping in, and I get this cold, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach, because what if, when I die, there isn't a heaven, there isn't a hell, there's just—nothing.

It may seem stupid, but thoughts like these almost paralyze me with fear.  I want to keep going.  I want to keep breathing and feeling and seeing and smelling and hearing and touching.  And even if I couldn't have these things—just being.  I'm deathly afraid of these thoughts of anything but that.  I want to shove them out of my mind, crowd my thoughts with anything else, anything, fill them with music and movies and friends and gossip, concentrate on homework and forget all these, the most important things.  And when I do think about it, I get desperate.  I think that I'd rather have eternal pain than eternal nothing.  I try and laugh it away—I'll put off the answer to that question as long as I can, thanks.

When I die, I want to get sick.  I want to be very old and to know I'm dying, to say goodbye, to lie in a hospital bed smoking a cigar and sipping martinis, because heck, I'm going to die anyway.

And then the minute that's my last—and I'll know it—right then, I'll pray the hardest I've ever prayed.  And if I'm really lucky, I'll know all of a sudden that I've had it right all along.  I'll see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'll walk towards it; and I'll get really nervous, and my palms will get sweaty, but then I'll see that there's an angel at the end, and these waves of relief will wash over me, and everything will be okay.

But even if that didn't happen—if I can just have that one moment, like people say they have when they almost die, where I float up and out of my body and see myself breathe my last—and then, I realize there's nothing left, that it's just going to be over—

At that point, maybe I'll realize that I feel so tired.  And maybe, reminiscent of getting home after a painfully long day—maybe this idea of eternal sleep will be just the tiniest bit appealing.

And you know, I think I'd be okay with that.