I heard on the news that the current, and very cool, pope told a child that there was room in heaven for all god's creatures, including dogs. My first thought was "where were you when I was a kid?"
I remember sitting in catechism and asking that very question, "Will my dog be able to go to heaven when he dies?" The instructor told me no, that heaven was for people. I'm sure she thought before answering, but I don't remember the exact details. What I do recall is thinking how unfair that was. Jingles, the family dog, did good things, he was a great dog, he meant no harm, and he should go to heaven too. But my hopes for my dog were dashed with one negative response.
That was a huge turning point for me in my religious training and belief system. I knew right then and there that I couldn't believe in someone that wasn't willing to accept our dog. I had already been struggling with the "I can't see," "I can't hear," "I can't feel" concepts of a supernatural being. I was a pre-teen, but deep into making decisions about how I felt and what I would accept. I didn't tell anyone how I was feeling. No way. A kid could get in big trouble for doubting there was a god.
Fast forward to my 20s. I started a mini-search for spiritual meaning. I started reading everything I could about religion, organized and otherwise. After having a child, I started attending my husband's family's church and attending the Sunday school sessions. We studied different religions during my most active period. And again, the old doubts came up. If one religion is true (the Catholics of my youth), how can these other religions believe theirs is true? If they're all true or even if they're not all true, there's no congruence. After a period of a couple years, I had a conversation with the pastor and let him know that it was hard for me to believe and he commented that even he had times of disbelief. That blew my mind.
Since then, I've continued to read of spiritual journeys and religious conversions, finding over and over that my real feelings tended toward the concepts of Zen. No, I'm not a Zen Buddhist, but I do find comfort and relief in the concept of "be." I still can't buy the life after death thing, just like I don't believe in ghosts. I don't mind throwing thoughts out there into the universe; I talk to the woods and to my dog often. Neither talk back, but sometimes I get clarity from the expression of concerns aloud. Maybe that's my form of "prayer."
I'm a middle child. It's hard for me to take a firm stand. I can't say I'm an atheist. What if? So, I go with agnostic humanistic Zen-like free thinker. AHZFT, that's me.
Looking back while remaining current, I wonder how I would have felt if the pope had already said my dog would go to heaven in the mid-60s?