Nowadays, I'm pretty sure that I am the most religious person in my year. I'm not sure what it is, why I might have suddenly noticed this, but when it comes to faith, my classmates are rather lacking. As I've said before, sometimes I think that my friends become religious when it suits them, as if a switch flicks on and off and they're two different people. Sometimes I like the other, sometimes I don't.
Studying Philosophy and Ethics has led me to the foregone conclusion that I'm rather segregated when it comes to some subjects. At the moment, we're learning about reincarnation and life after death, I'm pretty sure that I'm the only one who firmly believes in it. Do I expect everybody to be as self-assured as me? Of course not, I count myself lucky that I've been introduced to my beliefs and have stuck with them for so long, and I'm only young. The world has plenty of time to challenge and try to destabilise my faith, and that's after the rollercoaster that is childhood. Still, I can't help but feel different, and wonder about the others. Have they tried to believe and failed? Did they once have such steady beliefs, but something happened to tear it from them? Or can they really just not be bothered?
There's something odd about being young and being religious, I don't think everybody fully believes you when you announce it before your mid-twenties. I always sense a sort of mockery from the adults around me, and my own cousin used the words "it's a phase." Ouch, that's all I say. Anyway, adults seem to think that just because we haven't worked or owned a house, we've been somehow trapped in a bubble and not exposed to life's joys and tragedies. I've always thought that teenagers and tragedy walk hand in hands at times, but that's just me.
Speaking of Paganism probably gets a worse reaction. A lot of Pagan lore borders on fairytales to some, there are those who are dead serious about faeries living in the pansy patch, and as much as I love the fantasy world, I think that if faeries do exist, they'll be far more obscure than just living in an urban garden (and if you're curious, I do believe there are magical creatures out there. Come on, even the Goddess' imagination has to go wild at times...) If somebody tells me that my religion is hoo-haa, I've trained myself to argue equally about their religion, and if they're atheist, remind them of tolerance and respect in such a way that they'll shut up for a week or two before having another go.
There's a perfect example of, well, discrimination, you could call it, that I experienced just this day. Our school "data collection" sheets went round, which is mostly like a survey to find out how we get to school and whether we're eating packed lunch or canteen food. I'll always laugh how they feel the need to specify 'F' for female...in an all-girl's school. That's not the point, though. At the bottom of the sheet, it's optional to fill in your religion, and I vividly remembering last year filling it in as "Wiccan". Okay, things have changed a little. I've broadened myself to Paganism, a) because it's generally not discriminated as much and b) I enjoy being part of such diversity. However, when the form came round this year, I was met with the statement on my file: Religion: NO RELIGION.
Straight away, I knew it wasn't a mistake. I suddenly imagined the women in reception puzzling over what to write before shrugging and going for the easy option. I could understand it for some, my friend for example wrote "Jedi Knight", and another wrote "Pastafarianism", but of all people, me? I felt angry for the first in a long time, insulted, even that I would be looked over in such a way.
My first response was to cross out the statement and write (in shouty capitals might I add) PAGANISM. Maybe the aforementioned option a) will be enough for them to fill it in properly, but I was, and still am a little, filled with annoyance that just because I don't belong to one of the "Big Five" religious statuses, I'm instantly overlooked. Did they think it was a joke? If they did, I am happy to march to reception and clear the matter up.
This isn't some ramble about an admin mistake, these sort of things are important to me. I've said to other people that I don't feel the need to publicise my beliefs because I know them in my heart and that's all that matters. Yet, I'm not afraid to hide what I believe because there's the chance my head will be bitten off. Amongst all of the labels that I might face as a teenager of the 21st century, Pagan will never be one I am ashamed of.
And I want everybody to know that.