Freedom of Religion

I was raised, like most white males in middle class suburbia, in the Christian tradition. I was baptized a Methodist but converted to Catholicism at my Mother’s insistence (a ploy, I believe, to connect my father and me.)

I’ll be honest, I learned a great deal about Christianity through the Parish School of Religion (PSR) and mass but always felt out of place. This could have been because one of my PSR teachers told me I was going Hell for switching religions.  Or perhaps it was my general disdain for their overly strict version of ‘God.’ At any rate, I became accustomed to their rituals: Kneeling for Prayer, Reciting Creeds, Genuflexion, the Trinity and Communion…to name a few. I was outwardly forced to perform these acts but internally I was struggling with my beliefs. I drifted in and out of faith, secretly praying for clarity; Religion had to be more than repeating prayers and fighting knee arthritis. I needed an escape, an opportunity to examine my religious views. In short, I needed freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion was advocated by our Forefathers and is still a guiding principle of our nation.  Originally written to protect citizens from prosecution for practicing one of numerous Christian traditions, this clause has evolved into something much more complex. In today’s society, religious practice is not much of a ‘freedom.’ Family and culture heavily influence our choice in a faith and I wonder whether this relationship is beneficial.  Freedom of religion is not simply about the free exercise of the religion of your family’s choice; it is about the freedom to explore your personal beliefs.  Religious freedom should be about exploring your spirituality and discovering what you hold to be sacred.

By exploring the very idea of religion, one can open up entire worlds of new possibilities. A recent study found that atheists and agnostics typically know a greater extent about religion than do their Christian counterparts (PEW Survey). Much like a skeptical philosopher, atheists and agnostics question their beliefs and those of society at large in order to develop a more profound and personal connection with religion.  Because they scrutinize scripture and don’t take it for the absolute and only truth, these individuals knowingly establish a dialogue regarding religion and spirituality in pursuit of understanding it.  This, after all, is the compelling nature of religion:  connection, understanding and communion.

I’ve been exploring my religious beliefs without necessarily revealing any answers. One experience, in particular, has shaped my concept of religion in a powerful way. Following a drug-induced bike trip down Memorial Parkway, I experienced pure ecstasy. In an attempt to ride this connection and to examine the meaning of human existence, I shed all my clothes. Cloaked by the night’s haze, I ran through the cascading hills of the local dog park. Dancing fluidly across the landscape, drenched in moonlight, the ecstasy became something more, something deeper…something spiritual.  I fell to my knees, tears running down my face and I HOWLED.

While I may not be a religious individual, I am a spiritual being.  Drugs no longer play a part in my awakening.  The moments of connection I experience while Freeform Dancing or through theatre are what drive my way of life. Spirituality is not an answer, but a question, one I believe is pertinent to my purpose for performing in Corpus Christi.

-TJ Jozsa
Assistant Artistic Director
Corpus Christi Ensemble Member

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Comments

  1. Amy Spencer says:

    I often perceive animals to experience a greater connection with spirituality than we as humans do because they live in the moment, they REALLY listen, and they haven’t lost connection with what they are. Humans, however, who are constantly distracted by everything around them and live in a strange limbo between yesterday and tomorrow, are always asking: Who am I? What’s my purpose in life? A bird knows it’s a bird, and a dog knows it’s a dog, though we humans often confuse and confine domesticated animals with our own disconnects.

    This beautiful image of you stripping away (literally) the clothes covering your SELF and getting in touch with your inner howl really touched me. Thank you for sharing something so personal and vulnerable.

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