Faith in Italy vs. America

Faith in Italy vs. America

Six months ago I left my home country to fly 5,300 miles away; I was full of expectations and dreams, but I never thought I would have questioned my faith.

I was born in an atheist family; and my dad, even though he always encouraged me to develop my own beliefs and ideas, started talking about his reasons since the early years of my life and eventually convinced me that the existence of a God that created everything was quite questionable and that men created the idea of God because they needed something bigger than them to explain certain things they couldn’t justify rationally.

With this background, I think it’s pretty easy to understand why I never even tried to question myself about my beliefs and I never reached out to God.

I’m aware my experience might seem weird to a lot of people here, but in reality lack of faith is really common in Italy, even though the majority of the population is catholic and almost everyone goes to church. How is it possible? Well, since I came here I noticed how religion has a different influence in people’s life: if in Italy the mass is two hours long and the only songs you can listen to are in Latin (a really old language that nobody knows and so you can’t really sing along), in the US the music is played in English with the lyrics on a whiteboard so everybody can sing and have fun and feel part of something bigger.

If in Italy you have to watch what you do and go to church every week or “God will punish you” and “you won’t go to Heaven”, and you have to memorize and repeat some prayers every night “to be a good Christian”, in the US people want a relationship with God: they talk to him and they trust him because they love him and he loves them.

In Italy teenagers don’t want anything to do with religion because they’re being told that God is judging them looking down from his glorious house made of clouds and they are forced to go to church from their parents because “it’s the right thing to do” and “everyone does it” (but the reality is that nobody wants to think about whether this kind of approach is right or not). In the US teenagers go to youth groups and to clubs like YoungLife, where they play games and sing and talk about God with their peers.

Thanks to YoungLife I realized how learning about the Bible can be fun and that God is not here to judge and punish you, but he loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. Thanks to YoungLife I met some people that accepted me in their community even though I had different beliefs and that now are teaching me what I missed in the past 17 years of my life, and I found an inspiring and positive environment in a country that I had an hard time considering home for a long time.