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Articles tagged with: religion


Spirituality and chronic illness

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 Written by // Josh Categories // Gay Men, Newly Diagnosed, Spirituality, Josh, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

Toronto’s Josh says some people’s view of religion changes when they are diagnosed. But for him, he says, “my HIV diagnosis has not changed my view – I’m uncertain, but unconvinced.”

Spirituality and chronic illness

A note from your author 

I really just want to say thank you. After my last post, I received a lot of feedback. In all of that feedback, I was asked why I was “shifting gears” and re-focusing my writing. Your notes and tweets have motivated me to keep writing and doing it in a way that tells a story, but also gets the facts out there.

To be honest, I needed a break. I needed to enjoy a few weeks to myself, doing the things I love. I did that, and I feel refreshed. I feel ready to keep going, and I hope that I haven’t lost too many readers during that break.

To those that have emailed – thank you. You have no idea how much your words have meant. I don’t want to make it sound like I am the voice for anybody, but to hear from people I’ve never met about the need to keep writing has been really impactful for me, and I appreciate it.

Now, on to the post!

Religion, spirituality and I have had a very complex relationship. I was raised in a home that did not really focus on religion or spirituality; it wasn’t something that was discussed or was important to our lives.

In 1999, when my grandmother suddenly passed away, I started going to church with my aunt every Sunday because both of us needed something to explain what had just happened. For me, though, I wasn’t comforted by the promise of the paradise of Heaven or the idea that my grandmother who was taken away from me was happy in the arms of God. Needless to say, my time at church did not last very long.

As I grew older, I never really sought answers to life’s big questions: how did we come to be, is there a God, etcetera. Religion, and through that God, have never been a part of my life.

When I was diagnosed, there was a great deal of anger. Anger at Alex and anger at the universe. My anger was not directed towards God or another spiritual being. The idea of being angry at something that, to me, is likely non-existent was not worth my time.

So why am I telling you all this? I’m just sharing my experience. There are some people, who in times of great crisis (like an HIV diagnosis) find peace in God, religion and spirituality. That’s an entirely legitimate and appropriate thing to do.  There are also many others who, like me, have not turned to religion.

Over a year after my diagnosis, there has been thought of seeking comfort in religion and exploring the questions that I did not explore while I was younger. But for me, I still do not think taking comfort in religion or God is the answer for me. It is not because I disrespect those who choose to walk that path, but it’s because, for me, I see the world we live in; I see the suffering, I see the trials and tribulations that so many face, and it is hard for me to believe that a compassionate being would let the world exist as it does. There’s so much suffering, strife and struggle that I cannot fathom a kind, caring being allowing to happen.

There are reports that spirituality can improve the lives of cancer patients (and I would imagine from that, patients with other life-threatening or chronic conditions). At the same time, it can also make you question your faith and the existence of God. For me, my HIV diagnosis has not changed my view – I’m uncertain, but unconvinced.

This article previously appeared on Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.