Well….here I was growing up in a catholic family in middle America. With 12 brothers & sisters, there was always someone to play with. There always came the ever so dreadfully boring Sunday mornings when we had to dress up & go to church. Once in while, one of us would try to hide in a closet or outside somewhere & hope that our parents wouldn’t notice that there was just one missing from the huge station wagon of a car. I think one of my brothers got away with it…..just once. I never did though. I learned the church teachings the way they wanted me to. I learned to fear being punished by god if I did something wrong and I feared the idea of burning in hell. If I did “good” my chances for heaven were good. Around 3rd or 4th grade, in the back of my mind I began to wonder, how could god be everywhere all at once, hear everyone’s thoughts, see everyone’s deeds. I began to doubt. Through the next few years, I went through the motions, said my prayers, (or pretended to) & went to confession. (Which really put an odd twist in things…..how does one determine how many prayers need be said for a particular sin?)
Later on, in High School I was talking to a friend after church service & he said his grandma had an observation after noticing me in church. She said I looked like I was “mad at the world”. I was just bored & didn’t want to be there, but I couldn’t say that. In my last year of High School, the church was implementing some “progressive” changes. One of which, was an open confessional…..meaning you sit face to face with the priest (in comfortable lounge chairs) and go through the same motions & words of the private confessional. This would be the last time I would ever went through that ritual. I sat down and started with the usual; “forgive me father, for I have sinned” and at that point I paused and explained that I couldn’t do this. I don’t recall my exact words, (it was about 30 years ago) but I basically said I didn’t see the need to believe anymore. It didn’t make sense and I just couldn’t go through the motions anymore. The priest was very calm and suggested I take some time to pray about it before I went home. Being the non-confrontational person that I am, I sat back down in the church pew and thought for a minute. I realized I was “going through the motions” again when I simply didn’t believe anymore. So, I got up and went home. I was 17 at that time.
Over the intervening years I have observed the negativity associated with being an atheist and have always side-stepped that term when it came up. You’re treated as if you have a contagious disease if you’re an atheist. In the last couple of years I have been doing a lot of reading about all this crap & have really become concerned, seeing how religion is leeching it’s way into public policy and trying to get into public schools. The christian history revisionists, the ignorant, dogmatic quackery of some of our recent political candidates, the “Christian warriors” of the dominionist movement……it’s all kinda scary sometimes. I hope our 1st amendment to the Constitution will hold up strongly to all this. It’s my lighthouse through all this mythological dogma that seems to be ever growing.