Saturday, November 12, 2011

Obligatory Religious Post

My parents had very different ideas of how to raise children.

They both did their best to raise me in their own ways, and you know, I think I turned out pretty damned great. But sometimes their values conflicted. My mother wanted me to be a good girl, and my father wanted me to be inquisitive. When you're a little kid and your divorced parents are throwing you different ideas, and each claims the other is wrong, it gets a bit confusing.

Despite this difference in opinion, when I was small I was taken to church every Sunday, regardless of which parent had custody of me that weekend. I think my dad may have taken me because I would actually ask him to. I was a good girl and going to church was a good thing to do. If you didn't it would make god sad. To paraphrase what my mother told me, so my five year old ass could comprehend, god made us and everything around us and he just wants us to visit him once in awhile to say thank you.
"But if god is everywhere, why do we need to visit him at church?"
"Because that's his house."
 I never questioned it too much. I hardly ever paid attention. I actually found mass rather boring, but I liked singing the songs and reciting the prayers. Going to church made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I went to catholic school for a little while in kindergarten. I don't remember why I changed schools. I remember one really bad experience with my teacher and that's about it.

I started getting sent to CCD (catechism classes) every week so that I could get my seven sacraments (Roman Catholic thing). At this point (around seven years old) I got really serious about this shit, even started taking pride in it, because suddenly my religion was school, and I was all about doing well in school. I memorized more prayers. I started praying more, on the school bus in the morning, before meals. I learned to genuflect properly and how to use a rosary.

I also started reading the bible, and paying attention in mass. And I think this is when I started to doubt.

I don't remember the progression of my doubts very well, but I know I started doubting the institution of religion long before I started doubting the existence of god. One Christmas Eve, I had a discussion about religion with my cousin Melissa, someone I really looked up to, who talked about it in a way I'd never heard before. She said that she viewed religion as a personal thing, that you should have a relationship with god in your own special way and that the church should have nothing to do with it. She talked about some of the ways the church changed religion for the worse. I started talking about it more, and asking more questions.

In my preteens I started to resent going to church. My father stopped taking me. My mother had to drag my stubborn ass.

I began my freshman year of high school still referring to myself as a Roman Catholic. Then I got my laptop, my very first entirely personal computer. I had the internet, and access to millions upon millions of personal opinions. A classmate of mine also introduced me to LaVeyan Satanism, which wasn't at all what one would imagine, and had a set of virtues I could more easily get behind.

Satanism depicted Lucifer, the dark bringer of light, as the hero of the bible. God placed Adam and Eve in paradise, and gave them everything except knowledge. Adam and Eve were stupid, and god wanted them to stay that way. He just wanted them to walk around in paradise and eat and sleep and fuck and sometimes talk to him. (I wonder what they'd talk about?) But essentially, god wanted us to live no differently than any other animal, he just wanted us to be obedient. And at the same time, he knew we would disobey him and gain knowledge and self awareness, and then he punished us for it. I found the thought abhorrent. I had a thirst for knowledge, I loved learning more than anything. And according to the bible, this is what Satan gave us. The bible was no longer a thing of value to me, fact or fiction.

Furthermore, I began to examine the goal of Christianity: getting into heaven. That was it. But what if there was no heaven? How sad is to to spend the brief time you're given as a conscious being trying to attain the unattainable? And if there was a heaven? It sounded incredibly boring. This seemed like a lose-lose situation. I much preferred Dante's description of limbo:

Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

I grew hatred the idea of the Christian god and started forming one of my own. I quietly renounced my religion. I started calling myself agnostic.

But my mother continued taking me to church and sending me to CCD so I could receive the sacrament of confirmation. I could understand why, she wanted to do what was best for me. I mean, how often does a fourteen year old know what the fuck they ought to do? But I started being a smartass about my assignments. We had to listen to the gospel every week and write what we learned from it. I started writing the same exact lesson for every week: "Have faith in Jesus."

One morning before school I worked up the courage to tell my mom I wanted to stop going to church, I didn't want to be Catholic anymore. She wasn't very happy about it. It was kind of scary, but the whole thing dissipated quickly. I was still forced to attend church and CCD, but I knew it wouldn't be for long, and it felt good to have that off my chest.

Sometime after that my mom started going to church less an less. I always wondered if it was my fault, to some extent. I didn't know how to feel about it. I wasn't too unhappy about losing my own faith, but you know, I imagine it wasn't quite the same for her. It made me kind of sad.

Through high school and college my ideas about religion and god evolved constantly, and change still. I learned the semantics of gnostic vs. agnostic and theist vs. atheist, and can now refer to myself as an "agnostic atheist." I fit a few different labels, such as "spiritual without religion." No matter how you boil it down though, I'm completely secular. I find no personal value in religion which you can't get from philosophy.

I have have an idea I refer to as "God," but it is not a deity. It's a possibility. It's a name I lend to that which I do not know or may not be able to comprehend, and I acknowledge that. It allows me to enjoy the use of the word as a metaphor in art, music, literature. It's not a big part of my life.

I don't have a particularly valuable or witty closing thought.


  1. I don't know if I should be honored or horrified in playing a role in turning you away from the church... :)

  2. You didn't mention what you would teach others if you're ever in your parents shoes?

  3. Sounds like you were tortured! How did you ever turn out "normal"?

  4. "You didn't mention what you would teach others if you're ever in your parents shoes?"

    Do you mean what I would teach my own kids? At the moment, I can't say for sure, as I'm not a parent. But I think I'd like to teach them /about/ several different religions without having them participate in any. They can adopt one when they're older if they feel they need one.

    "Sounds like you were tortured! How did you ever turn out 'normal'?"

    For the record, I don't think I'm the slightest bit normal. But I prefer it that way.

    Anyways, I was hardly tortured. Most people I know my age had similar situations growing up, you might even say it was normal. One close friend of mine told his parents he didn't believe in god anymore (around the same time I did) and his mother threatened to stop feeding him. Another friend had parents who read to him from the bible every day, urging him to "find god." Several of my friends had parents who claimed they loved god more than their own children. Hell, I never had to deal with that.

    I think my entire generation as a whole faces a severe decline in religious faith. I'm sure you could analyze some statistics and find some trends somewhere that might indicate why. It's just a thing that happened. I think in the grand scheme of things it's for the better.

  5. Reading the bible and then a degree in Physics kicked religion out of my life.

    That christianity is so widespread (and islam for that matter) proves two things-many people simply don't read the bible or koran or whatever) and that many people are far too credulous-they swallow what is served up to them in saccerine sweet sermons without ever questioning what is said.