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4/23/05                                                                                       View Comments

Running from religion

sent in by SilentLoner

Where to start? I’m not sure where to begin, but I’ll do my best.

I officially became catholic around the age of 3 months when I was baptized at my hell-fearing grandma’s request. My parents had never been very religious, my mom coming from a non practicing Muslim family and my dad a deconverted catholic but obsessively caught up in an Indian guru cult he joined in the 70’s.

Even though I was born in the US, my family moved to Central America, where I grew up and have spent most of my life.I lived in a very catholic country, never meeting anyone of a different faith until my preteen years (one Jewish, one Buddhist).

We only attended church occasionally, or whenever my grandma asked us to. I enjoyed going at first, only because near the end of the sermon, the priest would ask all the children in the church to come up to the front altar where he was. All the kids would run up, and he would have us raise our arms while he said a prayer for us. (Looking back on it now it’s embarrassing).

My grandma made me pay attention by telling me that the large wooden statue of jesus on the cross up on the front of the church would come to life. I was young enough to believe her, and fro a long time each time we went I would stare transfixed at the statue, waiting for it to move. I spent a lot of time with my grandma, who I think is the one who taught me to fear punishment for not following the faith. Each night I stayed over she would put holy water on my forehead to “keep demons away.” I was afraid to sleep without it. She made sure to teach me that other religions were dammed, and she even had a prayer booklet that asked for everyone in the world to become catholic.

The school I went to was not a religious school, but the teachers threatened us with “god is watching” and it had mandatory religion class after school for elementary students.

Here we would sit in a circle around this old lady who told us the stories of adam, eve, noah, the usual stuff. We recited “hail mary’s” and “holy fathers”. To encourage our memory, she would reward whoever recited correctly with erasers, candy and plastic rosaries.

At home, things weren’t too different. Over the years, my grandma’s preaching and at the insistence of several religious friends of my mothers, my mom finally gave in and converted. Unfortunately for me, she became the main religious force in the family.

Although she claimed to be “merely spiritual”, you would have to be brain dead to see that to be a huge understatement.

We went to church every Sunday night, where I was expected to be on my best behavior. Once when I yawned in church, my mom slapped me and hissed: “This is the house of god!!” she later apologized, but I have yet to forgive her.

Like all the kids there, I had my first communion at the age of 10. The teacher who was supposed to prepare me for the communion made me read the bible, so I was unprepared as to what to do once there.

Things went impressively wrong at the communion, including my dress sleeve catching fire from a candle and me gagging on the wafer and wine.

While it was horrible at the time, I’m grateful it went badly. It would help me in my decision to leave Catholicism behind.

My first real doubts happened when I went to confession one day when I was around 11. I went to the confession box, and the man on the other side practically yelled at me, asking what my sins were and when the last time I confessed was. I stammered that I didn’t know the last time, and he proceeded to mutter something about hell. I told him the sins, which consisted of talking back to my mom and lying about something. He muttered that I was wasting his time and shut the wooden window in my face.

I came out of that church and never went to confession again.

Doubts kept coming when the topic of evolution came up in fifth grade science class. The rest of my classmates laughed, but I was fascinated.

I don’t think I deconverted at one single time, but rather that my belief in a god wore away slowly, usustained by any logic. I think I became an atheist at around 12.

It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I started doing research on the subject and started getting angry about all the lies I had been told.

Not only did I not believe in xtianity anymore, I was furious at it. I had spent my childhood fearing condemnation and being bribed into believing. I became bitter towards my religious relatives and got into nasty arguments with both my parents. I found the concept of a “god” to be ridiculous.

At school, doubting the faith practically made me an outcast. I was made fun of a lot. Real good experience, being preached to by your sixth grade classmates. I only had one friend at the time, who was Buddhist (only non catholic besides me).

When I was 15, I learned about Paganism. I was drawn to it. Not only did the practices give a sense of comfort, I deeply enjoyed practicing something my relatives had always warned me against.

It’s been two years since then, and I do consider myself pagan (I follow my own set of beliefs). But my family still believes me to be an atheist. My parents still think im doing it just to rebel against them and that it’s just a charade. My mom thinks earth religions are dangerous evil magic practices and my dad thinks they’re fake. my realtives would freak out and probably have me exorcised.

I’ll spare them the trouble and keep my beliefs to myself, something I only wish they and all fundies out there would do.