ARCHIVES:

Posts in this section were archived prior to February 2010. For more recent posts, go to the HOME PAGE.

11/5/09                                                                                       View Comments

Raised Catholic, now secular humanist/atheist

by Cecile



I submitted a deconversion story on this site back in the early 2000's which is probably long gone by now--I certainly haven't been able to relocate it--and which would have been posted long before there was ever an option on here for reader comments. At best, you could post a website or contact info, and I originally included an email address, but removed it after I got a few too many replies from Christians who thought it was still possible that I could be brought back into the fold, "if you just want it enough!" Sorry, but I don't want it at all, and I left behind any belief in God or gods where it belongs, back in my childhood along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. In any case, it's been almost a decade, so it's time for a newer version of the story.

I was born in the Philippines in 1967, and like 90% of the people there, my parents were practicing Catholics. We moved first to Canada and then to Michigan in 1971. I went to a public school up until the third grade and at some point in the day every Wednesday, the Catholic kids would be gathered up and sent to another school a few blocks away for catechism lessons, so even from the earliest memories, I knew my religion was just one among many, and we were in the minority in most places where we lived, which made any variations of an argument ad popularum useless, unless you were speaking of Christianity in general, and not just Catholicism. I understood that most kids just went along with whatever their parents raised them in, and even as a practicing Catholic, was pretty much the "live and let live" variety.

My family moved to Arkansas in 1979 and sent us to a Catholic school, so even though we were "among our own kind" while at school, while in the public at large, we were even more of a minority here than we were in Michigan, although people from my church did seem to own a disproportionately large number of the local businesses. When I was in the sixth grade, I read some books on ancient mythology--Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, etc. While enjoying the stories, I couldn't help thinking in the back of my mind that at one time, people believed in those gods just as much as they do the ones today. For all we knew, the religions of today will be the ones our descendants look at a few centuries from now, laugh or shake their heads at, and wonder, "What the hell were they thinking back then?"

Even while still professing to be a Catholic, there was more than a little bit of agnosticism creeping even before I made it to my teens. "I believe such and such, but I know there isn't actually any proof for any of it, so I have no right to expect anyone else to believe it." Attempts at "witnessing" or converting non-Catholics would have been extremely disrespectful to the other person and out-of-the-question for me.

Then came junior high school and more religion classes, and now we were getting into more grown-up subject matter. Not that I hadn't heard about any of these teachings before, but the more I learned about rules that were almost exclusive to Catholicism, the more I realized, "This church is completely out of touch with modern times, and it's not for me." For instance, as a female, I found the rules about not letting women be priests or letting the male priests be married highly offensive. They might as well be saying, "We hold women in such contempt that not only do we not want any of them in any leadership position (unless you can count nuns smacking schoolkids with rulers), the only men we want are ones that don't want anything to do with women." Then there were the rules forbidding artificial birth control (which is rightly ignored by most Catholics anyway) and abortion. "Right, like I'm going to take family planning advice from some celibate, post-geriatric guy in a dress. When's the last time you were pregnant, Padre?" Thank goodness I never listened to the one about "no sex before marriage" either, or I'd be the 42-Year-Old Virgin right now. I refuse to believe that when my partner and I are expressing our love for one another physically, that somehow we're doing something evil and sinful, just because we don't have a piece of paper or matching wedding bands.

In any case, once I had any choice at all in the matter, I stopped attending weekly mass with my parents. At first, it was because I had my first job after graduating high school, and they scheduled me to work Sunday afternoons. I obviously couldn't be in two places at once, but there was always a deeper reason beyond just needing some extra spending money. I'd long felt extremely uncomfortable being there, like a time traveler from a future where religion didn't exist anymore, who went back to study the earlier culture by pretending to be a member of one of the churches that existed at the time, just to see how far we'd really come or verify that people really were that crazy back then. On a really bad day, I felt like an undercover officer infiltrating a cult to see what they were up to.

A lot of the above explains my problems with Catholicism in particular, but as for religion in general, I wasn't inclined to switch over to any other variety of it either. It probably has a lot to do with my personality type, which according to every variation of the Myer-Briggs indicator I've taken recently, is an INTJ, very rare, especially for a woman. If you want me in a nutshell, picture Dr. Temperance Brennan from "Bones," only without the fancy degree, well-paying job, the pop cultural illiteracy, or the tactlessness in public.

The introvert vs. extrovert preference, in particular, was a very strong one, like choosing the introvert answer 7 out of 7 or 6 out of 7 possible times. Part of what goes with that is being content with--if not having an outright preference for--one's own company. Much of what might have motivated almost any other person to belong to some kind of church despite being plagued by doubts--wanting to belong to some kind of community--just doesn't apply to me. They can't entice me with the prospect of filling that void because I don't have that void.

Another aspect of being that type is that thoughts and reason are held in more value than emotions and wishes, which would explain a lot. All those things which hold emotional appeal for Christians--believing there's a personal God that loves them and answers their prayers, that they'll get to spend eternity in heaven if they just believe and do what they're told, that they'll be reunited with their lost loved ones in that same after life, etc., none of that holds any weight with me. When it comes to supernatural or paranormal or any similar type claims, I've always had rather a skeptical mind that considered them to be "B.S. until proven otherwise." I don't hold claims that have God or religion attached to them to a different standard of evidence than ones about ghosts or aliens or ESP, or Christianity-based claims to a different standard than those of any other religion's. Maybe the same thing that's made me "immune" to religious yearnings is what's made me almost completely uninterested in experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I'm far too committed to accepting reality on its own terms, no matter how bad it sucks sometimes, to want it handed to me through some religious or chemically-induced haze. I want to see it for exactly what it is, so I can deal with it appropriately.

It also doesn't matter to me what most of the people in my family or my locality or my country believe. All that matters is this. Going strictly by the kind of evidence that would be accepted if this were a scientific theory being tested or that would be admissable in a court of law, is there any more evidence that supports Christianity's claims than there is supporting any of the other 10,000 or so religions floating around out there? If there is, I certainly have never found it.

I'm starting to really like the term "apatheist." It's not an official word in the dictionary, but the connotation is that the person doesn't believe in God, but doesn't really give a flip whether anybody else does or not. They very well might think religion is such a pointless subject, it's not worth their thought energy to dwell on it that much. If pressed to, I probably couldn't prove that elves and unicorns and dragons DON'T exist, but I'm not going to lose any sleep wondering what to say to any people who think that they do. I actually deliberately avoid ever asking what religion a person is when I meet them, because I don't want to unconsciously try to stereotype them or predict their actions based on the answer. If they bring the subject up first, sure, I'll listen, but I'd prefer to learn for myself what they're like from their own behavior over time. To this day, there's people I've been friends with for years who I have no idea what religion, if any, they consider themselves to be, and that includes the boyfriend I've had for over a year. Don't ask, don't tell, don't know, don't care.

It certainly hasn't always been easy. My mother can be especially condescending on the subject. She seems to have bought into all the stereotypes that people who leave religion do so because they weren't willing to follow the rules and want to sin freely. She keeps holding out hope that my atheism (which has gone on at some level for 27 out of my 41 years) is "just a phase," and I'll go back to Catholicism once I'm older and wiser. It just doesn't occur to her that people leave them behind because they decide (gasp!) they're not true, and they'd rather have new friends or none at all than to only have ones for which they have to pretend to be someone they're not or believe in something that they don't as a condition of acceptance. I might not be a Christian anymore, but I have plenty of principles and morals outside of that part of my life, and they prohibit me from trying to win friends by living a life of such utter hypocrisy. I am what I am, and if you can't accept that, you can kiss my you-know-what, because there are plenty of people that will.