sent in by Nick
I was baptised a catholic, I had no problem with that at the time, and don't really have one now. I was born the seventh of thirteen children, so I was a typical catholic.
I went to a catholic school, went to church every Sunday, sat in the front row with all my siblings and eventually became an altar boy, a musician and very involved in extra curricular activities.
School was o.k. During religion we learnt the usual things such as the story of creation, original sin and so forth. I was pretty pissed off about Adam eating that fruit and turning us all into sinners. In high school of course that changed, as catholic schools, where I live anyway, teach that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not literal and the theory of evolution was accepted as to how we got to where we are now. We also learnt about other religions, as the vatican II documents state that there is good that we can take from every religion, something which the vatican I followers weren't happy with, and something many religions don't realise about catholic doctrine. These documents were a big step forward as catholics no longer thought that they were the only ones going to heaven, we were all bretheren in christ.
Anyhow, I was one of the holier boys at school and there was only one friend of mine that didn't believe in God. Considering his family was broken it was no wonder he rejected a God could exist. As my family was so holy I used to think to myself, just wait until my friend dies and realises that he should have believed in God, I knew that when he was in heaven I'd be able to go up to him and say "I told you so". Catholics were taught that only people who don't confess a mortal sin before they die will go to hell, so I wasn't in dire need to make him believe.
This all sounds pretty normal, however, the guilt that ruled my life and arguments and problems my siblings had with my father when they didn't go to church, was quite disturbing at times. I remember one day I was starving and I bought a mini pizza, just before I sunk my teeth in I remebered that it was Friday and I wasn't allowed to eat meat, so I reluctantly did the right thing and picked that scrumptious juicy meat off and threw it away leaving me with a pathetic cheese pizza. If I did eat meat on a Friday and dad found out I'd be riddled with guilt when he'd jump from behind and say "Are you going to say the rosary tonight are you?" As if that would make up for the sin.
I still felt slight guilt when I ate meat on friday even though the vatican stopped this rule, apart from easter time.
It was not only the guilt of that, but when I was young I was taken advantage of by an older male, I thought that I was going to hell because I had sexual contact with another male, which was worse than sex before marriage, and because I was so young I didn't want to tell anyone what had happened to me, even though I was just a victim. As I got older and discovered my own body(without mentioning details and exciting whoever reads this), I felt guilty day in and day out, like such a sinner. And who wants to confess to a priest that you have been playing with yourself. This was making my ticket to heaven a difficult challenge.
The older I got though, the more Jesus became a part of my life, he was so comforting and loving, he was my best friend, and he was so forgiving.
When I turned 18 I started gambling. This pretty much destroyed my life. For years week in and week out I would rely on the comfort that Jesus was with me, yet he never seemed to help me. I always justified it with, He wants me to beat this demon on my own. However this wasn't happening. It came to a point that I knew in order to beat my addiction that I had to hand my life over to Jesus, and he was with me holding my hand every step of the way.
The only two things I thought about in life were gambling and Jesus, he died for me because he loved me so much that I deserved a chance from all the sins that I hadn't confessed to. I didn't understand how anyone could not believe in Jesus. I continued in strengthening my relationship with him by going to holy spirit seminars, prayer groups and reading stories about Jesus touching peoples lives. But i couldn't stop the gambling and everything that went with it, lies, stealing, being unreliable, getting angry at the people around me.
One day I decided to read the bible, as catholics don't tend to do this much out of sunday's eucharist celebration.
Just the first four gospels. This became quite an eye opener, as alot of what I had learnt in church had nothing do with the Jesus in the bible. All these stations of the cross and that horrifyng ordeal on the road to golgotha was nowhere to be seen. In the first three gospels Jesus didn't even carry his cross and in John there was only one short sentence dedicated to it. My whole perspective of Jesus changed and he became to me even a more accepting and loving person, the problem was that all the problems he had weren't with the sinners but the religious people, and I started to wonder. If Jesus was here today, would he have a problem with all the religious? And the answer was a resounding yes.
The church was my escape, my comfort and the place where I hung out with my friend and helper (who never seemed to help much). Yet i suddenlly started feeling like I was wasting my time. I started checking out different churches, such as Adventists, Jehovah's witnesses and Pentecostals, although whenever someone preached there seemed to be a dig about the Catholic church. Even though I was questioning my own faith I thought it disgusting how pastors can continually trash a religion, especially when they made things up like catholics are taught to pray to Mary and to statues which is a sin. They obviously had never entered my church because we were never taught such things, we were taught to pray to Jesus who was God, and it was only the stupid old ladies and men who had a fascintaion with visions of Mary and the saints did these things. I must admit, that at times I desperately asked for a vision of Mary. Then they also trashed the Pope who was supposedley an infallible person, which is another ridiculous idea drummed up from the misunderstanding of the infallibility doctrine. So I just decided to stick with where I was, yet my faith in life was beginning to fail me and once again I was given something to feel guilty over, so what was to blame? You guessed it, Satan. Satan was the deceiver, the one who made me do bad things and the one who was making me lose faith. I was struggling with the idea that Jesus was God, and I thought that Satan was delighting in this. I started going through a spiritual battle.
Suddenly an opportunity came up for me to go to a bible study, something catholics are definately unrenowned for, so I took this oppotunity.
Wow, the things I heard absolutely gobsmacked me, this priest was explaining to us Luke's gospel, and everytime we read a new passage he would explain how it probably never happened and gave logical reasons for it. Walk to emmaus-didn't happen, Jesus ascending upwards to heaven-didn't happen, Jesus being prophesised about-didn't happen. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but it was all making sense. As I continued with these studies I found out that this priest was often complained about and had letters sent to the cardinal each week about the things that he was talking about. When explaining to us the narrow gate, he didn't give the usual, only some of us go to heaven and the rest of us go to hell, he explained how to get through a narrow gate, we must separate from the mob and enter on our own, in other words, we are going to get nowhere if we just follow the crowd and believe everything that religions tell us. The thing that struck me most was when he said that nowhere in the bible does it say that Jesus is God. What about John 1:1? If Jesus is one with God, he said then we are God too as later in the gospel Jesus says "May they too be one, as you and I are one" The bible started making much more sense, because it was no longer a history book.
Through this I came to the most enlightening time of my life, I had no more feelings of guilt, I had no more fear of hell, which I learned was originally just a place called gehenna, and I no longer felt that silly privelage of belonging to the one true God. I no longer cared if there was a shortage of priests, and I was no longer drawn to searching other religions when I started questioning my own beliefs.
This feeling was so much better than the guilt that I had felt over the years.
After a few months, though I started feeling down, that I had lost a friend. One who gave everything up for me. I miss him so much, he was always there for me, but now I know thats not the case and at times I get down about it. I nearly cried the other day, but thats how powerful the teachings about Jesus were, when you finally realise the logical side of it all, you tend to grieve, because you feel you've been cheated.
I feel I have been brief but if I say it all I will go on forever, I just wanted to let others know that people can come to their senses even through the very institution that has held their conscience captive. If I'd just stopped going to church I would have known no better. As for the priest, he had been one for so long before making his own discoveries that he feels he just can't leave and let other people feel captive and guilty by the very institution he's involved in, so until he gets kicked out he will continue with his work.
As far as my unbelieving school friend goes, he recently invited me to his baptism into the pentecostal church, after which I invited him to a bible study which he came to, I haven't heard from him since, and I'm sure he's wasting his time praying for me.
Became a Christian: birth
Ceased being a Christian: late 20's
Labels before: good catholic boy
Labels now: not so good catholic boy
Why I joined: Parents
Why I left: grew up
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)