Sent in by Joe Zamecki
I was raised by my devoutly Christian parents and sent to two private Catholic schools before high school. I don't remember the name of the kindergarten, and it's long since gone anyway, but for grades 1-8, I was sent to Holy Ghost Catholic School, in the Holy Ghost Parish, in the Houston-Galveston Diocese.
From the very beginning, Christianity was mandatory for me, and everyone else I knew. I believed it all at first, mainly because I was a child at the time, but also because until I went to high school, I had never met any non-Christians. My religious education was narrowly Christian in scope, to the exclusion of information about other religions and philosophies 99% of the time. We had religion classes where we studied the Bible (Good News Version) and another religion textbook. Religion classes were dominated by blatant Christian indoctrination. Around the time I was in fourth grade, I began to think more critically about religion and the clergy members around me. I asked myself questions about Christianity, instead of asking clergy members or teachers because I knew the questioning was absolutely not wanted. This was made clear to me over the years with the constant push for us students to just believe. The clergy members added to the silence here by making themselves very frightening to the children. This was the old classic tough nun and priest schooling.
Our nuns and priests taught classes and made up almost half of the school faculty. They were all on mission directly from Ireland. Now, no offense to Irish people, but these nuns and priests were used to living in Ireland, a land that time seems to have forgotten in regards to individual physical and mental liberty. (It's just a really conservatively run nation, that's all.) Well these were serious Catholic Irish clergy members, and the key word here is: strict. They seemed to be brand new to American-style liberties and free-thinking.
All of the physical punishment techniques you've ever heard of were employed by the clergy teachers, but also by the lay teachers. Corporal punishment was a hallmark of Holy Ghost School, when I was there. I was paddled at least five times, beginning when I was in first grade. And it was always for some insignificant infraction.
In sixth grade, we were using the Bible more and more in religion classes and in organizing school masses. (church services were held every Tuesday during school.) We were never required or even asked to read the entire Bible. I found this to be very suspicious, so I read it all. The first time, I didn't understand a lot of the terminology. Then I read it a second time after having learned more about those odd sayings like "...lie with a man, as with a woman," and "cast out." I learned that phrases and sayings like that in the Bible have deepear meanings than their literal words imply.
In reading the Bible, I figured out that the Bible is crap. It's not good literature, it's bad. It's not historical, it's mythical. It's not even good mythology. But most of all, it's totally unbelievable.
Then in seventh grade, we began to take physical science classes, and that involved the teaching of the theory of evolution. I was inspired by nature to begin with, but this class really put reality into perspective for me. Science class there began just like all other classes throughout the day, with a prayer. Then we sat down and learned about how the Earth is billions of years old, and life has been changing ever since it began here. It was the first school classroom I ever went to that had jars of dead animals all around the room. I thought, HERE is where evidence counts, and questions get answered.
In science class we also learned about the scientific experimental method. I eventually got around to putting "God" into the method, and it didn't work. It didn't help me answer anything, and in fact, having "God" in the question at all made the question open and unfinished. I tried to figure out how someone could prove a god exists using this method, and couldn't. I tried to find out who in the world was also trying to apply this method to "God" and I couldn't find anyone who ever did. At least not at the time, and with the biased library in our school.
Years of instituted silence, indoctrinated confusion, a serious problem with lacking answers and answers that were lacking, corporal punishment, a terrible playbook, and a quick glimpse of how honesty-minded scientists find answers to tough questions...all together convinced me that Christianity is a scam. But at that point, I was just moving from agnosticism to "immature Atheism." I was new to it all and had never read anything positive about Atheism up until then. The Bible is the ONLY book I can credit with helping me become an Atheist.
I tried other Christian churches and found the same ignorance, arrogance, and blatant lying in every one of those other churches. I studied other major religions and a few cults, and found the same basic problems in them too. After a while of studying religions, I REALIZED that I couldn't accept any of them.
I never chose to become an Atheist, or even to lose my religion. It simply happened. I couldn't help it. My honesty, courtesy of my parents, has prevented me from accepting wild and irresponsible claims like the ones presented by religions.
When I realized that I didn't believe in religions' claims anymore, I was about to graduate from that school. When graduation day came, and I walked up to receive my diploma, I remember thinking, "Does this mean we get to meet God now?" I didn't ask it...
Of course not. This is the lesson that taught me: If you want something done, and it's important, you need to either do it yourself, or find another human or humans to help. You can't expect for problems to be solved and eliminated by an invisible friend.
I'd love to hear from Christians who think they can convert me! Some Atheists don't like that, but I do, now that I'm all grown up and experienced. Please feel free to e-mail me: joezamecki at hotmail dot com
My Texas activism site is: www.atheists.org/tx
Also check out my Youtube videos: www.youtube.com/profile?userªjoeyjo
Thanks for reading and keep the skepticism!