Monicks: Unleashed

Thinking Critically

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Atheism: My journey.

This is a recurring question I get asked by friends, theists and atheists alike. “What’s your de-conversion story?” Well, I don’t have one, I was never a believer, but I was a kid with catholic parents, so I do have a story to tell, plus this question appeals to me now for a reason that will be clear if you keep reading. Not that mine is more exciting or interesting than anyone else’s story, it’s just, you know, mine.

Throughout all these years that I have been making public statements about my lack of belief, I have, in  many places, let everyone know that had it been my choice, I would have chosen to believe. I spent most of my childhood making honest efforts to believe in that particular god my family believed in — the abrahamic god.

I was baptized in the Catholic Church before I opened my eyes. Literally.

I was, when the time was right, taught to thank god for the food, and every other commodity you can imagine, to kneel down, or hang my head in reverence when I was forced, err… encouraged to pray, which was before every meal, before bed, before leaving the house, pretty much before undertaking any mundane activity, no matter how irrelevant it was. I knew I was doing it wrong because it made me feel silly so, soon enough, I stopped trying to pray, just knelt there and pretended to pray. That was very sad, really. At a very young age, I was a royal sinner – I was guilty of lying. I really felt guilty.

At age four I went to a private Catholic school (and later high-school) for girls. Got religion shoved down my throat for all those years — intensely, and yet, I could never believe in this god. In school I got in trouble in countless occasions for asking questions that obviously one is not supposed to ask, or that’s what I was told every time.

I was only five years old when I got sent to the principal’s office for relentlessly questioning the whole Jesus’ death story; and seven when they almost expelled me for questioning the holy trinity… and kinda cursing a little bit out of frustration when I was told that this was the holy dogma, therefore it was beyond my understanding, and that that was what faith was all about: believing without questioning. I was like: you’ve gotta be effing kidding me!

When it was time for my first communion, it was quite the event, a social event. My dress was a beautiful wedding gown, a miniature wedding dress, my parents threw a huge party to celebrate the occasion. Sadly, I wasn’t looking forward to any of it.

My pre-eucharistic first confession was, putting it mildly, comedic. It was when I seriously believed I was going to hell, for one is not supposed to take that wafer sacramental bread, without embracing the idea of how important it was, and what magnificent meaning it had, let alone not believing in all that myth. Something about accepting Jesus into one’s heart that never stuck with me anyway, (what the hell does that even mean?),  if you think about it, it’s Christianity’s most arrogant statement, (but that’s material for another post entirely). All of these meanings and magnificences were explained to me, I think, but nothing of what I was taught ever made sense in my head.

I was doomed.

Needless to say, this made me suffer — immensely.

You see, I was just a kid, I thought I was bad. Why would god refuse to give me a sign? Why did I not feel what I was supposed to feel? Why did I never have a religious experience? Well, I didn’t deserve it. I was a bad person. I wasn’t worthy of god’s touch. What else could it be?

Afterward, It was mandatory for the alumni to attend mass, confess, and receive communion once a week at school, and of course every Sunday, but my mom and dad didn’t force me to attend mass on Sundays. That is how once a week I was guilty of heresy, for receiving the effing wafer without believing or feeling a damned thing, even though it was mandatory for me to do so. This is a heavy burden for a child to bear.

The greater my efforts to find god, further and further I got from believing, and closer and closer I got to ditch the god hypothesis altogether.

I think I can safely say, I was never Catholic. I was always an atheist, I just didn’t know the word existed.

Later on, I had learned there were questions that were off limits, so I got in fewer troubles. I went through high-school somewhat uneventfully, and somehow managed to make my parents quite proud of their only child, except for the god issue.

See, I am absolutely certain, my mom and dad didn’t want me to go through such pain and worry. Had they known what they had put me through, they would have done anything to spare me. I know this for a fact. They gave me everything a child could ever need, and I mean everything. I had the best education, I was always, almost excessively, well taken care of. I was loved and over-protected. I was a very happy, privileged child, was loved and cherished for I was an only child. My mom would pander to my every whim, and my dad was always proud of his little princess. They were both highly intelligent, and very loving people. They were quite the perfect parents. If I could have had it my way, I would have chosen to believe, this would have made my mother very happy.

Why am I telling you this, you ask?  I’m glad you asked.

Contrary to what theists believe, the lack of belief in a god is not a whimsical rebellion against god, it doesn’t happen due to any misfortune, it’s not a choice we  make, it’s not anger, nor is it disappointment in god; we just don’t find god probable, plausible, or even possible.

I’m telling you this because there might be other kids going through this painful state of Cognitive Dissonance — it hurts.

Think for a moment, it could be your child. No matter what you believe in, it is not terribly unreasonable to assume that you love your progeny and you don’t want this torment for your kids. This is a form of child abuse. The god story is not an easy idea to take in for a bright child, and with god comes the afterlife reward, or eternal punishment. There is no way to beautify eternal damnation, this is not something you can sugarcoat enough. The hell construct is a horrible idea. Think about this before leading your kids into your faith.

Please!

For goodness sake, let your kids ask questions. Let them find reasonable answers. Teach them how to think critically, and learn how to think critically yourself. Were they ever to feel the need of believing in a god, let it be their choice.

There really is no need for a god. Reality has its own wonders.

There can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms.

14 Responses to Atheism: My journey.

  1. Tsuken says:

    Powerful story. You did well.

    I was lucky in that sense: growing up in NZ as the child of a biology teacher and a psychiatrist, religion was never going to figure ;-) I never even really thought about it until I moved to Australia, where religion is much more prevalent.

  2. BobHeart says:

    Awesome account, Monica! Thanks for posting this.

  3. Beast says:

    Thanks Monica
    Now you are more than a face. Catholic brain washing turned me off of religion in grade school; most of your story is my story as well. I can relate to your pain.

  4. Beast says:

    About that wafer thing we were told the bread was transformed into the body of Christ after the priest said a few magic words “ah blessed it”; and then we were supposed eat it? Gross, barf , yuck etc. Afterwards it still tasted like stale bread to me. What was wrong with me? I finally decided my taste buds were working fine it had to be their problem more brainwashing so i went through the motions too.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this- it sort of reminded me of my own journey.  I am fairly new to “outing” myself as an atheist, and haven’t yet, taken it public–exactly.  I did start a blog and hope to share some new ideas or at least personal insights with the world, or whoever ends up reading it.  :)  I hope you will check it out.  I’m going to subscribe to you right…now!

  6. Scotty Mack says:

    I somewhat went through the same experience, I couldn’t make logical sense of anything Catholicism taught, I also always ended up in disagreements with the Nuns and Priests and was always rebellious against their ideology, which I routinely questioned and was punished for just thinking.  I however just spoke to another Catholic raised child who was at my Grandmother’s funeral on Sunday, and she told me that she had a similar experience to both of ours but the Parents and Priest actually had a meeting and discussed the situation and apparently came to the conclusion that religion and Catholicism was not the right fit for her she was never going to follow the pathway that the church laid out.  I was actually shocked at this and wish that more religions would operate in this manner.  
    I always love living here in FL (jk) when friends come up to me and tell me — have you met my Baptist daughter/son?  I am like ???what??  How did you come to this conclusion they were not born this way? You just indoctrinate them into your belief system and so the story goes…. and goes…. ok lets instill Fear immediately into children before they even understand what it means.  
    Which unfortunately brings me to the conclusion of this excerpt, my mother in particular just cannot come to terms with the fact that I am Secular, it somehow makes her feel like she has failed as a parent, this is sad because I actually have spent much of my life helping others and educating myself with multiple degrees, which I would not exactly say is a failure, but for her not believing in the God she believes in make her feel like she failed as a mother.  My point is that she is ashamed of my secular nature, but from my point of view you think she would be proud of the accomplishments of my life and what I have provided to society and others less fortunate than I, but nope Religion has such a strong hold over people that it even divides family or blood!  Very Unfortunate people cannot open their eyes, take off the horse blinders, listen or at least try and understand where my reasons come from, educate yourself on different theories/beliefs/regions, so we can have a intelligent conversation about it, but there is unfortunately no discussing this matter. Just simply accept that all people are different but yet all the same and we all have to live among each other we should at least try one another, or learn as much as one can in life! Since that is all I believe we have, maybe that is why I am happy and most religious people I know our miserable unless they are trying to convert people like me back to their fairy tale world.  
     

  7. Kneemin says:

    I can really relate and I’m sorry to see you went through such pain.  I had an easier time as the religion in my life wasn’t shoved down my throat as* badly when I was little, so I didn’t really start asking the questions until I was old enough to understand; This helped me avoid a lot of the feelings of blasphemy and disapproval that you went through.
    To the other comments, Don’t EVER be afraid to come out and admit your lack of faith to anyone, anywhere.  Anyone who would condemn you for your rational thoughts and free thinking abilities is not truly someone you should trust in the first place!

  8. Leandro S. says:

    Great story, Monica. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Michael says:

    Monica, thank you for sharing your story. I hope it is an inspiration to young people whom it reaches. My upbringing was similar to yours, though as part of an Irish Catholic family any deviation from “The Faith” would have resulted in total ostracism – an even heavier burden than the pain caused by notions such as hell and original sin. I find that such people continue to judge political leaders in particular on the basis of their religious beliefs, rather than the contributions they make to society. Many decades on, I have come to grow away from religion. As an adult and scientist I prefer reason over myth, not to mention the goings-on and motivations of those who shaped the development of the (Catholic) Church over centuries. But the fact remains that I remain part of the same (very small) family and the majority of my acquaintances still adhere fanatically to the church. As an educator, I ended up working in Catholic (secondary) schools most of my life. I would have to say, however, that this was not a negative experience, as students today have adopted the right to reject religion outright, openly and without fear of sanctions, and in one of the Catholic schools I worked around half of the students were not Catholic anyway: a far cry from my own school experience during which we were encouraged to express opinions, as long as they supported the official church line. While I do not now participate in religious practices, I have learnt to keep quiet about such matters in certain circles. Thank you for this opportunity to tell my story.

  10. yam says:

    I, too, was a Catholic but I wanted to believe.  Desperately.  I remember one summer bible class when the nice lady had us all put our heads down and then put up our hands if we thought we were going to hell, I put mine up.  The conversation seemed a bit odd since I thought that I didn’t believe Jesus did anything and I was going to hell for not buying it.  That was maybe the summer between 5th and 6th grade.
    I then really renounced my “faith” in the junior year of school at a Catholic High School.  We were to respond to the Lord’s Prayer and I basically declared my atheism in a line by line dismantling of the prayer.  It clearly upset my religion teacher, but I didn’t care.
    I haven’t looked back since.  I would love to see what my 17 year old self had to say.  Thirty years on, things have faded a bit…

  11. Ceryle says:

    My story is almost exactly the same – except Lutheran. I remember that I never understood the whole “wishing really hard” thing (praying), especially when you had the morning “confess your sins”, and the afternoon church (twice a week) where you also “confess your sins”. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to have done that was so bad. I was confirmed at age 14, not believing a word of it, because I couldn’t figure out how to not go through it (also, no-one warned me it was port in the cup — I can’t stand the taste of alcohol — and I almost spat it back out over the pastor).

  12. Pingback: A quick thought on Mark 3:28-29 — The unforgivable « Monicks: Unleashed

  13. The surest path to Atheism is to educate yourself about your ‘faith’. Seems to never fail.

  14. Chris says:

    Hey Monica,

    Just read your story. First of all, I want to apologize on behalf of the church. Sometime the Catholics mean well but don’t understand or even know Jesus Christ. All your questions are relevant and it is important that you find answers to those questions.

    I have sort of the opposite story, if I may share it with you.

    I was born into the Catholic church, baptized, and drugged to church on occasion. I had a bunch of questions just like you. Asked my parents and grandparents and teachers alike but they could never answers this 7 year olds questions. It astonishing to think such a young person could asked such deep philosophically, and intellectual questions. Most of the time our conversations end with an angry response or some kind of physical abuse. My dad wasn’t very educated none of my family actually was. When I got to high school I began to ask my science teachers hard questions too but they couldn’t answer my questions either. Like why does the proton exist, where does all the information inside of the DNA come from, where did all the matter come from, where did life come from, why does life exist, why do I exist, etc. etc. All I was ever left with was I don’t knows. I could settle with an answer that left me without purpose, without reason. Everything in the universe has a purpose I must have a purpose. A purpose beyond just existing. When I went to college professors began to question my belief in God and Jesus. They really got me thinking, Why do I believe what I believe? That took me on a Journey of questioning God on every front. Why is it wrong to did or do that? What if I stole some bread to feed my dying family? What if I killed Hitler to save a million people’s life? Is Jesus the only way to you? Why does hell exist? How can you God be all loving and caring and still send people to hell? God answered all my questions one by one. Through different people through out a number of years, he is still answering some of my questions. All these questions have answers that make logical intelligent reasonable sense. For example, if you were to believe in God. One god over everything all powerful and knowing. Could God create this world in six days? Absolutely, God could create this entire universe in six hours, six seconds if he wanted to. Now when we would go and look at it and study it, calculate half life’s and radiation date what we can, we would think it took millions of years because well that is what makes sense. But if we believe in God first, then it no problem at all to believe He in all his might could have done in it less time. I don’t want to get in a debate over evolution and creationism. I just hope you see my point. Science can’t answer where life came from? It actually can’t explain why we dance, why we love, why we care about other humans, why we care about animals, why we think about an afterlife, why we think about God or Atheism, why we don’t kill our own for breakfast, why we where clothes, why we paint, why we sing, why we have emotion, why we are such social beings, why many people have spiritual encounters and visions.
    Philosophers can argue about my faith in Jesus, but they can’t argue with the love he has shown me.
    Scientist can argue about my faith in Jesus, but they can’t argue with the hope I have to spend eternity with my love ones.
    Atheist can argue about my faith in God, but they can’t argue with me knowing I have value and worth and purpose and love.
    I don’t have all the answers but I have the only answer I need, Jesus Christ. He is my redeemer, my savior, my purpose, my reason.

    In Love, Chris

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