This may surprise some longtime readers, but there was a point in my life where I was extremely religious. To a completely unpleasant degree. Given how militant I am about the wrongs religion has done to this world, I suppose it can come as a shock if you aren’t ready for it.
But, given my background, I am surprised I was able to break out of that world at all.
I came from an extremely rigid Catholic family….well I suppose that has a different connotation these days. No one in my family was speaking in tongues. Neither were we holding up pictures of dead fetuses in front of women’s clinics. But…god was always on the mind of everyone in the family. Plenty of crosses in the house. Palms from palm sunday. Holy water bombing around randomly.
So, you know, I was raised in that world. Then just combine it with the mindset I have. Nothing is a half measure. If I was going to be religious, I would go all in.
I would say I started to break bad somewhere around 8th or 9th grade. That’s when I decided to read the bible front to back. Which I did…about 3 times between 8th grade and Senior year. I read the Catechism twice. I was deep in it. I wanted to understand…what I suppose you would call the theology of the religion. If I was going to have faith, I was going to go all in.
And I spent a ton of time with the Church. I tried to get a youth group going but most of the attendees were drug addicts just looking for a place to listen to nu-metal and escape from their parents.
I prayed a full rosary every night.
I ended up teaching whole segments of my confirmation class. It happened because the instructor was talking about Paul’s journey to the Philippines, and I explained it was Philippi in what was then Macedonia. I just ended up taking over whole chunks after that.
I did a ton of volunteering. I worked at my local parish bible camp over the summer. That was a fucking nightmare. They stuck me with a group of 8-10 year olds who knew the Marshall Mathers LP front to back. Including the deep cuts. I broke up a fist fight in the lunch line. At bible camp.
But I digress.
Given how dark my childhood was, I took refuge in the church. At one point, I thought I was going to become a priest. Cause I was a true believer, and I wanted to escape my home town. It seemed like an easy ticket.
All of this poured into my behavior at the time. For example, I was really against Napster cause that was theft as far as I was concerned. I used to live censor my curse words like it was a radio edit (I actually still catch myself doing this every once in a while). Like saying “What the Fffffff was that?” out loud.
I wore a scapular and a cross. This could go on, but I feel like I made my point.
A big question I get is when did it all come crashing down. Well, it took time. And its really tough to say when it started. I have a story for another day that may have been the start…but….
I’m going to say it really started somewhere around the summer after my junior year. Like an onion…just layers peeling away.
I was completely disenfranchised with the world I was living in, the people in charge, and just how they were about anyone who was different. For example, I remember thinking how un-Christian I felt it was to protest an abortion clinic. That these were women who needed help and I felt like Christ would try to understand where they were coming from. That seemed much more Christ like than holding up a sign that said “Abortion Kills Babies.”
I started to get into moderately subversive bands. System of a Down was a big one. I remember driving in my car senior year listening to the first album (Toxicity was about to come out) and a friend of mine was totally shocked I even listened to SOAD considering how much they attacked western religion. I can’t remember what my reply was, but I did understand the music. And I understood historically the damage Christianity had done over time. I just wasn’t ready to admit it out loud.
I started cursing. That was a big one. I remember my exact reasoning. With all the pain and suffering in the world, if god was sending people to the same hell that murderers went to for swearing that god was unjust.
I stopped wearing a scapular cause I thought it was foolish. Kept wearing the cross.
And it progressed like that for some time. Just more and more didn’t care. More and more of it faded away.
By the time I got to college, the faith defenses were weak. I just kept seeing religion as a cause of pain not of hope. And I honestly questioned how we got here. Why anyone would give us suffering?
There are tons of answers for this in the Bible but they all rang like bullshit. Like something some powerful made up to keep the poor content in their suffering.
I stopped wearing the cross somewhere around my freshman year. I didn’t talk about religion with anyone.
I went to one mass at the on campus chapel on the first Sunday I was at college. They were so eager to recruit I remember the priest, a nun, and the head of the Catholic society at my college all stopping me on the way out asking me to be a part of various things. They were just that happy to have fresh meat.
I never went back. Started going to a church up the street that was a normal church. And big enough that I could hide in it.
College was definitely a big turning point. I think going to college is less about you learning things you will use in professional life and more about being exposed to different people, cultures, ways of thinking. And I certainly got a ton of that.
I had a fast crew that was totally different than the world that I grew up in. Way more open minded. Tolerant. Truthfully, much more Christ-like, without having to have any of the trappings and rigidity that comes with dogma or theology.
I may not remember how specifically I began to see the failings of my religion, but I remember the exact day my faith hit its final breaking point.
Sophomore year of college. Early…like not that long after it started. Which I mean…it did take 3-4 years for me to finally lose it all. Which is impressive…but anyway…
I used to get dressed for mass. I was really serious about it. Slacks, button down shirt, shoes. And then I took a long walk to church. I’m going to say it was right under a mile from my dorm to the church. On this one Saturday afternoon, I got dressed. I walked to this monster cathedral I was going to. I sat in the back in the same pew I always sat in.
The way things work in the Catholic church is your sermon is about whatever reading from the Gospel was prescribed that week. I sat there, made it through the readings. Got to the homily. And I was listening to this priest…and like a lightbulb went off…
I had heard this sermon before. I had heard it a million times before. I mean, not plagiarism, but the same fucking topic. The same bullet points. Over and over. How many other people beside me over the past two millennia had heard the same shit. Over and over.
My mind went off. I was wondering…what the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck are any of us doing here? Why do we put our faith in empty words from a book written by rich epileptic men 2,000 years ago. Why can’t we fucking evolve? Get past all this shit.
I waited for the sermon to end (I didn’t want to be too rude), and I went out the side exit.
And I ran…very dramatic but it’s also true. I ran as fast as I could. I remember I ripped the button down shirt off my chest as I ran. Full gate all the way back to my dorm room.
The pendulum had swung the other way. I remember I sat my parents down and told them I wasn’t going to church anymore because I didn’t believe in a god. My parents were shockingly like…fine with it. My mom was all “you’ll come back someday.” My dad didn’t care. I think if he had his way he would stop going to mass himself.
My brother is the one who was the most disappointed. “I thought if one of us was going to heaven it was going to be you.” I told him, “We will all ride to hell together.”
And that brings us to today. Some twenty years later. I feel the same way. Religion is a construct used by people to abuse other people. And that’s all it is.
I don’t have regret about my time having faith. I really look at it as a biproduct of how I was raised. Much like every thing else I was saddled with from how I grew up. It was just another rock in my ruck. Another thing I had to come out of.
My closing message for anyone remaining with faith. Get out now. I’m not one of these people who are going to say live and let live about this. Humanity would be better if we could step away from the concept of religion. We could actually get the fuck off this rock.
But, none of that is going to happen. At least not in my lifetime. But I just want you who have faith to know that there are ways to escape. I did it. I hope you can too.