This article/post is being published here because of another article I want to write about — Atheism and grief. I felt that a bit of a precursor was necessary.
I was born a cradle Catholic, and until I was 14 years old, I really didn’t overly question the existence of a God. I had a few times questioned the priest when he taught. And I’d gotten in quite a bit of trouble with the Nuns at the Catholic school I went to because I questioned them, and questioned the teachings they thrust upon us. (Oh, Please.. 40 days of a flood and a big ark?? Rising from the dead — if that could happen to some guy purportedly Gods son, why could my Grandpa not come back from the dead — I checked, every time we went to the cemetery — just in case).
I was lead by the ear a few times by Sister John to stand against the brick outer wall of the school during recess. Once when we played “Noahs Ark” on the monkey bars, I was playing Noah’s wife, and everyone drowned because I figured if there was a God, he’d save us when I pulled the plug from the bottom of the ship/monkey bars. Back to the wall, lead by the ear I went. I was not a trouble maker, just a trouble “questioner”. The things I was being taught never seemed to jive with me. Not the way my parents, the priest, or the nuns wanted it to.
I didn’t just decide one day not to believe in god. Circumstances of my life caused me to really question god and religion. And by the time I was 14, religion had became something I had to do in order to live in my parents house. There was no way to get out of it. My father was very proud of the fact we were being raised catholic, and going to a catholic school. My mother was involved in some sort of women’s group (cleaning the sacristy/alter area I think). So there I was on my knees every Sunday, and confirmed into the Catholic church in my senior year of high school because that is what good daughters do (especially those that don’t want to get into trouble, nor cause it).
When I was about 15, the priest loaned me books on history, and religion – perhaps thinking I really would not read them. Not only did I read them, I read as many as I could get out of the public library (small town, so there weren’t many). I didn’t stop either. I learned about religions.. why/when/how. I looked at it objectively, like a problem to solve.
I sat in the priests rectory office one day with a list of questions I had written down, and worked on over the course of about 18 months. I was sure the priest could alleviate these fears I was having, could really give me the answers, and be able to make me understand where I went wrong. The priest was exasperated with me, and told me that “You just need to have faith in God, forget what you “think” you have learned, and forget this silly little list. Faith in God will bring all the answers to every question you could possibly think to ask.” But by this time, I had come to the understanding, in the back of my mind, that god was an invention of man. What the priest could not understand was this: The questions I had were not for me to understand, but questions with which the answers could persuade me there really was a god. I really wanted to feel like everyone else, and be satisfied that there was a god. “Have Faith” was his answer, and I simply could not do that. I could not accept that. I wanted answers. Real, honest to goodness answers. My mind just would not wrap around the abstract thought of “have faith” as an answer to anything.
I moved to New York when I was 18, and religion stayed in Nebraska. I dutifully went to mass with my family when I was visiting them, but otherwise, I never went. I was married in the Catholic church, because that is what my husband and family wanted and expected. Our son was baptised in the church, again because that is what his father, and our families wanted and expected. When my mother asked if we were going to church, I yes’ed her, because I knew if I did not, I’d not hear the end of it.
For the next couple of years, I was still questioning, and unsure of what I felt, what I knew to be true, vs. what felt comfortable to me. It was hard for me to balance out. On one hand, it was more comfortable to believe as other people did — in a god. But the truth was, I just didn’t. The other hand knew too much… understood too much, and all religion did was create unanswerable questions. But the answers did come — not from books, but from my own self. The answers came when I put down the books, put the fear of what my family would think away, and finally.. really.. allowed myself to be what I really was: an atheist. A quiet one, though.
In all this time I never pushed my own thoughts, questions or beliefs on anyone. I never judged any one’s beliefs (okay.. maybe the fundies, but that is just different). I was comfortable being a lone atheist, and out of respect for my family, allowed religion to be part of my child’s life, to a certain extent. For a long time, I kept quiet about it, writing about in my journals. Finding my way, word by word, page by page.
Although this is not the first time I have mentioned my atheism online, or even on this particular blog, this is one of the first times I’ve written about it for public view. As I said at the beginning of this post, this post was written so people who read my future posts will understand a bit of my background. Because. Well….Because I’m kinda tired of keeping my mouth shut. I’m kinda tired of allowing others beliefs to overshadow my own. And because I have some things I need to say.