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.
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.