My entire academic career until college was spent in the hallowed, uniform clad halls of Catholic school. It was here where I learned and relearned everything there was to know about what it meant to love God and Jesus, and what would happen to my everlasting soul if I were to ever stray from the path of the God Fearing. However, it seemed that the only thing12 years of Catholic education was good for was beating the blind faith out of me in a spectacular fashion.
Let me give you a little insight into my religious history. As a child, I lived across the street from my church and went for holidays. Mass was attended frequently at school. I owned VHS tapes of cartoon versions of Bible stories that I watched until they didn’t work anymore. I was overly excited to be part of the Christmas pageants my school would put on each year. When I misbehaved, my grandmother would tell me that she “saw the Devil in my eyes.” Sometimes I would even cry silently in my pew when we would attend our weekly Stations of the Cross for Lent. Though most importantly, I believed without a doubt that everything I read in the Bible was the truth.
Teachers used the Bible like a battering ram to cram fear down our throats. For example, in sixth grade, an incredibly kind student, who happened to practice Islam, transferred to my school. The religion teacher took it upon herself to tell this girl, who was my friend, that unless she repented for her sins and converted she would be condemned to spend an eternity in hell with the rest of the nonbelievers. Who tells an 11-year-old that?
It was also around this time that I began to be fascinated by the natural world. Up until that point in my life, I didn’t question the contradictions between what my religion taught me about the creation of the world and what science classes had taught me. I never thought too deeply about the likelihood of Noah fitting two animals of every kind on his ark or asking myself if a man really could walk on water and calm the sea of Galilee. Yet, my questions were normally dismissed when asked, so I kept my broadening mind to myself.
My junior year of high school we were made to take a Christian Morality course as part of the curriculum. This class was a nightmare from day one, taught by what I would describe as a religious zealot. Our first major assignment was to be given a hot button issue and write a paper on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church said on it. For those of you who don’t know, the Catechism is basically all the stances the Church takes on pretty much everything from contraception to euthanasia to homosexuality. In this assignment we were not allowed to put any personal opinion in the paper. The only information on which we were allowed to give was what it said in the Catechism, even if we didn’t agree with it. When I asked why we were not allowed to put any of our own thoughts into the paper, I was told that, in regards to the Church’s teachings, it wasn’t my place to think.
It was like something in my brain clicked in that moment and I finally began to see things more clearly. I started to question out loud, I did research on other religions and sought out answers that my teachers would not give me. I became much more vocal about my confusion, and, slowly but surely, I began to find myself drifting away from religion.
I was angry about it. I felt like I had been lied to for my entire life. That every single prayer I had ever said or thought hadn’t gone to this omnipresent being in the sky, but fell on the deaf ears of an uncaring universe.
Since then I have come to grips with what it means to go from having faith to being an atheist. But it wasn’t always easy. I found myself praying despite my recent revelations. The guilt that seeped into my bones over the past 18 years of my life kept me on a constant loop of uncertainty and shame. Truly, I wish that I could entertain you with every single instance that acted as a nail in the coffin with my tumultuous relationship with Catholicism, but I was asked to write an article, not a novel. I tried to think about the two occasions where my eyes were really opened.
There were many reasons that weren’t related to schooling that led me to my current religious affiliation, but this article isn’t the place for them. In no way am I bashing Catholic education or inferring that you are a brainwashed person for remaining religious after. This is just my experience and an experience that is unique to me.
Take it as you will.