I feel like every high school has that guy who is always super active, always makes stupid jokes, and is always ready to party. My friend was like that. He was always down for any stupid or fun thing. And I remember one time hanging out we had a discussion about parents when suddenly he goes: "Oh, my dad is actually a priest."
He told us that although he was raised in a religious family, he didn't believe in God at all. He said his parents have dedicated all their lives to the Orthodox Church, and tried to educate him the same way and make him a faithful believer. But after these 19 years, the only thing that he is sure about now is that there is no God.
"Every little thing that was happening in this world was a God's plan in my parents' eyes. Every day would start with a prayer where we thank God for life, food, and anything good that's going to happen to us. Growing up in the atmosphere of endless fasts, commandments, and attending church services, little me didn't have time even to doubt this kind of life's arrangements.
"I was always supervised by my parents at those times. My mom used to be a principal of a Sunday school, which I, of course, attended. The Sunday school's mission is to teach children how to be faithful. It works just like the normal schools do, but the subjects do vary. We were taught the Church Slavic language, the Laws of God, the Old and the New Testament, the orchestra. We even had a gospel class, where we were taught to sing in a choir at the church. Basically, we were taught everything that young churchmen need to know.
"I was playing with all the kids after and between classes like in normal schools, but most of the non-religious themes were prohibited. We all were scared that if we talk about something else we will be punished by the 'powers from the above'. I did really believe in that.
"Teachers were pretty good in persuading us that God is everywhere. The whole class would repeat in unison that God sees everything, knows everything – he is charitable and sinless.
"As a result, we were scared even to think about breaking any rules. We were obligated to pray before every meal, we couldn't miss any of the church services, couldn't condemn our parents or teachers, be aggressive any time, even to protect ourselves, because 'The Lord Jesus says if you're struck on your right cheek, you offer your left' (Holy Bible).
"It was perfect for handling kids. We were scared of punishment even when we knew no one could see us. We remembered – God knows everything.
"As time went by and we became the grown-ups, we started to notice our parents' or other adults' flaws. None of them were following all of the commandments as we did; they didn't have that fear of the 'Supreme.' Even my parents that were iconic to me allowed themselves to have their hands in their pockets while being at church or leave the services to talk on the phone. They could eat all they wanted, skip fasts, or even smoke. Watching them, I lost my aspiration in following all the rules perfectly. It seemed unfair that they could be freer but I couldn't. So I started giving myself indulgences…
"For example, one of the real orthodox believer's obligations was the oblation in front of Him every Sunday morning. Every single person had to come to the church early with an empty stomach and tell all of his/her sins in order to be forgiven. And it made me sick how many 'faithful' adults used it as the excuse for not following God's rules. Not to mention how many times the money donated to the church was stolen. They would sin and then just ask for forgiveness and become sinless again.
"When I started realizing all those things, my life started changing."