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Author Topic: Me, Catholicism and leaving it all behind.  (Read 1651 times)
afleitch
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« on: August 03, 2012, 04:13:53 am »
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I wrote this for another place but thought I'd share it with you.

I grew up Catholic. The only reason I did was because my mother is Catholic and my father pledged to raise his children as Catholic in order to marry my mother. There is no other reason. For me it is important to realise that your faith may simply handed down by family or through community and in these occasions it is not 'revealed' to you; it is given and you should reflect on that whether you choose to affirm it as an adult or take a different path

I had very little awareness of what it all meant until I started school at the age of five; it was a Catholic state school. 'How to be a Catholic' and everything it entailed from confession to communion to confirmation was drummed into us all from the age of five and like English, Maths and everything else being opened up to us at that age it soon became part of our daily learning's. So much so that you learned to sing hymns before you could read them or know what the words meant. Repetition is of course a valuable learning tool. All the biblical stories were told to us as if they were 'real 'as real as they had to be except the ones that obviously were simply allegories as the Church contended. However which parts of the Bible were 'out' was never elaborated on less there be any questioning or any dissent over the parts that were 'in'. I of course questioned as children do. I didn't get answers because to dissent at a young age was 'bad'; you were being bad to the school, to your priest, to your parents. I could ask about anything in school, but to try and ask about religion was met with silence or worse still anger. I was a smart child, annoyingly precocious at times. I was good; I got 'gold tick' best behaviour and best effort awards every week without fail for nearly five years but I only ever got into trouble when it came to religious education. So eventually you shut up.

We were never told about other religions. Jesus was a Jew but that's as far as it got. Protestants were a Rangers FC supporting 'other' (or your dad might be one) but nothing about them was discussed. Nor was any other religion or part of the world. India was the home of Mother Theresa and her nuns, Africa of starving children and Catholic aid workers. That was the world and that was all you needed to know; the world was sanitised for no other reason than convenience though I understand that parents and schools do this to children all the time. It's when it continue to be sanitised into your teenage years and beyond that not because of any authority people have over you but because you prefer not to think that I find myself exasperated.

I can remember praying. I can remember thinking for years even into adulthood that I wasn't doing it the right way as I got nothing from it. I never got anything other than white noise. No rush, no feeling that it was right or relevant, I got a bigger engagement in having a song in my head so sometimes I thought of that; not a hymn but a song I liked. I used to peek at other people after communion and wonder if they were tuned in to something that I wasn't. So I'd try and copy them and their body language, but the more I did so the more it all became false. When I was only seven I had to make my first confession. It concerned me then that I didn't really have much to confess so I made things up small things but things that seemed worthy of penance (though not worthy of too much of course) That became a regular occurrence until I was about 15 when I somewhat bolshily made what was to be my last confession which involved telling a priest I had nothing to confess that I hadn't already made amends for. It took me later to realise that this wasn't a bad position to take in life. He asked me if I was 'doing anything to myself' which I said was not his business but yes like most normal teenage boys I was. He then asked what 'thoughts' I had. The precocious keen to argue Andrew was a little stunned. I didn't feel that what he asked was appropriate priest. How many other of my friends before me or waiting to be seen were going to be asked this question? What authority did this man have to ask the question and then give you 'god's answer' to it? So I sat there a little silently, said 'I like boys' and then left. Ironically he was the first person I came out to. At that time in my life the prayers about nothing, the rituals and the continual padding out of confession to make it worthwhile even going had taken it's toll. The school and the priests attributed much of this in public to typical teenage curiosity but privately (considering they were Jesuits) engaged with our questions and as long as they were speaking off record often tacitly agreed with our sentiments. I still went to mass with the school and at home on Sundays. Then came the repeal of Section 28, a piece of legislation that stopped any discussion of homosexuality in a school setting.

It affected me as a gay teen as I had no access to information that could assist me. I couldn't even talk about it. I knew that the law prevented it. In my school however it was practice that prevented the dissemination of sexual health information to people of my age regardless of sexuality. There was no sex education beyond basic biology. A girl from the school who wrote an article calling for widespread access to condoms was threatened with suspension. As a member of the debate team I couldn't organise a debate on abortion yet the Pro-Life Society could post on the noticeboard hardcore images of late term abortions without anyone batting an eyelid. And this was a fairly liberal Catholic school. As the debate ensued Cardinals and Bishops were quick to remind the public how 'perverted' I was and how I was a danger to society and children. They quietly informed the nation that children as young as 5 would be forced to watch hardcore gay sex scenes. They quietly and deliberately bullsh**tted. I stopped going to mass the Sunday the priest, a good priest, was obliged to read out the Bishop's latest letter on how dangerous, disordered and perverted I was.

I had been brought up Catholic. I tried; I really tried to be good at it even as it made less and less sense. But to sit in chapel with your community; the people you went to school with, their families, your family and to suddenly feel that you really were not wanted hurt. The reticence shown by the community who may have angrily disagreed with what the church said but still filed in each Sunday and kneeled and prayed and said nothing started to eat away at me too.

I remained a Catholic and I attended mass as required by the school until I left even organising the 9/11 memorial mass. When I started at university I ceased to go. I was still 'Catholic' only in the sense that I still felt a community attachment. My university days were spent duelling a little bit with Christians as I spent time reading the bible and trying to understand the complexities of the faith (Note to Atlas Forum: You'll be familiar with this!) Then it stopped. Or rather I started. It is so easy to take faith as a starting point and argue your way through the hills and valleys of theological discourse until you have the whole landscape before you without ever looking back at the starting point itself. When I took the decision to do just that and questioned the existence of god I found myself struggling. There really was no proof. The more I read and listened and talked the more I moved further and further away from the point in which I had started.

It's difficult to explain the feelings and emotions you go through when you wake up one morning and see the world for what it really is. That happened to me and it felt both giddy and frightening. You grieve really for the past and for what you believed in. You even grieve for the comfort blanket of thinking there is 'more to life than This.' But I realised that 'This' was something not to be disparaged but to be enjoyed and utilised. The world makes more sense and my relationships with everyone in it is stronger. Even the stars are more beautiful.
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2012, 04:27:41 am »
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For now I will merely say that I had almost the exact inverse progression, although my upbringing wasn't as unthinkingly secular as yours seems to have been Catholic. In some ways it wasn't particular secular or 'humanist' at all, but it certainly wasn't religious. Now my mother is getting religious going into her old age, but she wasn't when my footsteps started.

I enjoyed reading this, afleitch. Thanks for sharing your experience of the world.
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2012, 12:07:13 am »
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I was raised Catholic, but then I read a book about space and I discovered the Big Bang. Also, over the years I have developed a deep, ingrained hatred of the Church as an institution.
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« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2012, 06:42:29 am »
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I was raised Catholic, but then I read a book about space and I discovered the Big Bang. Also, over the years I have developed a deep, ingrained hatred of the Church as an institution.

The first scientist to theorize the Big Bang was also a Catholic priest.  He was never punished or anything, and the Church has never disbelieved in it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre
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« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2012, 12:41:40 pm »
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I was raised Catholic, but then I read a book about space and I discovered the Big Bang. Also, over the years I have developed a deep, ingrained hatred of the Church as an institution.

The first scientist to theorize the Big Bang was also a Catholic priest.  He was never punished or anything, and the Church has never disbelieved in it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

IIRC the same guy also had to tell the higher ups not to use it as proof of God because they were eager to do so.

Also, I don't think his problems with the Church as an institution had anything to do with the Big Bang.
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« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2012, 09:46:09 pm »
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Why are so many gays atheists?
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2012, 10:35:42 pm »
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Why are so many gays atheists?

Because so many non-atheists don't like gays.
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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2012, 10:52:50 pm »
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Why are so many gays atheists?

Because so many non-atheists don't like gays.

And the theists who do (i.e. neo-pagans, wiccans, etc.) are too out there for most in the GLBT community to stomach.  So by default, they turn to secular humanism as a respectable alternative.
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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2012, 11:01:35 pm »
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Why are so many gays atheists?

Because so many non-atheists don't like gays.

And the theists who do (i.e. neo-pagans, wiccans, etc.) are too out there for most in the GLBT community to stomach.  So by default, they turn to secular humanism as a respectable alternative.

Aren't Anglicans and Lutherans pretty gay-friendly?
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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2012, 03:39:46 pm »
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Interesting saga afleitch. Thanks for the telling. Did anyone at the Catholic school say they simply did not believe it all, and could not and would not make the leap of faith, and that is just the way it was?  Or were you all too cowed?
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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2012, 05:06:10 pm »
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Why are so many gays atheists?

Because so many non-atheists don't like gays.

And the theists who do (i.e. neo-pagans, wiccans, etc.) are too out there for most in the GLBT community to stomach.  So by default, they turn to secular humanism as a respectable alternative.

Aren't Anglicans and Lutherans pretty gay-friendly?

It really depends on the Anglicans and Lutherans, but many are, yeah.
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« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2012, 02:03:48 pm »
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Interesting saga afleitch. Thanks for the telling. Did anyone at the Catholic school say they simply did not believe it all, and could not and would not make the leap of faith, and that is just the way it was?  Or were you all too cowed?

At my catholic state school atheists outweigh others and a small minority go to church every week.
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