It pains me to admit this. I would rather not tell because some people will get the hypothetical idea that my current metaphysical and ethereal conclusions are consequences of my youthful experience, rather than of study and thought. That would be normal but wrong.
When I was two weeks old, no one asked me if I wanted to go into a church and have a strange man, a priest, pour water over my head, and make me a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the Roman Catholic Church. I did not even know ‘Uncle Paddy’ who was my God Father. I don’t recall meeting him, but I may have been to his funeral. I knew my God Mother.
Five years later, I was again not asked if I wanted to start going to school. Nor was I given any choice of which school I would attend. For me, it was kindergarten at Saint John the Evangelist parochial school, which was a five-minute walk from home. Those nine months were the only days I enjoyed out of the nine years I spent there.
A few years later, I was not asked if I was up to telling one of those priests what bad things (sins) I had done and how often. But by then, I was conditioned to doing what they said and going along with the crowd. It was called Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a rite of passage for virtually all Catholic children. The second of my six Sacraments.
I was not asked if I wanted to go to Mass nor if I wanted to take Eucharist or Communion (Sacrament #3). I was not asked if I wanted to sing or pray. I was forced to memorize things and was demeaned if I did not get it right. The priests and nuns were always correct. Always.
The religious of the Church taught me that it was a sin for me to think certain thoughts or to feel certain ways (think puberty). For some things, Jesus would send me to Hell for eternity, but if I told a priest about it, and said two Our Fathers, Four Hail Marys, and a good Act of Contrition, all that I confessed was forgiven. Eventually, I made up sins because I had to go to confession and needed something to confess. It never occurred to me (maybe I didn’t care) that lying to the priest was a sin.
The idea was if you died then, you went straight to Heaven. Otherwise, the best one could hope for was Purgatory (a virtual certainty) for an unspecified (but long) time. If you either missed Mass (church) or killed twenty people (be it one or 20 mortal sins), you went to Hell. Forever. You could bargain your way to a shorter Purgatory sentence, but Hell meant God was done with you. Again, I was not given the opportunity at that time to say this is bullshit. Later, I did.
My family supported the church (nuns and priests) over me. But eventually, I became more independent and moved away from all that. I attended a public high school during the early 1960s, during the times when things changed from praying in school (the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer), bible readings (the King James Version, also Protestant), to moments of silence, then to all of that being judged unconstitutional by the SCOTUS (thank God).
None of my children objected when I had them baptized (none as infants, two Catholic, one Methodist). Only one was ever Confirmed, first as a Methodist. Later, as an adult, he was Confirmed as a Catholic. It was his choice. Today, none of my grown children attend church nor are they religiously active.
My point is this. From birth, religion and God were forced on me. I was given no choice. Even as a teen, I was forced into it for a time. I neither resent nor bemoan any of that. It’s how things were, and for many, still are. While some people might see it as child abuse (and in some cases it probably is), it simply was what it was.
However, I now strongly resent attempts to force, coerce, or to wheedle religion or any god on me or anyone else. Yet, it is a fact that many (most? all?) people would force their religious beliefs on me or others if they could.
They resent my nonbelief, my denial of any god, my contention that prayer is feckless, and my demand for hard evidence if I am to believe as they do. I likewise resent their attempts to convert or reconvert me. One guy told me on this blog that it was his job. I never heard from him again. Must have been something I said.
The difference is they can have their god as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care. Their religion is a different story. It is bad. And every day, more people are coming to see it as I do for the simple reason that neither deities nor religions make sense.