12ish Days Till Christmas – Religion and Atheism

Hi all! In case you missed yesterday’s post, for the next 11ish days leading up to Christmas, I will be attempting to publish one blog post everyday. Yes, I know, I’m crazy. My older brother, Brendan (who’s birthday is today so do go wish him a happy 22nd) will be writing a post on the same/a similar topic I do each day, which should be pretty interesting considering some of the topics I have planned. Both mine and my brother’s posts from yesterday will be linked at the end 🙂

So today, I decided I’d delve into a topic that isn’t frequently discussed in my house, family, town, etc. and that is atheism and my relationship with religion. This will be a rather longer post, but I think it’s an interesting subject that people aren’t honest enough about. And like my politically charged posts, I see this as an invitation for conversation, not division.

Like quite a few people I knew from Berkeley Heights and the surrounding town, I was essentially born into Catholicism. Some of this was my parent’s decision but I do believe that most of it was my grandmother’s, my dad’s mother’s preference that we (my siblings and I) were raised in the Catholic Church. A lot of people believe that religion is good for kids to grow up with, that it will add structure to their life and help them begin to understand the world.

As kids, my family and I went to mass every weekend, usually on Sundays but Saturdays if we had something else going on, and we had to wear the modern day equivalent of our “Sunday best”. Jeans, sneakers, graphic t-shirts, anything of the sort were 100% out of the question. The only time I remember not going as a kid was if I was sick. As we got older, our schedules got busier and it was more difficult to go every weekend but my parents always made a great effort to have a consistency in going each weekend, I think partly because this is part of the Catholic faith but also to give us some consistency in our little kid lives.

Now, once we got old enough to think for ourselves and form our own opinions about the world, we could have told our parents at any time that we didn’t want to go to mass anymore, which I did eventually. My siblings and I were all confirmed in the Catholic Church but at this time, Brendan is the only one of us who is really still practicing (although I believe Kathryn goes to church when she can/when my father drags her butt out of bed). I can’t explain why my younger two siblings moved away from the church, but I can explain why I did and where my relationship with religion went from there.

So, why did I tell you all of this? It wasn’t to tell my parents they made the wrong decision is raising us as Catholics. Or to tell you about my childhood. And it definitely wasn’t to tell you about how I think all religion is stupid and convince you that God doesn’t exist (mostly because that’s just a shitty thing to do but like also, who am I to judge??). No, I told you all of this because even though I’m an atheist I love to hear about other people’s perspective’s and experiences with religion and their relationship with God (granted they aren’t being preachy and trying to convert me), and respectively I enjoy telling others my perspectives, experiences, and relationship in the same manner.

When I was in middle school, I began to question why I went to church every weekend. Arguably, I knew the answer: going to church was my way of communicating and improving my relationship with God, but for some reason, I just could not find the personal reason that I’m sure everyone who follows some sort of organized religion has. I couldn’t find that individual relationship with God, which led me to question his existence at all. I just didn’t understand.

Despite all of the questions I had, I continued to go through with my confirmation, which definitely had more to do with my grandmother than it did with my desire to be closer with God and be seen as an adult in the eyes of the church. When I was younger, I was terrified of disappointing people, mainly my parents. I was apologetic for everything I thought and had an opinion about because I was so scared of not being accepted.

As I learned more about myself and how I saw the world, I decided that I definitely did not want to continue following the Catholic faith. I didn’t agree with most of what the Church was teaching. Of course, it took months for me to actually tell my parents that I didn’t want to go to mass and when I finally did, it was probably the most scared I’ve ever been when talking to my parents. Regardless, I went through with it and have gone on to live a life without the pressure to conform to a faith I didn’t want to follow.

Looking back, I see there are a number of other reasons I decided to part with the church. Like I said earlier, when we were younger, my parents encouraged us to think for ourselves and form our own opinions and views of the world. My personal opinions about society and the world did not fit in with what I was being taught in the Catholic Church, leading me to question what I was being taught rather than what I was thinking. In my mind, it seems contradictory to think for myself and have my own opinions while growing up as a member of the Church. Some people’s views (like my brother’s) fit with the Church’s, but mine didn’t, and I felt bad because of this.

I do not have any regrets in turning away from religion because in a lot of ways, it allowed me to have clearer opinions and know what I wanted and what was best for me. Leaving the Church has allowed me to live a freer life, unafraid of sin contradicting beliefs. I also do not wish that my parents had not raised me in the Catholic Church. I think without that structure as a kid, that institution, if you will, to push back against, I would be a much less tolerant and open person when it comes to religion. I respect those who choose to believe, and have an open mind if religion decides to reenter my life in the future.

~Sarah Ann

My Last Post: 12ish Days Till Christmas – College Decisions

Brendan’s Last Post: 12 Days To Christmas – College Decisions

All 12ish Days Till Christmas posts

3 thoughts on “12ish Days Till Christmas – Religion and Atheism

  1. In my case I spent the first twelve years of my education in Catholic schools. Was packed off to church until I realized it was all pointless around the age of eight. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. Catholicism and religion in general reeked like bovine effluent. But when I was in my Catholic high school for religion class one year we studied the Bible, the KJV. They also taught us of copy error, translation error and editorializing. Around that same time I was taking CCD classes at night for confirmation. Told my father I didn’t want to be confirmed in the church. A significant chunk of change came my way. In the final interview I told the priest I couldn’t grasp or believe in faith that evidence was my prima facie. They confirmed me anyhow.

    And several years later my dad and I are in a car. At the time he was under the spell of a White Supremacist preacher who said that in the Bible it said black people and white people shouldn’t be together. I told my father it wasn’t in the Bible I’d read. He then said “You never believed in god anyhow.” And I looked at him and told him he was absolutely correct.

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  2. So, recently, I’ve been asked How can I know? Where does my faith come from? If I am to answer myself, especially when looking at our current world, I would say that my faith flows from the spring of Truth. When I look at the world, I see a finely tuned creation. To me, he most convincing is Thomas Aquinas’ Third Way and the argument of contingency. In our natural word all contingent beings must have a beginning; of course, I’d have to assume to some degree eventually a necessary being at some point. Naturally, I observe from this point objective moral truths, natural rights, and natural laws, so from this foundation, I call it God. My observations of the world have allowed me to conclude that relativism is false, and if there are objective truths, what is the source? However, as I have arrived at this conclusion, I ask, is there anything I can know about God? Historically, because I’ve come to the conclusion that God exists, I look to the Apostles and the Gospels. Many modern Atheists will reject the Gospels as evidence, but this is simply not an action of most scholars with other ancient sources. For example, the Gospels quite easily fall in the genre of Ancient Biography, and prior to my degree in history, I was a Classics major and read my fair share of Ancient Biographies to know that just because an Ancient account has miracles doesn’t dismiss its historical content. For example, as I studied Alexander the Great in my youth with a great zeal, I know that modern scholars do not dismiss historical accounts of Alexander by Plutarch, Arrian, and Diodorus even though they have unexplainable events within the texts such as prophecies from oracles and fathers who are deities.

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