Monday, February 11, 2013

Mom, Dad, I'm atheist.

I identified as agnostic until halfway through the second speech of the night on Friday at the UTD Secular Convention. Something the presenter said made it clear to me that I only lacked the vocabulary to explain my awe and wonder at the universe as something other than capital G- God. It's really just science and all of creation.

And anyway, atheism doesn't mean certain belief in no god but a lack of certain belief in gods, which is about right for me. We are not currently capable of proving without a doubt that there is or is not a deity, and if there is, I don't really care. Because I'm not going to worship one as petty and cruel as the Christian god.

Growing up in the Catholic Church was uncomfortable, and living under the yolk of infinite guilt and shame was downright traumatic. I wonder now if the taught guilt is what caused my generalized anxiety and whether I might not be a better functioning person without having developed it.

I first began questioning in elementary school after my First Reconciliation. Why did I feel such an abhorrence for a blessed sacrament, one of the big 7, no less? By 12 I had figured out that it was fucking ridiculous to require an intermediary to grant God's forgiveness. And looking back, compelling a 7-year-old girl under penalty of eternal damnation and hellfire to tell an old man that she touches herself is morally repugnant and wrong in every way, though I think I lied about this most times. And I believed that my doubt would be my holy burden to bear.

I went through the sacrament of Confirmation, which means receiving the Holy Spirit and becoming an adult member of the church, dedicating oneself to the Catholic Church once one has reached the age of discretion, an age that varies between dioceses and was 13 in mine. Because 13-year-old children are capable of logic and reason enough to have found their way out of the last dozen years of daily indoctrination. Not.

Anyway, I was pretty excited about the honor at the time. Part of the preparation is to choose the name of a saint and write a report about him or her. I don't remember the purpose, but the saint would be one you admired, and their name became a part of yours, typically a second middle name. I think I wanted to choose a man's name but was discouraged. So I chose Eve because I felt she was misunderstood and overall a pretty badass lady for being the mother of mankind and taking all that blame for The Fall. (A youth minister once told us that Satan tempted Eve first because he knew she was stronger and that Adam would be a sure thing.) It seems now to have been some sort of oversight because I can't find mention of her as a saint anywhere.

In high school, my dearest darling loved and adored friend came out as gay. And I just couldn't believe in a God that would have this child live a loveless life or be cursed for eternity. "Love the sinner; hate the sin" was and is a shitty philosophy. That a gay person could only be absolved by never acting on his or her feelings was deeply upsetting, especially as I myself began to question my attractions.

And then I dated a smart and kind young man off and on through senior high school, off because things moved too quickly for me, physically, and on again because I loved the boy and our attraction was strong. When the only choice was abstinence until marriage, I had no blueprint for not fucking up my teenage romantic relationship by drowning in guilt for loving and wanting to physically express that to a really nice young man who was mostly wonderful to me, at least as much as teenage boys can be. The cognitive dissonance of loving and sinning was adequately traumatic for an impressionable young woman. For years and to this day I still feel guilty not for the things I did with him, but for letting my faith keep me from loving him freely, as I wanted and he deserved.

Also in high school, our youth pastor gave a talk one day about how priests go to seminary school for so many years to learn to interpret the Bible correctly, the point being that lay people couldn't be trusted not to misinterpret the Bible. Great big bullshit alarms sounded in my head. That lay people and I, a rational, smart, logical woman, could not be trusted to read a book, especially because women cannot be priests, was DEEPLY offensive. And it conflicted with what we had been previously taught about each person's relationship to God being unique. Surely a person's unique relationship would lead to unique interpretations as befitted each person's life and individual needs, and that would be a good thing overall. And if that book was open to so much conflicting interpretation, then it couldn't really be worth very much, could it?

I left home for college and briefly attended mass with a classmate, but it was painfully obvious that I had only been attending for so long in order to see my friends and that I had no idea what I truly believed, only the things I had been taught to believe, so it was imperative that I set out to learn the truths of the world, the universe, and spirituality, to find out what I could believe in.

Hell and scaring people into obedience was a terrible tenet, and so many behavioral studies proved that punishment is an inefficient motivator. Heaven, however, seemed rather dull, and there should be some form of cosmic justice. So I briefly tried on a belief in reincarnation, initially because soul age theory rang true and described me well, but I think I knew most of the time that I only believed in the thing because I liked how pretty, poetic, and comforting it was.

Multiverse theory was an easy replacement. It means that there are a possibly infinite number of universes very similar to ours and that somewhere out there is a prima ballerina me, a NASA researcher me, and maybe even a happy wife and mom me.

And I just can't bring myself to believe in a vain, petty, cruel god like the one in the Bible. If there is a creator, it gave me my questioning mind and my free will to live this life as makes me happiest. And what makes me happiest is not condemning consenting adults for whatever they want to do. And not living under the oppressive yoke of fear and guilt for LOVING.

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