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My Religious Beginnings

Picture of Brian

My Kindergarten Picture

 

One of the topics I’m most eager to write about is religion and spirituality. I see them as a critical lens into the deepest emotions, fears and desires of humanity. To the majority of the world, nothing is more important, more special, or more sacred than religion. To me however, religion represents ones inability to accept the universe, its laws and the unknown. So before I start getting into my views and ideas I wanted to explain my background in the matter.  

I was born into a Catholic family and baptized shortly after birth. My parents wanted to raise me as a good Catholic boy. While we were a Catholic family, we weren’t very devout. We would rarely go to church, and it quickly became a bi-annual occurrence, Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve. From the first years of my life I was taught about God, and how Jesus died for our sins. Every night, as I went to bed, I would say my prayers. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and a third which went “For food and clothes and toys and such, we thank you lord so very much.” After prayers, I would come up with something that happened that day for which I was thankful, usually something I got to do, my favorite toy, or a family member.

When I reached the age to begin my schooling, both of my parents were working full-time to pay the bills therefore the decision was made to send me to a full day Kindergarten. The public schools in my district offered half day Kindergarten and that wasn’t an option so I was instead sent to Trinity Regional School. Trinity, as the name might suggest, is a Catholic private Kindergarten. The school was very formal, including a mandatory uniform of grey and red. In addition to normal subjects, they would also teach about God and religion. That was my least favorite subject. I was a very active child, with a creative mind. Trinity wasn’t a good fit for me and I was very glad to get out after Kindergarten. After some of the things I got into during the year, I imagine they were glad to get rid of me!

In the Catholic faith, parishioners begin receiving Holy Communion around the age of seven or eight. The first Communion is special mass, and a big event in the life of a Catholic. It signifies that you may now accept the Communion bread, a symbol for the body of Christ and a recreation of the Final Supper. Leading up to this day is months of religious education known as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or CCD. I actually had to look that up just now, as I only knew it as CCD and never knew what it meant. Through the program I was taught the basics of the Christian faith. I learned the stories from the bible, and the significance of most of the traditions and events. Part of the process involved my first (and only) confession. Confession is an idea I didn’t understand. I stepped into a small box with just me and the priest and was supposed to tell him of all the sins I had committed of which there were many. If I remember correctly, I made something up and he supposedly absolved me of the sin. Even at this young age, I could tell religion and I weren’t going to get along. I hated going to the CCD classes, and was very suspect of the whole process. On my Communion day I wasn’t as excited as one might expect. I really wanted to know what the wafers taste like, but the whole Jesus’ flesh symbolism didn’t really matter to me. I’ve always been a very literal person, very observant of my surroundings. I saw the Communion wafer as a disk of bread, manufactured by some big corporation. According to the Catholic faith what transforms the wafer from a simple disk of bread, to the body of our lord and savior, is the priest waving his hands in the air while singing a few verses. I didn’t buy it.

Not that long after Communion begins the process of being confirmed into the Catholic faith. Confirmation is a very big deal in the Catholic faith. Basically, as a baby, my parents decided to baptize me, to declare me as a Christian and keep me protected under the Covenant of Jesus Christ. Once I reach the appropriate age I confirm my faith and loyalty to the church through Confirmation. To do this, I continued my religious education classes, for two years leading up the ceremony. Over these two years we learned more detailed stories from the bible, and went through it in detail (at least the important parts as determined by them.)  Sometime during this process I knew in my mind I was an atheist. Despite this revelation, I continued to go with the classes, because my parents wanted me to. I confirmed myself as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and a patron to the Catholic Church even though I knew full well that I did not believe in God or any of that.

The years following I kept my views to myself, which wasn’t difficult as religion rarely came up in my life. By this point my family had given up Easter Sunday and we were only going to church on Christmas Eve. I’m convinced the only reason we still do this is because we always meet up with some good family friends and it’s a nice social experience. As I progressed through High School I began to consciously defeat peer pressure and what others thought of me. I rebelled in my own ways, one of which was with religion. I got more comfortable with the idea of being an Atheist and started to worry less about what people thought of me if I was a non-believer. When asked about my religion I would state I was a confirmed Catholic, but wasn’t really that religious. I’d discuss it sometimes with my parents, and they would agree on some points, but they were mainly about the problems with organized religion (which I’ll cover in a future post) not about the problems with believing in God.

College was when I was able to liberate myself from religion. I was on my own, no watchful eye over my shoulder to keep me in line. I began to surround myself with like-minded friends, many of whom either hated organized religion (and were Agnostic) or were simply Atheist. I met friends who were confident and proud of their position which helped me to affirm my stance on the matter; I would now consider myself one of biggest anti-religion proponents. I dream of the day when humanity is free from the blind ignorance and refusal of the truth that religion offers. I hope that one day I may raise a child devoid of religious concepts and ideas. A child who doesn’t pray to God when times are tough, and a child who takes his/her destiny into their own hands, and doesn’t leave it up to some omnipotent force from above.

  1. Michael
    March 25th, 2013 at 01:57 | #1

    Having read what you wrote I understand why you left your religious tradition. I think I would have left too if that was the only experience I had with religion. I was raised in the United Methodist Church and I have been ordained in that tradition for about 10 years now. What I really appreciated about Methodism and the Anglican tradition in general is the encouragement to think for oneself. There is no dogmatic catechism that we have to agree with in order to be Christian. I also deeply appreciate the notion that faith is revealed in Scripture, manifest in Tradition, personified in Experience, and confirmed by Reason. All four of these inform our faith and they are all important.
    Being Methodist, I am also not one who says, “My way is the only way. You must believe what I do to be ‘saved’.” Tradition is the biggest impediment to religious faith. It is important to find a tradition that helps you relate to the source of your being–whatever that is. God gives us intelligence and wisdom as well. I cannot, in all good conscience, ask you to: “Believe 7 impossible things before lunch,” either.
    My experience as an ordained minister has taught me that there are no such people as atheists. We all have a need to put our faith in something. What makes a difference is what. Some people reject religion because it seems foolish, but then they start to worship other things like money, power, position, possessions, celebrity… The problem is that these things are never able to give us what we need (or want). Just food for thought.
    So that’s enough preaching for now. (ha, ha). I love you and your new boyfriend, Dan. I have been watching your videos and the more I watch the more I love the both of you. I respect you for who you are and the decisions you’ve made in your life. I hope you will stay open to the possibilities. I know you will contribute greatly to the world. Blessings and peace to you. (In whatever form you choose to receive them.)

  2. Lucas
    November 25th, 2012 at 08:40 | #2

    Hi Brian! Your text was just brilliant and your point of view really interesting. Despite I don’t agree with you on all terms, that’s an very nice blog and I’ll surely read more of your publications.

    I actually come from a Protestant background I was thought since the beginning all of that and my family was (is) always very devoted, I went to church everyday. As soon as I started contemplating my sexuality I got really bad, I smile by day and cried myself to sleep every night praying that it would just go away. Today I’m 17, at college, and still on the closet, of course I’m not content with the churches attitude, but the “spirit” of the church initiative for me is very valid. The objective of the church to provide help and guidance to the ones in need is beautiful. Imagine you’re having a hard time with your life, your job, and you have no one to hold on to. You would be very inclinable to take wrong decisions, so in this case you would have someone to provide you a little peace, guidance, and sometimes even a job (I’ve seen it happen lots of times) the feeling that you’re in a community that will always help brings you more inside peace through hard times. It’s scientifically stated that people of faith live more than people without it (Sorry I couldn’t provide the source, besides it is in Portuguese-BR). I’m not saying that everyone should have faith because it goes from person to person I’m just saying it’s nice to have something to hold on to when times are dark, I believe the bible should be used, not as something mythical and above everything, but as the best self-help book ever written, and of course read considering the society and the time in which it was written. Because taking off ‘those’ parts it teaches the patience, the tolerance, the respect and the love.

    Well that’s my point of view… Thoughts, remarks, I’m open to discuss it. Also I would like to previously sorry for any concordance mistakes or such, I’m Brasilian and still learning the language! Ok bye! 😀

  3. Maggie
    August 9th, 2010 at 12:13 | #3

    Your photo is tooooooo cute for words. The ceremonies were all done to see you get dressed up and strut you around!

    No, of course not, but as I imagine for most, participating in religion begins as a cultural tradition.

    Parents are teachers of what they know to be influential forces within their own lives. For me, it was not the ceremony, rituals or the blind obedience, but the meaning behind some of the words. “To love each other with reckless abandon.” “To weep with those who weep, and comfort them as best we can.” ” Am I the person I want to be remembered as?” “How can I contribute to the betterment of my species.”

    The question for me lies with the following thought: ” Do the humans who have acquired power have the right to enforce, “Live as I do and the world will be a better place”, and the paradox it creates for the humans with power, “How much complacency am I allowed?”

    Sometimes, along life’s journey you need help. A community of people serve this purpose. Hopefully you will never find yourself alone, but if you do, perhaps such a community with shared beliefs will come to your aid.

    Agreed, is that at some point the child must decide if Faith is something they wish to guide them through adult life or not.

    May your journey be enlightening and make you happy and comfortable with your life’s choices.

  4. D201, C
    August 6th, 2010 at 10:06 | #4

    Haha, I never knew what CCD meant either…oh and I got some communion wafers leftover in case you still crave that one-of-a-kind taste. and when i mean some i mean like 800.

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