My mother had me when she was just 16 years old. Her father and my grandfather, a Roman Catholic of strong Italian descent, disapproved of the whole pregnancy. My mother had, after all, sinned to bring on this pregnancy. As a devote Catholic, my grandfather did however support my mother as best as was possible. Maybe he’s one of those rare Catholics that can still put family and loved ones before God.
A few months after my birth, my father left my mother. It’s hard to blame him too much. They were, after all, just kids at the time. I hardly ever saw him after that though. Even to this day, 22 years later, I can count the times I’ve seen him on my hands.
I think my mother’s pregnancy and the events that followed was what caused her stance on religion – indifference. She didn’t believe in a whole lot, and didn’t mention any of it to me, either. I was my own free agent, able to choose my own path of faith. My grandparents had a different view, however.
My grandfather took me to church whenever I spent weekends or vacation time with him. At first I remember being kind of excited to go. Though looking back, I’m certain that was the case only because I enjoyed spending time with him so much. We could have gone to a bottle recycling plant and I would have been just as happy. He gave me a bible once, too, and told me he wanted me to memorize the Lord’s Prayer so that I could contribute when we went to church. Well, this was my grandfather, the only father figure in my life, and the man I respected most above all. Of course I memorized it! Word for word, and I was extremely proud when I was able to recite it back to him.
My other grandparents were also people of the church, though my experience with them was an entirely different one. My grandfather on that side sexually abused me as a child. For years I really, truly pretended it didn’t happen. I somehow told myself it wasn’t happening, that it never did happen. Then one time, for some reason, it hit me what was going on. The next day when I saw him, I couldn’t look him in the eye In front of my family, the same family that insisted we go to church every Sunday. It was a confusing message to me at the time. Church goers, singing songs of passion and caring and worship, only to be something entirely different, something downright evil, outside of congregation. If they were trying to win me towards the “faith in god” side, they were doing it wrong. This incident isn’t what convinced me that I wasn’t a Christian, but looking back, it sure was un-Christian of them.
I remember in grade six, we were given a small red Bible. Our teacher was an intelligent man, respectable, proper. I’m not sure if he was supposed to, but he told us we didn’t have to take a Bible if we didn’t want one. Like my mother, there was no forced belief, no telling us we needed to be saved; it was up to us to decide if we wanted to read it or not. I took one, of course, being somewhat interested in what it had to say. There was a chance I could find my calling here in this little red book! I felt pretty good about investing some time into something that didn’t involve a television and a joystick. It had an easy schedule to follow inside; every night you would read a small passage. I followed it through mostly, but in the end, I found an easy conclusion to what its pages had hidden; it was just a silly book, filled with cryptic passages and the unbelievable, unrealistic stories of legends and myths. Imagine! A kid in grade six being able to see through the bullshit, but grown adults with three, four, five times the life experience as me still clinging to the Bibles words. At the time, the bible was comparable to any other story I had heard. Like Jack and the Beanstalk, or Santa Clause, I knew it simply couldn’t be true. My first problem with the Bible came with learning about Dinosaurs in class. I had heard tell of God creating the world in 7 days, and only a few thousand years ago. And here was my respected teacher(s) telling me that the Dinosaurs were here two hundred million years ago! That as an unfathomable amount of time before the Bible even came to be! I knew right off the get go that something wasn’t right.
To say I never prayed to God as a youth, though, would be a lie. But, didn’t we all? I was a kid. I’m sure I prayed that I would get a new video game or a snow day at school. And always I promised that it would be the last thing I asked for, since God was a busy fellow and probably didn’t need to hear my pleas every other day. Did God ever answer my prayers? Nahh, of course not. Did I ever feel his presence? Hah! I’ve been a realist since I was just a child, and being a somewhat intelligent kid, I had already decided that this magic stuff was as good as a hoax. And at the same time, what was the sense in praying anyways? I was taught that God already had a plan for us all. Wouldn’t my praying be a waste of time, if a plan is already set in motion?
My grandfather often used to bug my mother about talking to the priest near our home to have me “Confirmed” into the Catholic Church. My mother stuck up for me though, and told my grandfather that if it was something I wanted to do, I would pursue it myself. She was right in defending me. My grandpa never mentioned it again after this, and I of course never pursued Confirmation. I didn’t want to. I knew well enough that I wasn’t a Christian.
Though I knew for a long time that I didn’t believe in the Bible God, it wasn’t until I joined the Canadian Forces in high school that I started calling myself an Atheist. “What’s your religion?” the clerk asked me on my first day. “Uhh, my religion?” I half sputtered back. “Yeah, what do we put on your dog tags?” “Uhh, none, sir.” And that was it. The day I got my dog tags, and they said “NRE” (no religion), I realized what I truly believed in (or at least, I knew what I didn’t believe in, and that’s every man-made god on the planet).
It is my belief that we truly don’t know the answer. Anyone who tells you, Christian or otherwise, that theirs is the truth, is as good as insane for believing such a delusion. Is there a higher power? I don’t know, but I would wager not. But I do know with 100% certainty that if there is, it isn’t Jesus, or Allah, or Zeus, or Thor, or Krishna, or anything that we know of. Right now I believe in the balance of this beautiful organic land we inhabit. While I enjoy living my life free of religious bullshit, it is my hope not that we find out the meaning of life, but that Christians stop worrying so much about life after death, and work towards turning this Earth into heaven for the future generations.
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