I attended Catholic schools and believed Christian doctrine to be the rich history of our culture full of stories meant to help us learn morality that we appreciated for their utility, but were aware of the fact that it was not factual. We talked about God as a being that unified our community, but the idea that he actually existed? No one actually believes that, right?
In fact, it wasn’t until I was 15 years old, a sophomore in Catholic high school, that I realized that my interpretation of Christian doctrine was different, and that it was so different that it even had a name: atheism. In my sophomore year religion class we started to learn the differences between Catholicism and other Christian sects, one of the major distinctions being that Catholics believe in transubstantiation. Somehow this was literally the first time that I realized that Christians actually took this shit seriously. It took me 10 years of Catholic school to actually invest enough energy in my religion classes, which I always thought just served the purpose of being necessary downtime for our brains, to realize that I was supposed to take it seriously. Catholics believe that they literally cannibalize Jesus once a week? Are you shitting me?
I’d always know I was an atheist, I just didn’t know that everyone else wasn’t also atheist. Culturally I was Catholic, and always will be, so guilt ensued that tormented me for years for the fact that I couldn’t believe. I’d always heard that faith was a gift, why didn’t I have that gift? And why did my classmates and teachers ridicule me when I came out with the fact that I didn’t have the gift?
I didn’t want to find god, I knew atheism was the correct state, but I went through years of guilt and self-loathing for the fact that I am not, and cannot be, a believer. What is so wrong with me that I can’t think like other people? It was an awful few years for me emotionally; Catholic guilt is serious business. Only in the past year or so have I realized that there are other people who think like I do, and in fact, the fact that I am so naturally resistant to indoctrination, and can’t delude myself into believe in a god, is what has made me a successful scientist. Thank God for the internet and vocal atheists! You have blessed me with the peace, confidence, and security in my intellectual ability that the Church had taken away from me by trying to give me faith.