Ironically, my other’s staunch Catholicism sowed the seeds for my rejection of god. Not in the way one might expect, through so perfectly illustrating the hypocrisy and contradictions between her speech and actions (although there was that, too). Instead, her choice to bear 11 children in 18 years (I know – crazy! I’m number 9 – everyone always wants to know.) meant that my eldest siblings were effectively a different generation, and they held far more sway with us younger kids than our parents ever did. Fortunately for me, those siblings had come of age in the early seventies, and were heavily influenced by the counterculture. My eldest brother, an aspiring musician who was an early follower of punk and new wave, was like the Pied Piper to the rest of us – and he was an atheist.
I literally cannot remember ever believing in God, though I do remember my excitement at making my first communion. After all, in a family with 11 children, individual attention is hard to come by. In any case, even before I hit my teens I was standing at the back of the church, rebelliously lined up in front of the stained glass windows with the rest of my siblings, at the obligatory Sunday mass. I employed passive resistance to great effect in avoiding the confirmation process, and was relieved when at the age of 15 my mother gave up on forcing us to attend mass altogether. I never went again, except to attend weddings and funerals.
Given that scorn for religion was pretty much universal among my siblings while we were kids, I would have expected religion to die out with my parents – would that it were so. Several are now lapsed atheists, having been converted either by a spouse or in one case while in the Marines. Ugh. My husband, a Spaniard who was of course raised Catholic, can’t bring himself to reject the idea of a creator, though on the plus side he is virulently anti-religion. To appease his parents, who were appalled enough that I am American, we had a Catholic marriage ceremony. I can’t describe how much the pre-cana weekend made me want to VOMIT.
When our first child was born I told my husband that I would cooperate in but not arrange a baptism myself – so of course it never did happen. We had agreed to let our children decide for themselves where they come down on the question of god, and we’ve stuck to that, although I confess that I make my lack of respect for the belief in god (which I’m careful to note is but one determining factor in the overall respect I accord a person) quite clear. One of my proudest moments as a parent came when my husband and I were walking with our preschool aged son and he said “Look, a golden plus!” while pointing to a cross atop a church steeple. A plus sign is a symbol more deserving of reverence than a cross, but really he was attracted to the gold.
I became an atheist because I was fortunate enough to have one as a role model, but I remain one because I refuse to conform. Also too, it’s just ridiculous.