I grew up thinking something was wrong with me. My family has lived in Northwest Ohio since before the Civil War and yet I’ve never felt like I fit in here. My feelings towards religion have always been a glaring difference between me and other people in the area; however, this difference was more painful and destructive in my childhood. Everyone else was obviously seeing something I couldn’t. No one wants to be different as a kid, so I kept my thoughts to myself. (Although, that changed when I was a teenager.)
Skepticism as a Child
It seems like many question the existence of god as an adult, but did any of you question as a child? I have always been skeptical but then again I didn’t have much religious influence from my immediate family growing up. I felt pressure from classmates and their families.
The Struggle of Questioning in Secret
I would go to church with friends and try to “force” myself to believe. My fellow churchgoers were probably unaware of my inner turmoil, but now as an adult, I wonder how many of them were in the same boat. There are more of us than we know. This thought inspired a recent poem of mine:
Stuck in the Closet
There are crowds of atheists
cloaked in the long shadows of steeples –
even more than we know.
They swallow the truth
Because they think they have to,
Because maybe they were raised that way.
One, two, ten years
In a dark closet –
Their thoughts echo in the loneliness.
They secretly question as
A tortured mind now liberated
But another voice suppressed.
But even more angry.
I know that innermost turmoil.
Let that anger fuel progress –
A passionate fire that lights the way.
The most liberated life is an honest one.
How common is Skepticism?
Humans are curious creatures and skepticism seems natural. You would think questioning god would be a normal part of growing up. It’s unfortunate that feeling skeptical at any age can be a painful experience – no matter how common it really is.
I wish I had the ability to tell everyone that has secretly questioned (including my younger self) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him or her. Imagine how powerful that would be.
Did any of you have a time where you were questioning god in secret? Has being skeptical ever been a painful experience?
When I was 7 I asked my Dad, who didn’t go to church, how Adam and Eve’s son could find a wife. He patiently explained that it’s good to ask questions about things, especially if they don’t make sense. Then he told me that lots of things in the bible didn’t make sense to him so he’d stopped believing in it.
I never told my mother about the conversation, but a year or so later I asked to stop going to church and she allowed it, except for Christmas and Easter.
I later rejoined the church at 14 because my best friend sang in the choir and I wanted to sing, too. But, I didn’t believe in God anymore and soon after I left religion behind permanently.
I live in Canada and it wasn’t a big deal to be an atheist, even back in the70’s. I didn’t feel any pressure to lie about my lack of belief and met many like-minded people. Even my still In the choir, Anglican best friend is open-minded and accepting of my atheism. She agrees with me about many things and quietly practices her religion as a form of charity work for the disadvantaged in our community.
I’m an ex-Ohioan raised Methodist. Iirc, I was supposed to join the Church at 12 or thereabouts, but I insisted on waiting (even knowing I’d have to eventually to keep my mom happy) until I was 14 I think. That was the limit of my rebellion then, but it didn’t cause me any angst. Probably because it wasn’t particularly central to my life anyway. I went to the joint Baptist-Methodist summer Bible school (it was boring because it was primarily church babysitting with some makeshift arts and crafts, but they had good treats), but also went to the Mennonite Bible school, because it was more interesting (they took it more seriously and even high school kids went) and they could sing a cappella 4-part harmony. I haven’t been in a church since I left home, except for a couple of friends’ weddings.
I’m another Ohio kid, but my circumstances are somewhat different. My father was a Lutheran minister, senior pastor of a (relatively liberal) parish in Lorain. Needless to say, I was immersed in religion as a child, with Sunday School, children’s choir, confirmation classes, and services every Sunday, not to mention Vacation Church School in the summer.
I’m sure that as a small child I was unquestioning, and I do remember assuming that I would be a minister when I grew up. After all, the music and rituals were beautiful and comforting. But I think my faith was never very deep, and evaporated even before my teens. I can remember moments of revelation (or maybe anti-revelation) such as, how lucky I was to have been born into the one “right” religion… oh, wait…
Even before I left the household for college, I was just going through the motions, waiting to get out on my own. Once I was, I left church and faith behind, only accompanying my parents to services when visiting home. This didn’t go unnoticed. Eventually there was a confrontation, where a tearful Mom and sober Dad tried their best to bring me back into the fold. It didn’t work.
I was luckier than many in my position. I remained on good terms with my parents right up until their deaths, exchanging visits and support. I guess they decided that blood was stronger than communion wine, as they made no overt efforts to re-convert me.
When I hear stories about kids who are rejected and disinherited by their families when they reject their folks’ favorite superstitions, I realize just how lucky I was.