I was raised as a Roman Catholic but honestly, only in a vague way. My mother never went to church until she married my father. My father is religious, says the rosary before going to bed, but also hated going to church, especially if there was singing. (Mostly he’s just an old Yankee curmudgeon who doesn’t like people in general.) My parents worked at a state hospital that was basically a nursing home. My mother and I would go to services at the hospital where I would help out with the giving of communion by giving the patients cups of water. It was service to me. I wasn’t an alter girl officially. I just liked helping people and helping to put away the church items-snuffing the candles and playing with the wax and such.
I officially became an atheist around 6th grade. I realized I really didn’t believe in anything I’d been learning about in CCD or heard in church. It didn’t hurt that I’m chemically sensitive and the church we started going to around that time used incense and we always managed to sit near someone who bathed in perfume. I spent a large amount of time standing in the foyer with time to think. For me CCD was basically school…you read the textbook, did crafts, took tests, memorized things…got grades. Standard school stuff. I think the thing that stuck with me, and really cinched it for me, though was this ridiculous explanation of “Hell” from ‘Father Mike’ (clearly one of the new school priests). He said that Hell was like an ice cream shop where all your favorite flavors were present but the spoons were too big to use and no one would help you. I still remember this vividly to this day. It was the stupidest thing I had heard up until that point in my life.
After I told my parents they were, blessedly, totally supportive. I’m sure they were disappointed but they knew me well enough to know that I meant what I said and would only change my mind if I came to a new conclusion. Again, it didn’t hurt that the Deacon of the church called my parents on more than one occasion to try to convince me to come back. (I’d left right before the final test of the CCD year and the year before confirmation classes.) My mother tried to explain that I’d stopped believing in God. He didn’t seem to care…as if it were not an issue or that he was sure I would change my mind.
I’ve never looked back. I think I’m one of those people who didn’t have the ‘god gene’ or something. I don’t think I ever really believed. I don’t ever remember fearing hell or worrying about sinning. The thing I remember from my childhood is spending years making sure my hair was over my ears before I went to bed because I saw Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan too young and feared insects would crawl into my ears if they weren’t covered. That was my Devil. The dreaded earwig. I still get an instant fight or flight response if I see one.