Tuesday, 28 October, 2003
Back in May, my good friend Jeff Duntemann began an ongoing discussion of religion (specifically, his religious beliefs) in his web diary. At the time I had been rethinking (again) my own beliefs, and we exchanged a few email messages on the subject. He recommended that I sort out my thoughts and post them here. Some things take time.
I was brought up Catholic, although a somewhat toned-down Catholicism. We went to Mass every Sunday and Catechism classes on Wednesday, said a blessing at each meal, and we all received our First Communion at the appointed time. I even served as an altar boy for a few years, but that was about it as far as overt religion was concerned. My grandparents were much more involved in the religion, and I clearly remember them saying a Rosary every night before bed when they came to visit. My grandfather had a very deep voice that carried well through the walls of the bedroom and throughout the house. I stopped attending Mass regularly when I went off to military school at 14. No way was I going to get up on a Sunday morning—the only morning I could sleep in—to catch a bus ride to the church. Especially not after a very frustrating exchange with a priest who had no patience for a 14-year-old kid who had the effrontery to question the Church's teachings.
I had a friend who attended the local Baptist church every Sunday morning and was really getting into it. When he mentioned that lots of girls attended and that they were very interested in talking to us clean-cut military school boys in the rec hall after services, I figured I could give up some sleep. Oh, boy, was that a shock. The difference between a Catholic Mass and a Southern Baptist Sunday service is really something. Like the difference between a symphony orchestra and a Grateful Dead concert. And the sermons? I left there every Sunday in mortal fear! Those people were crazy! Even though the girls were pretty, plentiful, and friendly, I just couldn't embrace the religious beliefs that were being shoved down my throat.
So I drifted. For a while it was fashionable to claim to be an atheist, and I made a good one: arrogantly and ignorantly proclaiming the non-existence of God to anybody who asked and many who didn't. I got a perverse enjoyment of baiting people of faith, laying little logic traps for them and gloating when they fell in. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the reason they stopped discussing religion with me wasn't because they weren't secure in their beliefs, but because my arguments were childish and illogical. Atheism was my religion, and I followed it as blindly as any caricature fundamentalist. I was 20 years old before I figured out that I should keep my beliefs to myself until I had something intelligent to say. When I finally did have something intelligent to say, I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut..