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Old 02-21-2006, 05:48 AM   #7
RalphyS
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Re: Where are you now?

I wrote this a while ago for another forum, always thought it would be handy to safe.

My road to disbelief and militant atheism.

As you can see Iím from The Netherlands, a country historically split between Catholic (under the great rivers, Rhine-Meuse) and the Protestant religion of the royals above the rivers. As Iím from the southernmost point of Holland all my surroundings are/were basically Roman Catholic-oriented. But in the meantime the dechurchification of our country is in such an advanced state that we are one of the more secular countries in the world, which was proven by the Purple government in the 90ís (A government without participation of the Christian Democrats, who were in there always before that, which was able to pass laws in favor of euthanasia as well as homosexual-marriages, thank God J).

Back to my personal circumstances, both my father and my mother come from the same little village nearby and went to a school led by nuns, in their upbringing years Catholicism was still a very strong powerbase and I can remember my mom telling me the story of how the pastor would come to their home, when her mother (my grandmother) wasnít pregnant within half a year of delivering a baby. Thatís why the generation of people of my grandmotherís age all have lots of children around here. Catechism was very strictly taught and enforced at school as my parents told me and overall church attendance was enforced on my parents too on Sundays. If I ever complained as a kid about religious teachings I was told by my parents that I should be glad I didnít have to learn and do all the stuff that they had to do.

I think because they were force-fed religion in such a manor, they were very loose towards me about it. We only went to church at Easter and Christmas. Ofcourse I went to a Catholic school (as if there were any others around here), but not one led by nuns. I have to mention that this grade-school was an all-boy school and that the girls of my age did go to a school in a convent led by nuns. Just after I graduated the school got mixed by the way and nowadays there is only one school in this town. In school we used to pray in the first couple of grades at the start of the day, we went to mass (in the convent) once a week, in the fifth grade the chaplain came by on Friday morning to teach us religion (nowadays there are too few priests around here and there are no more chaplains) and his boss, the pastor did the same in the sixth and last grade.

At home I remember having a nice bible with beautiful drawings of Adam and Eve surrounded by animals in the paradise, the Ark of Noah and so on, the drawings were the most appealing part and letís be honest, the stories of the O.T. are nice fairytales for a child. I do have to add that in opposition to what Iíve read around here a lot, there was never a fear of hell installed in us as children, we were all good children, who would inevitably go to heaven.

Ofcourse there were also the common Catholic rituals as a child, baptism I obviously donít remember, because it happens weeks after your birth, in second grade there was our first communion, a remarkable event because a)it was the only time we did something together with the girlís school and b) it triggered a 3-day feast at my home, at which I got lots and lots of presents. In 5th grade there was also confirmation, in which a 10-year-old has to confirm his baptism and thus state that he truly believes in the Christian God, like he now really understands it all. L I must admit that I had a phase sometime during my grade school years that I was really interested in the concept of Jesus and God and I even asked my father to attend mass with me for a couple of times, but after a few visits that became boring very soon. Catholic mass is basically a mind-numbing experience.

After grade school came high school, also a Catholic one, originally also founded by nuns or friars or something like that, but basically at that time just a good school. Secular schools werenít available and neither me nor my parents didnít care about the foundation, it was a school for the brighter children opposed to the schools, who taught you a trade and that was the important thing. The religious aspect of the school consisted of a mass at the start of the school year (Remarkable anecdote about that: I once got sick (that means I had to vomit) during one of this opening masses, and as I was sitting just beside the altar, I had to go through the entire church to get out. I wasnít ill before it or after it, it could have been the insense (sp?), but I really didnít feel sick until I started to throw up??) and religion lessons.

During these religion lessons all the 4 major religions of the world were explained, with a short text book (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) and this was really my first inclination that not all people believed in the Jebus-story. The religion teacher, who is deceased by now, was a strict guy, who aborted his education to become a priest, before being ordained. I wonder whether it was doubts about the Christian faith or the hardships of becoming a priest (the celibate etc.) that made him quit. School played an even bigger part in my deconversion, ofcourse there were the history lessons (my favourite subject) in which you learned about religious wars and all the other stuff that happened in the name of God during history, which raised some questions, but still a good Catholic boy as I was believed in God, nonetheless, although we still only visited church at special occasions.

But there was one subject I always had trouble with during high school, physics, no matter how hard I studied, somehow I didnít quite understand it in such a manor that I could make the tests satisfactory. To understand better you have to know that I was a real study geek at that time, high grades were normal, getting home and doing your homework before doing anything else was normal, and a bad grade was in my own little world a terrible and horrific thing and my parents would surely punish me badly for it, so I thought. (I had and have the most loving parents, who did praise me for getting good grades, but they would have also loved me if I tried and failed). Than once again a physics-test was coming up and I studied and I studied and I knew all the facts, but I just couldnít combine the logic to get the good results for the questions I tested myself with. I was desperate and what do you do as a Christian, if all else fails, you pray to God to get you out of this mess. Surely He would help me, after all, I had given it my all and now He would help me. What can I say, I failed the test, the revelation, which I expected to happen in which all the answers would become clear didnít occur, my prayers were unanswered and this invoked the thought in my mind that if God couldnít even help me with such a small thing (although it was a very big thing for me at that time), what use was He? Better yet, it raised the question whether there was this big sky daddy that listens to everything you ask for, at all. So this was my first real epiphany, basically about the uselessness of believing in and praying to God. Well I wonít say I became an atheist at that point, it wasnít much later that I told my parents that I didnít want to go to church anymore even at X-mas and Easter, it was both boring and useless in my opinion now.
I think they still forced me to go at the holidays for a couple of years, until at one point I flat out refused to go on holy night, big discussion, screams, but I held my ground and ever since it was clear I wouldnít go, although my father still nudges me quietly sometimes to come along. They still went to church at X-mas, but abandoned Easter, and later X-mas too. Meanwhile they only go at funerals and weddings and stuff like that.

By the way I basically invented my own sort of religion than, I used a bit of Hinduism and Buddhism and combined that with what they had told me at physics, that energy cannot disappear and in my own warped logic I concluded that the energy of a living person thus also couldnít disappear and that therefore reincarnation was the logical conclusion. Gods were out of the picture, since prayer was useless, and I could also not understand why an omnipotent and omniscient being would require for us to pray and adore him, he has it all, so how could he wish or desire something, and the 3rd thing was the fact that I in the meantime had learned about all the atrocities committed in the name of religion, John Lennonís ďImagineĒ best describes that feeling of thinking the world would be better off without religion.

After that religion really was not an issue in my life, it rarely comes up in every day life, because there are no fundies in this area, there is only one broadcast station which tries to Ďspread the gospelí, but they have limited broadcast time and can easily be avoided. I was real glad that the Christian Democrats were voted out of the government in the 90ís and that some of these laws mentioned above could be introduced without some religious mindset blocking them. I have to admit that this Christian party is not a fundie party, but still on all issues like abortion, euthanasia and such they take the so-called pro-life hardline. On homosexual marriages even they have led up. So since graduating high school my life became religion free basically. And in a period of about 15 years I tried to avoid anything to do with God or religion which in my own life was reasonably easy, but ofcourse the news of religious wars/struggles in places like the middle east and Ireland was utterly amazing to me and basically, letís be honest, you get pissed off as a non-believer if you hear about people killing in the name of something that you donít even think exists.
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Ralphy's Cool Music Site www.aowekino.nl
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