If you are mentally agonizing, struggling, and battling on an almost daily basis over the teachings of whatever religion you were forced to learn, especially if it’s Catholicism, then this is meant for you. If you are someone that is religious, this is not meant for you, so if you continue to read and get triggered, that’s on you.
First, a little background about who I am, just so you know where I come from and that I speak from experience.
I grew up in the 1970’s and was raised Roman Catholic. I went to catholic school for 13 years (elementary for 9 (including kindergarten; there was no middle school in my case) and then high school for the final 4). I’m no expert on religion, but it’s probably one of the most strict religions out there. You have to follow ten “commandments” to the letter if you want to go to heaven, and if you deviate from them you’ll suffer in hell for all eternity unless you confess your sins and say a bunch of prayers.
I was baptized, had my first communion, and was confirmed. I think that’s all of the major milestones one must go through to become an official cult member of the catholic church. I can’t remember. It’s been over 30 years and I’ve been working hard on forgetting all of that horrible stuff.
At some point during my youth, and I like to think it was around 5th grade when I was about 10 years old, I started to think for myself and was in the infant stages of becoming the critical thinker I am today. Eventually I started to hate (strong word, but it’s true) my religion and all of its teachings. While I still attended catholic school, I mentally checked out of the religious curriculum, doing just enough studying and cheating to pass. Actually to be honest, I mentally checked out of most of the subjects I had no interest in, like history and geography. Who cares what the capital of Utah is, the roman aqueducts, or who the 23rd president of the U.S. was!? None of that is relevant and therefore shouldn’t be something taught in school or even tested. But I digress.
Even though I hated my religion, I still attended church every Sunday like clockwork for ~18 torturous years. But I mentally checked out of that as well. I showed up and went through the motions, like mouthing and mumbling the words when it came to having to pray or sing. And yes, I did receive the eucharist, but that was just because I had to, the same reason why I went to confession. I was brainwashed and forced to play the part. I was the good soldier.
At 18 years of age I finally gained my independence as a young adult, but most importantly: my religious freedom. This was a very tumultuous point in my life which ultimately led to my leaving home and a not-so-ephemeral-rift with my parents. Eventually though about 10 years later in my 30’s, I became close again with my mother and father who finally warmed up to my being a nonbeliever. And for the record: they did not force me to leave home. They never hated me or abused me. Aside from being strongly disciplined a few times, the worse thing they did was send me to catholic school. I held it against them for a long time, maybe a decade. But as I stated above, with love, kindness, patience, some understanding, and time, my anger against them lessened, and they also became open to my being a nonbeliever. Eventually it was water under the bridge.
But even though I was close with my parents again, that didn’t help with the mental anguish I was still enduring courtesy of the catholic church and its teachings. All through my life, even up to my early/mid-forties, the teachings of the catholic church continued to be a mental thorn in my side. It has been a lifelong battle in overcoming being brainwashed by the catholic church.
Finally, as I write this and slowly creep to becoming 50 years old in a few years, I can honestly say that my catholic upbringing no longer has a negative impact on my daily life as it once did. My thoughts are no longer constantly consumed by it. I no longer have any anger about it. I no longer have strong feelings of guilt, shame and regret. Sure, I still wish that organized religion would go away and that people would stop indoctrinating their children into it. I still get angry whenever I hear about priests and nuns abusing children. And I’m here writing this. But ~98% of the time religion is not on my mind at all.
I don’t believe in god, but I’m not arrogant enough to think a god does not exist. I just don’t know. I didn’t create the universe. None of us did. Maybe a god did, maybe not. I really don’t care! I don’t wake up and face the day with thoughts about god or religion. I simply live.
You and I, dear reader, do not know each other. I may not know your exact situation that you are dealing with, but the mental battle is not that entirely different. It’s real. And you, I, and so many others, can relate.
Be patient with yourself. Endure. Overcome. Rise above.
Don’t take the anger and frustrations you feel out on anyone else, most especially yourself! Do something constructive with that energy instead. Exorcise those demons by exercising, or writing about your anger in a personal journal, vlogging, painting, drawing, sculpting or any number of positive and constructive ways that will get you through those moments of mental torment and anguish. And if your family cuts ties with you, so be it! It’s their loss! Be steadfast, headstrong and resilient when it comes to being whoever you want to be in this life, especially when it comes to the topic at hand: not believing in god, and leaving your religion to crumble in the dust of your past.
I am free. And you can be too.
Does it mean I’m completely free from the clutches of my religious upbringing? No. You don’t spend 13 years of your impressionable youth having religion ingrained into every fiber of your being and then wake up one day at 20, 30 or 45 years of age and have completely forgotten about it all. I can sit here and recite the Hail Mary prayer in its entirety as if I were 10 years old all over again. I am sure it still has some kind of subconscious role in my life that I may not be aware of. But consciously I am not thinking of religion throughout the day nor making conscious decisions and life choices based on my religious upbringing.
I live the life I choose to live defined by my own personal beliefs or lack thereof, my own philosophy, my own morals, and my own mindset. All of which I am free to add, delete, modify and evolve whenever I so please and however it best benefits myself and those I love first and foremost.
All my best,
Paul aka Ephemeral Rift
Below are photos of some elementary school projects for religion class that I did just to show you the ridiculous stuff they brainwashed us kids with.