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The Wonder Years

May 17, 2010

This post will be about my starting life. What I started out as, where I came from, etc. I think it’s important to establish this because my early life and what my parents taught me is important to how I turned out.

I was born Catholic.

Wait… never mind. I keep reminding myself of something Richard Dawkins said. I try not to copy other people’s work but, frankly, he said it best and it just makes sense to re-use it in this context. I hope he doesn’t mind. To paraphrase, nobody is really born one religion or another. It’s like being born a Democrat or a Republican. It’s more accurate to say that I was born into a Catholic family. My mom was one of ten, my father one of three. I, myself, am the second of four. Our family reunions look like we invited half the town. Indeed, on my mother’s side, that was precisely the case.

Growing up, I had all the questions you would think a kid would have. Does God listen to our prayers? If God exists, why are there so many bad people? Where do we go when we die?

The answers I got always followed the formula of “well, we believe … etc etc etc… but nobody really knows for sure”.

My parents were being honest of course and I can’t fault them for that. Nobody really knows for sure. We can believe all we want, but we don’t know. We can believe so hard it’s almost as if we do know, but we can’t really know. Otherwise it isn’t believing and it isn’t faith.

But, at the time, I hated those answers. Come on! I was what? 5? 7? 10? I needed an answer, dammit! This is an important question and you’re my parents. Why don’t you have an answer? Shouldn’t you have all the answers I need right now? Of course, I didn’t say that out loud. Looking back, they did me a favor, really, and laid the ground work for who I was to become later in life which is really the function that parents serve, when you think about it. From the point of view, they did exactly what they should have done.

But, it wasn’t enough to “believe”. I would come to “believe” in many things as a child. The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and so forth, but these all turned out to be not true. I’m not comparing the belief of an afterlife or God(s) to these other fairytales, but it was clear to me that belief alone was simply not a reliable tool in determining fundamental truth. You can believe in something all you want but that doesn’t make it true, I remembered thinking sometime in middle school. And if something is true, that’s no guarantee you will believe it.

No… I had to find the answers on my own.

So I went through the motions for my family’s sake all the while listening, gathering my information and forming my own conclusions. I got my first communion, confession, confirmation and all that. I even took another name – Edward, in case you were wondering.

Sometime in the summer after my 8th grade year, I remember saying to my parents “I don’t understand how an old, childless, unmarried, celibate white guy has the authority to tell me how to live my sex life”. I was 14 so I didn’t have a sex life. But I knew one day I would so this would be important to me at some point in the future. I’m sure it was no coincidence that, after that, my parents stopped making me go to Sunday mass.

So, it’s at this point that I effectively departed Catholicism. I’ve never actually officially renounced it, sent the letter, asking them not to count me in your congregation, excommunicate myself and all that. Frankly, I never saw the point. Maybe I should, if only to have that conversation with a priest. What fun that would be.

Anyway, so that’s the end of that. On to High School… joy.

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From → Early Life

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