I’m an atheist. I have been since the age of about 15. In religious parlance that is called the Age Of Reason.
When I was fifteen, I was an alter boy at
St. Michael’s Catholic church in Fort Erie. I was also something called a Columbian Squire, which the junior version of the Knights of Columbus, which you were very much expected to become at about the age of 18.
When you are young you don’t really realize what’s going on with organized religion. But its manifestations really do get inside your head. Every time you looked a girl with nice breasts you felt yourself committing the sin of lust. Every time you swore, and I swore a lot, you were pretty much taking the lord’s name in vain, because besides the word ‘fuck’ my favourite curse was “Jesus H Christ”. Variations included “Christ On A Crutch!, Christ On A Cracker, and the super deluxe “Jesus Fucking Christ!”
My tally of venial sins for taking the Lord’s name in vain alone would have been a slam dunk for a very overheated bachelor pad in hell.
One day, I was thinking about the whole concept of Heaven and Hell. As young Catholics we had a pretty elaborate vision of what that would be like.
But on this day, a freshman in the Age Of Reason, I reasoned that this was probably all bullshit.
I never acted on it right away, but, as would become a modus operandi for me in life, I held it in my head and let it sit there for a while.
Now I was smart enough to know that this was the way atheists thought, and I also knew that if I really followed through with becoming one, I would essentially be cutting myself off from a rather large part of my life at the time.
So I did what most smart young lads would and just kept it inside. Gradually over the next two years as I made it into high school, I phased out all the Catholicism out of my life.
Surprisingly, my mother, who was, a real card carrying member of the faithful, understood when I quit the squires, retired from the alter boy gig, and eventually, some three years,completely let go of the last vestiges of Catholicism.
To Each His Own
I have nothing against people who are religious. Regardless of who their God might be and goodness knows there are enough of them.
It does bother me a little that some religions are so tightly intertwined with people’s lives, like Judaism and Islam. But that’s only because of my point of view. I have read enough to know that people derive a good deal of strength and inner peace from their religion and I would never presume to have any real deep understanding of cultures other than the one in which I was raised.
What does bother me about religion are the astonishing number of people who use people’s willingness to follow them as a way to become rich. The cynicism and hypocrisy of all of that is something I saw in the early days of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. And it seems like there has been an unbroken line of them right up to guys like Robert Schueller and Joel Osteen.
And it seems like the older I got, the more transparent their hidden agendas were to me.
Then again, a lot of people take solace in being part of those large congregations. And it’s still a free world. Pick your saviour and worship away.
When I was young and the world was a simpler place, the Christian ethos was very much in force. It was difficult to escape its influence, either Catholic or any flavour of Protestant.
And I get it. The big questions surrounding our existence can be scary. Religion helps put that into a kind of perspective that most people can wrap their heads around.
Then there are the rest of us who revel in the mystery of it all. Who believe that we are just bits of energy in a carbon shell and when the shell is used up after 80 or 90 years if you’re lucky, off it goes to find another carbon shell or be part of a bolt of lighting or whatever.
Because the energy that currently power us, can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed from one form to another.
That works for me as well as the concept of God works for others.
And so it goes. Because the nature of faith is to believe in something. And we all have something we believe in.
Jim Murray is an experienced advertising and marketing professional. He is a communication strategist, writer, art director, broadcast producer, mildly opinionated op/ed blogger & beBee Brand Ambassador.
He is also a partner at Bullet Proof Consulting. www.bulletproofconsulting.ca
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