It seems obligatory for every atheist blogger, at least everyone who was formerly religious, to do a post explaining why they came to reject religion and become an atheist. So it is only fitting that I describe my journey from belief to disbelief in a series of posts to come hopefully over the course of the next week or so. Fellow atheists who read these posts may recognize milestones or points of commonality in their own path to deconversion, while theists might at least gain some understanding as to why someone would turn away from believing in something that they believe is so vitally important and necessary.
Before I can discuss why I became an atheist, I must first start off with what I was before that. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic, which was the religion of my father. Like all good Irish Catholics, he dutifully attended mass every Sunday and he made me and my two brothers do the same. My dad would drop my brothers and I off at the church for the late morning mass at Holy Family Church, as he always went to one of the earlier services, and my brothers would hang out in the back of the church and not participate in the mass. Sometimes, they would even duck out of church for awhile to smoke cigarettes and maybe even make a run to the nearby 7-11 and come back before dad came by to pick us up.
In addition to mass every Sunday, I also had to attend catechism classes on Saturday mornings. I did not mind that as much as mass, as I got to be in a classroom with other kids my age and more often than not, the cathechism teachers were not all that serious. Like every child in a Catholic family, my life in the church was marked by events like first Holy Communion and Confirmation. But for my elementary school and most of my junior high school years, my religion was more of an obligation than an actual part of my daily life. And while my dad went to mass every Sunday, I don't recall him ever reading the Bible in his free time. Looking back, I get the sense that he went to church because it was drilled into him from childhood that it was just the way things were supposed to be. My mom, on the other hand, was not a Catholic or particularly religious, though I do recall she had some kind of born again phase when I was about five. I don't remember what kind of church it was, but I remember being there when she had one of those baptisms where you get completely dunked in a tank of water.
It was in the middle of 9th grade when I actually began to incorporate my religion into my life and try to model my life as a Christian. I was attending a mass around New Years Day of 1984, and the priest was talking about using the New Year to rededicating ourselves to our faith. I don't remember his exact words, but that was the gist of it, and I remember being moved by what he said. I resolved that I would dedicate myself to my faith. I still went to church every Sunday, just like I always had before, but from then on I went because I actually wanted to go. My dad didn't even have to drive me there anymore. Oftentimes I would walk or ride my bike there. I challenged myself to read the Bible in its entirety for the first time, and proceeded to do so. I ended up reading the Bible from start to finish three times in a row. I'm embarrassed to say that I even went so far as to take my Bible to bed with me at night, as if having it close to me would cloak me in divine benevolence while I slept. I was outspoken about my faith to my friends at the time, and much to their annoyance, when we played Risk, I would even refer to my army as God's army.
While the intensity of my faith nowhere reached the level of born again evangelicals, for a suburban teenager, I took my religion pretty seriously. And my faith remained rock solid throughout the remainder of my years in public school (so much for public schools promoting "godlessness" in children!). As far as I knew at the time, I took it for granted that I would believe in the Bible and be a Catholic for the rest of my life. But as the summer of 1987 drew to a close and my first year of college was about to start, little did I expect that what I believed to be a faith as solid as granite would soon begin to erode and crumble.