At one point I was very much a believer. My mother was a former Catholic and my dad was a non-practicing Presbyterian. They didn't really like the Presbyterian Church in town when they first moved here about fifty years ago, but because she married outside of the Church, they couldn't go to the Catholic services either. As a result, my brother, sisters and I didn't really go to church at all growing up. Christianity, however, was still the default position, though I always have had a sneaking suspicion that neither of my folks was truly that sold on the whole proposition of religion at all.
I would pray and do all the things a Christian is supposed to do (outside of going to church) most of my life, but my real knowledge of what Christianity (or any religion, really) taught was limited to what I saw on television or read in books. That changed when I met my wife Dolores. She was a Southern Baptist (a fact that shocked everyone in my family as they expected a second generation Mexican to be a devout Catholic) and I started going to church with her.
Oh, did I get into it.
We went to Sunday school every week. I studied the Bible. I listened to Christian radio to and from work each day, and I made a point not to miss James Dobson's Focus on the Family addresses when they came on. We also made some friends in the church and had some good times with them, though even then I never really quite got the proscription against dancing. That really bugged me, as it was the 80s, and I looked sharp in my white jacket, pants, pastel T-shirt, and deck shoes sans socks.
We moved back to Pennsylvania when my mom started going downhill after holding her own against her cancer for over a decade. One of the first things we did, of course, was try to find a new church home. The Baptist Church in town was…nice…though it was tad too geriatric for us, so we ended up going to a smaller church outside of town. It was a huge change for us; we were used to the Hoffmantown Church of Albuquerque which sported congregation just about as large as the population of my hometown. Now we were at a church where everyone could probably fit in my house if nobody tried to sit down.
Though they were friendly enough, we were appalled by what was being preached. The pastor would talk about KNOWING certain people were going to hell as if he had an inside track on these things, and Patrick's older brother and sister were terrified of Sunday school because they were being told to make sure they were "saved" before the Russians nuked us into oblivion...and that could be at any second. That was when I realized how much religious indoctrination is centered on FEAR. Take away the fear, and there's really nothing left. Gradually, all the incongruities and flat out logical inconsistencies I'd encountered reading the Bible and glossed over as the work of an unfathomable God came back to nag me more and more urgently. After a number of years of wandering around calling myself a deist or an agnostic, I came to terms with the fact that I was truly an atheist.
Since then I have not prayed, nor have I wanted to. I've certainly wished there was a way out of some predicaments that I couldn't see available, but at no time have I prayed. I guess the only way to describe it is that it may be similar to wanting something I can't afford, but still not being tempted to write a letter to Santa in hopes of getting it because I recognized the futility.
I'll likely be touching on my atheism quite frequently here, though I stop short of saying this blog will be dedicated to discussing it. I don't claim to be an expert by any stretch, nor do I think I'll necessarily be able to say things with any greater clarity than others who have been plugging away on the topic for years now. All I'll be able to offer is my own spin on the subject. I do welcome discussion and honest debate on the subject from friends, acquaintances, and those who feel differently.
The doors are open, so come on in. Foods on the table, and if you want to dance, knock yourself out. I don't mind.