Nine years of my life were spent in Catholic school. Anyone who has attended Catholic school can probably feel a great deal of sympathy for that fact. I went for the full run, kindergarten to eighth grade- as this institution had no high school. I have some very vivid memories from this time, most of them rather… unsavory, but for now I’ll stick with the story when I felt my first real conflict with religion.
Like most kids I believed in god because I was told he exists. I never really thought about it before. It was presented to me as a fact and when adults tell you things are real you believe them. Now that I think about it, it’s a bit interesting that most kids question their belief in Santa Claus more than their belief in god, but I suppose Santa doesn’t have entire buildings full of adults praising him, now’s not the time to get distracted though.
I went to church on Fridays for school and again on the weekends with my parents. It always felt like a chore, and I was so worried about the day when I would become an adult and force myself to go to church every week even though I hated it. What worried me is that I wouldn’t do it, and not doing it was a bad thing according to the very simple morality code we have as kids. I believed in god then, if you consider not really thinking about it to be believing, and I would pray sometimes, but I never really thought about what it all meant.
Then one day, during religion class in what I think was sixth grade, we discussed souls and animals- namely the fact that they had none, according to Catholicism. This meant all our favorite pets would just rot in the ground when they died because god did not consider them worthy enough to live in Heaven. They are simply beasts after all.
This was the first time (that I recall) where our class felt conflict with what we had been told to believe. A great bit of time was spent trying to argue with our teacher, pleading with her, almost, to acknowledge that our cats and dogs and goldfish would be with us in Heaven. We brought up how we knew our pets had feelings, and cared for us, and loved us all of which she flatly claimed was untrue, or even if it was it didn’t matter: they didn’t have souls.
This teacher was by no means a malicious or cold woman, but I still can’t believe how easy it was for her to crush the spirits of a room full of children.
This has always been a very vivid memory of mine. The first time where I really felt the bible was wrong. According to this woman there was no wiggle room. The church said it’s the way things are and that’s that. No arguing.
Even the most devout Christians, or any person of faith, doesn’t agree with everything their institution claims to be true, and it’s certainly not enough of a reason to abandon a faith, but it was the first time I, and I think most of my classmates, really thought about our religion. We still believed in god, of course, but we finally had something presented to us that made us uncomfortable with our current world view.
I wish I could say we had similar problems when we were told that homosexuality was wrong, or that alternative ways to give birth were sins against god (especially since one of our classmates was the product of artificial insemination), but alas, no gays or test tube babies had wagged their tails at us and greeted us happily every day after school so for the time being we were perfectly fine thinking their souls burned in hell. Oh innocent youth.