Romancing the nonbeliever

April 19, 2005 § 1 Comment

There wasn’t a specific date or time I stopped believing in God.

There wasn’t even a specific reason.  I remember always questioning, but there wasn’t a specific question the nuns or the priest couldn’t answer that made me stop.  I had always been the impetuous child who asked a lot of questions, but I was no different than any other they’ve seen before.  Besides, I’m sure they were pros at it by the time I came along.

I was baptised Catholic when I was three.  Yes, a little late since my mother couldn’t persuade my father to do it sooner.  My mother grew up Catholic in Taiwan, a byproduct of my grandparents who were swayed by Catholic missionaries during their escape from the mainland’s revolution.  Mom wasn’t entirely devout; there were Sundays when even she was convinced it was better to stay in bed.  But we always abided by the rules of the high holidays and were present at sunrise services and ate fish on Fridays.  Good enough, supposedly.

My father wasn’t religious at all.  It was only as an adult that I learned that he was Jewish, as my grandmother had been a nonpracticing Jew her whole life.  My grandfather was Irish Catholic by name only.  Their marriage was frowned upon in the early part of the century, and by the time my father was born in 1927 religion was no longer a topic of conversation at home.

I remember church and Sunday school (CCD, officially, to distinguish ourselves from others).  I remember the catechism taught to us, never having to actually open a bible.  i remember the saints and all the miracles.  I remember my first rosary and memorizing the Hail Mary.  The majesty of religious traditions entranced me.  Ceremonies always have.  I remember crossing myself with holy water upon entering the church, the kneeling before the cross when you enter the pew, and lighting the candles for prayer.  I also remember writing letters to people to tell them not to get abortions.  In fifth grade.  I had no idea what an abortion was other than it was something awful that people decided to do.  It was killing babies.  No one should kill babies, right?

Needless to say I learned what an abortion after writing those letters.  I also learned a lot of other things that were frowned upon by the church.  It wasn’t that I was for or against abortions.  I just wasn’t for doing things without being knowlegeable.  I wasn’t ready to agree with anything else without getting answers for those questions.  Most importantly, I wasn’t going to believe in a god that disowned others.

When Pope John Paul passed, there was a sense of loss.  The ceremonies, the smoke, the bells, and now Pope Benedict are just as enchanting to me.  There is a sense of desire for the tradition of the Catholic church that I have missed. After much soul searching, I’ve come to a place that i’m comfortable in – a much more open, informal church that seeks answers to my questions. Most importantly, I feel I can still believe in something that doesn’t disown others.

But the bells will keep ringing… and I’ll look up and remember.

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