Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Catholic Atheist

Hi everyone! My name is Vanessa and this is my first blog post that will be read by people other than my close friends. Hooray!

When asked to guest post, my first thought was to divulge all of Jen's dirty secrets, as I had been her roommate a couple years ago (and incidentally will be again in a few days). Unfortunately, I couldn't really think of a whole lot to share (though she does get quite a collection of dirty socks under her desk). So instead, I am going to share my atheist conversion story.

I grew up Catholic. My parents are Catholic and we went to church every weekend. I went to Sunday School (though it was never on Sundays) from 1st through 11th grade.I was baptized, confirmed, reconciled, and had my first Eucharist (eating the bread and drinking the wine, for you non-Catholics) all before I was 9 years old.When I was young, I was all into this. I mean, what else was I supposed to think? My parents told me this was the truth and I had no reason to believe that they were wrong.

It was probably around 7th or 8th grade, when I started taking serious science classes, that I began to question my beliefs. In high school, I became a critical thinker and started analyzing religion.Most of it didn't make any sense to me. But I wanted it to be true, so I tried to hold on. That didn't last long, however, because by 11th grade, I had given up on trying to make sense of religion. I remember watching the deleted scenes of Donnie Darko in which Donnie is talking to his therapist. She described an agnostic as "One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism." I decided that described me. That same year in English class, one of our spelling test words (yes, I actually had spelling/definition tests in 11th grade) was agnostic. The definition our teacher gave was "someone who doesn't care whether God exists or not." I was offended by that. I cared very deeply, because I was still trying to work out which side of the fence I was actually on. Incidentally, this was the same teacher that canceled our school's annual Haunted House because it promoted demons and Satan and the like.

When I got to college, I was still pretty firm in my agnosticism. I made friends with a bunch of other agnostics and some atheists. Being around them and not being forced to go to church every day, I realized that the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous the idea of a god seemed to me. So by the beginning of my second year at college, I began defining myself as an atheist.

That is where I stand currently, and I am proud of it. However, I can't bring myself to tell my parents or the rest of my family. I feel like it would greatly disappoint them. I feel like they would think they failed somehow in raising me. One day I hope to come out to them, but until then I'll just continue with my secret life.

This is post 16 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.


  1. don't come out until you are financially independent if you can help it!

    great post.

  2. Boobs? Ha ha!

    Great post!

  3. I agree with the financially independent bit. I'm in the same place, really. Still, though, this sounds a lot like my experience, except I never got confirmed, as my family was never too Catholic in the first place.

  4. Ah, the formatting! It burns!

    Great post otherwise, though!

  5. Boobs? Huh? Did I miss something?

  6. I caved in and told my family, and they've been somewhat apathetic about it...oddly enough I've lost a lot more friends than family. My family isn't that Jewish, but enough that it bothers them a little, but theyre understanding.

  7. @ Veritas

    That was my doing. =P

  8. My mother certainly doesn't like the fact, that I'm an atheist. But my parents would never cut their support because of this. Oddly enough they are in an alleged "sect" which is said to be rather strict about this. Luckily it's bullshit. They are just as crazy as religious/irrational people usually are but rather harmless.
    I also have some religious friends, but they also don't care. It just seems to be not that much of a problem here in Germany, that it is in the US (we have about 34% unaffiliated)...

  9. Good post, but why is ' boobs' in the tags?

  10. "One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism."

    I've always had a problem with this definition of agnosticism. Partly because it is quite hard to work out what "true atheism" is supposed to be, but mainly because of the way it degrades agnosticism. It basically seems to suggest that agnosticism is just 'fake atheism'.

    I've generally separated atheism and agnosticism by recognising the former as concerning belief while the second concerns knowledge. An atheist cannot believe that God exists while an agnostic cannot know that God exists. The latter is actually a stronger claim than the former. If you can imagine a situation under which God's existence could be demonstrated, you cannot really claim to be an agnostic (except arguably on the grounds that such a situation has never arisen).

    Another handy use of the term agnostic is that it basically means the same thing as atheist, but religious relatives or friends are less shocked by it. When used that way, "fake atheist" isn't such a bad definition after all.

  11. My parents still dont know about my transfer from being a religious catholic to an agnostic.

  12. Hello Jen,

    I noticed a few things that really surprised me about your story.

    Who confirmed you at such a young age? Confirmation happened for me in high school (not before I was 9!) because we were first (though hadn't totally yet) starting to make decisions for ourselves and getting close to the door to adulthood.

    I don't think I was generally forced to go to church when I was younger. I had weekly arguments with my mother (and my father if she dragged him into it) about what I would wear, but not church itself.

    About being "scientific" there are plenty of people who are religious scientists. I don't see religion and science as necessarily fighting/contradictory.

    You can have fundamentalists on each side of the God/no God debate fighting facts because they don't support a claim made.

    Christian Fundamentalists often try to decry the theory of evolution because it contradicts their understanding of you old the earth is.

    Atheist Fundamentalists often deny Communists (and thus related suppression of religion and punishments/atrocities done to religious people) are Atheists in order to claim that atheism has never been involved in anything bad.

    Both like to deny things that challenge their ideology (a lot of people are like that, talking about religion or not).

    Agnosticism, IMO, is more about recognizing that it may not be possible for most people to prove to most other people right now that God does or does not exist.

    At each end of agnosticism you can have people who (defined by their seeming patterns of actions) would strike you as either religious or atheist.