Forgive Me Mother, for I Have Sinned, but I Don’t Believe in God

Illustration.

Photo by: Bobby Brown

Illustration.

I grew up in a large family — 10 siblings and both my parents — who, for the most part, attended church every Saturday night. I loved church, usually because I enjoyed seeing my neighbors dressed up quite fancy and all gathered in one place.

When my family immigrated to the U.S., we settled in a small, closely-knit town in Tulare county. There were several churches — probably more churches than the town needed.

I attended the Catholic church on the west end of town.

As a young boy, I thought everyone went to the same church. Of course, I was wrong.

Across from our home sat a church which only held services on Wednesdays. Farther east, down the road, was another church which people attended on Sundays. South of town were four more churches, but I did not know when they held services.

If someone asked me at a young age why I attended church, I would say it was because my mom told me. To this day, I couldn’t possibly provide a reason other than that my mother forced me to attend church in order to complete from my holy communion preparation.

I hope my mother doesn’t read this piece, but I honestly do not believe there is a “God”. I am not convinced that such a thing exists.  

I was always puzzled by the amount of churches around me and even more confused about what they actually taught their congregation. Why weren’t we all attending the same church?

As I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize that I am largely uninterested in following my religion any further, for the simple fact that I am not fully convinced that it will fix anything in my life.

But having grown up with such a large part of my life being shaped by a belief system that goes back centuries, it is difficult to rid myself of the church’s teachings and practices.

When I am in some sort of serious trouble, I tend to “want” to pray, but I stop myself. I know that it is only the remnants of teachings and habit from catechism classes and long sermons.  

I refuse to utter words that I was taught to believe would heal me. Life is what it is, and we will get through it, not by gathering in a building and praying, but by looking at things realistically.

I don’t need some set of words to give me an illusion of life.

When I used to go to church and would pray what little prayer I knew, I did actually feel better. I legitimately felt like by praying, all my troubles were lifted from me, and there was a lighter road ahead.

But as I got to thinking, I wondered what those words really did, and a few hours later, I was back to my ways and the invisible halo had disappeared.

To me, praying is like engaging in some sort of magic act. We expect to be relieved of our troubles by simply closing our eyes and searching deep in our souls for some heartfelt words to say to a made-up entity referred to as “God”.

For that reason, I never grasped or cared to understand the whole purpose of religion.

When we had to move into the bigger city nearby, I learned about yet more religions and the number of churches in the city almost quadrupled.

I learned about the Muslim church and the Christian church and the “snake” church — there was a rumor that a church near our home actually swung snakes around as they spoke in tongues.

I never confirmed those reports since I was too scared to walk past it after that.

My family always stigmatized other religions and religious beliefs. I was told this religion did that and that religion did this.

I always wondered what was so great about “our religion”.

Shortly after entering high school, I knew that I wanted to discontinue my church attendance. I was just not convinced that I needed church to be a better person.

I had forgotten nearly all the prayers I learned in communion studies except for the first part of the “Our Father”, which by now is completely erased from my memory.

I forgot the meaning of learning my prayers because we were intimidated by the local nun who said that if we did not learn our prayers, we would not move on to receive communion.

But why were we being forced to learn how to pray? I sure did not like it.

I don’t blame anyone for this. Though, I think my mother would actually pray to God for forgiveness for raising a son who turned out to reject his [I was led to believe God is male] existence.

I’m not refuting belief systems which come from hundreds or perhaps thousands of years back, but rather I am saying that sometimes, we can’t be forced to do things we don’t believe in.