I was a really religious child. This was probably in fairly large part due to the fact that I went to a school that was Catholic in nature and which prepared us for the sacraments during the school day. I was very much into the whole thing and I still remember the small set of books about bible stories I read with great gusto when I was eight. I was in the church choir and was one of the first female alter servers in our local parish.
Despite also attending a religious second level school, I think I started questioning what the bloody hell this Catholic thing was all about the day when I was 13 and a priest who had come to have a chat with our class told us in a very serious voice that using contraception was a very serious sin because nothing should come between men and women during the act of sex. There isn’t enough time, nor do I have the inclination, to get into the number of weird and wonderful questions arising from that statement.
It was really only after I left college that I was confident enough in myself to admit that I didn’t believe in God, or a god, or that there is ‘something’ out there or that I was spiritual but not religious. When I met my now husband, his lack of religious belief was one of the reasons I knew we were right for each other. When planning our wedding we did so without having to trouble ourselves about religion. Other aspects of our lives can be a little more complicated due to having to ask why there’s no ‘no religion’ option on a form and patiently explaining that ‘atheist’ isn’t in fact a religion.
Do I miss it? I won’t lie, sometimes I do. I sing in a choir and we recently sang during a Catholic mass and looking on from a more detached standpoint I can appreciate why people find comfort in the words and rituals they’ve been a part of for many years. I can see why it would be a comfort to believe that you’ll see loved ones once again and that this life is a temporary state, while the next is infinitely better. I do feel a pang sometimes when I listen to religious music (right now the Mormon tabernacle choir is on heavy rotation in my car’s CD player) and think about how beautiful it can be.
What I don’t miss is the guilt. The worry about my lack of self control. The feeling that I won’t ever be good enough. I still have these feelings occasionally – I guess I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t – but now they’re motivators for self improvement through productive means, not feelings that should be pushed away and ignored until they can be released in a confessional or at a church service.