Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In A Nutshell

OK, you know what we're doing here. And today, we are down to:

56. My religious training growing up was:

Hit and miss and confusing. My great-grandparents were church goers, and my mother had been before she married. But my grandfather Herndon and my grandmother Hunt stayed as far away from church as they could. When Grandpa was in the hospital dying, in 1975, the chaplain came by to see him, and Grandpa pretended to be asleep rather than deal with that. My grandmother Herndon had several siblings who had married into the Church of the Brethern, one of whom became a minister, as did his son.

My parents were sorta-Christians. I don't believe I ever went to church before my father died. After my father had been dead for a few months, Mama decided that going to church might be a comfort, so the two of us went to the local neighborhood church. It was Pentecostal, not necessarily the best introduction. When people started speaking in tongues and rolling on the floor I got hysterical and Mama got me out of there.

With this background, I went to a Catholic boarding school when I was six and seven. We did Mass every morning before breakfast. I liked it. The incense, the music, the voices of the nuns and girls singing, the Latin -- it was very sensuous and calming. Nothing like the other experience. As a matter of fact, I later took Latin, having decided to learn to speak God's language so I could talk to him.

One of our classes in school was catechism. All of the other girls were getting ready to have their first confession and communion. The nuns were not used to having girls at the school who were not Catholic, and so Sister Lagara and I got caught in a truly horrible experience. Each girl was given a white paper lamb that represented her soul to pin on the wall. Whenever we committed a sin, we were to put a pencil mark on it. And when we went to confession on Saturday, it was replaced with a new lamb. Except I wasn't Catholic. I didn't go to confession. My lamb got blacker and blacker and blacker, and the pencil marks began to tear the paper. There I was, with my immortal soul getting unforgiven black and ratty with holes, and Sister Lagara could figure no way out. Finally, one Monday we went to class and none of the lambs were there. Added to my learning that people who died without being baptized Catholic went to hell, and my having a father who had died without being baptized Catholic, I can't say that catechism was a positive experience for me.

After Mama remarried, we didn't go to church until I was 13 and we were living in Roswell. We attended the local Southern Baptist church, also a real experience. I remember the minister preaching about how the Catholics were going to hell. And the Jews. And the Methodists. And the American Baptists. And then he preached about how divorced people were going to hell, and since Daddy had been divorced twice, that was that for church. Some Mormons came to preach to Mama and Daddy, but they disapproved of coffee and cigarettes, so we didn't see them for long.

When I got to high school, I read about Buddhism and a number of other religions, and decided that they all had interesting stories, but I saw no evidence that they were real. In my 30s I did a flirtation with Unity for about three years, but other than that, I've pretty well been an atheist for most of my life.


J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I remember asking Grandma once what religion she was, and she said "Christian". I asked which denomination, and she said, "Christian." So, while it's somewhat important to her, for example she had a cross put on her muslim daughter's grave, it's not so important that she would go to church or know what church she might go to...

And that 'flirtation' sure freaked me the hell out.

Anonymous said...

If you believe in God, how can you be an atheist

Maya's Granny said...

So far as I know, you can't believe in god and be an atheist. But, since I don't believe, I am. I have, when I was younger, believed. I no longer do.