I have often read atheists portending that the belief in the concept called God is a product of dissatisfaction in this current life. Indeed this was my beginning. My childhood was dominated by an angry violent woman. Not only did this experience lead me to wonder if god existed but also to examine what made up the human psyche. And I am deeply, deeply grateful that it was so.
“There is a principle which is proof against all information, which is proof against all arguments, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance; that principle is contempt, prior to investigation.” Herbert Spencer
Until the age of nine my religious knowledge was fairly simple. At school and Sunday school I learnt of a Jesus who loved children and animals, whose father was God and if I wanted God to love me I had to be good. On the other hand, my mother, who never attended church, said she hated God because God had let her baby die and, along with me, was responsible for her constant suffering.
Personally I thought Jesus was nice and God very scary so I talked to Jesus and not God. If my mother’s story had any influence on me it was to enhance my curiosity about this thing called God. Mum hated a lot of things…I was one of them so I was curious about the others!
At nine I was put into a catholic orphanage where I was introduced to the Catholic God. He was seriously scary. Apparently this God saw every single little thing I did and every single little thought I had and would send me to hell if I didn’t behave. The nuns were very clear on this. I figured I was pretty doomed.
Jesus apparently had died for my sins and the crucifix was everywhere. To this day I abhor the symbol of the cross. The worse crucifixes were the ones with Jesus nailed to them, a crown of thorns on his head, blood dripping down and a look of agony on his face. In the orphanage we had to attend services every day; I guess in the hope we would be well and truly indoctrinated. All I remember doing was staring at these symbols of Jesus’ death and hating them. I was a child and I saw through a child’s eyes.
Why did they not pull him off? Why did they put him up there? Gone was my gentle Jesus meek and mild. He who loved children and who was so gentle little lambs sat at his feet. Instead was this man riddled with pain and there was nothing I could do about it and the Catholics seemed determined to keep him on that cross.
Even worse I was told every day that by continuing to sin, as apparently I did on a minute to minute basis, I was making Jesus’ suffering meaningless.
We learnt with the Catholics all the nasty things God did to those who were bad. Poor Jonah! And Lot’s wife…a turn of the head and doom! Let’s not even talk about the flood! Even my mother looked good compared to this God. Well…no not really…but at least she didn’t have his powers. Otherwise I would have been blasted to smithereens a long time ago!
By the end of my Catholic indoctrination I didn’t like God at all. He seemed to me to be a big man who demanded I worship him endlessly and if I did the wrong thing (and blimey there were a lot of possible wrong things) he was exceptionally nasty and punitive. Despite not liking him I had a simple acceptance that it was all true. God was the ultimate adult and if the adults I had known to this time were any example then it made sense that this was who God was.
I was still fond of Jesus mind. And I felt incredibly sorry for him. The Catholics had taught me that Jesus had begged God to get him away from the cruel things folk were doing to him. I too had stared many an evening up at the sky begging god to get me out of my little mess. God didn’t. Just like he didn’t for Jesus. I felt Jesus and I had similar bad parents.
Kids have an extremely strong sense of justice and can sniff out hypocrisy and falsities in adults in a millisecond. The Catholics that surrounded me were full of them. I’m sure by now most folks have some idea what catholic orphanages were like and I’d have to say its true. As a young person I was unable to look at them compassionately or see them as humans, or understand that folk who dedicated their lives to god had no choice in being told to care for a bunch of damaged kids. They were in my mind, just wrong, and so was their God.
By the time I was twelve I was in total rebel mode. Against all adults, against ‘normal’ society and even more against myself. In my first year of high school I made a new friend. When she found out I was in a Catholic orphanage she told me the Catholics were actually the tool of the devil and that even the Bible said so. She said they didn’t know god at all but that she was part of a group that knew the true god.
She asked if I was interested. Of course I was! To find the true god and shove it to the catholics….sounded like heaven to me :). Tell you about it next time.