Ok, so my last post on this subject concerned my upbringing. This post will cover my de-conversion. Its funny, my spell check doesn’t recognize de-conversion. Stupid spell check. Anyway, click below the fold to start reading.
Mom and I had had a few discussions/arguments over religion over the years. Nothing huge, and we’d never get real upset or anything, but there were definitely a few cracks in my attachment to religion even as a teenager. I’m pretty sure Mom saw me heading away from religion before I did. She acquiesced to my joining the Navy, but she didn’t want me going into a technical/science type field because she felt it would lead me away from the church. I disagreed at the time, thinking that was a pretty silly objection to raise. The Navy wanted to send me to school to learn how nuclear reactors work, that sounded like fun, so I did it.
So in my last post, I mentioned that the last time I went to church for myself was Christmas 2002, on the island of Diego Garcia. That stop was at the beginning of my first deployment overseas. My submarine stopped there for a brief break before we headed up to the Persian Gulf for the invasion of Iraq. On on way back home, we made a stop-off in Brisbane, Australia. While there, during a phone call home, I learned that my Mom had breast cancer. I often feel helpless, but in this situation, I most certainly was. I was eventually able to head home for Christmas 2003. This is not the last time Christmas-time will show up in this story.
While I was back, I took Mom up to the hospital for chemo and checkups and such. It did feel good to be able to help her like that. Over the last decade, I haven’t been much help to my family in general. While there, I did attend church with the family. It was nice seeing people I had not seen in years, but I didn’t feel anything from the actual mass. Not that I usually did, but this time I was more aware of it.
I had been having a bit of a hard time with the Navy, like issues with authority, and I was feeling uncertain about my course in life. I was wondering if maybe I had some issue like depression or something. It wasn’t overwhelming me, but I’d been getting less successful at motivating myself. So, while the family was at church for confession, I went and sat with a priest to do it. I picked a priest I’d known before from youth group, and I decided to bring these issues up with him. This was probably not the area to talk about something like this, but I tried anyway. Well, I don’t remember his exact words, but he just gave me the boilerplate yadda-yadda to go follow some formula of prayers. Not really helpful. I can’t blame him either, his job was to cycle through a large number of people wanting to give their confessions, so he didn’t have a lot of time to devote to one person. But it definitely didn’t help me either.
Something else was happening at the same time that had a much larger influence on me. I had started talking to the woman whom I would later marry that december. Chey and I went on to have many interesting discussions about a wide variety of topics. We even discussed religion a bit, and she mentioned that she wasn’t very religious. That was fine with me. We discussed what we thought god was, what love was, all kinds of mushy stuff like that. At this point I was pretty sure there was a god, but I was probably more of a deist, albeit informally. I felt that god had made the universe including laws for it but had since pretty much left it alone. I thought the bible was probably a good guide to living and was the main source of our morality. I had never put much thought into these kinds of questions before, but the train of thought had pulled out of the station.
The thing that really did it for me was heaven. As a kid growing up, heaven was described as a place where we could hang out with our dead relatives and friends and get to do all the good things I enjoyed doing. Mom would remind me that we’d be spending lots of time praising god and jesus and all that, but that didn’t sound like as much fun. Anyway, I got to thinking about heaven. I thought that I’d do the things I love to do with the people I love. But what about those things I like to do that they don’t, or vice versa? For example, say for my sister (hypothetical example here) loved to shop. Heaven for her would be a huge mall with an unlimited credit card. But if I was doing that with her, it wouldn’t be heaven for me, it would be boring. Or if I was going flying in a light airplane, but my brother would rather be out in the woods hunting? I’m not saying its sophisticated, but it’s what I was thinking.
So, I came up with a workaround. Maybe each of us had our own heaven, with copies of those we loved inhabiting it. That way I’d enjoy spending time with my loved ones, but they wouldn’t be stuck doing the things I liked that they might not like. So then I started thinking about what would have to go into these copies to make it work. Would they be pieces of a person’s soul that could get spread around among everyone they ever knew? Would they remember doing things in my heaven with me, or would they be completely split off from the “actual” them? After going around with this for a while, it finally just hit me.
I was making this stuff up. I was making up all this heaven nonsense to fit a preconceived notion of heaven that I had, namely that heaven was a perfect place where I’d always be happy. The whole idea of a heaven just stopped making sense at that point. It couldn’t work. But then I started thinking about all the other doctrines the church teaches. Purgatory, original sin, the Petrine doctrine, confession of sins, the immaculate conception, the eucharist, hell, saints, and I realized it was all the same stuff. They were made up by some guys to try to cover up the holes in religion, to try to make it all make sense. And it was all just a house of cards.
I was literally reduced to tears over this. Chey tried to help by trying to get me to explain what it was that I believed, but I pushed back. I even made an analogy that it felt like my faith was a butterfly I was trying to protect and that she was asking to look at it too. It hurt to actually try to spell out what it was I believed, and even more why I believed it. And I couldnt’ come up with any answers that satisfied me. I looked at everything I believed about religion, and found that none of it really made any sense. It was all just stuff some people long ago made up to make themselves feel better when things weren’t going their way. Or, a bit later than that, it was stuff made up by people long ago as a way to maintain their position of authority. It made much more sense looking at it this way than as divine truth. I don’t recall the exact time-line of this, but it happened between december of 2003 and december 2005.
And that december 2005 was when I went home again, this time because my Mom was dying.
I’ve still got a way to go, but to avoid dumping too much into one post, I’ll stop here for today, and continue a couple of days from now.