A lot of us at Think Atheist were raised into a religion, or have at least had personal contact with religion through family and friends.
I remember my first communion and confirmation to be horrible experiences that I was, to put it bluntly, extremely pissed off about. After watching the first video in the "deconversion series," I became curious about the vast array of possible experiences that people have had with similar situations.
If none of you mind, I think it would be cool to compare and relate our stories.
Did you, initially, consider your experience positive? Or did it push you away from religion? What conclusions did you draw, or what emotions did you feel? Anything at all that stems within a person as a result of these cultural/institutional rites is indicative of the reason that the rites exist in the first place - to place you!
I am very interested in this (as I think a lot of people might be), so responses are appreciated.
I remember my first confession, I had to lie to the priest because I really hadn't done anything that needed to be confessed, so I made stuff up. My first communion, I remember thinking that the host was really dry and stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I had to unlodge it with my finger and thinking that was probably not a good thing to do with the nuns watching. And the only thing I remember about my confirmation was I got another name, but I never even used my middle name and now I had two, and I really really didn't like the bishop.
I was born into a Mormon home...so while I don't remember being blessed after I was born, I do however remember being baptized at the age of 8.
I remember my parents telling me it was a "great day" and the bishop of my ward went on about something (I just don't remember, it was a while ago). But, when that day came, I got dressed into the white jumpsuit that looked like a reject from some department store from the 70's. But, we went and did the baptism thing then went home.
All I remember feeling...is that it was just like my birthday party a week earlier. I fully understood what was happening...did I care? Not really. However, I figured it would make people happy so I just went ahead and did it. Did it push me away from religion, no, I just figured it was something to do to pass the time. If I were to be asked to do that now, it would be replied with a VERY strongly worded answer.
I was trying very hard to be a good Catholic like my Dad wanted. In high school, I wanted to be a youth minister. I kind of looked down on the other kids in my confirmation class, thinking they really didn't know what we were doing, but that I was doing it consciously & thoughtfully. I think the lion's share of the positive feelings I had were related to the community I had within the church. It's about the only time I've had a group of friends where I wasn't a total outcast.
Ditto Doug on the "Ummm.... I uh... kicked a hole in the wall?" useless confessions. I do remember my dad commenting that most 9 year olds don't have anything to confess. Actually, my first confession was something of a "drive through" experience - we all lined up in 2 queues in front of the 2 priests. We took turns going up to them at their podium, and giving our confession. It wasn't "public", but it wasn't the privacy that you should have been able to opt for. And it felt rushed... like you were supposed to confess a token sin, and everything else would be whitewashed in the process. Heaven forbid you had more than one thing to say, or you got the stink eye for holding things up.
When we were in catholic school we asked the nuns what "Thou shalt not commit adultery" meant, and they would always say: don't try acting like adults. So, one confessional Tuesday we were in two lines to confess to the priests and the kid in front of me mentioned that he was going to confess to adultery because he had been trying to be grown up all week. Well, shortly after he entered the confessional, the priest in that one burst out in hysterical laughter, and all of us kids in that line moved over to the other line.
For a while I was the most religious in my family, too. I took my confirmation and first communion very seriously. I was taught that you had to be completely pure of thought to take communion, so I worried immensely about not being in a pure enough state of mind and being damned for it. It sounds funny now, but that's really how I felt. I was eating Christ's body and drinking his blood (which also sounds funny, or sick, now), so I knew I had to be extra good to be worthy of it. So I was all into the ceremonies and believed in the importance of every one of them.
I also used to think you shouldn't underline or take notes in the Bible because of the Bible verse in Revelation that says that anyone who adds to the Bible will be punished (just found it, Revelation 22:18 "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."). After a Sunday School teacher asked us to underline something, and said she marked up her Bible all the time, I think I begrudgingly and somewhat worriedly marked a verse here or there.
The only religioius ceremony I was really forced to participate in was my marriage. While it was in a church, it had very few references to Christianity in it (thanks in part to a liberal pastor, I'm sure). It was just religious enough to make my wife happy, and but not religious enough to be offensive to me or hopefully anyone else who was there who may be a closet non-believer like me.
Several relatives I know have been forced into religious ceremonies recently: babies being baptized, which I now think is absolutely horrible. It's not biblically based to baptize children, and infants can't decide if they want to participate or not...
I do remember that in confession the usual penance for the sin of say: "I wished my brother was dead": was say five "hail Mary's and four Our Father's" if you had actually done something bad, like tell a nun to drop dead, you had to say the rosary, but if you had done something particularly heinous, such as chew up the host to see if it would really bleed, you had to do Stations of the Cross! Also, the nuns were always telling us it was a sin to "touch yourself" or "play with yourself" and I couldn't understand how one could not possibly touch oneself, and as I lived in a neighborhood with no other children I frequently had to play by myself, I was constantly confessing to those two sins.
I joked about my wedding earlier, but actually the rehearsal for my wedding was the very first time I had ever set foot in a Catholic church. I was talking about this and that and my wife and mother-in-law both hastily (and rudely) shushed me, pointing to something at the back of the church. I'm like "What?! You're not supposed to SPEAK in here? That's gonna make the wedding really hard to pull off" and I laughed at my joke and they were not pleased. Apparently, the stupid fucking little light was on which meant that the crackers were stored in their little holy box or whatever and talking above a whisper was a no-no. I cracked another joke, "Why, are we gonna wake Jesus up?" I was a Christian at the time, but not Catholic and thought that being respectful of a box of crackers was fucking stupid. At least that opinion hasn't changed over time.
So yeah, I guess I'd say that being forced to be quiet and "respectful" of some GOD DAMN dry crackers pretty well pissed me off.