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 had a similar experience. At our Thanksgiving table of 7 only one believed in god and requsted a group prayer before we ate and imposed the task on one of the "less faithful." I was annoyed to say the least; why should I feel obligated to say thanks to a figure I don't believe in on the one day deticated to saying thanks? I felt like laughing and thanking the host briefly before digging in.
Brought up Methodist, for most part, although parents were lazy believers used to send us to Sunday school and stay home cooking the lunch (or so they said).
Excellent bible teacher, armed me with loads of info for my later aggressively anti stage. He was a retired guy, also my Boys Brigade teacher, intelligent, moral and yet tolerant and had lived a life of high adventure, I probably really loved him (not in the gay sense).
Several 'epiphanies' as the beautiful parts of the bible were expertly presented. Broke his heart when he came to pick me up one day and I said on the doorstep, "I am not coming because I don't think I believe in God anymore". Was expecting him to debate my findings but he just walked sadly away with a grim expression and what might have been a tear, I felt like a total arsehole.
Too many events in my Methodist/boys brigade upbringing to relate, but several enjoyable experiences chomping down on our lord and whooping it up.. Ah good times.
Eventually I asked too many questions, got into the text to deeply and strayed from the party and the party line. Not so, a large part of the rest of my siblings, who became seriously Christian, Evangelical, charismatic the works! One actually now runs a Church!
So the battle lines were drawn, I jumped down into an atheist bunker, lobbing logic grenades at them, they blasted me with holy hell bound howitzer fire, there were tears before bedtime many many nights., not usually mine. My parents reeling from the shock waves tried as effectively as the united nations to halt the war, but more often then not were themselves bloodied in the blasts of beautiful bigotry…. Ah even better times.
But I digress .. this lead me down two paths..
One where I finally figured out that I loved my sisters more then I hated there sycophantic Jesus loving illogic, I think I rose above it and now we are as siblings should be, with both sides keeping to the truce that suppresses our differences to a bubbling tension below the surface rearing up only occasionally, normally with tongue in cheek self mockery from both sides.
The other sent me out in the world to disprove the existence of the spiritual once and for all, an expedition for the killer weapons that I could bring back to my home turf and use to save the Christian wing of the family from their own stupidity. A glorious enlightened home coming, the prodigal son kicking ass!
In that mission, I encountered many many religions, many weird beliefs and weirder people and had many odd experiences that had an aspect of the spiritual, but no what you would call ‘hard evidence’.
I was almost re-converted on several occasions and often tasted the sweet nectar of blind belief and the release of checking in ones brain at the cloakroom of life so you are unencumbered by intelligence as you sing your hosannas and dance in the light or one lord, deity, spirit, demon or other supernatural thingy (please fill in the blank).
Did I ever feel repressed or put upon? Well before I left home for a while I felt alone as the only sane individual in the asylum, but this gave me the strength of character to go to some very very odd places on my religious exploratory adventures and come out again on the whole moderately unscathed.
Examples are, all the orthodox churches, a Black Mass, several séances and similar stuff, healing sessions and mass rallies, the Moonies (including a rescue operation), Hare Krishna, spiritualist meetings, Islamic meetings, Wicker and druidic ceremonies and a couple of perversions thereof (would you like me to spin your aura). Christian Science, Buddhism, Taoism , strange Christian businessmen gatherings, Jehovah witness endless debates, the always immaculate Mormons, the list goes on and on, I think I am familiar with all the major and most of the minor belief systems that fill our world.
Everyone wants your Soul I found and they are prepared to buy it with free food, sometimes drink and always some off the wall wacky ceremony then loads of deep debate.
Thank you all you strange, wonderful and sometimes very very scary people!
I did my communion and confirmation, but they were terrible experiences for the teachers and instructors. I made their lives miserable. Just to give you an idea, I always did the opening prayer standing on the bible. I think the teacher would cry on about 80% of the classes. It was loads of fun. Two years after that, me and some friends were on a list to be considered for excomunication in my hometown. That's how bad it was.
Sure, it was part of growing up in a Christan household. I got baptized in 4th grade, I think. Maybe 5th. As I recall, my main concern about it was being allowed to be in the main church with the adults and big kids, rather than in the 'little kids' service that we'd sit in until after communion was complete.
Heh. My baptism did get pushed back by a couple months after I asked my mom if I'd be allowed to have 'the snack' during service. Seems I was in need of some remedial Bible study...
Prayers before meals, Christmas Eve service, Easter service, I was even part of the church choir for a while.
These days, my attendance at religious ceremonies is limited to three things. Weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve service when I am at my grandmother's for Christmas.
I remember participating in the 30 Hour Famine for a church service, and that, of course, turned out to be for the organization recently exposed for stiffing people, so...not pleasant. Running around with a card that told us our name, what tribe we were in, and what disability we had (once I couldn't speak, another I had to wear my winter coat -- indoors -- while running around doing activities for eight hours). We had to suffer, on top of being hungry and later going out to feed homeless.
Not pleasant at all. But at least it's over.
Oh, I was also in a Church Band. That's what we were called, though Gospel Choir seems to be a better title. Our name? "Carpenter's Apprentice", and I was the Davy Jones of the band, running around playing guitar, keyboard, anything extra was that needed. We eventually became an a cappella group for gospel music (with me as the whitest kid in the neighborhood.... I got candy thrown at ME.) Eventually, I left when I became an atheist, and the entire band fell apart.
One silver lining. I met my fellow ex-band member on the train the other day, and we talked, and she told me she's agnostic at this point. Score One for the non-believers!
Until leaving for college, every day of my life was full of forced rituals. From morning and evening prayers, to grace and bible reading and laying hands on each other for an illness or anything negative that happened to be going on. The hell of a Pentecostal Holiness childhood.