Do people Benefit from having a religious period?

This is an interesting point. I was raised Roman Catholic and went to Catholic schools right up until college. Religion is a community builder, I'll give it that. We knew who we were, why we were, and where we were and there was no questioning any of these things. I think that is a good place to start for way more children than not given the gargantuan uncertainties built into the world of even the most secure child. My sense of it is that religion provides a stabilizing force to the mental processes and personality. Mental homeostasis. Religion may be the most adaptive response for a lot of personality types given conditions of high uncertainty. Its not my solution. But once I begin to suspect that the world consists of something other than me and failed attempts at me, I have to admit at adaptive responses that are not my adaptive responses.

Back to my childhood though since oddly enough I've not considered this exact point closely before. Where Catholicism began to fail was once I felt secure to step out of the certainties it offered. Oh. Silly me. Before we even get to that: did my Catholicism ever involve a belief in a personal god? No, no I can't honestly say it ever did. even when I was exploring kaballah and gnosticism in my 20s. So I went through a religious stage even though it had nothing to do with a belief in God. That is interesting, now that I can see it. Would I still use the word religious? I'm not sure I'm entitled to it although I was certainly prone to fits of dogmatism, and the sense of community that religion can offer is amazing. For me the Catholics offered something even deeper: it was family.I went to the same grammer school for 8 years. I knew who these people were and they knew who I was and even when I was rebelling it was against the family. None of it, for me, ever involved any kind of belief in a personal God. The only thing I feel when I contemplate the existence of God is fear. If he's made us and the world the way he has there is no reason to assume that the afterlife--should the existence of God mean that an afterlife inevitably follows--would be better than this. It might be considerably worse. What would I even say to the Righteous I met in Hell? I'm sure I wouldn't even laugh at them because the first thing I'd lose in Hell would be my sense of humor.

I've got to chew on this some more because I didn't have a religious phase yet consider myself to have the benefits of community family and ethical teaching all of which are associated with religion.

OK now that I'm thinking about it some more, I don't think I ever believed in Santa Clause either. Oh ho! So I'm actually claiming that even as a tiny child just old enough to understand the words of the story I never believed in the literal existence of Santa Claus. Am I really doing that? Yep. Why? Simple answer: The way the grown ups talked about Him. They were sending me all kinds of verbal and non verbal cues that they were not being literally true. Yet the holidays are something I remember being joyfully anticipated times of wonder and sharing and love. So in addition to getting the benefits of a religious stage I also got the benefits of a "Santa Clausious" stage even though neither depended on the belief in a personal god or a toy delivering elf.

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Comment by Toby Briggs on April 23, 2014 at 4:31pm

I recently deconverted. But i would honestly say that i am quite thankful for my upbringing. I think it grounded me and gave me good morals. Or is that just good parenting ect? Hard to know. But i wouldnt say that my religious upbringing has been bad for me in any shape or form in the long run now im free of the lies! 

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on April 24, 2014 at 2:21am

Vincent. You described well some of what I knew during my twelve years in RC schools and after graduating in 1949.

After a hitch in the Navy I started college, and it was there that I quit Catholicism for agnosticism. During the several years after I quit I occasionally thought of how it had affected me, and how remaining Catholic would have affected me.

While still a Catholic I wondered if the ban on birth control was intended to keep me too busy, like my dad, providing for kids to ever question my faith.

After I quit I wondered if all the scare talk about sex had kept me out of trouble during my teens. It hadn't stopped any of my very entertaining sexual thoughts or my jerking off at least daily.

The nuns tried to create a community by saying often how the fasting and other discipline would make us strong enough to withstand what non-Catholics would do. I remember well their saying that being confirmed would induct us into an Army of God.

My dad started his two oldest (my sister and me) in public schools. About six years ago I read that in 1937 a bishop had said the number one duty of Catholic parents is to take their kids out of public schools. I did a little arithmetic and BINGO, that was the year he did exactly that. The nearby Catholic school made us wait until the next school year started, so she and I were a year older than other kids in our grades.

Most of the nuns were simply there. One, in 12th grade, encouraged my interest in science. A few resulted in my later telling people that the Church takes women who need therapy and puts them in rooms full of kids.

My overall experience?

I have for decades told all who will listen that someday, the law will treat Catholic education as child abuse. An unhappy reality is that American law protected domestic animals a full century before it protected human children.

Comment by Davis Goodman on April 24, 2014 at 4:37am

I lived in a very small community with only one school and everyone working for the same employer. Few went to the one church and prayer in school was banned. In school the goal was a good education (not belief in god) and we had to study hard. What you described was the same kind of community I grew up in only instead of "god" you can simply use the word "caring about each other". I never saw the same sort of community care when I lived in a suburb or a city. But you can have the same community feeling, people with similar values and purpose in life without the religious aspect. Adding god would not have improved the community, my childhood or environment I grew up in one bit. We don't need to believe in fiction so that we can grow out of it later in life.

Comment by James Cox on April 24, 2014 at 4:07pm

For me, my 'religious period' was very painful to my maturing sense of honesty. So many kids seem to cross a line, where they spent more time rationalizing their 'religious' training, than asking the hard questions about 'truth'.

My own sense of integrity was called to account for not speaking the 'right words', holding the 'right ideas', asking the 'wrong' questions. The 'truth' that surrounded me, via culture, was of the 'settled' variety. I seemed to only exist to mouth the beliefs back to the mob of believers. Just one more soul to say the mass, and never wonder 'why', or what it 'means'.  


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