Christianity was always a big part of my childhood. 12 years of Catholic education, (complete with Nuns and rulers), regular Church going (my sleeping through mass always drove my Mother crazy) and bed time bible stories (interspersed with Green Eggs and Ham, we had respect for classic literature, too).
Luckily, God was kind and merciful. He was the turn the other cheek God, the God of kindness, never the eye for an eye God, or smite thine enemy God. Heaven was much more a part of our teaching than Hell, although purgatory was always a concern. How long would I have to be there, anyway?
When my brother died at the age of 5, I took great comfort knowing he was up in Heaven watching over me, waiting for me to join him. Of course, just having turned 9, I wasn’t in a hurry.
I don’t know if it’s the religion classes that tried to teach me that having a tongue involved in a kiss is a form of intercourse and a mortal sin before marriage or the 12 years of itchy wool uniforms, but by the time I was done with my “religious” education, I was done with my religion. That was fine with me; after all I was 18 and had figured out the world; easily done, from the excellent vantage point of Elk County, Pennsylvania.
I can’t say it was any monumental event in my life that made me realize I needed to rethink my position. I’d say it was really more a serious of small, unrelated things that made me realized that I needed some rules. Some of these personal events; is it really appropriate to get irate with another driver who just cut me off that I rage in my car, making let’s say less than friendly gestures toward that driver? Did I even realize I’d done the same thing to someone else, knowingly or not, probably in the last 10 minutes, or certainly the last 10 days? Some of the events were much more societal; Does it actually make sense to anyone that the appropriate response to being against abortion because it is killing, is to murder?
Now at 40, having had time to consider, I don’t believe the God of my Christian teaching exists. However, I believe the philosophy of Christianity that I was taught is a good morale code to live my life. I’d rather try to turn the other cheek or forgive rather than retaliate.
Recently, when my Mother died, she had a Catholic burial. Gone was the comfort that I felt when my brother died that Mom was up in heaven, now watching over me. But it was alright. She lived a good, moral life, just like I was taught is right. I believe that’s enough.
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