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So I’ve been wanting to continue on with my stories of personal experience and what lead me to eventually becoming an Atheist. To the best of my ability I am going to try to keep the stories in the order that they happened in my life. Again I apologize if the story runs long, but the response I have gotten from people is incredibility positive and has encouraged me to continue sharing the stories of my events.
The next major event that would help shape my view on religion in general happened just about a year after the first. I had just turned four in June, and was starting kindergarten in the fall. I was always young for my grade but was a very smart kid and extremely eager to learn and go to school. I went to a very small school in a rural town in Wisconsin. Really most of my time there was very normal, but I did only go to school there for that year and was off to a different one next year.
What really started my experience was in that October. It was near Halloween time and of course the school was decked out in decorations. Our class went down to the library and the librarian gathered us all around. She asked us if we wanted to hear a spooky scary story. Of course being young kids we all cheered that we wanted to hear it, listening eagerly.
The story was about an old man who lived in a shack out in the middle of the woods. He was starving and completely out of food. One night, a creepy little thing went running across his floor and he chopped off it’s tail with a cleaver. Being so hungry he cooked the tail and ate it. That night the monster came back for him, crawling up his bed ominously, my librarian trying to make her voice deeper with a spooky tone as she read the words. It crawled up on his bed “I want my tallywag, give me back my tallywag.” The man paralyzed with fear in his bed as the monster crawled up further on him. It ended with a picture of a shack floor in the middle of the woods, the man and his shack disappeared. The old man, the monster, and his tallywag were never heard from again. (Side note: I know tallywag is a slang in some countries for a part of the male anatomy, but this was a children book. I think it may of been called “Tallywag” but am not sure.)
For whatever reason this story stuck with me. I lived out in a small house, in the middle of the woods, with no real neighbors close to us. I saw small animals scurrying around all the time outside. Normally even as a little kid I liked most 80’s cheesy horror movies. Critters is one of my all time favorites and I still remember watching Creep Show on our old Beta VCR. None of that ever scared me at all but for some reason, I started having nightmares about this monster. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sometimes nearly screaming worried something was going to crawl up from the end of my bed to get me.
My Catholic grandmother who I’ve spoke of before, and was really the main person that tried to influence me to be a Catholic when I was younger, tried to talk to me about it. She told me that if I prayed every night to my guardian angel that it would come and protect me. She taught me the prayer and said I needed to say it every night before I went to bed. As long as I said it before bed nothing would get me well I was sleeping. For the next several months every night I’d say it right before bed, to the point I still remember it by heart over 20 years since I last said it.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.
A common Catholic prayer, and of course always ended with a “In name of the father….amen”.
I said it month after month, every night, feeling safe and secure as I went to bed that nothing would harm me. I slept through the night without nightmares and things were going well. Until one night for some reason, I fell asleep early. I must of just been too tired and my parents put me into bed without me realizing. I woke up at some point in the middle of the night, after taking a moment to realize where I was, I freaked out. I hadn’t said my prayer! What if tallywag had come and got me? I could of been eaten, he could of made our whole house disappear! I started yelling, running to my parents room to tell them what a horrible mistake they had made. My parents didn’t seem to grasp how serious the situation was. They assured me everything was fine and to just go back to bed.
I wasn’t having it though. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t going back to bed quietly. Not after I felt that my four year old self was in horrible mortal danger. For whatever reason my dad ended up having an idea. He went out to my closet, and dug out an old stuff bear of mine. It looked a lot like the Snuggle bear from the old TV ads. He told me that if I kept the bear with me, that he’d keep me safe. Tallywag wouldn’t dare come around with a bear protecting me. I can keep him in my bed so he’ll always be there and make sure no tallywags come anywhere near me.
That was enough for me. It assured me, and I went back to bed, feeling secure with my new bear protector. From that night on, I never said my prayer again. I didn’t feel I needed to. I was safe, and that’s all I wanted. I didn’t want something that I had to call on every night, and had to show my love and devotion or it might abandon me. My bear didn’t care if I praised him or not, or if I told him how much I loved him. I was of course only four years old, so I didn’t really realize it the same way that I do now, but even then I was finding out for myself that I didn’t need or want religion.
This is a small example of course, and not a reason for me to actively hate religion. Just really a reason for me to realize the futility of religion, and to realize that I could accomplish more by relying on tangible things. If God and his angels are so petty to need our praise, to need our devotion, and admiration, what kind of God is that? I still remember the shock on my Grandma’s face when she asked me if I was still praying, and I said no. I told her I don’t need to pray now, I have a bear.
Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this and as always I appreciate any feedback at all. I wanted to post this before I post a reply I received from a previous post because I think it ties well into it. Whenever I do get around to telling my next personal story, it is really the most influential one of my life. It’s what really made me turn the corner so to speak, and impacted my life more then any other event. It’ll surely be an extremely long story so I will make sure to try and break it down into several parts that I post a few days apart as to not destroy anyone’s dash.
Video with 3 notes
Had to look this up again, for a better explanation and a great dramatic representation of my last post about the bear, check this out. Great stuff.