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Things continued to change pretty quickly in the following months. I ended up starting school in my new town. Thankfully due to my mother’s memories of going to Catholic school in the 70’s I was able to go to public school. She has told me many stories of her times there, back when corporal punishment wasn’t only allowed but used often. My grandmother wanted me and my brother in Catholic school but my mom didn’t want to put us through what she went through.
My mother, brother and I were all able to move into a small house just a few blocks away from my grandmothers. It was a nice older brick house that we got for a great price and was very comfortable. The house had sat empty for years, but I always found it to be cozy and interesting. It was close to the downtown area and not far from school either. That’s one of the only pluses of living in a small town, everything was close.
In my own mind I continued on living as a prisoner to the fear of an afterlife. I was too afraid to not believe in God, so I believed. I didn’t like God and didn’t want him to exist, but couldn’t yet accept that he didn’t. It would take many more years until I moved on from that after much more self exploration and discovery. It is always hard to dodge the accusation that Atheists are just “angry” at God because I know for quite a while I really was. I don’t feel that way anymore though. I’m most certainly not angry at God and am perfectly happy accepting his non existence.
I continued to go to church at times during the next few years. I would try to avoid it whenever possible but would get dragged along for major holidays at least and often times when other family came to visit. I would almost always just take the time to look around and watch the people near us. That would end up becoming a lot of my interest in religion. Why it makes people do what they do and act the way they do. Why mass delusion is okay but a single lunatic should be locked up. How killing thousands in the name of God is acceptable but the killing of someone just because is always wrong. These were the questions the started to nag at me more.
I had to visit a child therapist to try and help me “cope” with the death of my father but I don’t really think it did much for me. There isn’t a week or a month that passes that I don’t think about him, but I don’t let it control my life. I will never forget, but I knew even then, that I couldn’t go back. I accepted it, I moved on with my life. I would hear for years later from adults how “mature” I was for my age and how responsible I was. They would tell me how grown up I was, but all I really wanted was to be a kid.
I also started a job doing a paper route. From the time that I was 7 until now I’ve only gone for one short 6 month period without a job of some kind. I am definitely not a workaholic. I enjoy my time away from work more then anything, but I knew I had to be responsible. It’s hard for a kid to try and step up and be the “man” of the house, but that is what I tried to do. Obviously I couldn’t make enough money to support a family at that age but I always did everything I could to help. I feel like I helped raise my brother nearly as much as my mom did.
I’ll wrap it up here because this entire story has run pretty long. I really hope in sharing this story people can have a bit more insight as to what eventually lead me to being an Atheist. At this point in my life I didn’t consider myself an Atheist yet but I was well on the way. I learned that God wasn’t what I had been led to believe and that life wasn’t going to necessarily be easy. I’m still thankful that I was born into the life that I was and know that I’ve had it much easier the most. As always please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing any kind of feedback.
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(Sorry for the delay, will post up part 5 sometime this afternoon or evening.)
My grandmother had been there for me all my life. She was always there when we needed her. She was also the strongest religious influence in my life. She was a very devout Catholic and always gave to the local church. She went to services nearly every day, had a crucifix in every room in the house, and would usually give me a blessing with holy water every night before I went to bed. She was the obvious choice for me to turn to for help and look for answers.
I don’t remember exactly when it was, but it was before I had started at my new school that I went to my grandmother and asked her, “Why did this happen? Why did God let this happen?” She ended up telling me the answer that I’ve heard many times before from theists, “It is all part of God’s plan.” That was it? That was the advice I got? After nearly 2,000 years that is the best answer that religion is able to give to a child who just had one of their parents die? That is supposed to make someone feel better?
I was incensed by her answer. I couldn’t reconcile it in my mind at all. She could tell from the first moment how upset it made me and how angry I was. She told me “He does it because he loves you, and he has a plan in mind for you, you will see your dad again some day in Heaven.” I told her to her face, I don’t need him when I’m dead, I need him here now. I told her that if it was part of God’s plan that God was wrong and that someone needed to be able to tell him. That I need to be able to tell him that he made a mistake and needed to make it right.
That is what I set out to do in a way. I prayed, I prayed like crazy. I didn’t sleep most nights and would stay up praying, for hours and hours. I’d cry myself to sleep at times, my hands clenched tight as I talked to myself, pleading. I started out trying to tell God he was wrong. That he made a mistake. I still needed my dad here now. I told him he had to help me. He needed to make it right. I got no response. I got no answers and no feelings. I moved on to saying okay fine God if you believe you’re right, tell me why. Why can’t you tell me what your plan is? Why is this better for me? Why does your plan require me to cry and hurt the way I do? Still I got no response, nothing at all.
After a while I ended up going back to my grandma and told her that I tried. That I tried talking to God and he wouldn’t answer me. I told her that I didn’t think God liked me. She tried to console me and tell me that God is very busy and he can’t always answer all of our prayers. She told me that he does still love me and I needed to continue to love and believe in God. I told her that if God really loved me he wouldn’t of made me feel the way that I did. The idea that God didn’t exist had never even crossed my mind yet, I had always been told he did.
I continued to lie down each night and try and talk to God. I would pray again hoping to get an answer, to get anything. Any sign that he was real, that he could hear me, that I mattered even a little bit. All I got back was silence as I would stare at the blank white ceiling. I kept muttering to myself, yelling in my own head out to God, since, of course, he could hear my thoughts. I said “Why are you doing this to me, if so many people believe in you and love you why can’t you just give me one little sign that you’re there, that you actually give a shit and are listening to us?” Nothing.
Slowly the idea started to creep into my head. What I had been hesitant to think about or even wonder, maybe God wasn’t real. I remember being scared the first time I thought it to myself as if a lightning bolt from no where would strike me dead. If all this begging and calling out to God resulted in nothing, why be scared? I said it again to myself, but addressing it “to God” in my head. “You’re not even real at all are you, there’s not even anything there?” I felt a small rush of nervous anxiety as I tempted the idea out again, even mouthing it out to myself slowly. Maybe God isn’t real…maybe God doesn’t exist.
The next morning I wanted to tell my grandmother the news I had. I went to her and told her that I finally decided that God just wasn’t real, that’s why he wasn’t answering. The look of shock and disappointment on her face is indescribable. It was the first time I ever saw my grandmother really angry. “You do not say that God is not real,” she scolded me as she grabbed at my arm. “You will go to Hell and suffer and burn in pain forever if you say that God isn’t real, he’s very real. You can not say these things, you must not say these things because I love you and I don’t want you to suffer forever. God is very real, I know he is very real and so does everyone else in your family, you’re wrong. God is real.”
I was crushed. If God was real, but he just ignored me no matter what I said, no matter what I did, then what was he? Was he uncaring? Was he just playing games with us? For many years I banished out the idea that God couldn’t be real from my head and instead resigned myself to believing that God was real but not my friend. That God did exist but he hated us all and had no caring what so ever. That he simply did things for his own amusement with no caring for our well being. It made sense with everything I saw in the world. I ended up hating God and ended up hating myself because of it.
I ended up hating life for many years believing that no matter what I did I only had two options. Heaven or hell, with no other choice. If I went to Hell I would suffer and burn in painful fire for all of eternity. If I ended up going to Heaven I would be stuck up there with him, God. That uncaring thing couldn’t even answer one simple question for a child. Why would I want to be stuck with him forever? How could I stand to be stuck with him forever? I ended up being afraid of death because I was afraid of what would happen next, no matter what it was.
The last part of the story will briefly go into some of what happened as I moved on from these events. Really everything in this story I’ve told so far took place in the span of a few weeks nearly 21 years ago. It had that profound of an influence on me though that I can not only recall what happened but even how I felt and what I was thinking at the time. The last portion is going to be a bit more general and vague but as always please feel free to leave any feedback you like.
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(This section is fairly short but part 4 tomorrow is a bit longer then the others and also really ties this all together a bit more as to how it relates to me and religion. Thank you so much for all the kind words and positive reaction so far!)
I still don’t know how my mother put up with it all. She was moving us into a new place, getting me enrolled into a new school, and preparing all of my father’s affairs. It was all a lot to handle but I am thankful my mother dug down deep and did it. I’m sure that I would do no justice to her emotions to even guess at how she was feeling and what she was going through. Thankfully grandma helped as well and was a real comfort. My mom was her youngest and always the baby of the family. She wanted to do everything she could to help us through this situation.
My father had requested before he died to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered across the pond he always used to play at when he was a child. His family, being very religious, didn’t think he should be cremated. They said that he should be buried so that his children can have a grave to visit. My mother ended up coming to a compromise to try and satisfy them and my father was cremated. She took half of his ashes and spread them across the pond as he had requested. The other half was buried in a plot next to what would have been my older half brother, had he not died just a few days after being born.
It is a bit of an aside from the story but something that resulted from it much later I think is important to bring up. My aunt who used to be a nun was quite disappointed with my mother for having my father cremated, even though it was his wish. I was never very close with her but a few years ago I received a call that she had passed and I was part of her will. They needed my address to send me a copy of the information. A few days later I received a copy of her will, it went through many of her items giving them out to various relatives. A few pages in I found my name and it stated that for me and my brother she left nothing. It said she only bothered to mention our name’s at all because she wanted it to be known that it was on purpose and not a mistake. She was so vindictive over something me and my brother had no say in she wanted to give us one last reminder from beyond the dead.
I don’t honestly know if my father had a funeral, or if I was there. Most of my childhood I have very vivid memories but if I was there I blocked it all out because I don’t remember any of it. I don’t remember any service or commentary on his life or all of his family gathering together to cry over his life and experiences. It may have happened, but part of me doesn’t think it ever did which makes me sad in itself.
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(Part 1 available here: http://hatefulatheist.tumblr.com/post/2304622651/personal-story-part-1)
The next few weeks would turn into a crazy period of time as we tried to adjust and restart a new life that seemed emptier. My mother was only 26 at the time, yes there was quite a disparity between my mother and father’s age, but thankfully she didn’t just give up and break down. My mother and I have had some rough times in our life but this is part of her that always amazed me. Being 27 now I can’t even imagine being in the same situation as her. I would want to close up, shut out the world, give up and just cry in a pool of my own self pity and emotions. Thankfully that isn’t what my mom did.
My grandmother was there for us and before we even left the hospital my mom knew we couldn’t stay in the trailer we had been living in. It was out in the middle of the nowhere and had a horrible driveway. It was not the kind of place for a single woman and two young kids on their own in the middle of winter. It was decided that we were going to move in with my grandmother. She had just moved into a small house in a tiny city not far from us after she finally moved off the family farm she had spent the majority of her life on. There wasn’t much room but we were going to be moving in with her until we could get things sorted out.
We went back first to our trailer to gather some things. We needed to pack some clothes and went back into the cold empty trailer to gather them. I remember sitting in my parent’s bedroom, bouncing just a bit on their old water bed, as my mother started to pack a few bags. She opened the closet and something caught my eye, “What is that?” I asked as I pushed around her to look closer. There was a stack of presents, all wrapped nicely in Christmas wrapping paper, piled up into the corner of the closet. I looked up at my mom confused. Our presents for each other were back under the tree, why were these here? My mother told me that Santa had to come bring our presents a bit early because he’s so busy on Christmas night. Even in her worst moments my mom was trying to let me be a kid.
I still was a kid of course, and the kid in me was a bit excited about the presents. I asked if I could open them and my mom said it was okay for me to open one. I grabbed what looked like the biggest and quickly unwrapped it. It was a kid’s electronic keyboard that was shaped like a red electric guitar. It had different sound effects and ended up being my favorite toy as a kid. Amazingly it still works and my son now plays with it, every time I hold it and look at it I’m brought back to the 6 year old kid sitting on that water bed. We finished packing up what we could into the station wagon and drove off to my grandmother’s house about half an hour away.
We arrived at the small two bedroom single story house, white with red painted trim. I looked around my new environment, still taking in all that was happening. It took a bit to set in that I’d have to go to a new school, that we weren’t going back home. Things were changing and it was starting to scare me but I didn’t know what I could do, I didn’t know what to think. My brother and I had to share a tiny bedroom again, my mother slept on the pull out couch in the basement, and we tried to settle in just a few days before Christmas. I don’t remember opening any of my other presents that year. I know I did, but none of them mattered to me.
Part 3 will be up tomorrow afternoon.
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It was a cold and dreary morning like most Wisconsin mornings. December 20th, 1989 was so long ago but when I remember back I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the last day of school before the start of Winter break. I sat in the living room on the couch getting my socks on as a cartoon play on the TV. I busied myself getting ready for the bus to come pick me up from our little trailer stuck out in the middle of the woods. We were down at the bottom of a large slippery hill that I had to climb my way up each morning to make it to the bus. This morning, though, would change everything.
My mother was out in the kitchen eating some breakfast as my father stood over the stove. My father had a tea kettle of boiling water he was standing over breathing in the vapors deeply. He always said it helped clear his airways and let him breathe better. My little brother, only two, was still asleep in the small bedroom he and I shared. It was a morning like most others. The excitement of Christmas was hanging in the air as our tree sparkled off in the corner of the living room.
Suddenly, my father fell to the ground, sitting as he grabbed at his chest. My mother ran to his side as I ran in from the living room standing over him. My father was barely able to speak as he slumped down more but managed to stifle out to my mother, “I think I’m having a heart attack”. My mother frantically ran to call for an ambulance as she began crying uncontrollably. I stood there over my dad so in shock, not knowing what to say, not knowing what was happening. My mother came back soon still in hysterics as she screamed out, “I love you, please don’t die”. The tears streaming from her face as my father began to fade. The tears started flowing from my eyes, still unable to fully grasp what was happening, but feeling the waves of panic and emotion sweeping over my mother.
We stood there both so scared as we waited. Hardly able to think I began to plead with my father. “Please don’t die, who will play baseball with me, who will teach me math? Please dad, I love you, don’t go.” I begged for him as I stood there terrified. Unable to know what was going to happen but knowing my father may be leaving me forever as my uncle and several grandparents already had. Years later my mother would make me feel worse then anyone ever has by telling me how angry she was with me for being so selfish well my father died. I was only 6, I didn’t know what else to say, but it still always brings tears to my eyes to know it was all I could think to say. My father was everything in the world to me right then and without him I didn’t know what would become of me.
It took nearly half an hour for the ambulance to arrive because of the winter weather and how far out of town we were. I still remember hearing the school bus at the top of the hill honking for me as we stood there panicked and waiting. Wishing so badly that I was on my way to school like any other average day. When the paramedics came in I stood aside as they tore open the old dark blue bath robe my father always wore. His buttons went flinging across the room as they ripped it open. I stood there still with tears in my eyes as I picked up one of those buttons to stick in my pocket; I still have it to this day. They were compressing his chest and frantically tending to him as they started to load him up in the ambulance. I was still holding out that everything would turn out okay.
The paramedics told us where they were taking him. My mother asked to ride with in the ambulance but there was no room. My mother hated having to drive our old Volvo station wagon and hated it even worse in the winter with our long icy driveway. She loaded up me and my brother into the car as we raced off to the hospital. My last living grandparent (my mom’s mother) met us at the hospital. We walked in and her and my mother hugged tightly, the sobs returning to my mother again as they held each other. I sat on a big chair with my little brother besides me as I looked around the room. All I could smell was that hospital smell, I hate that smell. I still can’t walk into hospitals without getting sick to my stomach.
We hadn’t been waiting long when a doctor came out to speak to us. He seemed so faceless and alien, a surgical mask, gloves, apron, completely covered. He told my mother somberly that he was sorry but there was nothing more they could do. My father was dead. He had just turned 41 years old a few weeks prior. He asked us if we wanted to see him once more as he led us back behind a large cloth curtain. There he was. My father was completely lifeless, cold and pale on a large metal table, a sheet draped over his body. His messy brown hair still matted down with bed hair, his scruffy short beard and mustache from not shaving in several weeks, he looked almost like he was just sleeping. I still remember how it looked so clearly but stood there stunned. I just looked on as my mother dropped to her knees weeping again holding onto my father’s hand.
Things were going to change in ways I couldn’t imagine. It was a whirlwind as we scrambled to adjust our lives and to move on. My mother knew we couldn’t continue living where we were. I will continue on with what happened next in part two tomorrow.
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Alright so I am a bit excited and a bit nervous but I think I’ve pretty much finished up the story I want to start putting up. It ended up being quiet long, about 7 pages single space, but I do tend to ramble at times. I’ve broken it down into 5 parts now and will be posting up one piece each day next week starting on Monday. Hopefully that will give me a bit more time to check for grammar and punctuation since that is not my strong point. I look forward to hearing what people think but like I said am very nervous!
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So I feel the need to share a story, not for any particular reason other then I like to rant and ramble, and this is the perfect place to do it. I’ll forgive anyone who glosses over this because it may become quite long. I figured though I should give people a bit of an insight into what makes me so disgruntled with religion.
I might as well start at the beginning, at least the way that I see it. My earliest memory where religion and religious beliefs ever became an issue. I do have a lot of memories of my early years and am grateful that I do. I don’t claim to have the most interesting life out of anyone you know or well ever meet, but we all have our stories. This story takes place a few months after I turned 3 years old, I apologize for not being able to be more precise with dates and times.
It was fall, in the mid 80’s. Seems like forever ago but the more I concentrate on remembering it the more clearly I feel it. I lived with my mother and father in a trailer that was out on a few acres of farm land. We weren’t absolutely poor, but probably a good deal short of middle class. Both my parents grew up in the area, they weren’t high school sweet hearts though by any means. My father was about 16 years older then my mother. My mother’s family wasn’t necessarily happy with the situation, but they got married, and for a short time moved to California (where I was born) before coming back to where they grew up.
We were much closer with my mother’s side of the family then my father’s. My mom was the youngest of 7 children in a strongly Catholic home. She was the baby, the one my grandmother always seemed to want to be around the most. My mom’s oldest sister was 18 years older, so there was a bit of a spread in the age. As a result my mom was closest to her brother Mike, who was just a few years older then her. Mike is really the catalyst of this story, but I can hardly remember him. The few memories I do have are enough to make my eyes water a bit even as I type this.
Him and my mother grew up together, they were always off together, pretty much separated from the rest of the siblings. They lived on a farm, which should be no shock for a Catholic family with that many children in Wisconsin. Mike being the youngest son was the last one still around working on the farm. Mike was never very popular in high school, and as a result was single most of his life. His best friends outside of my mother was an old yellow dog. A lab as I recall, but I can’t seem to remember his name. As my mom and he grew older, and my mom went off on her own, that dog was even more important to him. That dog went everywhere with him and it meant the world to him.
That fall well working in the fields, Mike was driving one of the tractors. I don’t know the details of how or why it happened, but he was backing up, and accidentally ended up running over his dog. It broke his heart, I can still remember both him and my mother crying and hugging each other for hours as they remembered their friend. Mike just wasn’t the same after that, he had always seemed a bit depressed with his station in this life, but this, this pushed him to a desperately low point.
A few weeks after, early evening on a November day. My uncle Mike took his own life. I remember that day faintly, honestly most of my memory of that day is a complete haze. I do recall clearly though being in the kitchen of my grandmother’s large farm house, snapping the ends off of green beans with her as we tossed them into a bowl. A large picture window in the kitchen showing off down the quarter mile drive way to a gravel country road. I remember watching my uncle walk down that drive, a shot gun in his hand, and from there my experience with it is a blur.
My uncle had reached that lowest point of desperation and saw no way out. I know I was too young at the time to be able to help him myself, but I still can’t help but imagine how things would of been different had he asked for help. The impact upon the family was devastating to say the least. My grandfather had passed away the year before, the only memory of him I have at all was that I was afraid of him. He was rough surely old time farmer, and I hid behind my father every time I saw him. Barely recovered from that, my grandmother was dealt another horrible blow, the death of her youngest son.
Overall, if you are still read this (thank you) you have to be asking how this ties to religion. This is the back story, to set up why, what happened next, is such a painful experience. My grandmother grief stricken, still had to take care of the affairs of her son’s death. She had to plan his funeral, the ceremony, the casket, and the burial plot. As a life long devoted Catholic, attending mass several days a week, several members of our family members of the church in different capacity, she turned to them.
The callousness of how they treated her, is so appalling to me to this day, it makes me nearly shake with anger to even think of it. In the Catholic tradition of course, it is a sin to take one’s own life. My grandmother was told, she would not be allowed to have his funeral in the church, that he would not be allowed to be buried in same cemetery as my grandfather and generations of our family, and once more was reminded of the fact that his soul was most likely going to Hell as a consequence of his action.
How my grandmother was ever able to hold up before all of this, I don’t know, she was a very strong woman, but with this on her plate as well, there are no words to describe how she must of felt and what she must of went through. I may of been too young at the time to fully understand what was going on, and the details of what happened was told to me many years later. Thankfully my mother has always been willing to very candid and honest with me, about just about everything in life. Despite that, I did know how my grandmother was acting, I did know how the adults around me were behaving. She had kept a diary, every day of her life, until just a few days after his suicide. She stopped and never wrote an entry again. She did though continue to attend mass as often as possible. Still giving to the collection plate from the meager amount she tried to retire off of after having to sell the farm. She still tried to show her devotion to the church, she was that committed, and it breaks my heart.
I will end this here, because I know it is so long it’s doubtful many people if any will ever read this. If you do read this, please feel free to give me any feedback you’d like. Good, bad, or indifferent, trust me nothing you can say will hurt my feelings. As I said this was really my first experience that turned me away from religion, if this gets much or any feedback, I may continue my story. Also, I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors there may be.