I was raised a Catholic. My parents and I went to mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening – Catholics like a little flexibility, I guess). To say I was a devout Catholic would be a masterpiece of understatement – I seriously considered entering the priesthood. If my parents had not talked me out of it, that is probably what I’d be doing today. “You can’t make any money as a priest,” I remember my mother telling me. Plus, since I was an only child, that would mean no grandchildren. Thank God my parent’s pragmatism outweighed their devoutness.
When I lost my faith, it didn’t happen through a flash of insight; it was more of a gradual awakening. However, I do remember when the seed was planted: I was sitting in a college biology class one day, and the professor started joking about Creationism, wondering how any logical, sensible person could still believe in it. I remember running back to my priest, the next time I was home, desperately seeking counsel on this. I had never heard anyone talk like that before, and it scared the hell out of me. “The devil is just trying to tempt you, my boy,” he reassured me. “Your faith is strong, and will protect you.” Well, it wasn’t, and it didn’t. Because once I started questioning my faith, and examining all the evidence against it, there was no turning back. The veil was lifted, my eyes were opened, and I never would see things the same again.
As for how to classify my non-belief, I’m not quite sure of that. Sometimes I call myself an atheist, sometimes an agnostic. I’d like to think it’s because of my doubting nature, which makes me unsure even of my own understanding of anything. But maybe I’m just trying to cover all my bases, allowing for the possibility of finding myself at the Pearly Gates one day trying to explain myself: “No, it’s not that I didn’t believe in you, I was just unsure for about sixty years. What’s sixty years in the grand scheme of things? C’mon, give me a mulligan!”