I am an atheist. I have been an atheist since about age 6. My mother decided we should go to church for some unknown reason. We went to the United Church and during the service we were sent to Sunday school. I hated Sunday school. I thought the woman teaching it was a snot and told us we all had to believe in God and Jesus if we wanted to be go to Heaven. I am sure I asked questions, many, many questions. She would also tell us that God knew everything that we were thinking and everything we did. I didn’t buy it. I just couldn’t fathom how this was possible. I felt the same way about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny but I digress. It was not easy having critical thinking skills as a 6-year old. Deb is positive that I must have made my mother mental. I probably did. There is nothing like a precocious kid to deal with on a daily basis.
The one thing I did like about going to church was the singing. I love singing. I think that year we were involved in the Christmas pageant. We sang Mary’s Boy Child and I loved it. However most of the hymns we sang that year were quite boring to me. After a while I no longer had to go to Sunday school and instead had to sit through the boring service. I was never good at sitting still. Thankfully my mother’s commitment to church did not last long.
Sadly, my childhood religious education did not end there. My mother had a penchant for parking my sister and me with families to look after us so she could go away for the weekend. One of the families we stayed with were Italian and Catholic. My memories of staying there were sleeping in the basement with all these mozzarellas hanging from the ceiling and going to catholic mass every Sunday. I hated it. Half the time it was in Latin and I really didn’t understand what was going on. Another family we stayed were born again, evangelist Christians. These people scared the hell out of me. They insisted that we be ‘saved’ and that we attend the youth club. I was completely bored.
In my early twenties, I became involved in Wicca. I liked the idea of the nature fertility religion that was aligned the world around us. I loved the chanting and the energy it generated. I found met some great people, some of whom I am friends with to this day. It was a great time in my life.
In university, I discovered a passion for religious history. I loved learning about various religions and how they affected the settlement patterns of North America. I particularly enjoyed learning about fringe religious groups like the Anabaptists. Cults and Mormons fascinated me as well. However, what became clear to me in university was that religious belief and faith, while important to many people, did not bear up under empirical evidence.
I am finding as I grow older, I have less tolerance for religion in its various manifestations. Whether it is people saying things like ‘god bless you’ or religion causing war. I get even more incensed when I hear homophobia cast in religious belief; when people talk about god being offended by homosexuality. Today I ready something that completely incensed me. It was about vegan restaurateurs not wanting to kill rodents or insects in their establishments. One Buddhist woman said that giving her dog a flea bath and killing the fleas caused her to have anxiety attacks. So she applied a Buddhist teaching that said if you chanted “Om Mani Padmi Hung” as you killed the fleas then they would come back as human beings. What an absolutely ridiculous assertion.
I work very hard at keeping my opinions to myself. People who are religious get something out of it. Perhaps they need fellowship or someone to help them guide their lives. For many people, belief in something bigger themselves is really important. I just don’t get it.
 Come to think of it, I still don’t sit still well.