Every time I say the words: “I don’t believe in God” it strikes the conscience of some people; like last night at a friends house birthday get together where I said: “I don’t believe in God” and my friend’s mother asked me: “So how do you believe we were made?”. I’m a person who always try to divert subjects such as religion or beliefs because I’ve known (the hard way) that not everyone is as tolerant as I’m trying to be. Knowing what would happen I calmly said: “I believe that we were created through Evolution”. Knowing again that the word “Evolution” stings very deeply to all those “religious” or “theist people”, I was expecting the answer she gave me: “You are acting on REBELLION”.
I try to wonder, since when deciding NOT to believe in God is an act of “Rebellion”. It’s just a personal choice; something I decided to choose. No, it’s not a “temporary thing” and it’s definitely not something because “I’m too young and I don’t know what I’m doing”. I simply just don’t believe in God. Period.
Some of you may think that I haven’t had a “contact with God”, and because of that I don’t know “the true acts and power he has over someone’s life” or that I don’t “appreciate the wonders that God has created around me” (I’m telling you, I’ve heard it all…). By the matter of fact, I’ve been in touch with God since the beginning of my life.
I was raised up in a very strict Catholic family…the majority of Latino kids do, thanks to the Spanish invasion and the mandatory conversion of the Native American to Catholicism. Honestly, if we weren’t invaded by the Spanish, we would be still believing in the Sun God and the Rain God. When I was a couple of weeks old, I was baptized by a priest, since I was in a coma state and I had little chance to survive; that way I would “ascend to the heavens with my original sins erased” in case I died.
Since then, I’ve been growing up in a pure catholic environment; from going to St. Bartholomew Parish Roman Catholic Church on 43-22nd Ithaca St. every sunday since I was 1 year old, to attending a Roman Catholic private school from grade 4 to grade 12. After I was baptized I did my first communion when I was 10 and my Confirmation in the Catholic Church at age 13. I also attended some youth Groups and youth retreats during my teenage years.
Growing up (especially during my teenage years), my favorite subject was Science. I loved the fact that I could do experiments to get to see the reactions of chemical compounds; I also loved Biology ever since I observed through the microscope the movement of Chloroplasts between the cells of a piece of leaf. The simple fact that I could view in real time the reactions between elements, and the movement of particles in live cells made me fall in love with life itself. This love for Science and Biology had me think about serious doubts about life and human beings since I was taught on the side that God created everything and only he knows the mystery of life.
The first time I read about the human evolution on my Social Studies book I asked my teacher: “Professor, if the evolution theory is scientifically proven, then why does the school keep teaching us about Creationism?”. My teacher answered me: “Do you really think that we came from a species of monkeys? It’s obvious that God created us”. To this answer, the rest of my classmates laughed at such an absurd mind I had. Honestly, it made more sense to me that we were made through gene mutation and biological needs to keep or discard some traits starting from an Australopithecus species, then the idea of an “All mighty God” created us man and woman from his image and out of nothing.
Throughout my school years I always had doubts and discussions with my teachers because I refused to believe that “God almighty” did things because he wanted with no explanation or logical basis. I was sent to the principal’s office a couple of times because of this “defying act of rebellion against God”. Although I was starting to form a definite and concrete idea on what I believed in, I still had that traditional Catholic subconscious that always reminded me “Do you really want to go to hell for not believing in God?”.
Terrified by the possibility of going to hell, I made myself go to church even though I didn’t believe anything the priest said. I even refuted the priest’s liturgy in my mind as he talked, meanwhile I thought about the absurd subliminal messages he was trying to put into the congregation. When I prayed, I used to pray on having a boyfriend or wanting a new cellphone… superficial things. I never connected with a word the bible or the priest said at all. I just didn’t want to go to hell. I could even give the whole mass by memory, since I’ve been attending since age 1. There was a time where I didn’t even wake up to go to church because I felt it was tiring and a waste of time. At the beginning, my mother made me go, but after a while she was tired and just left me sleep in Sunday mornings.
Although I wasn’t going as often as I did to church, I started to “make up for lost time with God” by starting to attend Youth groups and Youth retreats. That was when my real conflicts with God started. The real purpose of these gatherings or retreats was to guide you to a real “Roman Catholic Christian youth path” and to try to show you how to “not give away to the modern world temptations”. During the times I started attending between 2007 and 2012 I had analyzed some of the common beliefs that were taught during my time attending:
- The first one was to make you feel bad for normal teenage actions, for example: venturing into sexual contact with the opposite sex. The main teaching about this was that “God wants us to be chaste until marriage”. With this I had big conflicts. To me sex was a natural act that depended mainly on our choice to do or not to do. I didn’t consider God to have control over my sexual organs in any way. Abraham Maslow established the famous “Maslow Pyramid” in which he established sex as a Basic Need as vital as the needs of eating, breathing and homeostasis. Besides the basic need sex has in animals, sex brings a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that makes it into something not only to procreate, but something that naturally makes us feel happy and connect with other humans. While I was taught that having sex before marriage was a sin, some teens from the Youth group were having sex with other teens from the group; when I asked one of them why he was having sex knowing it was a sin, he answered: “I am a sinner, and I come here to search for pureness and forgiveness; I’m not perfect” and I would ask: “Then why don’t you just stop doing it?”, he answered: “I pray to God everyday for change”. This was so hypocrite to me that I even stopped assisting. Telling me I have to be a virgin before marriage while you’re screwing other teens from the youth group is just sickening. Whats also sickening is that “God almighty” forbids me to have a natural right to engage in sex until I’m married through the church since my virginity is a “gift” that I shouldn’t share with whoever I like (this was mainly emphasized among girls, and not so much among boys in the Catholic community). My “virginity” was no “gift”, it was something that belongs to me and only I could decide over it.
- Another thing was that you had to feel bad for your sins and repent yourself before God. I’ve always thought that every person decides what to do or what not to do. I think that as long as you’re not breaking the law or harming someone, you can do whatever you think is right. The pressure I had on following God’s commandments and the reminder that I’m a sinner with every minimal action I did was oppressive. I think that as human beings, we were born able to make choices. Sometimes we make bad choices and sometimes we make good choices. The principle’s that God Commandments pose aren’t bad in at least in 6 out of 10 commandments, but I can live an honorable and admirable life without them. I don’t need to believe in a God to know what’s good or what’s bad. Since our primitive ancestors, we’ve been discovering what things contribute for a better community, a better relationship with family and friends and a better life in general. We have learned things like the need to respect each other’s territories and to take care of our loved ones since the beginning of society. Of course, not everyone contributes in a good way to their lives, families and society but that is a personal choice. I don’t need to confess my “sins” or repent myself for the “bad” things that God considers. I am able to choose what I do freely accepting the possible good or bad outcomes or consequences; and I also don’t think I have to expect an accountability from a “God”. Each person is responsible and accountable for their own actions and don’t need to pay accountability to anyone but the law and each other.