From Catholic to Atheist

In the interest of providing additional perspective to my thoughts, I will now share the tale of my journey from Catholicism to atheism.

The circumstances of my entrance into the Church are very commonplace. My Catholic parents had me baptized shortly after my birth, brought me to Mass each Sunday, and sent me to formal religious education until I received the sacrament of confirmation at the age of thirteen. Around that time, I developed a serious interest in religion and became relatively devout in my faith. I sought to understand the teachings of the Church more deeply. I read the Bible, the newly published universal catechism, and a few books on apologetics, though my forays into online apologetic debate were largely uneventful. Discussion of religion with two atheist friends at the end of high school, however, planted seeds of major doubt in my mind, which seemed to flower immediately before being quickly crushed by fear and anxiety.

At university I entrenched myself even more deeply into religion, leading to serious considerations of entering the seminary or the monastery, but the fear of an eternal hell which had forcefully preserved me in the faith soon created a terrestrial hell for me in form of scrupulosity. I will not discuss the details of the situation, but I will say that it truly was a nightmare. The condition persisted for years with only temporary, partial, and sporadic reprieves despite extensive assistance from the clergy and other persons. Eventually, however, the issue of doubt became a major focus of my obsession and the seeds planted years before germinated such that they were ready to blossom with the proper amount of cultivation.

A frank discussion with a friend who had earlier made a similar journey provided the catalyst to a thorough investigation of my doubts over the course of several months. During this time I read everything that I could find, online or in print, pro- and anti-religion. I spoke with family, friends and priests. I spent much time in prayer and in thought. In the end I found that I had lost my faith from a combination of the obliteration of my former justifications for belief, the establishment of numerous insurmountable objections and difficulties, and the realization that everything in life makes much more sense if Catholicism is indeed false. I left the Church almost four months after my initial decision to question my religion.

Though my sufferings certainly helped prompt the investigation, my loss of faith and subsequent apostasy were the result of logical, systematic inquiry rather than an emotionally motivated escape from the torment I experienced at the hands of religion. I am certain, however, that many believers will dismiss my reasons as less than noble. In response I would like to indicate that my decision to face my doubts and fears demanded a certain amount of courage. With my understanding that to entertain and indulge one's doubts was a sin grave enough to merit eternal damnation, I willfully endangered my soul in order to satisfy my sense of intellectual honesty and desire for truth. Additionally, I realized that it would perhaps be impossible to feel sorry and thus seek forgiveness for the sin of doubting if I found the Catholic faith to be true, meaning that I effectively had to surmount a point-of-no-return in order to even begin. Whatever the case, supposed emotional motivations do not discount rational argumentation and criticism.

My scrupulosity immediately and substantially diminished upon my apostasy, though the fear of hell lingered for approximately six months before fully dissipating. I initially considered myself an agnostic, but the more appropriate term would have been weak atheist. A further examination of the problem of evil a few months later prompted my transition to strong atheism. I have maintained that position since and that is where I stand today.


1 comment:

Marisa said...

I just wanted to thank you.
I suffer from severe hypochondria and scrupulosity. It's torturous, but reading this makes me feel a lot better. I'm happy I'm not alone.