By Tom Holmes
I'm 24. .I'm a copywriter.
My childhood religious experience is fairly standard. My parents are Irish and devout Catholics. I attended mass every Sunday and I remember being fairly fond of it. I was an altar boy at St. Bernardine's for years. When we moved out of Forest Park we came back every Sunday to go to mass, despite living within 5 minutes of several Catholic churches. I went to St. B's until fourth grade then public school until high school. I went to a Catholic University, but by mid-college (19 or 20ish) I had fully realized that I don't really believe in a higher power.
Sometimes I feel like I'm rebelling because I didn't have a choice as a child. (Who really does?) But then I go to mass with my parents or read any religion-related news (lately the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) and I remember how undevoted I am to the idea of a higher power. It's so implausible to me, especially given the years and years of editing, changing, translating, updating and adjusting the bible and other religious texts. Like I said, I'm more of a skeptic -- I just can't believe in a god. Essentially, I've evolved from it.
I'm an agnostic-atheist. I don't really think that a higher power can be proven or disproven, but I also don't think that a higher power exists.
In high school I read Kurt Vonnegut and he was my first experience with serious religious doubt. Couple that with my love of punk rock and other alternative subcultures, and it was basically a done deal. As far as I can remember I was always afraid of God and I prayed often, but I never really moved past the image of a big white man with a beard in a robe image. As I got older, I slowly realized that's a fairly childish view of God and I started thinking harder about how God fit into my life. Eventually I overcame my fear of doubting God and immediately being killed (by lightening or something dramatic). Questions lead to other questions and then Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick really opened up my mind to humanism and doubt.
And then by college I had met people with similar thoughts. I was never around anyone who pushed hard for me to go back to church or Catholicism, but I would talk about my doubts often with friends. I studied English and Spanish at a Catholic University, so I was often faced with different interpretations of God in literature. But Vonnegut's absurdism and Asimov's deconstruction of religion and PKD's broken realities always stuck with me. No god was always more plausible than God for me.
I was an active member of some atheism web forums, but I found those have some of the same problems that I had with Catholcism -- it was so easy to bash other people for their beliefs. I've thought about reading and researching about god but like I said earlier, I don't think a higher power can be proved or disproved. I think everyone should come to their own conclusion after some deep reflection And to be perfectly honest, I really think Vonnegut summed it up perfectly in one of his essays. "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you differently."
These days, I try to actively challenge my beliefs every so often. It's scary to think that I could be totally wrong and end up spending eternity in hell. But it's almost as bad to live your life in fear of something so unknown and undefined. I don't try to turn people away from their beliefs, but I do enjoy hearing what my friends have to say about God and other higher powers.
Sorry for the long responses. It's a slow day at work, and this is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about. It's kind of a catharsis for me to write or talk about it. I hope this helps you.