by A.F. Maas

I felt amazed, afraid and confused, all at the same time. Sister Mary Celinda had just informed the class that all of us had “original sin” on our souls. That little center of us that was our spirit was really not white and pure, but black and dirty because of Adam and Eve’s sin. I was in the center row, third seat back, thinking to myself that I had done nothing to deserve this. I wasn’t guilty of anything! Up to this point I was a happy-go-lucky kid having a pretty good time. Seven is too young to find out that you are not worth a damn according to your religion or your God.

The years following, especially my early adolescent ones, were extremely painful and depressing. When you are a young boy and a Catholic, the sex thing is very taboo and never talked about. I imagined myself burning in hell for eternity, although I thought somehow I could save myself at the last minute with a “good” confession. The guilt, however, was excruciating and never-ending. When I was fourteen I wrote a poem entitled “Am I the Devil’s Only Friend”.

I went away to an all men’s Catholic college and then joined the Marine Corps and served in Viet Nam. By this time I had given up going to church and was doing pretty much everything I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I still figured I was going to hell, but I just didn’t care. Death was a long way off and I would figure something out before that happened. I did get married in a Catholic church and to a Catholic girl. We raised four children and we sent them to Catholic schools and I started going to church again to satisfy my wife and to set a good example for my kids.

To me, the Bible was a most unlikely story, but everyone assured me that it was the word of God, and that all the miracles really did happen and that Jesus conquered death. I was a biology major in college so I was a little skeptical of the biblical account of creation and man’s origin. Actually, I never believed in the creation story or the world flood after the 6th or 7th grade.

Being 55 years old now, and looking back, I think that time in second grade when I was branded with original sin was when the anxiety set in on my small mind. I have never thought of myself as a victim but I now know that this was a sort of child abuse. I don’t believe that my parents or teachers thought of it that way; they just wanted me to turn out okay and not be a bad person.

For the last three years I have been researching religion and especially the history of Christianity and Catholicism. Slowly, but surely, I have started to come out of the fog. Christianity is a cult just like all the rest except it happens to be more widely accepted than the other religions. I am finally living my life with a much higher degree of freedom and happiness. I realize now the utter stupidity of believing in a religion or any belief system that does not respond to critical thinking and lots of questioning. I can kind of laugh now, but I’m still mad at all the people, especially those people in authority in the church that fed me all of the crap that kept me believing. The time that I have wasted on religion and God also makes me quite angry but I am getting over it.

Now I am starting to have fun with my life. I am also having quite a bit of fun with the “fundies”. A lot of my family thinks that I have lost it but I don’t really care. A few of them say I will come to my senses eventually but I give them a little analogy about a man who finally drags himself out of the quicksand and then immediately jumps back in. In other words, it’s not likely to happen, ever! I am free from this weight and I can accept it. I am responsible for myself in thought and in action.