A few weeks ago, tragedy struck my neighborhood. A boy my sister’s age killed himself. Getting my head around this was not easy. The biggest hurdle was understanding how someone could give up their claim on heaven.
For my whole life, I’ve been a Catholic. And the Church says suicide is a ticket straight to hell.
Back when I sat in church, each time that a priest talked about anything, I listened and believed it was the absolute truth.
About the time I turned fifteen, I started doubting how things could be happening, like child abuse, and what they said could still be true. But because I don’t speak like other kids, I never voiced my doubt.
Hearing that hurting others was a sin, I spent years calling myself a sinner because I did hurt my parents, even though I couldn’t control how I moved.
Being in constant fear of damnation got the best of me. How unfair that I should be made to feel like that.
It was only by unlucky chance that I got the opportunity to put these concerns into words that my mom could hear. Good grief, that is not right. Can you imagine the weight that was lifted when she told me that people created religion and people are not infallible?
How freeing to not be trapped inside a dogma that seems archaic at best and abusive at worst.
And yet, I am also furious. How could boys and girls be exposed to these teachings and not talked to about their right to free thought? Maybe most kids are, but do we actually make an effort to dissect church teachings with those of us who can’t talk back?
How hard is it to say to your kid, “Listen. No one knows for sure if church gets it right. So attempt to be a good person and don’t have anxiety over every word you hear in church. Cast doubt on anything that is inherently wrong or unjust.”
To the parents out there who take your nonspeaking kids to church, let’s try having more faith in your kids. Have faith that they are listening, faith that they understand, and for g-d’s literal sake, talk to them about what gets taught in religion.
My soul is lighter after the many talks I’ve had now with my mom. I gained the understanding that I can be a faithful guy without being a religious one.
As always, the bottom line is to presume competence.
If my family had thought that I was experiencing that much torment, they never would have insisted I go to church.