One of the things I realized, and I spoke of this at one of my recent meetings, is that if children aren't introduced to religion until later in their lives they are less likely to believe. Here are my thoughts on this.

I was born in Romania. When I was 18 months old my mother was forced to put me in the state-run orphanage. The reason she was forced to put me in was because the communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceaucescu, ordered all married women to contribute to the rise of the Romanian army by putting their first five children in orphanages from which the children would be plucked out and trained for the army. Anyway, during that time the would take us to church. It was only once a month and we were there to only receive communion. None of the kids knew what was going on or why we would eat this piece of bread once a month, or why we had to walk into this building just to receive this one piece of bread. It was quite confusing. It was never really explained, but were told that it would be explained later in our lives. So as a small child I was never introduced to religion. When I was 8 year old I was adopted by a former nun who married but couldn't have kids due to some medical issue. Of course before I was brought to the US she had me baptized in a Roman Catholic church in Bucharest. The ritual is quite different in Romania. In Romania you are not baptized as a baby, but as a 7 or 8 year old. Now the ritual was also different in that it wasn't just your head that was rinsed. They would have these wading pools where the children would have to get naked in front of the whole crowd and step into the pool. Then you would have to submerge yourself while the priest did his incantations. It was odd because my true blood sister and I were being baptized at the same time. My parents were adopting the both of us (sorry forgot to mention that). Anyway it was odd because boys and girls get naked in the pool at the same time. There aren't any different days for boys or girls, they are all done at the same time. I imagine that any pedophile in Romania would enjoy going to church then. Why my mother, who was trained as a nun in every ritual of the Catholic Church, would actually see this through was beyond me. Why she didn't wait until we got to the US and get us baptized in an American Catholic Church was also beyond my authority or knowledge at the time. So my sister and I go through this ritual unscathed. At the time we didn't know what was going on or why. It was all new to us.

When we finally made it to the United States we were introduced to Jesus and church and the commandments and the Bible and everything that went with it. I could always tell my dad wasn't into it cause when my mom would explain things he would roll his eyes. That's when I knew it was some kind or made-up story. For me I don't accept something until research has been done, on my part, to the fullest extent. I read the Bible, in fact my mother gave me a Children's Annotated Bible complete with illustrations. I thought the stories were kind of interesting. Then I began to read the adult Bible and realized that the Children's Bible I had been given was written for idiots. Most of the stories didn't match up or weren't understandable. Also major things were left out of the Children's Bible, like the Rapture and Revelations, and the fact that God killed many people or that Satan even existed. It was then I realized that they can't introduce this kind of stuff to children yet. It was too much for them to handle at a young age, so they teach them the fun happy things about religion and how peaceful it is. Then when you are at an age where they think you can understand it they start piling on the Commandments and how you can go to hell if you sin. In fact in my CCD, which stands for Catholic Curriculum Discussion classes, which I called Child City Dump, I knew every answer to the Bible that the teacher ever asked. The teacher always thought I was deeply religious for an 11 year old. She mistook religiousity for intelligence and being able to comprehend difficult subject matter. She would always ask me questions and I would give her the right answer. Just because I knew the answer didn't mean I believed in it. It was actually the opposite. The more I read and answered questions the more I questioned the Bible. In this class they never mentioned the bad parts of the Bible where God kills whole sects. That's what really threw me off. I always questioned everything and the answer as always was "We don't know why God did that, only He knows. He is mysterious." Even for an 11 year old I thought that was kind of irrational.

I talked to my dad about this when I was 12 and he said the best thing to do was to keep questioning, but in my own mind. My dad was trying to save me from my mom. He said I should keep going to church to please my mother, cause it would break her heart if I didn't. I went along with the charade until about 8 years ago. I started working on Sundays at the local Applebee's so I would go to mass at a different time that would agree with my schedule. The thing is I would never make it to mass. I would go to a friends house or the library or a bookstore. Every once in a while I would get a Sunday off and I would be forced to join my mother. About 3 years ago I realized that I could go to church whenever I wanted as long as I figured out what the homily was going to be about. I found a local church that posts their homilies online and now I just go to bars and watch sports, then look at the homily online so if my mom asks what mass was about I can tell her without lying.

And I have to keep up this charade until the end of this year when I will be financially stable enough not to rely on my mother. I finally have a job where I am making extra car payments and extra college loan payments to have them paid off within the year. I am already out to all my friends and co-workers. My dad knew since I was 12 so it wasn't really a surprise to him. He wondered what took me so long. Now I have a closer relationship with my dad, and a fake one with my mother. I wonder what will happen at the end of the year. Will it be an angry shouting match or a religious intervention?

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great story, Michael. Good for you.


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