I've been wondering for some time now, when did I start believing in God? I know exactly when I stopped, like most people on this site. It's a lot harder to break the spell of culture and what I learned from my family after some 30 years of being immersed in the idea of Jesus.
As a Hispanic girl in Southern California, I was naturally raised as a Catholic. I remember Sunday churches and early morning breakfasts with the family. I remember going to Catechism school on Wednesday evenings after begging my mom for a chance to do my Communion like all the other girls at school. But I don't remember when being Catholic and believing in God became so important to me.
How old was I? What was said to me to make me believe and want Religion so badly? What is said to millions of children and adults that makes them start ignoring science, reason and observation over what some person or book says?
I remember how comforting it was for me, when my great-grandfather passed away, to know that he had moved on to a "better place." Hearing the adults say, "he's not in pain anymore." I remember thinking how great it would be to meet God and be at peace for eternity.
Several years later, I began to get a better concept of eternity, and thinking, "how boring it would be to exist an eternity." Even in absolute bliss. Having everything just going your way, your every desire fulfilled, for ALL ETERNITY. How boring!
I performed my communion at the age of 12 and was so happy. But after I graduated high school and attended a Catholic two-year college, I started pursuing my Confirmation. It didn't take long for me to start questioning the church. I met a Priest who understood the crisis of faith I was having, and he told me something that helped a bit. "Just have faith in God." That kept me going a while, no longer interested in any particular religion, but just believing there was someone there to look out for me after I died felt good. (The path to being Agnostic)
I looked a lot into religious intolerance after 9/11. My own God Mother sent me an e-mail filled with Christian propoganda saying we (as a country) should return to Jesus because it was turning away that caused 9/11. My "reply to all" response may have been a bit hasty, but I still meant it when I said "it was religious extremists that caused 9/11 and using this time to proseltyze was inappropriate. Maybe we should try to understand that religion may have been the cause of thousands of deaths on 9/11 and not the reason to turn to Jesus."
She refused to speak to me for quite some time after that saying that without Jesus, I had no grace.
It would be years later that I stumbled on The Good Athiests and The Infidel Guy and made the final turn to Atheism. I slept soundly the night I "lost God" because I felt freer than I had ever felt in my life. No longer needed to live up to impossible standards and worrying that I might end up in hell when I was only trying to do "the right thing."
And more recently, I remember how badly it hurt losing my Grandmother and thinking I'll never see her again.
As painful as it may be to lose someone as an atheist, having no knowledge of a heaven or hell, I feel like it's right. The scarier the thought, the closer to truth it may be. The idea of God is comforting, which is probably why I bought into it. But I'm older now, and able to think for myself. I'm wiser now because I have seen both sides of the coin and made a choice. I'm free because the Bible is just a part of my past and not the rules which I must live by. And I'm not alone anymore because I found a new way to see the world.