I was raised Catholic and it never occurred to me that I should be anything else especially since my family can trace it’s lineage back hundreds of years. In the 1000+ years of documented family drama every generation has been a part of the Catholic Church to the point they were involved in many groups and wars to keep the faith going in both Ireland and France.
Being Catholic isn’t just a way of believing it’s part of my DNA, my identity which I know scientifically and from a psychology point of view is invalid but still there you go. When my first husband left me for one of the women he had been seeing during our marriage it didn’t just shatter the kind of life I thought I was going to have it forever destroyed the foundation that made me who I was. Even today divorce is considered a sin and if you are unlucky enough, like I was, to live in a part of the world where the priests are REALLY old school then you will suddenly find yourself without a church and ‘out of favor’ with your faith.
Here I was with no home, husband or church and no idea of where to turn when I found help at a Protestant church that was about as far removed as I could get from what I knew short of Atheism. At first I thought I was going to be okay because many were excited that I left the Catholic Church (more like forced out) and couldn’t stop giving me all the reasons why the Catholic Church is ‘evil’ so I was better off which at the time made sense. After all, how ‘Christian’ is it for a church to tell someone they can no longer practice their faith the way they used to because their husband left them? I was angry and they helped justify my anger even if that wasn’t their intention.
I met my current husband at the church. We were both dealing with pain, feeling lost and questioning God’s existence which is probably what made us find each other in the crowd. His father had passed away not long before we met and he was having a lot of trouble with his fellow church goers’ idea on how to handle the grieving process – as in you don’t grieve because you should be happy your loved one is now in heaven.
Having a degree in Psychology means I’m a big believer in the grieving process, the five steps, etc so trying to force someone to skip that process can be psychologically damaging as evidenced by what happened to him. Everyone handles grief in their own way so if your way is to ‘process’ it by being happy someone died and that works for you then great but telling someone else they don’t have a right to be sad, not great.
Before we even began dating, a group of ‘concerned’ women told his mom a TON of lies about me pushing her into a suicidal fit, on my birthday, making her think her son was going to be dragged to hell by the ‘Irish witch’. Cause you know – being Irish means we all practice the black arts….spooky….. For the record, let’s just say I was a witch, is it really a good idea to piss one off and risk all kinds of calamity befalling you? Food for thought.
We figured if we’re going to be labeled a certain way we might as well become what we were accused of; as in we started having sex and I began using my powers to call down Satan’s minions to destroy the church. Well the witchy part may be a bit of exaggeration. We eventually tried to ‘behave’ (code for no more sex) so we would be accepted but it was like we were slowly dying as we kept trying to cut out all the parts of ourselves they kept saying were unacceptable.
The next blow came quicker than expected. I had a court case coming up and was being told by EVERYONE at the church that it would go in my favor because I was praying, going to church, was a Christian, etc and my ex was the “spawn of Satan” so of course God is going to award the victory to one of His people and not Satan’s. Court came and his attorney wiped the floor with me. Their reaction was to tell me that I was being punished by God for my previous sins as in having sex with my boyfriend when we weren’t married – and probably the Irish witch stuff too although that part I can’t prove.
I quit trying to be ‘Christian’ and holding out whatever hope I had left that God would intervene in my life. When I realized I was nothing but a failed experiment to the people I thought were friends I got seriously drunk, breaking months of sobriety. My boyfriend, technically ex since we had stopped dating or seeing each other, found out I fell off the rails and why so he came to help; everyone else had abandoned me. One thing led to another and there went the no sex vow. Nearly two months later I found out I was pregnant. We hadn’t seen each other much in that time, barely spoke and now I had to reconnect to tell him he was going to be a father.
When I found out I went to someone in the church for advice/help. I was advised to get an abortion so I wouldn’t ‘add to my sins’. NO ONE would agree to help me and it was only then I discovered I wasn’t the first one to be pressured into abortion. After I collapsed, when my heart started to fail, my ex stepped in and moved me in with him against the orders of church members. He was told to force me to fend for myself and ‘let God take care of me’, that he didn’t need to let MY sin ruin his life.
More rumors were spread with people telling him I had been cheating on him with ‘a black guy and was pregnant by this guy’. For some reason it wasn’t bad enough to create lies that I had cheated but that it’d be worse if I cheated with a ‘black guy’. That was the last straw for both of us.
We decided to stay together for our daughter’s sake, eventually moving a bit farther away so we could start a new life, but kept running into people who proclaimed to be ‘Christian’ though their actions said otherwise. At my girls’ first school Christians treated them like they had the plague because they’re on the Autism spectrum. Parents actually told their kids in front of me to stay away from mine so they didn’t “catch it”. We ended up pulling the girls from that school.
We moved to what was supposed to be a better, more autism friendly environment and continued our bad streak of questionable Christians. One evening a woman who befriended me because of my girls diagnosis had her friend watch my youngest in the church our group spent time in so we could hang out with similar families in a ‘safe’ environment. That woman didn’t like me because she felt like I was taking her place but I was assured by my ‘friend’ she wouldn’t take it out on my kids – she did.
Somehow my then non-verbal 4 yr old got locked out of the church in the dead of night. I’ll never forget the absolute terror I felt when I went to go get my daughter and found out she was lost; worse the woman who was supposed to being watching her didn’t even care. She was just sitting there on a bench talking with other people while I ran through the halls feeling like my heart was going to explode from the fear. Eventually I found her locked outside in the dark; the church was near a fairly busy street with bad lighting so it was by a sheer miracle she didn’t get kidnapped, hurt or worse.
My ‘friend’ blew the whole thing off saying it wasn’t that big of a deal because my daughter was found and apparently this kind of thing had happened with their group before; the excuse was that kids with autism have a tendency to run off. They all have kids on the spectrum and they are Christians who are heavily involved in church. It seemed like the perfect references so I trusted them. Since I refuse to blow off what happened or forgive them for endangering my daughter and some of these moms, including the woman who I thought was my friend, are practically worshipped for being heavily involved ‘saints’ in our community suddenly the other Christian women who were allegedly my friends dropped out of my life as well.
We don’t go to church anymore. We don’t pray. Some days I don’t even think I can fake a belief in God. Other days I really miss my faith, miss going to mass, praying the rosary but every time I try to regain what I lost I remember what was done to us in “God’s Name” by Christians. We’ve been lied about, gossiped about, abandoned and had our daughters put in danger all by people who claim they are better than everyone else because they believe in Jesus.
As a result of these actions my husband has fully embraced Agnosticism and isn’t shy about telling people his parents raised him in a cult. Most days I feel safer as an Atheist or Agnostic but every now and then I remember the peace I felt as a child growing up in the Catholic Church and wish I could regain it. If people ask what I am I still identify as an Irish-Catholic more out of family and cultural loyalty but I also I think I do it because the day I don’t I worry I’ll lose whatever tiny hold is left on that childhood innocence and belief that remains.
Ironically the only people who have NEVER hurt us, hurt our children, have been there for us through everything, who I would trust wholeheartedly with my life and my childrens? They’re our friends who are public Atheists yet somehow their actions have always been more Christian than the Christians. Two women in particular I know I could call today in need of something and they would be by my side in a second. I owe them everything, my oldest daughter actually owes her life to one of them because she stood by me when I got pregnant and the church abandoned me. She talked me out of an abortion, was there all through my pregnancy and after I gave birth.
Someday I suppose I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to teach my children or explain how Christians forced us into atheism. I know I’ll try again to find a church where my kids can be accepted mainly for social reasons. Living in a bible belt if you aren’t part of a church Christians do a wonderful job of ensuring your social isolation and I don’t want that for my kids. I just need to find some place that won’t try and endanger their lives; physically or psychologically.
Image from: https://sotomayortv.com/122314believers-vs-atheist/