First I’ll share my religious background:
My father is Catholic and my mother lacks any religious label. She’s more of a believer in psychic abilities than God.
Until 5th grade I often went to the Catholic church with my paternal grandmother. She would say that I didn’t have to be Catholic, the church was just a good place to meet nice people. I remember it being more about chanting, incense and cannibalism than Jesus. I was more focused on trying to learn how to kneel, stand and sit at the correct times. I didn’t get it. I had no concept of it being a religion. It was a ritual reserved for the grey hairs. When I was in 5th grade I was viciously attacked by a dog. My aunt and uncle sent me a package and inside was a note thanking us for selecting them as my godparents. I remember my mother threw a fit! She didn’t know my father was planning for me to officially be Catholic. It resulted in me being written off by the paternal side of the family.
When I was in 7th grade I got into some trouble. I ended up having to switch schools. I was sent to a private non-denominational Christian school. I went overboard trying to prove I wasn’t a bad kid, and became full on born-again for awhile. Eventually the lure of the dark side became too strong. I left the church so I wouldn’t feel guilty for having sex.
I didn’t really think much about religion for awhile. I was too busy as a teenage mom. When I was 19, pregnant with my second child, I started going to a Unitarian Universalist church. I liked the messages there but I hated the pretentious do-gooders who would rather treat me like charity than a friend.
I labeled myself as “Unitarian Universalist (UU)” or even “UU Christian” for awhile. By the time I was 22, however, I had read the Bible and realized the Bible was bullshit. Seriously, have you ever read that shit? It’s FUCKED UP!
But, my grandmother’s advice of going to church to meet nice people stuck in my mind. I was 22 and a single mother to 3 children. I knew I needed some nice people in my life. I began attending a United Methodist Church. I wasn’t Christian, and I’m pretty sure those in the church were aware that I wasn’t a believer, but they kept me around. Soon enough they had me teaching “Sunday School” which was basically babysitting the toddlers while their parents attended the service. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a Christian as long as I participated with the church and put a little money in the plate each week.
I was okay with the situation. I did make a lot of friends through the church. It did teach some good morals. As long as we focused on the positive messages in Christianity and ignored the bad, it wasn’t horrible.
It wasn’t horrible until I realized I wasn’t the only non-Christian in the church, and that other non-Christian was evil. He was a “serpent” you could say, coiling up and waiting to strike his prey.
It all happened in under a minute. It was the coffee hour after the service and I was watching my daughter run around with her friends between the pews when a fellow churchgoer tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and she asked me if I’d be home that afternoon so she could drop off some handmedowns since her daughter had recently outgrown clothes that would fit my daughter.
I told her I’d be home, and by the time I turned back to where my daughter had been playing my little girl, just 4 years old, had disappeared. My stomach dropped. I just knew something was wrong. First I ran out to the parking lot screaming her name. The other people in the church looked at me like I was overreacting. I ran back through the church, screaming and crying. Some other parishioners began following me, not knowing what to do, or whether it was a real emergency. When I reached the back hall the other little girl that my daughter had been playing with bounded up the stairs at the end of the hallway. I asked her where my daughter was.
“I don’t know. Some man grabbed her.”
The bile started climbing my throat. I shrieked my daughter’s name, and suddenly I spotted the top of her head as she started up the stairwell that was beside me. I ran down the stairs to my daughter and demanded to know who took her. She said she didn’t know, but she pointed to the women’s bathroom where she said the man was hiding. I burst into the bathroom and I pushed open the door to a broken stall. There was the man crouched on the back of the toilet. I froze. I knew him. The other Sunday School teacher would leave him alone in the Sunday School room with her own niece and nephew. Now I realized he was a pedophile.
Two friends in the church held me back, and led me back to their car. They drove my daughter and I home. I dropped off my daughter with her father and then there was a knock on the door. The other Sunday School teacher was there requesting I not go to the police because then it would come out that the man had molested her niece. Needless to say, I bitched her out. She had caught the man molesting her own niece two years prior and didn’t tell anybody (except the pastor who told her to keep in a secret). She continued to leave the man alone with her niece and nephew because “forgiveness is the Christian thing to do”.
I went to the police and told them everything I knew. Three weeks went by and the church didn’t address what had happened there. The man had skipped town, and I was asked to step down from being a Sunday School teacher. I went to the pastor and Sunday School teacher directly. I asked that they speak to the other parents in the church so that they could make sure there were no other victims. I asked that they notify the parents of the little girl who the Sunday School teacher found being molested. Three weeks later the little girls mother attended Easter services with her husband and his sister (the Sunday School teacher). I pulled her aside to talk about the situation. I realized quickly she didn’t know. I had to break it to her that her daughter’s “yeast infections” weren’t actually yeast infections. We crumpled to the floor crying. After that, the pastor acted like I was the bad guy, dividing his church. I stayed long enough to personally notify all the parents in the church about what had happened, and when the pastor gave a sermon shouting a request for the serpent to leave his church I flipped him off and walked out mid-service.
It took a few months before the child molester showed up in the county again. As soon as he came back to town he was arrested. The police discovered he had been molesting that little 4 year old girl every chance he got for 2 years. He didn’t touch my daughter but he did peep on her going to the bathroom.
I’m so proud of my daughter though. Apparently her intuition told her that guy was bad news so when she got done using the toilet she slammed the door on him and ran out of the bathroom, which is when I found her coming up the stairs.
The man was sentenced to only 1 ½ years in jail for what he did to the other girl. He was not charged with kidnapping my daughter or peeping on her. Because that man was 17 when he was caught by the Sunday School teacher molesting the girl, though he continued molesting her for 2 years after that, he wasn’t listed as a registered sex offender. It barely made the news, and the United Methodist Church Bishop covered it up.
That whole incident taught me that there are some not so nice people at church. The message is all fucked up, and those in the church care more about their own asses than the souls of their parishioners. They are full of lies.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good messages in religions. But I have yet to hear of one that doesn’t have a dark side. I’m not willing to put up with that bullshit in an attempt to meet nice people. I’d rather rely on practicality and science than an invisible friend in the clouds. I’ve met some wonderful people who are atheist, and a few great people who are religious. I take it on a case by case basis and try not to make a judgement (either positive or negative) based on their religious label.
Though I try to be accepting and tolerant of others rights and beliefs there are some bigotries I will not accept as “religious beliefs”. I am a strong supporter of LGBTIQQ rights. I am a women’s rights advocate, pro-choice. I support comprehensive sex education in the schools. I strongly believe Creationism should not be taught in schools but Evolution most definitely should. Slavery is NOT okay. It’s better to take action to help somebody than to pray. A person’s body is their own and should never be coerced or forced to cut/mark any part of their body (genitals included!). Circumcision of babies & children should be outlawed.
Sometimes I feel a wave of guilt for not being tolerant of certain religious beliefs. Then I remind myself that freedom from religion is just as important as freedom of religion. Religion should be a choice freely made, but it should never trump truth.