Growing up Catholic is a unique thing. I still have flashbacks of overwhelming guilt, and the urge to repent often comes upon me during the most inconvenient moments. I left the church years ago, yet I still glance at the sky nervously when I let an F-bomb or two drop in casual conversation.
I suppose many people who grew up in a religious household had that defining moment as a teenager when having a crucifix in every room (including the bathroom) went from normal to creepy. There must be others out there who suddenly realized the promise of donuts wasn’t actually worth the grueling hour of sitting, standing, kneeling, singing, repeat that accompanied the onset of each Sunday.
Nowadays, I like to take a moment every Sunday to snuggle further into my bed and relish the sweet relief of not having to pray. There’s something absolutely delightful about, after so many years of guilt, going on a creative cursing spree every so often (just not around my mom). Leaving religion felt the way I imagine it once felt to take off a corset and never put it back on — freeing, full of relief and a little bit scandalous.
But why have so many of my peers done as I have and abandoned their parents’ faith? Why has Sunday gone from “day of worship” to “day of worship my bed”?
For me, the break from the faith didn’t start with the desire to sleep in or to finally quit those dreaded catechism classes; the break started the first time I saw a sign that said, “God hates gays.”
I’m not saying I was 100 percent on board with the whole heaven-and-hell thing before this event, but it seemed like overnight God had changed from “love thy neighbor” to “whoever makes the most homosexuals cry will be welcome in the kingdom of the Lord.”
As a kid, this was a little bit confusing.
Having been raised Catholic, I never really thought to question it before. The shift in mindset from “this is normal” to “WTF is going on?” provided the catalyst I needed to look at religion objectively and run screaming in the other direction.
There’s a reason so many people my age start to withdraw from their parents’ religion the closer they get to adulthood. Realistically, it isn’t the early Sundays or the creepy Jesus in their bathroom; people are leaving religion because individuals are making it unwelcoming, intimidating and downright scary.
Practicing religion has begun to resemble being in an abusive relationship. One partner spends all of their time trying to adhere to a strict set of rules in order to avoid the harsh consequences set by the other partner. In this kind of situation, it becomes safest and healthiest to walk away.
Maybe it’s me, but it seems like the majority of people I encounter talking about God in casual conversation tend to have an ever-growing list of people they think should go to hell. Given the number of people I know, including myself, who have appeared on lists such as these, it’s hard to feel entirely comfortable referencing the big man upstairs.
At some point during my ascension to adulthood, the church and religion changed from something warm and comforting to something cold and unforgiving. I began to feel threatened by all of the people who felt their hate was justified because they did it for their lord.
Why do so many young people leave their parents’ religion as they age? Because religion left us. To the people with the signs and the Facebook accounts and the slogans of religious hate, I have only one thing to say: If religion is dying, I didn’t kill it. You did.
Dominique Kent studies english. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrushand on Twitter @TheSagebrush.