Religion: A Matter of Upbringing



When I lived with my family full time, Sunday was always the one day of the week when we were all at home. My parents weren't working and none of the kids had school. Up until I got my first job and had to start working 11-5 on Sundays, it was the day that the house was full and noisy and there was always something to do.

I assumed every family functioned the way we did: wake up around 8 or 9 in the morning, have a home-cooked breakfast together and spend the rest of the day lounging around the house (or, if it was one of "those" weekends, help my mom clean the house until she was satisfied by the cleanliness quotient). It wasn't until I was in middle school that I realized most of my classmates actually did something on Sundays: go to church.

"You go to church regularly?" I remember asking one of my friends in 7th grade, surprised by her affirmative reply. "Yeah, I go every weekend," she told me. My sister Jessica went through the same experience, with an equal amount of surprise.

Both my sets of grandparents were strict Roman Catholics and they raised my parents strict Roman Catholics, Sunday school and all. Both grandmothers still go to church every Sunday and sometimes more; neither of my parents do.

My father doesn't believe in forcing us to attend church when he doesn't believe in it himself and my mother wasn't a passionate believer, apparently, because I can't recall ever attending any sort of religious event with her either. When I went once or twice as a freshman with a friend, they both pretty much said "well, okay, if you want to ..."

I don't really care one way or the other. I've gone to church a couple of times, first to see what it was like (not horrible, but not terribly exciting, either) and then in non-Catholic churches to see the differences. Each time I've gone, I can't help but feel that I'm the outsider in some kind of elite club, which I've never made a concerted effort to join. My sister felt the same way, after a brief stint in a Protestant church with one of her friends' families.

While my grandmothers worry about the state of our souls, I'm sure, for me it's mostly been a problem in my English classes. Half of the classes I've taken would have been infinitely easier if I had had the background knowledge to understand Christian references or religious works. It's for that reason I partially envy students who have lived with that kind of influence their entire life.

I don't, however, envy the self-righteous and superior attitudes some develop. I've known quite a few intelligent adults who sneer at the idea of anyone who doesn't believe in their belief structure. That part of religion scares me, the power it has to attract both the best in humanity and the worst. I have friends who go to church every week and profess to be devoutly religious, but who turn around and booze it up every night, sleep with random guys, do drugs and dozens of other things that I don't think are the kind of behavior their god would approve of.

For example: I knew a girl in high school who "fell in love" with a guy who was a regular at a Pentecostal church. She was Roman Catholic, had been her entire life, but she was baptized into the Pentecostal church because that was the way he liked it. They became an item, regularly had dinner with the head of the church and she talked for weeks about how happy she was that she converted. Apparently so; according to her best friend, the church was one of their favorite places for after-hours trysts.

It's people like that who leave me leery of religion. It's a little frightening that someone who gives every appearance of being the model of a perfect churchgoer can turn out to be so ... not.

Until I can make that jump from uncertainty to belief, I'll be happy the way I am - right, wrong or confused, whatever that makes me.