Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Raised Atheist

My father was raised Jewish, my mother was raised Protestant and they raised me Atheist. Somehow as a child I had interpreted my parents’ well-meaning teaching as “religions are interesting cultural practices but really intelligent people don’t believe in God”. That wasn’t the message they intended, but it’s the one that stuck.

Despite this apparent conflict between intelligence and faith, the search for something to believe in has woven through much of my life. Unfortunately, although I wanted to believe in God, repeated disappointments made me feel that I simply was incapable of it. Like children of vegetarians who grow up without eating meat and find themselves unable to digest it when they want to, I felt as though the part of me that could be capable of believing in God had been starved out of existence when I was little. I felt like I just didn’t have the enzymes that could activate faith if I chose to, that I lacked a space inside me where God could fit.

I was attracted to my Jewish heritage but didn’t know any Jews who weren’t secular. I never saw inside a synagogue until I was in my thirties. Our family and community's Jewish religious observances were mostly fun parties which commemorated Jewish history but had no spiritual content that I could discern. So I don’t remember even searching for God in Judaism when I was a child.

There were plenty of Christian churches in the neighbourhood though, and they attracted my attention with their interesting architecture and pretty stained glass windows. Not wanting to deal with my parents’ reactions (which I imagined would be condescending at best) I sneaked off to a few church services on my own one winter in middle childhood. I did not find the spiritual epiphany I was seeking in any of the churches I visited, just a sense of being very out of place.

Another summer my grandparents visited us for a couple of months and were delighted to take me along to their adopted Baptist church every Sunday. Unfortunately, the puerile Sunday School homework just seemed a tiresome burden and I stopped attending after Grandma and Grandpa went home to the US. I was relieved to be free of the uncomfortable feeling that I was a freak for not being Christian, not being part of a church-going family and not believing in God but I also regretted losing my tenuous connection to a practice that might bring me closer to a faith of my own.

1 comment:

Daniel Schwab said...

It's interesting to meet another person raised this way. There seems to be no gathering-point for such people; however, I agree with you about the feeling of something missing. Take care. Nice blog.