Escape From the Woo Zoo: How “Believing in Nothing” Leaves You Open to Everything! (Part 1)
Realistically, it is pretty difficult to “believe in nothing,” but this seems to be the best way to describe my childhood. I grew up in a household sans religion for the most part. Yes, we celebrated the major holidays (to my atheist father’s chagrin I’m sure) but that was it. Sure, I’m almost positive my Catholic mother would have wanted me to have been baptized, confirmed, etc., but my brother and I were raised without all of these traditions. I recently told my mother how thankful I was for their raising us to come to our own conclusions and she seemed a bit regretful of having not “forced” us to do a little bit of church-going, but hopefully one day she’ll cease to feel that way.
Now, as amazing as that type of childhood was, because we weren’t really ever taught what to believe, we were kind of left to judge it for ourselves. This, unfortunately, left me wide open to believing anything I damn near wanted. I’ve dabbled in studying astrology, numerology, homeopathy, mental powers, ghosts, oh geez.. you name it, I was into it at some point (yes, this even includes a bit of my adulthood). While growing up I also encountered people from many religions and was often envious of them for the inclusiveness that they all seemed to experience. I was the kid that didn’t “belong,” and so I took it upon myself to explore.
One summer when I was about 11 or 12, I asked my parents if I could attend a summer bible school at a local church with a couple of neighborhood friends. I can only imagine how tickled my mom must have been, except maybe for the fact that it was a Baptist church… yeah, great choice I know! Anyway, trying to think back almost 20 years ago is quite a feat for someone like me, but there are some definite standout moments.
Firstly, HOLY CRAP was it boring! We sat there in the makeshift classroom, for what seemed like eternity, listening to someone read out bible verses. Now, I was a pretty smart kid, but a lot of what came out of their mouths went right over my head. Hell, a lot of it still goes over my head! I remember thinking to myself, “if this is what I’ve been missing out on… I’m really not missing anything!” I can’t even recall that any of the kids there really were excited to be there, perhaps just behaving and playing along because he-who-cannot-be-named was watching.. or something. Sort of like how when I first became sexually active and I imagined my great-grandmother watching me, always having that in the back of your head… yikes! But, as usual, I digress…
One evening we were told to go through a book that can only be described as “Jesus and Friends,” and pick out a picture that called to us. Now, I was not all that into it, already being quite skeptical of the whole charade – but I played along. For whatever reason I ripped out the picture of the Virgin Mary. (Anyone who knew me in my early 20s would get a severe kick out of this.. not that I’m advocating anything mind you! Crap). We glued it to a piece of scrap wood and brought the whole thing over to a “responsible” adult to burn the edges. The early pyromaniac in me found that part the most interesting of the entire school – which is probably why it stuck with me all these years. After all was burned, we were given back our burnt, inspirational plaque.
Of course, I hung it up when I got home but I think it was mainly to have that “belonging” with the other kids. If they came over and saw it, then they’d think I was like them. They wouldn’t think that my family hadn’t forsaken me by not letting me pick out a cool, confirmation name! Which, by the way, I often lied about having… it was Elizabeth.