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Losing My Religion

So the other night I posted something on Facebook that someone later took offense to, so they reported the post to the Facebook administrators. Rather than screw with it, I deleted the post. Was I being a jerk? Pretty much. That happens sometimes. Do I still agree with what I posted? Pretty much, yeah.

I was raised Catholic. And it wasn’t fun. I hated going to church. HATED it. It seemed to take forever. On top of going to church every weekend, I went to a Catholic grade school, so we had church during the week as a school as well. Then when I was an altar boy in junior high I often sat through mass seven days a week. Our church had a 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. mass Monday through Friday, but it wasn’t the full-blown mass like on the weekend. Even though almost all of the boys in my class were altar boys you know who got stuck waking up early and doing the 7:00 a.m. masses? Me. And Tommy Falduto. Because our mothers made us be responsible and actually show up, which of course meant we got punished with getting scheduled for 7:00 a.m. mass all the time.

Our church, Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst, Illinois had both a church proper and a chapel. The weekly mass was held in the much older church, along with mass at 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, and noon on Sunday. The chapel also had mass at 10:30 on Sunday, which was apparently the most popular time. In addition, there was a 5:15 p.m. mass on Saturday in the chapel that "counted" as Sunday mass.

Our family went to the Saturday 5:15 mass in the chapel, to "get it out of the way." At some point it occurred to me, if we’re only doing this to "get it out of the way" why are we doing it at all? We’re not going to get some deep, meaningful, spiritual session with the lord; we’re just going because we have to. We have to "get it out of the way."

The other cool thing about 5:15 mass on Saturday, is that it was often said by Father Mateo, a Filipino priest who talked fast and didn’t mess around with lengthy homilies. Which meant we got out of their faster. Go on Saturday to "get it out of the way" and hope Father Mateo was the priest so we’d be able to get out of there quicker.

Father Mateo was different than the old fogey white priests. He interacted with kids more, and allowed us to have face-to-face confessions (that we had regularly--part of school). You would just sit in a chair next to you and he’d pat your knee while you told him about being mean to your little sisters and not eating all your vegetables.

Father Mateo was so popular that my dad and I even took him (and I think Timmy Collins) to a Chicago Bulls basketball game. In the old stadium. He was cool that way, you know?

Well, in return for stuff like that, Father Mateo would take altar boys to the local YMCA, where he had a membership. I don’t know why I didn’t go with him as much as some other kids, but he did invite me at least one time, and I went along. Dad dropped me off at the YMCA and in I went. So we swam, and jumped off the diving board, and talked about god and religion and stuff. Pretty uneventful.

After we were finished swimming, we got out of the pool and headed to the locker room, where he insisted we take a shower. I always thought taking a shower after swimming was odd anyway (you were just in a huge tank of water, right?). Well he stripped down naked and urged me to join him. I stood in the shower next to him, at the next showerhead over, and he implored me to take my suit off, which I insisted on keeping on. He told me "the lord wouldn’t want you to be ashamed of your body." I wasn’t world traveled at that point, but I knew when something felt wrong, and that sure as hell felt wrong. Needless to say, while I stood there and looked at his uncircumcised junk, I kept my drawers on. So much so that even after I got out of the shower, I put my jeans on OVER my wet swimsuit.

So back to his room at the rectory we went. He implored me to sit on his lap, which I think I remember doing. He kept asking me to take my pants off so we could dry them and my swimsuit off. As he got more insistent, I finally said "I think I need to call my dad and have him pick me up."

I didn’t tell my dad what had happened. I told him many, many years later, when he called me at college to tell me that one or more boys that I was in school with were apparently molested by that fun priest Father Mateo that we used to take to basketball games, and they had taken it up with the archdiocese. Funny you mention that, dad. Let me tell you a story...

I’m glad my dad and mom had taught me to know when something about a situation is wrong. And to stick to my guns. I was spared the horror of what happened to some of my classmates. (I still don’t exactly know who was molested, but I have a couple of ideas).

As soon as this came to light, whoosh, Father Mateo was transferred to a diocese in Los Angeles. You’ll never guess what he did once he got there. Yep. I think you can even Google his name and read all about what he did in L.A.

After that came to light? Whoosh. Off to the Philippines, where he couldn’t be prosecuted for what he had done in the United States. He was off the hook.

I had a lot of questions I wanted answered. Why would a supreme being allow his acolytes to act that way? I’m supposed to worship this being that is allowing me to almost get molested? I went from fearing god to not really liking him all that much.

I started having a problem with belief as well. Why do we believe in god? The bible says so. The bible also says that the earth is several thousand years old which WE KNOW is wrong. The Adam and Eve story is ridiculous. The story about Noah and the Ark is baloney. All the water on the Earth is on the Earth. Even if it DID rain for 40 days and 40 nights, all that water would have had to evaporate already, so the ocean level wouldn’t rise (and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg as to why the Noah story is ridiculous). Well, if all that isn’t true, why on earth believe that any of the rest of that book is the actual truth either? I don’t.

Why is there starvation? Why AIDS? Why polio? Or any other disease or malady? Why wars? Because of the devil. Okay, seriously. You buy that? No kid deserves to starve to death. Or die of malaria. Or to be blown up by a bomb that some religious zealot has made because he doesn’t agree with the religion someone else is practicing. Seriously. This whole business in the Middle East is about people who don’t get along because of their differing religions.

If god exists, I kind of don’t like him. I don’t know that I like what he’s done on the planet I live on. I definitely don’t like what he’s done to many of my fellow human beings.

So as I grew older, after having kept my newfound atheism to myself, I gradually found that there were other people like me. Other people that also had the questions I had, and also came to the same conclusions I did. Should I poke fun of religion on Facebook? Probably not. I try to be a guy that doesn’t care what anyone else believes as long as it doesn’t interfere with me. I’ve seen some pretty awful people brag about how religious they are. And I’ve seen an awful lot of really nice, genuine, honest, caring folks who are "good without god." Discrimination against people because of your religion makes me a little angry at times. Were Jesus to be here today, I think he’d be pretty disgusted about people discriminating against gays or anyone else.

So that’s it. I don’t think I go to heaven or hell when I die. I think the lights turn off and that’s it. I try to live my life as a good person, because that’s the right thing to do, not because I’m afraid of some bearded old man floating in the clouds, laughing at all the starving kids in Africa.

Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2015, 9:02 pm
Mood: Fine


Love it. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Hector
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 9:29 pm


well said.... I hope there is a hell so a-holes like father Mateo can burn in it...

Posted by Your Sister
Monday, March 30, 2015, 2:33 am


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