I was baptized Catholic in the traditions of my Irish father. Living in an undesirable school district in the slums of Pompano Beach, Florida, my parents opted for a Catholic school. Church services woven into my class schedule was a mixed bag for a boy who was a fan or neither praying nor learning. I remember uniforms, pews, and children who weren’t any more moral then the kids in the ‘hood. I survived Catholicism with only a dusting of indoctrination.
Indoctrination is a bad word in the atheist community. It’s simplest definition is gaining answers without asking questions. Most of my answers came in the form of Christian Science, a little known flavor of Christianity often confused with Scientology. Christian Science was founded by Mary Baker Eddy, a woman who fell, injured her spine, and claimed she was healed by God. She then wrote a Bible companion called Science and Heath with Key to the Scriptures for the basis of her new religion.
I stuck with Christian Science for as long as I did because church was an interactive atmosphere with people I very much liked. Church wasn’t really church. Sunday School lasts until 18 years of age in CS and seemed more of a discussion than a lecture. I could have asked the hard hitting theological questions, but they didn’t occur to me at the time. That’s the problem with indoctrination. It’s hard to realize a counterpoint when all you’ve ever heard is point.
I value my base in faith because it allows me to understand the perspective of the true believer. To consider an alternative viewpoint after being essentially brainwashed is unthinkable. You don’t get brainwashed strapped down to a chair with your eyelids peeled back as the propaganda plays, you get brainwashed talking amongst friends, rehashing the same topic in the same ways without any honest analysis.
During my tenure as a Christian Scientist, I got hurt. Lots. I prayed for God’s help...and it never really came. I was expected to accept a passing headache as a divine gift. I went to Wednesday night testimonials and the miracles sounded more and more like coincidence. I learned about the placebo effect. I learned about germ theory. I found out that Mary Baker Eddy was a bit of a hypochondriac in her younger days and that she filed a law suit for her injury after being "healed." I discovered the skeptical movement and became a critical thinker. I dismissed everything from cryptozoology to pareidolia to homeopathy. I learned that most of Mrs. Eddy’s doctors were homeopaths. Then I finally did what Christian Science taught me to, I fixed the errors in my thinking. I just had to drop the “Christian” to do it.
Thanks for reading. It feels good to share my atheism in a more personal story. My critical thinking genesis, if you will. This has been cross-posted to the Reason Being Blog as part of their "Road to Atheism" series. I encourage you to commit your journey to text as well. It's cheaper than a shrink.