Atheist from birth
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20-09-2011, 03:03 PM
Atheist from birth
Aren't we all?

Hi, I finally decided to join this forum. I have been listening to the TA podcasts and reading this forum for some time and I figured it was time I joined the discussion.

I was born into Catholicism. I am told I was baptized in Rome's St. Peter (although by a regular priest, apparently the pope was busy that day) and both sides of my family were pretty strong Catholics.

maybe I should rephrase: as in many Italian families, the women, my grandmothers, were very religious and carried the religious torch for the menfolk. They went to church regularly and made sure that all rites of passage were observed.

The men on the other hand would have answered "yes" to a pollsters asking if they were catholic, but only set foot in churches for weddings, funerals, Easter and Christmas.

As a youngster I attended pre-school and the first 2 grades in a nun's school. That wasn't due to my parents being pious but to the school being across the street.
Of course I have little recollection of those years, except for a few anecdotes and memories here and there.

I vividly recall the class bully (this must have been in first grade as I see, in my mind's eye, the poor kid wearing a white tunic with a big blue bow around his neck) being punished by one nun for some perceived infraction to the rules. probably talking out of place. The punishment was being sprayed with DDT on his arms and head. The real DDT as at the time it was not yet banned.

I also recall sitting in the back of my parent's car and being absolutely terrified of the cloudy weather. Apparently the nuns had told us that when the weather clouded it meant God was angry with us and it signified the end of the world.
After that episode apparently my mother yanked me out of the school and I finished my studies in public schools.
A few years later, as a juvenile delinquent I made it a point of breaking every window of the school with a slingshot. My friend was caught but he never ratted me out. I now sort of wish he did. I would have liked to have that on my record Smile (just kidding. I don't condone destruction of property)

One other seminal episode was the time when my grandpa came to pick me up at school early and the nun called me from across the room to tell me to get ready. Only, she didn't call my name. Her zealotry did not include learning her charges first names, apparently.

She called, and I ignored her, naturally. I remember I was drawing a giant Easter egg with crayons and I was very absorbed in it. Finally, exasperated she sneaked behind me and hit me hard on the back of my head sending my face flat against the desk, causing a nosebleed.

"Riccardo! Answer when I call you" she shouted.
"My name is not Riccardo, Whaaaa" I remember answering.

I have no recall of any apologies being offered.

Later on in life, I was forced to attend catechism in order to receive my first communion. What I recall of those days was interminable hours spent reading and trying to pray.
In hindsight, I should probably be grateful for that experience because that's when I become an atheist. I remember the priest telling me to try harder to communicate with God. he had me sit in an empty room in "prayer and meditation". What I wanted more than anything was to be done and get the hell out, so I really gave it my best effort trying to communicate with God.

I concentrated and concentrated and waited.... That's when, as sure as any Christian will tell you they think they can converse with their god, I realized that there was no one at the other end of the line. I felt I was trying to talk to someone over the phone but the line was dead. I thought of the universe (science being one of my earliest interests) and I tried to picture this bearded guy in robes floating in it but it just did not want to become real.

To be sure, I later refined my argument for my atheism. In fact, the more Christians preach to me, the more they convince me of the rightness of my decision.

Later in life I actually became very interested in religion. I viewed it as a peculiar superstition that was nevertheless very revealing about human nature.

Of course,it helped that at that time in Italy 9and I suppose to this day) many other people were atheist or "non practicing christians" (which there is code for "I go to church to please society and family but you wouldn't catch me dead going thereon my own").

I like to think of myself being tolerant of the various beliefs, but after moving to the US and sampling first hand the intolerance your average Christian has toward anyone not of their sect, I am growing more and more intolerant of people daring to diminish or discount my deep seated beliefs.

I learned that the more I tried to be respectful of my interlocutor beliefs, the least respect I would be given. So now I give just enough respect to get by, but I no longer hold my pace not to hurt their fragile egos.

Anyway, sorry for the long introduction, I am glad to be here and I am looking forward in learning from you all.
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20-09-2011, 04:17 PM
 
RE: Atheist from birth
Welcome to the Forum, conti, I read your story with interest.

So many come here with horror stories of how they were abused and twisted as young children by religion and their servants.

I assume you live in Italy and I used to love Italian movies in my twenties.

I remember a Marcello Mastroianni film in which a pious man prays in church: "please god, kill the bastard -- or do I have to do everything myself?"

...and there you are... religion for some people can be very practical!

Big Grin
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20-09-2011, 09:16 PM
RE: Atheist from birth
(20-09-2011 04:17 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  Welcome to the Forum, conti, I read your story with interest.

So many come here with horror stories of how they were abused and twisted as young children by religion and their servants.

I assume you live in Italy and I used to love Italian movies in my twenties.

I remember a Marcello Mastroianni film in which a pious man prays in church: "please god, kill the bastard -- or do I have to do everything myself?"

...and there you are... religion for some people can be very practical!

Big Grin

Hi Zatamon (Why do I feel like I should say something like "Heil Zatamon the great"? Interesting screen name) thank you for your replay.

Indeed I was born and raised in Italy but I live in the US now, hence my written English is at least passable.

You are right, compared to the struggles I have read about on this and other forums from former religious people or the tales of emancipation from fundamentalist families and the overt discrimination many suffer, I have had it pretty smooth.

Sure, my grandparents (the "Nonne" to be specific, the "nonni" couldn't care less) didn't really like too much that I never followed through with affirmation and that basically the only times I went to church was to look at the art.

My father, I suspect was a lifelong closet atheist or at the very least an agnostic. My mother on the other hand has been involved for decades in what I can only define as California style "New age" beliefs (except that she is in Italy) and while that has caused considerable distress between the two of us, it would seem like friendly banter to many in this forum.

That's not to say that I have been accepted like a brother everywhere I went. or that I didn't have to fight to gain respect.

And let's not forget that I live in the USA where even during the bestowing of the Medal of Honor I had to suffer not one but two prayers, one before and one after the actual ceremony. Where the hell does that come from?

The medal of honor is a recognition of military valor "above and beyond" and I really looked forward to watching the ceremony on TV this past week, but let's not forget that in most cases, the recipient had to mow down a considerable number of enemy troops to accomplish the feat he is rewarded for.

What does God has to do with that? And why twice?

Also, I will have to live under a Perry (or bachman or whoever wins) administration should Obama lose next year. I am sure that will affect me in many ways as well.

But at least I don't have to deal with it in my own home and my daughter is now old enough to think on her own and it seems that despite having been exposed to religion many times, her core beliefs are not that different from my own.

But I am sorry for those folks that are ostracized and often punished for the sole crime to wanting to think for themselves and choosing not to believe fairy tales.
It makes my blood boil when I see the injustice, the obtuseness and the arrogance of most religious people.

Atheist are often accused of being arrogant. I guess I have been guilty of that myself from time to time. But my arrogance has always been unleashed on those that were arrogant to me first. On those people that had the audacity of telling me what I should or should not believe.

I have people telling me "You cannot be an Atheist. You are agnostic". How the hell would they know? Would they even know the difference? I guess to them "agnostic" is a little better than Atheist, in the get to heaven classification they have created.

And then there is you tube and Fox news, where searching for "Atheist" brings up a wealth of bigotry and nonsense by the same folks that want us to believe in the god that loves us all so much and without whom none of us would exist.

But I guess my biggest peeve is the teaching of religion in public schools. Sometime I want to reach trough the newspaper (the ipad these days) and get these people by their neck.

Speaking of Mastroianni, I remember the movie you are talking about. I am not sure it is yet available or if it was ever available in English, but there is a great movie based on a band of thieves trying to steal Michelangelo's Pieta` from the Vatican museums.

I think you would enjoy it.
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21-09-2011, 05:49 PM
 
RE: Atheist from birth
(20-09-2011 09:16 PM)cconti Wrote:  Hi Zatamon (Why do I feel like I should say something like "Heil Zatamon the great"? Interesting screen name) thank you for your replay.

Zatamon is the name of a doctor on a fictional 'planet' where the sane and the insane are hermetically isolated from each other. The book was a major help for me in my intellectual development. It convinced me that no system would work with an insane species that can not realize how simple life is and how easy it would be to get along and prosper.

Quote:What does God has to do with that? And why twice?

god always screws you twice. First when you follow its rules, second when you stop following them (then your family/society does it for god).

You can never win with god, as long as you treat it as real.
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