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An Atheist Who Prays

Religion played an important role in my early childhood. I would definitely describe myself as a devout Catholic up until the age of twelve. Church attendance was a weekly event and prayers were said nightly. I slept with a porcelain baby angel and a cross above my bed, I had rosary beads from several different Holy Lands, I read stories from the bible, idolized the children of Fatima, I sang in the church choir and regularly brought up communion and said readings at mass. My faith was very important to me. But I was a child with a large imagination. As I grew older I realized that a lot of things I strongly believed in were only stories for small children (Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy etc.) This all lead me to question the theory of the existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent God.

By the time I made my confirmation, just before I turned thirteen, I considered myself an atheist but I kept it to myself. Confirmation is a special ceremony where a child re-confirms the vows their parents made on their behalf at their baptism. As I stood beside over a hundred other students, all of us wearing matching uniforms in a packed, stuffy church I couldn’t help but notice how surreal the situation was. When the time came for us to recite our vows I stayed silent. I did not feel a need to publicly declare that I was not a follower of Satan. It was the 21st century, who actually still believed in the Devil? To be honest, I found the whole ceremony ridiculous and still do to this day.

When I was sixteen I stopped attending mass (with the exception of funerals, weddings and other special occasions that were important to my family). I told my family I no longer saw myself as a Catholic. This was something they found hard to accept and often dismissed it as a phase I was going through. Today they are far more accepting, in fact, they are not as religious as they were when I was younger. While mass is still attended and prayers still said, they recognize that God is a very personal belief that often changes with each person.

No longer caring for religion, I found a new fascination – outer space. I read pages upon pages about the theories of the universe, is it infinite? Is there other life forms? What is dark matter? What I love about science is that it is constantly changing, people are open to change and very few things are declared as ‘fact’, they are theories or hypothesis and most importantly, it didn’t result in any discrimination.

But while I consider myself an atheist, it is very difficult to remove my old religious beliefs completely out of my life. While I don’t think there is life after death I do like to think we have souls, that there is something more to who we are than just our nervous system. I believe that there are good and bad souls and there is such thing as fate. Another thing I do that often surprises people is pray. To be honest I don’t think I’m praying to anyone or that anyone can hear me but it’s an old habit that still comforts me. I pray for the people I love when they are sick or hurting in anyway because it is what I was thought to do for people whose situation I couldn’t help. I know prayer is a hypocritical act in my case but I can’t help it. I no longer say ‘Hail Mary’s’ or ‘Our Fathers’ but I still whisper my own silent prayers. I don’t actually think anything will come from it but it’s amazing how old habits from our childhood can still offer us comfort as we grow older.

I guess you could almost call this post Old Habits Die Hard Part II.

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