Monday, October 29, 2012
There is a photo of me on the day of my First Holy Communion. I wore a white dress and veil, with my hands folded like I was praying. I remember saying to myself “This is the happiest day of my life! … Nah.” I was only seven, but somehow had already formed the view I still hold of organized religion. I think my parents felt ripped off by my lack of faith. I went to church every Sunday, and attended Catholic school. And still, it didn’t take. I believe all Christian religions have the same basic message – Be good to each other. A lot of extra stuff has been added to set each religion apart. The Catholic Church probably has the most rules, rituals, and secret handshakes. In elementary school, we got dragged off to church every week for Confession. I’m not sure how many hardened criminals there are among ten year olds, but I had to get creative to find sins to confess once a week. My mom used to tell me that wasting my food was a sin (there were starving people in China or Africa, I forget which). I took that literally, and would confess wasting food in my weekly confession. If I had eaten all my vegetables, my fallback sin was not saying my prayers at night. I’m not sure if we were supposed to pray at night before bed, but I thought it sounded sinful not to. When I was twelve, a girl brought a magazine to school that featured people at a nudist camp. There were photos of a nude family jumping on a trampoline, and a naked man on a unicycle. Disturbing? Absolutely, but curiosity had gotten the best of us. Somehow a nun confiscated the filthy rag, and we ended up at Confession, finally with something juicy for the priest. My friends went before me. They were sentenced to saying 5 Hail Mary’s and 5 Our Father’s, every day, for the rest of their lives. No kidding - A life sentence. I declined to step into the confessional, and still have that sin hanging over my head. Eternal damnation for wanting to see a wiener. I have one foot in Hell, and the other on a banana peel.