Cradle Catholicism: Being The Lone Atheist In A Catholic Family


My family is Catholic. I am not. However, I spent my entire life surrounded by the Catholic Church, which is why I am called a “cradle Catholic,” one who was raised in the faith from the cradle. From the time I was a child, we went to Mass every Sunday. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten until twelfth grade. My family prays. A lot.

My sister and father wear their crucifixes everywhere they go. My dad recently completed the ten day Bible challenge on Facebook. It is safe to say that the Catholic faith is important to my family, which made it incredibly difficult to be the one individual who has made the decision to not practice.

Growing up Catholic was difficult.

I remember hating the Church from the start. It wasn’t even the teachings, but the act of going. When my sister would listen to the homily in rapt attention, I would let my mind wander, wishing I was anywhere but there. I always made a point to go to the bathroom if I could, as it provided the perfect escape.

In elementary school my Catholic school had us attend Mass every Thursday. I have distinct memories of unplugging my parents alarm clock some mornings so we would be late and I would miss Mass. When I was younger, my dislike of the Church had to do with how boring I found it. More than that, it had to do with my lack of connection to God. My sister always felt connected to the Church from a young age; I, on the other hand, never did. I just couldn’t find it in myself to have faith and believe in a God that I couldn’t see or feel or contact.

I didn’t want to disappoint my family, so I always pretended and did what I could to try.

I prayed and tried to connect in some way, but couldn’t find it in me. The older I got, the more I began to find more serious issues with the Catholic Church. I would listen to the Gospel, and while I did agree with some of what it said, I found myself having issues with a lot of it.

I also struggled with the fact that, in my personal experience, a lot of the Catholics I dealt with were rather hypocritical. They would preach the Gospel as they pleased, but didn’t actually follow what they preached. It frustrated me and pushed me further away. I was also always uncomfortable with the Church’s belief in transubstantiation, the bread and wine turned into the body and blood of Christ. The cannibalistic connotations of this always creeped me out, while everyone else I knew found it to be a touching, holy moment.

The final straw for me was when I learned more about the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.

As a bisexual woman, I couldn’t accept this. My loving of women is not a sin, and I can’t follow or believe in a God that preaches such. While I respect anyone’s right to follow any God they choose, I personally cannot bring myself to believe in a God that says such things about me and the rest of my community.

This just confirmed to me that Catholicism is not the religion for me. Actually, no religion is.

My belief system does not revolve around an all-powerful God in the sky. Rather, I believe in a sort of karmic energy that leads everyone down paths. However, it is not omnipotent or omniscient. It lacks the incredible power that conventional religions give to their God’s, which is what I personally think I need in religion.

I can’t believe in a single entity that controls the entire world.

I lack the ability to put my faith into such a concept. The beliefs I hold are a lot more lackadaisical than the Catholic religion, which is very strict and structured, but that is what I personally need.

I don’t need to be told how to live my life according to Scripture; I need to live my life according to me, and my beliefs.

My immediate family and I don’t really talk about my decision to leave the Catholic Church. They are respectful about my decisions in a lot of ways. They don’t force me to go to Mass every week when I am home for the summers. However, I am still expected to go to Mass for events such as Baccalaureate. The rest of my extended family doesn’t know, so when I am with them I have to go to Mass and take communion in order to keep up the charade.

In the end, Catholicism is exceedingly important to my family and while they don’t show it, I know they are disappointed by my decision to leave the Church and that they pray I will come back. However, I don’t ever see that happening. I’m the happiest I have ever been since leaving the Catholic Church. While I wish my family could support my decision more, I know that what matters is me, and I’m happy with my choice.