My first draft of this entry began thusly: I was in high school when I declared that I would no longer follow a religion.
But that’s not right, exactly.
I was in high school when I became deeply curious about science – biology and evolution, especially – and I remember bringing questions to my weekly Confirmation classes. I wanted to know if my questions would fit into Catholicism. I needed to know if it was okay that I didn’t take the Bible literally, if it was okay that I believed in evolution.
I was told by the instructor leading the class that, no, my questions were not acceptable. The Bible was fact, evolution was one of Satan’s lies, and I needed to commit myself to God.
It was made clear that I was an outcast. I was wrong. I would need to change, fundamentally, to be fully accepted into the faith in which I’d been raised.
After several tearful conversations with my family, I was removed from the classes. I was never Confirmed.
In retrospect, I think I was done a favor. I’ve become a person of strong conviction, someone who won’t align with a label unless I can be all-in. Even in my firm political leanings, I’m wary of using a pre-cut, pre-defined label, out of concern that there will be that one thing I don’t agree with. I was spared the cognitive discomfort of explaining away the injustices of the Church in an effort to protect my faith.
But Catholicism was done a disservice that day. This religion was once rife with scientists and mathematicians, scholars and philosophers. People who defined great things by questioning the meaning of the world around them and heavens above. Hundreds of years of curiosity, culminating in discovery.
In this tiny, small-town classroom, that spirit was lost. Demands of conformity won over discussions of curiosity. So much potential lies in these conversations of faith, and it’s so often squandered. And it’s a travesty.