The classes were precisely the sort of thing I had trained myself to blithely accept at that age. I didn't (nor do I now) bear any particular grudge against the Catholic church, nor did I think very much about the implications of shooing a child towards a particular faith. I guess I understand it now insofar as absolute faith is concerned; if a parent believes deeply that the unrepentant soul will go to hell, they're going to go the whole nine yards to make sure their child is on the holy path.
The puzzling thing was that my mother never seemed particularly religious, which was the fact that began my questioning of the entire process. While I didn't care all that much that my Tuesday afternoons were being spent in a conference room next to St. Patrick's (being taught religion by the younger brother of former NFL QB Bernie Kosar, no less), I did care about the familial implications of my presence there. My grandmother was in her heyday a somewhat abusive figure in my mother's life, so I naturally began to wonder if the studies were somehow being organized under her influence. At this point, I don't think that was the case, but it made me increasingly resentful of the position I was in.
In the eighth grade, I was slated to be confirmed into the church. The morning of the event I mentioned to my dad that I didn't feel quite right committing to something at twelve that I didn't really have any interest in. My dad reacted somewhat strongly, insisting to me that I shouldn't go through with something like that if I didn't want to. I didn't know at the time that my father had an innate disdain for most religions, as he felt his grandmother's death was the church's doing. Her husband was in the military, and she worried so much for his safety that she went on some sort of blessing pilgrimage that culminated in climbing a hill and kissing the priest's ring. It was, according to my father, a terribly stormy night in which she did this, and she fell deathly ill from the toil and passed away soon after.
While I appreciated that he supported my right to back out, we both knew on some level that it wasn't an option. Family members had gathered for the ceremony. There were people who had cleared their schedules to attend. I was, in a sense, obligated to feign this vow of faith. It wasn't that I flatly denied the faith I'd been taught, but rather that I had no concrete opinion and definitely didn't want to be tied down in that capacity.
I've been pleased to see that my younger brother, who is now eleven, hasn't been run through this system as I was. In a sense I'm envious (which will land me in some hot water if what they taught me was correct), but I also know that the experience was centrally involved in shaping me, so I wouldn't change it, certainly. I think the biggest regret and biggest anger I have is the fear. Namely, the fear of going to hell and suffering for all eternity.
It's not a fear that I really have on a conscious level, because at this point I'm all but openly atheistic, but it is something that by virtue of society I don't think you can really shake. There's an entire line of thinking devoted to the idea that when I die, because I haven't gone to church, been a diligent Christian, and dedicated myself to god and the bible, I'm gonna be set ablaze and eviscerated for all time. That's eternal. Neverending. No human being deserves unending hell. Adolph Hitler does not deserve to be subject to unimaginable pain that will never, ever end. The maximum amount of suffering that a human being can cause with his or her mortal body upon other mortal bodies cannot possibly be fairly countered with an infinity of torture. The entire reason the idea is effective and lingers is because the punishment is so out of sync with the crime.
The fact that, in my most private moments, I still have an inkling of worry that when I die I'll retire to an unending hell is the biggest reason I turned away from religion and have never really looked back. One of my biggest dreads is that at some point in my life, somebody will dupe me into thinking I have to turn to god by scaring me into it. When I'm about to die, I want to appreciate the rest I'm about to receive. Nobody should die worrying.