One of the first things that my parents taught me when I was a kid was the difference between right and wrong. Or at least that’s the first real life lesson I can remember.
I grew up as an only child in a strict Catholic family. We weren’t devout Roman Catholics by any means but we went to church every Sunday and ate fish on Fridays. It was mostly my father’s doing. Unlike my mother, who was not baptized until before her wedding, my father grew up in a traditional Catholic family. He followed the Bible’s teachings, did not speak ill of his elders and did his best to be a good Christian boy.
Because his religious upbringing provided a good base for who he would become as an adult he decided to instill these same ideals in me.
So that’s how I spent every Sunday morning, Christmas eve and Easter for the majority of my childhood. I went to CCD classes with the rest of the children, then joined my parents in the adult mass.
Religion is a tricky concept for children to comprehend. You’re basically told there is an all-encompassing being that created everything you can see and watches over everything you do. He (or she) knows all of your dark thoughts and secrets, like where you hid the neighbor’s favorite toy, and sometimes grants you wishes if you pray hard enough. For me, it was almost as if I had an imaginary friend watching over me at all times. I was never alone and could never be truly harmed because my friend would certainly protect me.
It was a nice way to live as a child. I felt safe and I was a great kid. For those of you who know me you may think I’m kidding but I actually never did anything intentionally wrong, never lied and never disobeyed my parents. I was the supreme child. Probably, because I had no one else my age to influence my behavior.
But this didn’t last forever. We moved to a different state and couldn’t find a church we liked. Before, when we went to church in Pennsylvania, every one knew our names. It was a small town made even smaller by religion. All the Catholic parents knew each other and stuck together at school functions. It was like a little cliquish community that welcoming only Catholics with open arms. Or at least that’s how I perceived it. There was a big difference between childhood friends who attended the same church and those who did not. It was almost as if parents in the congregation could be trusted for sleep overs or play dates whereas parents outside the church had to be screened.
After we moved we never found another church or community that was similar to what we had in Pennsylvania. My father continued to go to Sunday mass while my moth and I opted out to sleep in and watch Sunday morning cartoons. We only went as a family on holidays and special occasions.
I drifted away from my Christian teachings and found new friends who were not as concerned with doing what Jesus would do. I forgot most of the Christian manners my father had taught me and after my parents’ divorce stopped praying to whoever was obviously not listening.
It was a turning point in my life; when I turned my back on religion because it had obviously turned it’s back on me. I told myself I didn’t believe in God and didn’t concern myself with Christian morals or guilt.
During high school I let myself get sucked into gossip and bad decisions. I made up for the lost time in my childhood when I could’ve been a bad seed and rebelled against my elders.
It took me a while to find a balance between right and wrong, between good choices and bad ones. I never turned back to religion, and still write it off as more of a superficial comfort than a necessity. But I realize now that it was, for the most part, my father and my Christian upbringing that taught me the difference between night and wrong.
Though I do not believe in a higher power or agree with what the Bible states, I do appreciate the lesson in morality.