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Being Agnostic in A Primarily Catholic Town

As a kid, I was raised as a Roman Catholic. Both of my parents (especially my dad) came from incredibly religious backgrounds; my father was pretty active in the church and was even an alter boy. They went to church every Sunday, for a large portion of their life and they continued this trend with me until I had my First Communion. We stopped going when I was in fourth grade.

God and I’s relationship has always a shaky one. Many of my peers in my CCE classes turned to God for all of their problems and loved to go to mass. I, on the other hand, feared him greatly and hated going. It made my head hurt, and it made me scared. Many of my friends in CCE claimed to see angels and even Jesus himself at points, but I would become extensively fearful of this, and vowed that I would cry at any sight of a holy being. At confession, I would make things up that I did wrong because I was afraid of saying what actually happened in fear of being sent straight to Hell.

I attended Catholic school from pre-school to kindergarten, where I was bullied so badly that I had to be taken out. I felt like I was made fun of and physically beaten up because others somehow knew that I didn’t fully believe in Catholicism like they and their families did.

I never felt comforted by my priest’s sermons, and I felt uneasy every Sunday. My favorite part was Communion because I was finally allowed to eat (in the Catholic religion, you can’t eat 1 hour before mass). As I grew older, I became more and more distant from The Holy Spirit. I denounced my faith and turned to science and literature more than I did The Big Guy.

Around 90% of my friends in high school were either Catholic or Christian. There’s a large Italian heritage in the part of West Virginia where I’m from, so you can see most people from Weirton at St. Joe’s (the most popular church in my little hometown) every Sunday. This made me feel out of place and like an outcast. All of my friends were getting ready for confirmation, and I was sitting at home sleeping until 12 and reading Ayn Rand all day. I felt as if there was something wrong with me because I didn’t resonate with God the way other people my age did.

My senior year of high school, I began to hate Catholicism and Christianity. I felt that if there was a God, then the things that happened to me would be nonexistent. My friends told me to turn to Him, and it made me turn the other direction. I hated the idea of organized religion, and how many churches damned people who didn’t believe straight to Hell. Sitting in the audience as a non-believer, I felt as if my existence didn’t matter to a majority of the people in the room because I was agnostic.

Religion was a topic of a lot of my poems during this time. I was mad at the people who believed because I felt as if I wasn’t accepted by them. I thought of them as sheep, with wool over there eyes and their knees in dirt.

Moving forward from my personal problems and becoming a better person, I began to understand why people are religious, and respected it. Different things work for different people, and I wasn’t a bad person for the idea of God not resonating with me. Although science, literature and art comfort me and give me the answers I need, I understand why others turn to their religion. The silence of someone higher works for a lot of people. While I do not believe, others have the right to, and I have no jurisdiction to tell them that their beliefs are right or wrong nor are they to me. I am more open-minded about religion now more than I ever have been. Although I still don’t associate myself with a god, I am more than willing to listen to others and how their religion has impacted them.

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Shan Cawley
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Shannon Cawley is an author and full-time student based in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her first chapbook, "depression is a thunderstorm and i am a scared dog" is set to be released by Maudlin House Press during the summer of 2017. In her free time, Shan works at her dorm's dining hall, involves herself in numerous extracurricular activities, and advocates for sexual assault victims as well as sufferers of mental illness.

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