Indoctrinated into Catholicism by my parents from day 1, parish priests and sisters of my school later, I became an ardent believer. The indoctrination continued by way of everyday mediation on the Catholic doctrines, frequent retreats, daily Bible readings and reflections on their ‘truths’ in the catholic seminary where I was forced to join as an aspirant for priesthood due to poverty at home.
My lame brother who walked barefoot through the pebbles of our village’s non-asphalted road with excruciating pain every day to go and come back from college and worked hard-doing manual jobs- to meet the college expenses, died in a bus accident while he was a second year degree student. As he tried to alight, the bus accelerated and the back wheel crushed his skull killing him instantly. He had never taken a good meal or worn good clothes a single day in his whole life. This moved me so much that I started picturing God as a Cruel Monstrous Being finding happiness in the sufferings of his creation. I started abusing Him after taking Holy Communion (l believed the Almighty was inside me!)
Later, in one of our philosophy classes, Fr. Fermin, a Spanish Carmelite, mentioned that there is no potency in God as He is Pure Act. He knows everything past and future; it is not simply that He knows them, but things happen because He knows them. I asked the learned priest: “since God determines everything, do we have to try hard to avoid sin and obey the commandments using our Free Will? It’s already known to Him from all times whether we will go to heaven or hell-whether we will commit good or bad. ” The priest was obviously not pleased. He said annoyingly quoting St. Augustine: “For those who want to know more, God has prepared a place in hell." As most of the aspirants for priesthood were from very poor families and as they could not afford to go out of the seminary, they all sat quiet. And I said, “I will, in that case, go to hell and suffer as God wants me to.”
It was afterwards that I started reading prohibited books of the seminary library-mostly by Jewish and atheistic philosophers who wrote against Catholicism and the Christian God. I read extensively on human evolution and the origins of religions too. They gave answers to every doubt that was slowly creeping up inside me. I came to know for the first time in my life (I was just 19 then) that Bible was a fabricated story on a shadowy figure who was known as the Nazarene. They were not written by direct disciples or by historians of his time but by preachers in Greek in faraway lands after a century of his death, who wanted to project Jesus as the promised Messiah. Gospel writers appropriated Immaculate Conception, miracles, and the resurrection of the pagan gods and weaved a biography like thing of Jesus taking care to make him divine or God himself from the orally transmitted stories, and tales of the unconfirmed events to suite the vague OT prophesies. Naturally many unclear prophesies regarding the Messiah have been shown as fulfilled in Matthew’s book. Miracles were profusely added in his life to picture him as god. Like the pagan deities he had a virgin birth and he died and rose up on the third day and ascended to heaven to sit on the right side of His Father. Preachers like St. Paul adopted all the pagan festivals like Christmas and Easter and many rituals. St. Paul gave a new meaning to his death and suffering: he suffered for our sins. The doctrine of redemption was a quick jump from there. The gospel writers, who came after Paul, wrote the gospels incorporating the Pauline theology.
The existence of God had been a serious issue in my mind. I knew man has been suffering since his appearance here and that nature and gods have been indifferent to him. They don’t bother whether man lives or dies; suffers or enjoys. Natural calamities and contagious diseases have obliterated their entire societies. At least 45-50% of all children born in this world have died before reaching the age of ten. What is God’s purpose in creating them as they do not use freewill at all? Why does He create the psychotic, the mentally retarded and the imbeciles who cannot deliberate or use their freewill to merit heaven? Is He a Monster who enjoys the burlesque here? The Catholic standpoint that the fall of the first parents and that of the angels had brought in all the sufferings seems to have no meaning as the tests and the results were God's express wish.
I had also noted that no religion defined God, his place of abode or how did he originate. Buddhism lacks any sort of a concept of god. Christianity has a trinity. Judaism and Islam have one supreme god. Hinduism is pantheistic; A few others are animistic. Even the ultimate purpose of life is different from religion to religion. Buddhism speaks of Nirvana-the cessation from attachment. For Christianity it is spiritual life with god in heaven. Islam’s heaven is a material one full of worldly pleasures. Hinduism promises Moksha- escape from life and rebirth cycles. Even morality is altogether different. What is good in one religion can be bad or not good in another. What is strictly enforced in a faith has no meaning in another. In short gods are different, purpose of life is different and morality is different. Sects of major religions like Christianity and Islam are fighting with each other too. Religions have waged thousands of wars and their different sects have fought and killed each other for their gods.
I also thought about the apparitions of Mary in Fatima and Lourdes. If she appeared to the children, as believed by the Catholics, then I had to believe in her too. And I read a few books on the topic. Only those simple village girls who had been programmed to seek the help of Mother Mary in a distressing situation had seen her in a trance-like state. When there was a storm in a forest, far away from their homes, they knelt and started reciting the rosary in total fear. They looked up, and as conditioned by their minds, had a hallucinating experience of seeing Mary in the shape, dress and features they had seen her in the statues of their Church. Mother Mary had not appeared; their minds had projected their deep-rooted expectations.
Once the apparitions were ruled out too, the step to atheism became easy and natural. I wrote then a book entitled: “Challenge to Christianity”(I have not published it yet-but I use many of its chapters in my blogs.). I left the seminary after informing the authorities that I don't believe in any god. My archbishop, Cardinal-Joseph Parecattil, called me for a discussion to know why I was leaving the seminary and he abruptly stopped it after one day fearing perhaps he would lose his own faith. I have witnessed many learned Catholic priests run to the Church to pray (after discussing with me for an hour or so on what I believe) to keep their faith. I wonder how ordinary people believe all the stuff Christianity and other religions proclaim. Without childhood indoctrination no one will.