Weekend Flashback – The Bloody Eucharist

The “Why I’m an Atheist” post reminded me of this earlier story I wrote about my days in parochial school. Enjoy and have a good weekend.

In my days at catholic school, which turned me into an atheist faster than any secular school probably would have, we had a nun in the fifth grade who told us that if you bit into the Eucharist, blood would squirt out into your mouth. She meant to scare us into not biting the wafer of course but it had the adverse effect and just made us more curious about the circulatory system of the communion wafer. Several of us made a pact that at the next Mass, we would bite into the body of Christ and see if he would indeed bleed. We were not sure exactly what would happen since we were taught that lying is a sin and surely Sister Mary Margaret, a bride of Christ, would never think about blackening her soul with even a venial sin. But the idea of blood squirting out of a wafer seemed laughable and having recently learned the Scientific Method we set out to find out for ourselves.

I remember receiving the Eucharist from the priest the only way I ever did which was to have him deposit it in my left hand. (I never was comfortable with the priest feeding me. I can do that for myself thank you) The wafer was light in my hand and cold. Surely not a member of any warm-blooded species I thought as I put it gently in my mouth trying not to let any saliva touch it which would make it too difficult to bite. I got back to the row where we were to kneel into communion was over. The nuns would pace back and forth down the aisle looking for any procedural infractions that we had done or were about to do. Put a pair of sunglasses on them and they’d be practically identical to the prison guards in Cool Hand Luke. “Grabbing a hymn book boss?” “Grab a hymn book there Chris.”

There I was, kneeling, with a Eucharist in my mouth ready to crunch down and feel the body of Christ bleed out into my mouth. It would be like being demoted from cannibal to vampire. Or is that a promotion? Or did it matter? The priest was already taking large gulps from the blood of Christ at the altar. The thing that really did matter to me was that we were really hoping for the Eucharist to bleed. It would have been some evidence that there really was some supernatural power in the religion. By the fifth grade, we had already found out that Santa Claus was a sham. Ditto for the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. We had already started changing how we processed information. The idea of magic as being part of the world was rapidly fading and science and logic was taking its place. If the wafer actually squirted blood as the nun said it would, it would be some type of empirical evidence to us that god did indeed exist. There was a lot riding on that sliver of unleavened bread.

While I was philosophically dissecting the problem (or more accurately, scared shitless of tasting blood), my friend Jeff turned around from the row in front of us and opened his mouth to show the masticated remains of our Savior’s body. Bloodless. One by one, our whole row started to bite down on our wafers. We were an entire row of prepubescent Catholics munching away on the Eucharist all trying to get it to bleed.

We learned a lot that day besides the fact that little wafers don’t contain a circulatory system. We learned that someone who had devoted her life to a religion would break a commandment to instill fear amongst children to make them obedient. That wasn’t enough to turn anyone into an atheist of course. But it was enough to start planting the seeds of doubt. And the most important lesson we learned that day was whether you chewed the eucharist or let it slowly dissolve in your mouth it still tasted like shit.

Why I’m an Atheist

I was born an Atheist, ignorant of any deities or theology like everybody else who has ever lived. Religions are not passed genetically but are ideas and philosophies that are taught. The religion that we first learn about is always the one to which our parents happen to subscribe. In my case, my mother was Catholic and my father was indifferent which means I was baptized into the Catholic Church before I could formulate or voice any opinion on the matter.

New England Catholics aren’t very strict about religion for the most part. Sure, they go to church on Sundays, abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent and believe in an afterlife but they rarely obsess about religion the way Christians in the bible belt appear to. New England Catholics are practically agnostics who just feel very guilty all the time so I really don’t remember religion playing a big part in my day-to-day life until I started going to school. My family sent me to Catholic school but it was more to do with it being a private school than for religious reasons, but it was the first time I was really exposed to religion on a daily basis.

I definitely believed in God during first through fifth grade which doesn’t say much since I also believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and Chewbacca. And why wouldn’t I believe in God at this age? Not believing in him was never an option and we had a religion class every day telling us that we would burn for eternity if we didn’t believe in him.

My earliest memory of finding certain parts of the Catholic religion silly if not down right confusing was during First Confession, when we go to confess our sins to the priest to purify our souls. I remember going into the booth and blanking out on what I had done wrong. I wasn’t even sure what constituted a sin worthy of confessing. I mean, sure the 10 Commandments are a pretty good guideline to go by but after I had said that I had lied the priest told me to continue like that wasn’t enough. What the hell else did the man want? I remember making up sins to satiate his need to know all the wrong I was doing but the bastard would come back with “Go on,” which just made me panic and go down the commandments in sequential order to create more lies about sins I hadn’t even committed. I’m lucky I didn’t blurt out that I had killed someone to get the damn padre off my back. The only sin I didn’t tell him was that I had just lied to a priest of all people during confession, which made the whole exercise futile anyway. I came out of confession defeated. I went in to purify my soul and came out with one even blacker than before. I tried confession one more time after that and had a similar experience to the first and just never bothered again. It just seemed silly to me even then that you needed to tell God your sins through a surrogate.

I still did believe in God although as I grew older I started to question my faith more and more until one day in sixth grade the catholic school made a grievous error that was to change the way I thought about religion forever. They gave each of us our own bible. Up to that point, we had never had our own bible to take home and read and study. Sure, we had religion books that had parables and lessons from the bible but these were all excerpts, not actual scripture. I had in my hand the actual word of God, the manual for everything we needed to know in life. I mean we’re talking about the Gospel, the Scripture, God’s Biography! So I read it. I read all of it from Genesis to Revelations. And what a sacred steaming pile of bullshit it was. Sure, there were some of the stories that we had learned in religion class that was familiar to me but the rest of it was boring, cruel, and just plain contradictory. I didn’t feel blessed after reading it at all. I felt robbed more than anything. This was the basis for religion? Hell, the first story in the damn book, the story of creation, is contradicted in the very next chapter. God certainly could have used a good editor. By the time I had finished the damned Bible, I had all but lost my religion. The only reason why I didn’t lose it completely is because I didn’t know that having no religion was even an option. I questioned my religion teacher who brushed it off as saying that the bible had gone through men so some parts would make no sense which just led to the inevitable questions of if some parts are wrong then how do we know the whole thing isn’t wrong. Nobody could give an answer to that for the simple reason that there isn’t one besides the obvious that the whole damn book was written without any divine influence.

I went through the motions of Confirmation with my parents telling me that after that I would be an adult and going to church would be my choice. After the ceremony I told my mother that I had decided not to go to church anymore. She brushed it off as a phase although she respected my decision.

I went to a public high school after eight years of Catholic school and started reading about other religions such as Greek Mythology, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. I no longer believed in Christianity and as I learned about other theologies I became Agnostic. Religion was just not an important part of my life to commit to a particular one. At some point during college, I decided that I just didn’t think any deity was even probable so I started referring to myself as an Atheist. I’ve heard people make the argument that not believing in God is as blind as believing in God which I also believed at the early stages of my Agnosticism but became a lazy idea after I had thought about it for some time. There are an infinite amount of nonexistent entities and asking someone to prove that any particular one of them doesn’t exist is a waste of time. I can only make decisions based on information that I have, not information that I’d like to have.

When people ask me how I became an atheist, I think they expect some distinct moment where I was struck by a non-epiphany and shrugged off religion from that point on. The truth is that there wasn’t a moment like that but years of questioning my faith and religion itself. My decision to free myself of a deity was not made during a fleeting instant of passionate realization but of years of cold reasoning and thought. This probably would have been accelerated if I had been exposed to other Godless people or Atheistic literature but neither was available to me at the time. But the Bible was a pretty good start.

Question of the Day

What was the worst TV show finale?

I’m voting for Seinfeld’s final show just because it put me in a Phantom Menace state of denial for years. I caught a rerun of it last night and had forgotten that it mostly had flashbacks from past seasons. Just an awful ending to one of the best shows ever.

Who is the Highest Paid Staffer of McCain’s Campaign

Palin’s Makeup Stylist….. Seriously:

Who was the highest paid individual in Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign during the first half of October as it headed down the homestretch?

Not Randy Scheunemann, Mr. McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser; not Nicolle Wallace, his senior communications staff member. It was Amy Strozzi, who was identified by the Washington Post this week as Gov. Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday night.

Ms. Strozzi, who was nominated for an Emmy award for her makeup work on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance?”, was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October alone, according to the records. The campaign categorized Ms. Strozzi’s payment as “PERSONNEL SVC/EQUIPMENT.”

The payment on Oct. 10 made Ms. Strozzi the single highest-paid individual in the campaign for that two-week period. (There were more than two dozen companies that got larger payments than Ms. Strozzi). She easily beat out Mr. Scheunemann, who received $12,500 in the first half of October, and Ms. Wallace, who got $12,000.