Here is another one from the binders from an Article and Essay class I took in Spring of 2002. Interesting to read where my mind was at when I was 24. (Note: Some slight grammatical edits made based on the professor’s comments.)
Have you ever had the feeling you committed a crime? A crime not of the legal sort, but one that makes people look at you as an outsider, an outcast. For me, it has been tough to admit that I have grown away from the mantra of Christianity our society is based on. Growing up in a patriotic, Catholic family causes a lot of pressure and not much open responsiveness. Sometimes I have felt like I am wrong, like I have committed a heinous act and will spend my afterlife burning in Hell. Other times I feel more liberated.
If I had to pick a date, I would say my change in belief started in 1997. I was in the Army then, hanging out with my friend Scot. Scot was a big fan of the rock band the Doors, and he especially admired the band’s late lead singer, Jim Morrison. Morrison’s rebellious attitude had a large influence on Scot’s life, his favorite saying being “Think for yourself, man. Don’t let others tell you how to be.”
Being around Scot influenced me. I started writing down my thoughts, turning some into poems and some into meaningless scribble. More importantly, however, I expanded my musical outlook, listening to more rock music (hip-hop was my thing at the time), and started my own Doors CD collection, closely rivaling Scot’s.
One interest I have in music is digging into the music’s roots, finding out who or what influenced the lyrics and/ or the music. Doing this with the Doors uncovered a world of thought that would eventually change my religious ideals.
I discovered Jim Morrison was an admirer of Aldous Huxley, author of the book “The Doors of Perception,” from which the band derived its name. I bought the book in summer 1998, shortly after Scot left the Army. I was on my own.
I read “The Doors of Perception” while stationed in Bosnia in fall of 1998. To summarize, Huxley records his experiences using mescaline. He writes of a “one-ness”– being “one” with the world while under the influence- contrary to the world of labels and materialism. I was so moved by Huxley’s ideas I wrote a four page response documenting my own views on materialism and “all-inclusive individuality.”
In my essay I started to compare my own Catholic upbringing with the ideas of nonmaterialism and materialism. These ideas are the basis of numerous religions. For example, I wrote that even Satanism, the “opposite” of Christianity, has its roots in materialism, its followers divulging in lust and self-gratification. As I was writing the essay, I attended the Catholic services held in the Bosnian chapel, still unsure whether I was ready to believe what I had written.
After leaving the Army in the summer of 1999, I enrolled in Florida State University. One of the first classes I took at FSU was a humanities class covering the eras of Medieval Europe to the Enlightenment. In this class I learned of the Catholic Church’s empirical control over medieval common people using practices such as pardoning and inquisition. I continued to drift further and further away from my upbringing.
As time progressed, I followed a literary link from Aldous Huxley to Jack Kerouac, purchasing Kerouac’s “The Scripture of the Golden Eternity.” In the book, Kerouac takes his own Catholic upbringing and merges it with Buddhist ideals. “The Scripture of the Golden Eternity” affected me like “The Doors of Perception” had earlier. After reading it, every time I attended Catholic Mass with my family I would compare the priest’s message with what I had read. I didn’t dare tell my family about my newfound beliefs. I was afraid of the repercussions I would face. Not that I was afraid of being disowned or anything that drastic, but when I was younger, my parents sent me to Catholic school for a reason.
After reading “The Scripture of the Golden Eternity” I started researching more about Buddhism. Although I agreed with its philosophy and practice, I was timid to “announce” myself a Buddhist. Along the same line, I could not declare myself an atheist. I have noticed that people who announce a non-belief in God always seem to get strange looks and “normal people” act very apprehensive towards them.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on America many people responded with outcries of “God Bless America.” I disagreed with the attachment of God to America, surprising a lot of people, including my parents. My thought was that religion caused the ideals behind the attacks. Shortly after, I tried to tell my mother I no longer believed in the Catholic faith. She was not ready for the discussion and claimed she didn’t want to talk about the subject.
Currently, I am more at peace with myself than ever before. My views may not be the most popular with my family or the rest of our God-based society, but I am not following a mantra I am uncomfortable with. I know I can be the best person, best family member, or best American I can be and still subscribe to my own philosophy or faith.