This was to be the first chapter in a book I intended to call Epiphany of an Atheist. Sadly I don't have the stamina to fight the battle of self publishing, and not many publishers are interested in the musings of someone without high profile.
How I Became a True Believer . .. . With a Few Doubts
One night sixty-one years ago, a young lass and I were – as they say today – making out. We were parked in the shadow of a tree on a Naval station near Seattle. She had let me get to second base. My hand was under her blouse. Only her thin bra stood between my fingers and a real life titty.
Surely it was about to happen; my 20-year virginity would come to an end right there in the back seat. I had read Forever Amber and Duchess Hotspur. It was all there – the passionate kissing, the heavy breathing, the tight embrace.
I pleaded, “Can we do it? You know, go all the way?”
She stopped me with, “Oh God, I want to, but I can’t, not unless we’re married.”
“Let's get married tonight, maybe drive to Canada or something?”
“No, it has to be by a priest, and I can’t even do that unless you are a Catholic.”
The next morning I hied myself down to Saint Cecilia’s, found the parish priest, and asked him how I could become a Catholic. He told me I would have to take instructions. That was easy. Hell, I was a sailor and folks gave me instructions all day long. I couldn't even clean the head without a boatswain's mate telling me how to clean up the turd tracks.
But instructions on how to find God defied logic. Father Murphy explained that people didn’t really have to believe that a woman talked to a snake, but they had to be baptized to excise the damage done by that conversation anyhow. He also taught me that the passion that led me to St. Cecilia’s was itself a sin. I would have to sincerely repent the heavy breathing as well as the indecent touching that caused it.
Also I would have to firmly resolve that it wouldn’t happen again. How disappointing! That girl taught me how to French kiss and I liked it so much I was sure we would do it again even before holy words sanctified the consummation of our lust.
She went back home to Illinois. The Navy kept me in the Seattle area. All the while I practiced the repenting and firmly-resolving business, but those prurient sinful thoughts popped up again and again. Self-abuse was immediately followed by prayers begging forgiveness for doing it. This religious business took all the fun out of it.
Although I’d always been one of those who felt “something must be out there” the instructions taught by Father Murphy revealed a religion not filled with hope and answers, but one filled with conundrums. Some had been with the church from the beginning; others were added, seemingly willy-nilly, over 2000 years. Father Murphy’s answer to my questions was that each had a special purpose and must be taken on faith.
The Father Murphys of the world were allowed to make their claims with little interference, even from outside the church. The rare dissenting voices were shushed with "oh it's their right to believe what they want." Any doubts I might have had were simply to be subjected the one great truth and immune from critical thought, as were claims proclaimed by a thousand different interpretations by thousands of other religions.
A parishioner had to take all sorts of things on faith. Furthermore that faith must not be questioned, especially by reading. The Catholic Church of the 1950s dutifully provided “The Index of Forbidden Books” – a compilation of books, plays, songs, and other heretical tracts deemed dangerous to people’s faith. The list, running into the thousands, forbad a Catholic’s reading some or all of the works of many of the most respected writers in history.
After I thwarted the devil by having water dumped on my head, I could no longer read things by Anatole France, René Descartes, Emile Zola and, it seems, some versions of God’s book itself. The King James version of the holy book was not only off limits for reading, in 1950, a Catholic could not have one in his house!
While all this was going on, the girl who caused my conversion sent me a “Dear John.” She had gone back home to Elgin, Illinois and left me to marry a Marine. Undeterred I went on with my conversion. The priest said things in Latin as he poured water over my head. I tried but didn’t feel the ecstasy associated with the possibility of now living forever in bliss.
I was a Catholic, the only one from Sevastopol, Indiana. My conversion lasted about ten years.