I never planned on going back to church.
I hated it from the beginning. I grew up in a Catholic household, where my mom would drag my brother and I to church each Sunday as we grew older. We never had any clue what we were going there, and we’d usually spend each three-hour church service doodling on the church bulletins, filling in each a and o text bubble or solving the bulletin’s too-easy Jesus-related word puzzles. We only ever paid attention during the hymns; my brother because he wanted to learn to play the organ, me because I liked singing harmony.
My mother, on the other hand, was enraptured. She stood there and prayed with her head down, quietly and gently. She sang along, well off-key, to each of the hymns; she memorized them quicker than either my brother or I did. She wrote little, unintelligible notes to herself on the church bulletin to remember for later. Her two kids were forced to go to youth biblical groups every Sunday evening, where everyone sat around and agreed with each other about how much God loved us and how unfortunate it was for people to not trust their blind faith to Jesus Christ our lord and savior, amen.
And then there was me, quietly disagreeing in the background. I believed in evolution; I didn’t believe in hell; I couldn’t remember what the pastor’s message was that very morning, let alone a biblical story written 1500 years ago. But I never said anything in public about my growing non-belief. I recall being too fearful that the group might find me out for a fake and throw me to the wolves; excommunicate me, in effect.
I slowly stopped going to church in high school and had confidently declared myself an atheist in college. I thought I would never disagree with a religion so fervently in my life than when I was young.
But I never could have guessed what was to come. As they say, God works in mysterious ways.