Journal of a recovering Catholic
How I woke up to my indoctrination
“From the very first day of life, people are trained to be loyal to the belief system in which they were born … But it reduces the whole of humanity into retardedness. It does not allow questioning. It does not allow doubt. It does not allow people to be intelligent.“ Osho
In this article I tell my story about being a recovering Catholic for two reasons. First, to help those people (like me) who gave up formal religion long ago and for those who are still part of religious groups. My message is the same: I was indoctrinated as a child, it caused me great harm over my entire life, I eventually woke up and I think my story can help others.
I initially wrote this article for my two daughters (aged 22 and 24) to tell them how sorry I was for not being awake when I raised them. I did not teach them the importance of their beliefs or how my own beliefs held me back. I hope they will read this article and the two that follow.
The perfect Catholic girl
For the first 18 years of my life I was a perfect Catholic girl. I obeyed my parents and followed all the rules that I was taught at home, at church and in my twelve years in Catholic schools. Here is a sample of some of the things I was taught:
Catholicism is the only right religion in the world and all non-Catholics go to hell.
There is only one God.
God is a white man who lives in the sky and keeps track of everything we do.
God judges whether we go to heaven or hell when we die.
Every child is born a sinner (with a mortal sin on their soul.)
Children who are not baptised by a priest will go to hell.
Heaven is a beautiful place in the sky where good people go after they die.
Hell is a very hot place inside earth where all bad people go when they die.
I believed all these things, and many more, until age 18.
I woke up to my indoctrination in my first year at university. I was attending a class on religious studies and during one of my first classes the professor told us that the bible was just stories. He said it was written by several men long after Jesus had died (and was highly edited a thousand years) and the words are not to be taken literally, but rather metaphorically.
A shattered foundation
I could not believe it. If this was true, then I had been lied to for my entire life. I had been lied to by my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, preists and nuns. Over several days I experienced a very real existential crisis. I felt as if had no ground to stand on and no family or friends to turn to.
In essence my foundation of beliefs had been pulled out from under me and at the same time I had been betrayed by those closest to me. I had been duped. Not only did I feel like a fool but was ashamed that I had been tricked. I had been too trusting; too naïve.
I decided to never trust anyone ever again. I literally ran from anyone who said the word “faith” or “God.” I was particularly suspicious of priests and those who used fear to control people. I grew up and decided that I had no room for woo-woo spirituality. I thought those who believed in God were ignorant and gullible.
In my stubbornness I refused to get married in a church. I refused to baptise my daughters, even when grandma told me that they would burn in hell. I metaphorically, “threw out the baby with the bathwater” and cut myself from all things metaphysical. In the process, unfortunately, I also failed to see many opportunities to wake up or become conscious.
Fast forward 40 years. While I was in the midst of my Dark Night of the Soul, I began reading the wisdom literature. Many books written by mystics refereed to the Bible (but not all if it). I learned that although the Bible had been distorted (and many texts had been destroyed and removed) there was some wisdom to be found in it. But now I know that it is just one of thousands of books written by sages and mystics over thousands of years. And Jesus is just one of many mystics.
The cost of indoctrination
The important thing I learned is this: indoctrination is powerful, especially for children who are so vulnerable. It happens slowly - like the braces used to straighten teeth. Beliefs are taught by parents and then reinforced by teachers, peers, coaches, priest – everyone!
As a Catholic girl, I was told exactly what to believe. And, worse, to never question those beliefs. I was told that it was a sin to question the words of priests or the Bible. The Catholic teachings were not just loving guidelines, they were a complete blueprint and philosophy for my whole life. They impacted every single thought I had and every single move I made.
Most disturbing to me is that the Catholic doctrine that I was taught as a child is almost opposite of what I believe today. It is almost inverted from the words of the mystics who have been teaching for centuries. I often wonder if this was not intentional to keep people ignorant and under control. As David Hawkins (“Letting Go”) says:
“There is one thing that the world does not want us to find out and that is the truth about ourselves. Why? Because then we will become free. We can no longer be controlled, manipulated, exploited, drained, enslaved, imprisoned, vilified or disempowered.”
In my next articles I discuss the harms of my Catholic programming and also my new set of beliefs, that I adopted, based on both my inner knowing and the wisdom of the sages.
In the meantime, here are some insights I have gained through all of this:
Indoctrination of children is wrong.
Our beliefs are very powerful.
We should question everything we are told.
We must learn to trust our “inner knowing” for the truth.
It’s best to adopt your own beliefs - that support you and contribute to life.
In my next entries I talk about:
The harms caused by my religious upbringing.
Who is God? and other important questions.
A New Story – How to select your own beliefs.
Thank you for joining me.
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