Why I Stopped Going to Church.

Someone with better catechism knowledge can step in and correct me, but I think I’m still technically a Catholic. Since I’ve been confirmed as one, the only way I can stop being a Catholic is if the church formally excommunicates me.

But I don’t regularly go to church and I don’t take the eucharist. I don’t know the last time I went to confession. I only take the Sign of the Cross before meals when I’m eating with other Catholics. I’ve stopped caring about the latest rumblings from the Vatican. I’d say I’m agnostic, but I’m still technically Catholic. Just…a non-practicing one.

I didn’t have an epiphany that made me swear off church and all of its human errors. I didn’t make a show or an announcement that I had stopped going to church. I don’t throw vitriol at current patrons of the Church. I don’t judge people who still have a strong connection to God.

I just wanted to watch football again.

The 2010-2011 school year was when I reached my limits as a catechism teacher. Mostly, I encountered a class that required me to put in more work than I was used to, so I said “fuck it.” Back then, I was fresh out of half-assing a degree out of UCLA and a proper work ethic wasn’t something I’d learned yet.

Sidenote: To all future employers, I now have the work ethic of most illegal immigrants. I have been sufficiently backhanded by life into adulthood. I am not the slacker that 99% of millenial college kids and post-grads are accused of being.

Also, I was missing a lot of 49er games due to the midday nature of Sunday School and mass. At the same time, there was a mass exodus of my friends from San Jose to San Francisco, as well as a major departure of my favorite students from San Jose to various colleges and post high-school jobs. This depleted the major reason why I went to church in the first place: to see people I care about.

The 2011 NFL season was my first year when I wasn’t going to church regularly, and it was glorious to watch football with my friends instead of trying to pull a catechism lesson out of my ass on Sunday mornings. More importantly, it gave me a crucial day to recover after Saturday shenanigans. Most importantly, the Niners started to kick ass and I found great pleasure in having a restful Sunday and experiencing a return on my heavy emotional investment into sports.

Also, yelling “LET’S GO” and exchanging hi-5s and mimicking touchdown dances are so much more passionate and exciting than reciting the Apostle’s Creed in a Gregorian tone.

Two mortal sins – sloth and idolatry – pulled me away from God’s house.

It’s been a couple of years and I’ve had time to consider joining a congregation again. After all, without the obligations of Sunday School, I’m free to attend a night mass at any parish in SF.

But I realized, I didn’t have any faith left. I can’t even pinpoint the moment when I lost it. When people asked me where I saw God, my cop-out answer was “I see God in other people,” which was a half-hearted justification to going to church primarily to see my friends. I never spoke in tongues, I never felt God in my spirit, and I never had a conversation with Jesus. I lost my faith the way I lost my teddy bear, I woke up without it one day and I didn’t try to find it.

That said, I still have respect for the Church. My moral code is also based off of many of Jesus’ and St. Paul’s teachings. Catholicism shaped me into the man I am today, and I have an unbreakable connection with the church.

Moreover, I haven’t morphed into an atheist. I still believe that there is a God. I don’t believe we’ll ever encounter his omnipotence due to his binding respect of humanity’s agency. I don’t really think there’s a set plan he writes with litigious detail, complete with bullet points and agendas. At most, God’s plan for us might include a few broad guidelines that we may potentially achieve with the gifts we’re born with.

But none of this obligates me to believe in all the ceremony and doctrine that I used to revere.

I don’t think that Jesus wanted to drive us to be good people by holding the threat of eternal damnation above our heads. If I read the Bible correctly, the majority of the passages are dedicated to extolling the reader to become a better person and a better neighbor. God shouldn’t be a driver in maintaining your decency, that’s your own damn responsibility. Life isn’t a game and morality isn’t a points system.

No matter what you hold sacred, the biggest principle is based on empathizing with your neighbor. Do right by him, regardless of whether or not he’ll do right by you. Ideally, everyone would do right by each other and the only violence we’d see would be in sports, like a safety running full speed into an unsuspecting receiver.

Now, if we can all join hands for a prayer.

Our Harbaugh, who art in Candlestick.
Hallowed be thy Defense.
Thine backers hit, thine corners pick
As Colin throws for seven.
Give us on Sundays, our workhorse Gore
And forgive us our Jenkins
As we forgive Baldwin in that stupid trade
And lead us not into turnovers
But deliver us our Sixth.

For ye are the Niners, the Red, and the Gold, forever and ever.

Amen.

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