When I was 16, my best friend and I attended a retreat called:"Christ in Others Retreat." I did this mainly because my buddies parents would disappear one or two weekends a year to a local catholic high school, and when we asked why, all we got as a response was that "it's a secret". Turns out it was a place for troubled teens to go and talk about their troubles, and try to make friends with God and of course the others that attended. This was a Roman Catholic retreat.
Well after my first time, I would tell random people "God bless you" and other sayings. I was a depressed teenager, and this place was somewhere I could go to be with other like minded teens. Of course there were others there that had it WAY worse than I did, which made me feel better.
The second time around, I was asked to be a team member. That is where a depressed teen with a story to tell is planted. My story was that I was raped by my uncle as a child, it's effects on my family and myself. Well, the coordinators asked me to explain how God helped me get over that as the closing story for the weekend. Well the truth is, he did not, my parents, psychiatrist, and my own brain (the whole ordeal is nearly completely gone out of my memory, in fact I only remember still images of the court proceedings, I would actually give myself anxiety attacks as a child because I thought I lied about it in court.)did that. So I just made up some bullshit story which I can't remember because it was bullshit.
The third time, I was just one of the people in the back that would help cook meals and set up the weekend. Well the lead organizers had a priest come in to talk to us, a retreat within a retreat if you will. He told us about his life and such. Then I asked my questions: "Do you believe priests should be allowed to get married?" And: "Why are there no female priests?" He gave me the runaround, no real answers. He seemed to be offended by the marriage question, gave me the rhetoric about celibacy.
My friends parents "retired" from being the organizers, so I stopped going.
So then I get to my 20's, My parents became born again Christians, and started going to church again.
Fast forward to Xmas time. I asked my parents what they wanted for their gift(s), they said they just wanted me to go to the Xmas mass with them. I should have gotten them presents, but alas, I am a cheap man. So I had never been to this kind of church before, and I didn't really like it at all. The thing that bugged me most was this one woman across the church would yell after every sentence uttered by the pastor. Mostly she would say AMEN, or PRAISE GOD. Well that annoyed me, I was trying to listen, unfortunately it went on the whole mass. Besides that, it was going alright, until the pastor asked people to come be cleansed of their sins. That was weird, seeing people just drop to their knees and just beg forgiveness. As they were singing the closing song, I just sat in my chair, a little bored, when the lady behind me put her hand on me. Now, this might seem normal for some people, but ever since that uncle incident, I HATED being touched by someone I did not know. I walked out.
That summer, my parents offered me 300$ to go to this "Men's Retreat" at that church. Again, Mr. Cheap could not say no. Big mistake. At this point I was already leaning heavily to the non belief side of the coin. At this retreat, they had people who spoke. The pastor had cheated on his wife some years back, God saved him. One man was gay, God fixed that. Another was an alcoholic, God again. During dinner, I overheard conversations about President Obama being the Antichrist, gay people bringing about an impending apocalypse, real scary stuff to hear from people.
I had let it slip that I was being paid to be there, and that I did not really know what to believe. Unfortunately, many of the men there took it upon themselves to "save me". One guy my age told me that God has this golden book, and in it are the names of every person who will ever go to heaven. Stupid claims of course, but I was being bombarded on all sides here. Eventually I agreed to accept Jesus. On the final morning, they did a cleansing. I was standing off to the side watching, still skeptical. One of the pastors aids came up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder, and started praying in tongues, again, I hate being touched. I asked him not to touch me, which got this response, and I quote:"Why, are you possessed by the devil?" What kind of ass hole asks that? So I moved away from him. And that's when the golden book guy fell to the floor in convulsions as "the holy spirit" washed over him. I didn't know what I was seeing. I had an anxiety attack and RAN out of there.
I grabbed my massive duffle bag and started walking home. I called my parents, but I was pretty incoherent, just yelled pick me up or something. They did not. I started walking home, which was well over 20km away. I called my friend(same guy from way earlier in this story), he came and got me after he finally answered. As it turns out, he was an atheist, and explained that convulsions can be brought about by extreme emotional states. The brain is a confusing beast after all.
At that point, all question about it was gone.
I am an atheist.
P.S Thanks for reading. I am by no means an English major, I have been out of school for some time. If I made mistakes in my recounting here, I apologize. If you have questions for me, please feel free to ask. read