The Vanishing of Belief


My aunt Gloria loved to tell the story about my baptism. The christening was on a hot June day in 1952. Her husband was my godfather. He wore Marine officer whites and a smile. Uncle Jack was glad to be back from Korea. The priest recited the rites and my aunt said as soon as he mentioned Satan that I started bawling like I was possessed by the Devil.

“You didn’t stop crying until you were out of the church.”

My aunt was a good Catholic as was my mother. They sent their children to Our Lady of the Foothills to educate us in the Ways of the Church and I had entertained an avocation for the priesthood until my best friend drowned in Lake Sebago. Chaney was a good boy. No god should have let him die, however my friend had perished without any divine assistance and I rejected the existence of god from that day on.

I was 8.

I refrained from telling my mother about this apostasy. She would have been devastated by my atheism and I acceded to her wishes that I serve as an altar boy at our local church.

“Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be a priest like your uncle.” The priesthood was a favored destination for second sons.

“Maybe one day.”

But there was no chance that I would regain my faith. My soul was lost to heaven and hell. My godless spirituality was a secret to friends and family for years, since most Americans couldn’t get their head around the idea of life without religion. Non-believers were considered heretics to be avoided by the faithful until President Obama recognized non-believers in this inauguration speech.

We were on the map and neither the Vatican nor the Baptist ministry could deny our presence in the modern world. Our numbers are estimated to be about 15% of the US population and our ranks are growing so fast that the Vatican has proposed a meeting in Paris between believers and non-believers, although I can’t see any reason for dialogue with our persecutors.

They can go their way and I will go mine.

A man at peace with the cosmos.

We are not alone.

We are together.

Humans and the stars.

For I was only crying at the Baptism because I was rejecting not only Satan and all his deeds, but god and his too.

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