Being a pre-teen in a school that practices Catholic values and principles wasn't easy. It always has this hold on you, wherein you know all of the prayers and every single thing you should recite during mass and what is right and wrong in the eyes of the church, and therefore, God. You are free, yes, but there's this hesitance you have before going into any decision.
During the sixth grade, I started questioning a lot of things. I felt like several of my decisions were pre-made for me, and even though I wasn't completely aware, I was being restricted. So I pored over books and documentaries, trying to find explanations to those concepts that seemed like there were more to them than what anyone in my immediate environment told me.
My heart and my mind often conflicted with the way they saw these things, and I felt so confused and so lost at that point.
Transferring schools did not make anything easier. I had to adjust to all these new people and the different system of handling school activities. I barely had any time to really think about how I felt towards certain ideas, and I let months pass without finding out what was really going on within me. There were the questions, but I pushed them aside for a while.
For the second year in that school, I had come to realize that I did not like the idea of religion or of anything having full control over the universe.
To me, it was a limitation that stopped me from seeing how some things really are. It influenced the way I viewed people and actions, without even considering how people became like that. I did not like how it drove people to judge and to make decisions that did not benefit anyone. It shielded me from accepting what should not have been viewed as wrong.
We had a religion class once a week then, and we were asked, "Would you choose money or God?" I was the only one who answered "none". I knew how both could affect someone's opinions and judgments, how both have their good effects and bad effects. Neither were completely good nor completely bad. Our teacher told me that I was just going through a phase, and that I should give it some time and walk the path towards God again. When she left the room, my classmates asked me to sit down and they pleaded me to come back, to believe again. A part of me screamed to never go back.
It took months to convince them that it wasn't bad. It was terrifying to think that I might be pushed away because of what I thought and how I didn't believe in what they believed.
So I was surprised when they approached and asked questions. What's it like to not believe in Him? It's nothing special, it just feels like I don't have to keep forcing myself to be a certain way just to get into heaven, if that exists. So where will you go? Nowhere. If I go, I go. As long as I know that I did good things in my life, I am okay with that. I have done wrong too, but that shouldn't be a basis on whether I get into a beautiful place of goodness or burn somewhere for all I've done wrong. Does that mean you believe in Satan? I do not believe in any deity or any portion of heaven or hell. I don't believe in anything but what has been proven and what I can see.
They were gentle, just asking and nodding and understanding. I explained that I respected other religions, their beliefs, as long as people would not judge others for theirs or even for the lack of beliefs. I was the first person in their lives to admit that I did not want to have a religion anymore. Little by little, they accepted it, and did not fail in loving me for who I am.