Stopping was harder than I thought. Impossible, in fact. Which got me thinking - I can’t be the only one with this problem, right? Surely there were other Catholics terrified of going to hell for committing a mortal sin, right? Wrong. No one else ever discussed it or seemed to care. Again, I’m in the maze, population: me.
Pretty soon I get to thinking - why does God care so much about this? Surely I’m not hurting anyone. This is what is known as “picking at a thread”. Pretty soon, the stifling sweater of Catholicism that I had been wearing for so many years started to unravel. Why would God send people to Hell? Why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? Good things to happen to bad people? Annoying things to happen to average people?
Once I got my driver’s license, I got the privilege of deciding when I went to Church. Since missing it is a no-no, most Catholic churches are magnanimous enough to give you a lot of choices of when to go. I remember sitting in my parent’s 1986 Chrysler Lebaron, not wanting to go in, but being convinced I would go to hell if I didn’t. I have no idea why it never occurred to me to skip and go to Confession instead - if the subject had been brought up, I probably would have voiced my concern that God might see through such shenanigans and send me to hell anyway. One of the caveats for Confession is that you have to be truly sorry. Gotcha!
Eventually, I went off to college. Uh-oh, I hear the conservatives say. College - the place where innocent minds are exposed to New Ideas, which are almost certainly not Correct. I discovered the Internet, and discovered Usenet newsgroups (a forerunner of today’s web forums) and found that I wasn’t the only one with questions. In fact, some people had more questions than I did - like did God even really exist? Offline, I also made friends with people who had the same sorts of questions.
I didn’t go to church once in college (I may have gone a few times when I went home, I don’t remember). About midway through the year, I announced to my parents that I was an agnostic.