Until I was about 19, my parents made my sisters and I go to church every week. They were catholic, which means so were we officially. I guess I still am according to the church’s records, but whatever. I don’t know how many of you have had the “pleasure” of sitting through a catholic mass, but I want to take you through a sensory journey into my experiences.
The churches I went to were actually fairly visually pleasing. There are always many stained glass windows depicting saints, which I found fascinating to look at because they usually show a medieval scene, and they sometimes show what that particular saint was famous in the church for. The stage area where the priest and whoever else makes speeches/presentations is littered with altars and candles and other things that have been used by the church for hundreds of years. Going to a catholic church is like going to a museum. The only complaint I have is depictions of a bloody and nearly naked Jesus hanging on the cross, which the catholic church is big on. It’s supposed to inspire reverence, but for me it just inspires disgust.
This means dealing with the ears, though when you say it, it’s hard to not sound like you’re saying “oral”. Oh well. When I went to church, it was usually in the morning before I’d properly woken up, and often before I’d eaten breakfast. As a result, my hearing was quite sensitive. One of the less pleasant features of a catholic mass is the singing of hymns by the whole congregation, which to the sensitive ears of an aspie is torture. “WAAAAAAAAAWAAAUUUUUWAAAUUUAAAAAWAAAAAAA” That’s what it sounds like. And don’t get me started on the nonsense that the catholic church expects everyone to believe. It’s so ridiculous, I should include it in the smell category too.
A catholic mass is full of interesting smells that wouldn’t be bad on their own in small doses, but in overwhelming amounts, they are awful. First you have the perfume and cologne worn by the parishioners, which is often overzealously applied. I think they do it so nobody can tell who the person is who put on too much perfume. When it’s everybody, you can’t really point a finger at anyone in particular. Then there’s the incense, the worst smell culprit. I’ve smelled incense that was very good, but for some reason the catholic church has decided that the holiest incense smells like burning tires.
Fortunately, I was never molested by a priest. That is because I was not an altar boy. But I did have to spend an hour or so sitting still, standing up, sitting still, standing up, kneeling, standing, sitting, kneeling, and then standing up one more time just for good measure. I don’t remember the exact order of it, but expecting a little kid to play Simon says before he’s really awake is cruel and annoying.
The only thing I liked about going to church was that sometimes we would get to go to a different room after mass and have donuts and punch that they provided. When I was 12 or 13 I did communion, which means eating the wafer that’s supposedly magically transformed into the flesh of Jesus and optionally drinking the wine that’s supposedly magically transformed into the blood of Jesus. The wafers were tasteless but had a decent texture, and I was never into wine, so I stopped going for that soon after I started. But really, what a disgusting ritual. Of course, the catholic church didn’t invent cannibalistic rituals, just like they didn’t invent most of their dogma. They stole it from pagans.
Of course, it wasn’t any of this that drove me to atheism. It was when I actually started listening to what the priest was saying during his speech time, or homily, that I started seeing problems with christianity. We aspies tend to be brutally logical, and when someone stands in front of me and spouts idiotic absurdities, I just can’t help but raise an eyebrow. A perfect and infinitely merciful being is willing to torture me forever unless I believe that he took human form and allowed himself to be murdered? I’m not an idiot. I can’t believe that.