I was raised in a nominally Catholic family and went to Catholic primary school. I don't recall going to church very often, except having Mass at school, and during important times and probably before and after my First Holy Communion.
Then I started going to church regularly. Everyone else at school did, and I felt I didn't really belong because they were all part of the Catholic 'in-crowd'. Even though I had, for as long as I can remember, believed very strongly in the tenets of Catholicism, much more so than my family and friends. Anyway, that stopped somehow or other.
Throughout this whole time I had always believed and been interested in my religion.
Then, as I recall, when I was about 12 or 13, I really started thinking for some reason about who I was. I had been at my (secular) secondary school for a couple of years, and was the only one from my primary school. Most of my new friends were not particularly religious and, for the first time, the majority of the people around me were Protestant (culturally at least). To this day I haven't found any horns on their heads...but I'm still convinced they have them.
So I decided that I was Catholic. That was a huge part of my identity...being an only child who was born in America and moved to England at age 4 and was raised by my American dad and second-generation Irish family (who never saw, or see, eye to eye) after my mum died when I was 5, I guess I needed to cement my sense of my own identity. I had to start taking my religion seriously. And I did. Very seriously.
Then what followed was what I like to call "the years when everyone else was having fun and I was having a guilt complex". Then, when adolescence got into full swing, it became more and more difficult not to 'sin'. So that meant the next 2 years or so involved me going to Confession over 100 times. I was something of a Confession-junkie. There are a number of things teenagers can't avoid that the Catholic Church says send you straight to hell.
Then, when I went on World Youth Day in Germany in summer 2005, something started to click. Something about my 'Catholic' friends.
a) They drink more than my secular friends.
They have more sex.
c) They take more drugs.
d) They don't even go to church that much.
So I started to think 'what's the point?'...then after a few months I gave up going to church. Then I gave up going to Confession. I needed a break, because I was going to go insane and probably start hating myself to the point of being at risk.
When you feel numbed by the whole process of listing your sins every week, and you finally end up sitting there saying: "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It's been a week since my last confession and I've drank ______, smoked ________, watched _______, said ________ and snogged _________" and don't actually care, it's truly boring.
After a good six months or more as a 'Catholic on sabbatical' (as I liked to say), I made a shot at it when I was on a retreat I'd joined up for before I 'deconverted'. It didn't work.
I realised I didn't believe it anymore...I could actually see where everyone else was coming from. I stopped calling myself Catholic. After reading The God Delusion, I realised I don't have to be ashamed of not being part of an organised religion. And now I'm not an atheist as such, but a seeker who is definitely not going back to organised traditionalist religion.
As much love and respect as I still have for Catholicism, religion in general, my family, my history, my fantastic old parish priest, the Church, Catholic culture, art and tradition, I don't really believe it. I'm a cultural Catholic, which, as I was telling my mates last night in the pub with a pint of Guinness in my hand, means, "I drink and I don't like Protestantism."