One thing that I really admire about how my parents raised us kids is their unity in decisions. In my house, we could never get around the decision of one parent by approaching the other; we knew that what Mom said, Dad held to, and vice versa.
Perhaps because of their consistent solidarity, it was all the more noticeable that Dad did not attend mass with us, except at Christmas and Easter. My parents fully agreed to raise us in the Catholic tradition, and my father would never let me get out of going to any religious activity that my mother deemed necessary, but his absence spoke volumes more than his verbal assent. If Dad didn't need God, then why did I? Once I was considered old enough to responsibly sit in mass without any parental supervision, my parents would send me along without either of them. By then it seemed clear to me that religion was a bunch of rules my parents wanted me to follow but which they themselves had no use for. That ticked me off.
I also attended CCD (Catholic education classes once per week), where I learned the basic doctrines of the Catholic faith. I was a good student, and I always knew the right answers. But I knew nothing about God. I never thought about him, except when forced to listen to sermons or lessons that taught about God's greatness and my terribleness. I would sit in mass, hearing about how right Jesus was and feeling like he was kind of stuck up. Not the kind of guy I'd want to hang out with.
Even more than that, though, was the incredible disconnect between what I was being told God wanted from people and what my family was actually like. I distinctly remember being in 1st or 2nd grade and feeling confused about why my parents wanted me to learn anything about God at all. I just didn't understand what value they saw in pretending to believe in a god that obviously did not exist. If God was so powerful, then why did my mom worry so much? If God was so loving, then why couldn't my parents express their love to me?
I remember telling my mother, sometime around the age of 7, that I didn't believe in this god that the Catholic church talked about and that I no longer wanted to attend mass. She was shocked, upset, and, I am certain, quite angry with me. Even though it seemed to me that my mom didn't have any use for God, she clearly expected me to continue the church-going tradition and keep up the appearance of obedience to religion. She told me that I had to go to church until I was confirmed (in 8th grade); after that, she said, the choice would be mine. This deal only furthered the hypocrisy I sensed - what was the point of getting confirmed (expressing my assent to the Catholic faith) if (a) I knew I didn't actually believe it and (b) I knew I'd leave the church right after the ceremony?
But that was the rule, and I had no choice but to follow it. So I spent the next 6 or 7 years acting like the perfect Catholic student and all the while laughing in the face of God.