As a child of a family closely involved in and even employed by my parish, the church significantly influenced me during my formative years.Unfortunately, I have to regard it as a trial by fire, rather than as an upbringing. Discrimination against my mother by our pastor and other parish faculty resulted in a quite literal excommunication of both of us. While the church as an intangible entity has always been good-intentioned in my mind, the engine driving the people who wield it as a tool has always been flawed. I learned this after my experiences prompted me to take a more honest and critical look at Catholicism and competing spiritualities of all flavors.After years of inspection and introspection, I resolved upon the understanding that all the good times, all the learning experiences, all the camaraderie and education, and all the moral qualities I assimilated came at the hands of good people, not of church doctrine. The people responsible for the positive aspects of my catholic upbringing would have been equally valuable to me without catholicism guiding them, and in fact the only times that people around me failed in their basic goodness was when a misunderstood or outdated christian ideal nudged them away from their natural compassion, in order to conform to obscure ethical confinements, and in some cases pardoning them for unfortunate biases.This awareness, bolstered by a hard-earned scientific understanding of the mechanisms of this remarkable universe, affords me the ability to revere and respect humankind and all life on this planet without appealing to the double-edged sword of a deity who both created us and constantly hinders our ability to grow into a mature global family.At the end of the day, I find that the church is simply a bad means of being good; one that gets in the way of its goals, and one that our species would be bettered by casting off its vestigial traditions and confinements. Only after we grow out of religion can we achieve our true potential.