I grew up in northern Italy, in a Catholic household. For us, as for many Italian families, being Catholic was a matter of tradition rather than of faith. When I was young, I attended catechism in Milan, received my sacraments, and believed in God. But my parents did not teach me to practice a Catholic way of life. They did not practice themselves. They divorced when I was very young. We attended Mass only at Christmas and Easter, according to the Italian tradition.
I went through rollercoaster teenage years. I was rebellious in the way teenagers are, which means conforming to the world—the world being post-Christian Europe. At first disregarding religion, I then began to reject it actively. When I left Milan to attend university in London, my attitude and behavior toward religion remained the same.
My rejection of the faith was due in part to the formation I had received in school. From my teenage years, I liked to study philosophy and literature. Though I studied Christian writers like Dante, the curriculum focused on thinkers who questioned Christianity. I took a course called “Philosophy of Religion,” which was taught by a teacher who displayed a complete contempt for faith in God, to the point that one of my religious friends once exited the classroom crying. At the time, I saw that as an overreaction to a sound argument.