“What if God is just an idea someone put in your head?”
I was raised in a household largely neutral on the subject of religion. I went to church only a handful of times in my youth, and never in the company of my parents. I even had a brief flirtation with evangelical Christianity in my early teens, at the urging of my sister, who had recently converted. Other than these fleeting experiences, I hadn’t given religion much thought. As a gay man, however, the attempts of the corporate-driven political machine to strip me of my civil rights, my humanity, and in some extreme cases, my life, led me to examine this mythology that holds so many of my fellow citizens in its grip. At the age of 30, I “came out” as an atheist.
My familial roots are much more religious than my upbringing would lead one to believe. My mother sings the old gospel songs she learned at the knee of her father and still blanches with learned disgust at my frequent and colorful taking of the lord’s name in vain. My father’s family are deeply and fervently religious. His descriptions of their physically exhausting sermons are burned into my memory as if I’d seen them myself. This image of a room full of people lost in religious ecstasy is always at odd with my few interactions with my father’s family, who are cold, unemotional, distant people. One of my sisters went through a religious conversion in her mid 20’s, but her experience for me is forever linked with her similarly timed psychiatric break, from which she has never fully recovered.
After my dalliance with Jesus in the late ’80s, my spiritual track record becomes a bit spotty. I declared myself a Buddhist after seeing “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, I declared myself a witch after I saw “The Craft”, I dated a satanist, and even got into crystals and astrology. All of them seemed slightly…silly. I could never shake the feeling during prayer or chanting that I was talking to myself.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s, and the rise of George W. Bush and the religious right, that I really decided to take a look at this religion, and all religions. I read the Bible, eager to find the kind, humanist Jesus I had heard so much about. Imagine my surprise to find a book packed with vicious passages about men being asked to sacrifice their sons, bizarre dietary restrictions about seafood and pork, and a Jesus who is so clearly schizophrenic, that I can’t imagine why anyone would believe a word of it. After finishing the Book of Revelations, a horrifying acid-trip image of the end of the world, I closed the book, dumbfounded. How could so many people believe this nonsense? With all we know about the world, about science, how could so many still be fooled?
It got no better in the other religions.
From the abysmal treatment of women in Islam (which isn’t really that much worse than in other religions, only more obvious), to the ridiculous idea of karma in Buddhism, these were all just stories told by simple people to explain things they didn’t understand. But how had these myths survived when so many had crumbled and been lost to history?
All of these religions have been used to rule over people, either through or with the blessings of, government. By teaching people at a young age to never question these words, these ideas, you innoculate your power structure from its worst enemy, curiosity. It became so clear to me, there is no God. Just saying seemed powerful like I was shaking off a heavy wet blanket. There is no god.
I am NOW an Avowed atheist and an Active Campaigner for Complete Separation of Church and State.
I respect the rights of people to choose to believe whatever works for them, but we should not be making policy decisions based on things that cannot scientifically be true (virgin births, etc.). I look forward to a day when, as a people, we rise above the need for simple explanations, and see the true wonder, the natural wonder, which is all around us.