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Religion Has Turned Me Into An Atheist

Religion Has Turned Me Into An Atheist

I abandoned my traditional Catholic upbringing decades ago to explore other facets of my spirituality. I, like so many others, believed there must be a place in the ephemera where I could find a home for my non-corporeal being. Where would I end up after this life is over?

I explored metaphysics and reincarnation. I searched for myself in Buddhism, and found myself trying to align with Eastern philosophy. All of these gave me insight and expanded my mind when it came to how I saw myself as a spiritual entity. I took a little away from each but found that I was the prodigal sheep in the flock. I just couldn’t commit fully to any one of these belief systems or their tenets.

Not only was I being bullied at school, on the street and in my home…the one place I was meant to find sanctuary was nothing more than a house of pain.

Over the years, I would find myself toiling in the mud of my Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t like my parents were particularly religious or that we went to church every Sunday. We were ‘lazy Catholics’. However, what stuck with me through my life was the cloying fear and guilt that is imparted to Catholics: “Jesus died for your sins!” “We are all sinners!” and so on and so forth. What great foundations on which to build one’s self-esteem.

As I got older and realized I was gay, things really went off the rails. It’s always fun to watch some guy in a dress hurling homophobic invective at you. Not only was I being bullied at school, on the street and in my home by a very judgmental father who knew deep down I was queer but the one place I was meant to find sanctuary was nothing more than a house of pain.

Pope Benedict XVI implied that gay people are not fully developed humans because we cannot create families under the laws of the church.

Shedding the layers of guilt and self-loathing that comes form years of verbally violent vitriol is next to impossible. There is no way to get out of that without carrying lifelong scars. No matter how much salve I put on my wounds, they never entirely scabbed over and healed. And how can they with the constant barrage of unfathomable foolishness that the so-called God-fearing Christians and Catholics vomit up on a regular basis. Lately, the Catholics have been in overdrive—both in the Vatican and in Toronto—when it comes to bashing gays. To wit:

Recently, in a speech, Pope Benedict XVI implied that gay people are not fully developed humans because we cannot create families under the laws of the church. He said the values of family and marriage must be obeyed as they “permit the full development of the human person.” Therefore, by extension of the fact same-sex marriage and same-sex families are not permitted or recognized by the Vatican, gay people are not fully human. Way to share the love of God, you shriveled up, ex-Hitler Youth protector of pedophiles.

This, of course, is just part of a long and seemingly unending case of verbal diarrhea the Pope excretes on the masses when it comes to gays (we’re evil, a threat to humanity, and so on and so on). But what do you expect from an organization that is built on perversion of scripture to instill fear and loathing in their flock. Of course, it doesn’t just start and stop with the issue of gays and lesbians. Women have been hard done by when it comes to religion: everything from being unable to serve as priests to being oppressed intellectually, sexually, physically and legally.

If the Catholic School Board wants to get involved in shaping the laws of the land, they must give up their tax-exemption status and start paying the Piper.

Close to home, in a story reported in the Globe and Mail, there is the possibility of a constitutional challenge to Bill 13 which is anti-bullying legislation that makes provisions for gay-straight alliances in all Ontario public schools, including Catholic Schools. Ever since the legislation was tabled—and subsequently passed into law—the Catholic School Board has been challenging the gay-straight alliance section of the bill as it is an affront to their beliefs. In essence, they are giving tacit support to bullying queer kids.

If the Catholic School Board wants to get involved in shaping the laws of the land, they must give up their tax-exemption status and start paying the Piper. That means they don’t get public money to support their schools. As far as I’m concerned they can call the Vatican and ask them to open their significantly stuffed coffers. As a gay man, I am doubly offended that not only does the Catholic Church openly discriminate me against but also my tax dollars go to support their archaic stance on homosexuality—a stance that causes irreparable harm to queer youth.

Farther afield is the Theatre of the Theologically Insane in the United States. There seems no end to the righteous waving the Bible around and using it—pretty much exclusively—to bash LGBT people. Not only is it coming from the pulpit, it’s coming from those already in or running for public office. This constant bullying, spreading of lies and convenient twisting of scripture causes incredible emotional, psychological and physical harm to the people in the line of fire.

I almost feel sorry for religious zealots who are so mired in the quicksand of hate and fear that they likely don’t know the freedom of acceptance.

Maybe I’m not totally an atheist. I am, however, farther away from any religious belief system now than I have ever been in my entire life—and I don’t feel the pull that will bring me closer. This does not break my heart. As a secular human, I feel freer to love and accept people with far less judgment than I may have as a religious person. And yes, we all judge on some level. The difference is that if I judge someone, it’s on their individual merits, not a blanket, all-consuming judgment that is rigid and dogmatic. In a strange way, I almost feel sorry for religious zealots who are so mired in the quicksand of hate and fear that they likely don’t know the freedom of acceptance. Well, almost, but not quite.

Recently, I went to a concert by k.d. lang. As usual, she sang with a voice that is so pure, so passionate and so transcendent that it almost felt like a religious experience. There were moments where her voice was so all consuming, I could not feel my feet touching the floor. Ironically, it was this song that made me walk on metaphorical water:

photo credit: Kanaka Menehune

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Andrew Vail’s writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites.


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2 Comments

  1. I think the happiest day of my Dad’s life was when I was 10 or so and my mom asked me one Sunday morning if i wanted to keep going to church. I said no. They gave me the option, went for a few years, mostly for my grandparents, but when they felt i was old enough they asked my little logical self what I would like, and general feeling was.. what’s the point? If I’m being a good person but some supreme deity demands servitude, well I don’t have time for that. Pretty deep thoughts for a 10 year old.

    And my dad got to sleep in from then on. But! They gave me the option, a chance to see both sides (yes, im baptized, confirmed, confessed and somehow didnt burst into flames), but ultimately let me make my own decisions and nothing was shoved down my throat either way. I think more people should be let make up their own minds, not force fed till they can’t help but believe something that goes against what their first true impression was.

  2. As a former Muslim raised in a traditional Sunni home, your writing made so much sense to me–I must have been 15 when I gave up on religion. It just did not square with my sexuality as a queer individual, and the idea of us-versus-them seemed pretty hateful, rather than loving and peaceful. I was an atheist for a while, then an agnostic, and now I’ve stopped worrying about labels–being indifferent to religion means that I don’t hate it–nor do I love it. Again, great writing! 🙂

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