How I Lost My Religion

in steempress •  2 months ago

A lot of religious scholars would tell me that my struggle was part of God's plan, and still is part of the divine path set out for me. I’ve never been a fan of allowing others to take control of my actions. People tell me that my psychiatric illness was part of how I was brought up and nothing to do with how I am now. That there are forces beyond my control that I just can’t blame myself for.

See, this is why religion doesn’t sit well with me. At some point I’m going to have to recognize that my own actions impact on other people, right? Else we’d be in a world where we can do anything without feeling the need to be responsible for it – don’t blame me, it was my upbringing.

My Dad dated a highly religious woman before his death, and she was only dating him because she thought he had money. Spoiler, he didn’t. He drank and squandered it all years beforehand but because he knew how to walk the walk and talk the talk he was able to fool many people into thinking he still had considerable means.

The religious lady didn’t seem to feel any sense of guilt at all screaming down the phone at me three days after his funeral asking where her "cut" was – and this was someone that deemed herself to be religiously sound. A woman of high moral character. According to her.

I firmly believe that we should all be accountable for our own actions and in giving my power to something higher; but believing my choices are mapped out for me, my life plan has already been laid out for me, takes away a good part of my personal strength. I like to believe that everything I do, believe and say is part of my own path. This is my strength; knowing that I have full control over myself and the way that I conduct matters; no-one else.

I went to a very religious Roman Catholic High School. I remember my first day there as if it were yesterday. I hadn’t been given the idea of God, or Jesus, or anything like that – as far as I knew the only person that I answered to was my Mum.

That was until it was demanded of me that I pray. I recall at school we had to pray three times a day. Before lessons started, before lunch, and before we went home. Usually, it was a Hail Mary and an Our Father.

Obviously, you can understand how crazy this all seemed to a boy that had never been introduced to the idea of God yet was now being asked by his teacher to clasp his hands together and pray. For the first lesson I sat there and watched everyone, but the second time I was caught and asked to, “get on with it”

Fast forward two years later and I'm behaving as if I was highly religious; praying four times a day, once before I went to sleep – just to wish everyone well in my family, and those less fortunate than myself. This wasn’t my choice you see, and it was something that I questioned heavily in later years; if God was all knowing and all seeing, why would he want children to be indoctrinated into his belief system? Why wouldn’t he just let them all find faith through journey and self-discovery?

I remained religious until I fell into bad times. Until I hit drugs and drank heavily and ended up in a psychiatric institution. I always wondered why an all-seeing benign entity would allow me to go through some of the most traumatic instances I’ve ever had to endure in my life.

Why? That was the start of my doubting. Let’s call me a doubting Thomas for the time being.

Yes, I was a typical doubting Thomas. I remember picking up the bible in Psychiatric hospital and trying to read it from cover to cover; I found it to be filled with inconsistencies and hypocrisies. I think I managed to get to Exodus before putting it down, looking for another avenue to explore answers.

I certainly wasn’t going to get them from the Bible. I realised school liked to cherry-pick parables and stories. We were never encouraged to read the entire text.

As time went on and my drinking grew heavier I began to less and less believe Christianity, until several years later when I was on a better path my [now] wife finally said to me,

“Why don’t you grab some books and search for answers?”

So that’s what I did. The first thing I did was learn about the time of Christ, the classical era, the Roman Empire, the Greeks, et al. I read fables, I read history, I even went as far as to learn what effect their culture has on the modern world today. It was quite an era of journey and discovery.

By then I had lost my religion; I was angry. I was bitterly angry that I had lost my Daddy in the sky. I had imagined him as a gentle old man watching benevolently over me as I trundled through life; something I never had with my real Dad, so I was bitter inside, really bitter that I had lost the closest thing to a father I ever had.

I took to the internet to shout at religious people and how their crazy ideologies had resulted in thousands of years of suffering. I even went as far as refusing a voluntary spot in the community because of the religious motivations it had. I was devastated. I was internalising my anger and projecting it out onto people that had never done me any harm whatsoever.

Eventually, I got over myself, though. It was part of the grieving process, anger. I finally moved into the realms of acceptance.

People should be allowed to believe in what they believe. My ideas shouldn’t infringe on those that have different views and beliefs. To say that my perspective of the world was the gold standard on everything would be incredibly Narcissistic and self-centered. So, I moved away from that train of thought.

I began inviting people into my life with different opinions. I began trying to understand all walks of life even if what they believe in goes against every fabric of my being – their beliefs are still relevant to them, and in some way valid. Because to form such beliefs they would have to be molded into that person by events, society, social circles, etc.

I always like to mess a bit with the local Mormons that knock on our doors to spread the word of Jesus. I invite them for conversation – I tell them that I believe the message of love that Jesus preached, but why is the man who said it more important?

Why is the person who spread the message of love and acceptance more important than love and acceptance? You can have love and acceptance in your life without religion or a Messiah, no?

It always throws them because they don’t know how to respond.

See, I agree with them, essentially. I just don't believe in religion.

I lost my religion, and I’m engaging in the most incredible act of rebellion one could undertake. Loving myself and others around me when the whole world is saying I should hate and be angry.

I don’t.

I choose to be happy.

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