How Love Trumped God

(Via Erica)

Aside from sporadic Sunday church attendance in childhood, I was pretty much apathetic to religion or atheism until the age of 14. When I started high school, one of our marching band’s part-time assistants was a youth pastor at the church of Christ across the street from our practice field. He invited everyone in the band to football game “after-parties” at the church, complete with free pizza and a dunk tank inhabited by our associate principal, so I started going and got to know (let’s call him “Brandon”) pretty well. In the course of chatting, I mentioned some issues with my boyfriend at the time, and Brandon suggested I stop by his office after school some day to talk. This was the beginning of weekly chats that lasted the entire school year and a few weeks into my sophomore year.

We’d always start out talking just about life in general – my boyfriend and what sexual things we did or didn’t do (and Brandon would always point me to the most chastity-inspiring bible verses he could find), how school was going, whether or not I was contemplating suicide that week. He became a great source of strength for me in a REALLY rough time in my life. All of my best friends from junior high had turned on me and started harassing me that year for a meaningless incident that escalated due to pure peer pressure. Brandon even drove to my house in the middle of the night once when he thought I was seriously considering killing myself. I wasn’t, but I sure thought I was at the time. I had attended a few Sunday services and considered joining his church. I bought a study bible. I became close enough to his family to visit him and his wife in the hospital when their son was born on my 15th birthday. But the more Monday afternoons I spent in his office, the more our discussions turned to god, and the more our time was spent reading bible passages.

While these were comforting at first, I started to come to our meetings with lists of questions, and Brandon started pointing me to the bible’s answers. I had issues with a lot of these. Brandon would even joke that I was the exact opposite of most of his congregation – I could grasp the intellectual aspect of the religion, but had problems with the faith. Two points in particular caused cracks in my fledgling belief that would eventually lead to me rejecting religion entirely. First of all, Brandon’s church believed that women shouldn’t speak in church, and that they should submit fully to their husbands. Brandon pointed me to bible verses stating specifically that women are the “weaker vessel” in marriages. I may have been in a fragile emotional state and desperate to believe anything, but there was no way in hell I was going to swallow that load of shit. This answer, of course, led to the question, “what about gay couples? Who submits when there isn’t one man and one woman?” Brandon’s following statements about the sinfulness, vulgarity, and necessary christian intolerance of homosexual relationships are ultimately what led to my rift with religion. He understood right away that I had problems with this, and tried to remedy the situation by informing me that all major religions believed that homosexual relationships were wrong. This further weakened any hold I had to faith – because whatever I could suspend logic to believe in, I could never, NEVER believe in or have any respect for a god who would make any kind of mutual, non-harmful love a sin.

Pretty soon the school year ended, and I had the entire summer to research atheist as well as christian and all other sorts of religious websites. I had a few other trying personal and family issues that summer, all complicated by the fact that I was depressed, but I came out stronger in the end. I started 10th grade wiser (yes, you may laugh about the idea of a 10th grader being wise, but it’s a relative term in this case) and more skeptical. I still met a few Mondays with Brandon at the beginning of the year, but my schedule didn’t allow for our talks as easily. Over the next 2 years, my faith completely dissolved and led way to a zealous love affair with science and reason. As my depression was successfully treated, I came to realize how my state of mind had opened me up to ideas and beliefs that seemed utterly ridiculous to me when I was healthy. I learned how religion mirrors the cycle of addiction and codependency. I started talking very frankly with my parents, particularly my mom, about religion, and found out that they’d always been mostly agnostic too. They’d purposefully never shared their religious views with me or my brothers because they felt we should develop our own belief systems – a technique I will absolutely continue with my own children. Most of all I found it impressive that I’d independently reached a very similar position on religion to what my parents believed.

In college, my views were bolstered in the small, private liberal arts school environment, and probably also due to spats with my Catholic roommate. I joined the gay-straight alliance and became a very active straight ally, and fair legal treatment of lesbians and gays still tops my political priorities list. I’m a bit less irreverent now than I was in college, but my flippant preacher’s-son-turned-atheist boyfriend is doing his best to correct that. =)

3 comments:

Makarios said...

Life is quite a trip isn't it? I'm glad that you found the right treatment for your depression. That's a beast of an illness. Good luck on your journey.

Chimbles said...

Funny how quickly the tables have turned. What sparked the whole atheist panty bunching and is number 1 reason for their whining is that "religions are so in your face!" Well welcome to 2008, and it seems that its more of atheists that are in anyones face than the Mormons on their bikes. And the circle of useless dumbass'essness continues. I say all those religious freaks, and those so called atheists have too much time on their hands... Please go to the mall parking lot or your local park to pick up some garbage, then you will be truly doing some service to the society.

Andrew said...

"I could never, NEVER believe in or have any respect for a god who would make any kind of mutual, non-harmful love a sin."

I LOVE this line!

God is love...as long as you meet the requirements of enough fine-print red tape to make any corporate lawyer envious, that is.