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I've moved past religion

By Aaron ~

I need to get this stuff off my chest where some adult out there will hear me and not act like I can't think for myself. I've been a Christian for all of my life and I don't feel connected to religion anymore.

We'll start at the beginning:

My parents divorced when I was 3, although they work together and maintain a strong bond. They'd take me to church most sundays, but usually my mom would consistently take me. My dad was pretty lax about going to church, and he still is.

I went to Catholic elementary school, where every day before class would start, there would be a daily prayer talk in the gym with something or other about God and Jesus and salvation, etc. As you can guess, when you're 6, you'll basically believe whatever grown ups tell you. How could they possibly be wrong? They wouldn't lie to you right?

So from when I was 6 to 12 I went to Catholic school. We went to church during the day once in a while, and my friends and I would talk about God very often, although we really didn't talk more than "Wow, God made all of the earth and the animals!" What would you expect from elementary school students?

I was baptized when I was 7 in a Methodist church, but for some reason my mom (who remarried) and my stepdad decided to go to the Catholic church that was across the street from my school instead. I'm still not really sure why we didn't go there in the first place.

After elementary school came junior high. Going to public school, I finally learned that not every single person believed in God, just like how I learned not everyone liked Green Day. I felt kind of weird telling people that I was a Christian, but after a while it sort of made me feel like I had a moral high ground over my non religious peers.

Some of my friends I would ask them if they believed in God, and if they said no, I would give them crap and tell them they needed to convert or they'd go to hell. What a tool I was. I still regret telling some people stuff like that.

In 9th grade my mom and stepdad decided that I should start taking confirmation classes if I was going to be confirmed into the Catholic Church. So that started. It was here that I started having my first flickers of doubt.

The teachers at our confirmation classes were usually nice people, but at one of the first few classes, I remember one of the teachers, a guy who was probably in his 40s or 50s, saying, "Now kids, there's a lot of sin out there. And gay people are very open about being homosexual. Some people say, 'Come on, it's 2008, why should we care anymore?' but the thing is, God's word doesn't change. We shouldn't change, and we can't suddenly become accepting of gays or their lifestyle."

After he said that, I thought, wait, is he saying God doesn't love gay people too? Why would God make people the way they are if he's going to not love them? Just to clarify, as Christian as I was, I never once honestly thought that gays were bad. I was up front in telling my parents that in 9th grade, and while my dad was fine (one of his best friends is gay), my mom didn't care for it. She didn't want to think that gay marriage would ever exist.

The confirmation classes continued, and with them, the more doubtful of God's infallible word I became. We weren't supposed to be nice to gays, we weren't supposed to care about rape victims, and we had to read some parts of the bible that were basically just stating "God's going to kill you because you're different than me" for a few hundred pages. They also taught us about mortal sins vs regular sins, and how many normal sins adds up to a mortal sin, and this stuff that basically sounded like life was a video game and the ending goal was to get a ticket to heaven by having a certain number of points.

By now I was telling my mom this, and she wasn't agreeing with the way my teachers were preaching to us. She didn't do anything about it, but I didn't think she really could. My dad didn't care either way.

If I stayed a puppet to my teachers' beliefs, I would have been confirmed when I was in 11th grade. I told my mom that I didn't think I wanted to be confirmed, but every time she asked me about it, I got very scared that she would yell at me and make me do it. She never did. I never got confirmed and I never will.

In senior year, I was losing it for a while. I had formed a band with my four closest friends, three of which were atheist. The other one is a Christian, but he's very lax about it, and he doesn't really believe that anybody goes to hell. We've both grown. We used to talk crap about Darwin and now we love talking about space and science. My friends were helpful to me because they never pushed atheism on me, and I didn't know how to feel about my beliefs. I basically kept telling myself that I didn't fully agree with Christianity, but Jesus and God were definitely real, as was the promise of salvation.

In January of 2012, I was very confused. I kept thinking about how I didn't know if I actually believed in the Christian God and Jesus, and no matter what, I had that gnawing thought in the back of my head that I was going to hell for thinking this way. My gosh, I would never subject a child to believing they'd go to hell and burn for eternity if they weren't religious enough.

Then suddenly, something hit me. A realization, if you will.

I thought, "God is supposedly omnipotent. He sees past, present, future. If he is omnipotent, that means he knows everything I'd ever do or think, and therefore I have no free will. Supposedly God is all knowing and I have free will. But if I have free will, that means God doesn't know what I'm going to do. So he's not omnipotent. It's one or the other....

...And If I do have free will, and God gave me the capability to choose my own actions and think great thoughts with my capable brain, and then he is going to damn me to an eternity of suffering for simply thinking a certain way, why in the hell would I ever want to believe in that?"

It hit me fully then that religion is driven by fear. I knew it before but I'd never thought about it so much until then.

For the rest of senior year and the summer I thought that what I had experienced was a very extreme moment of atheism. I told myself I was an agnostic for a while.

Freshman year of college came and I made many new friends. I took a biological anthropology class, which, for a good chunk of the semester, taught about evolution. I enjoyed it so much. I loved learning about factual evidence instead of being told "God did it, believe it or burn." Science brought me more joy and appreciation for nature than religion ever did. Billions of years of careful evolution was an incredible feat instead of one week of "poof, I'll create the world with a wave of my hand, but I won't save anyone suffering on it!" Science never claimed to have all of the answers, but why would I want them at such a young age? My goal was to grow and learn and adapt and change for the better, instead of staying unflinchingly rigid and stagnant for my entire life.

I met this one girl who stalked me a bit, and she happened to be a very conservative Christian. Once this past December I remember talking to a friend of mine, who is an openly gay atheist, who was night hosting the front desk of my residence hall, and that girl came over. Instantly she started talking about big hot topic issues for some reason.

"What do you think of gay marriage?"

No. Don't bring this up. Please, I thought.

My friend said "Well I'm gay, so... yeah haha"

She responded, "I just..."

No.

"I don't think it's right. The bible says it's wrong. And the government shouldn't have to make it legal."

I was astounded. I simply could not believe that a person would go up to a homosexual and tell them TO THEIR FACE that they shouldn't be allowed to be married, because "the bible" says so.

I looked right at her, and I said to her, "The bible is not the constitution. Stop treating it like it is. If your God exists, didn't he make everyone equal? I believe no human being is born better or worse than any other human being. It's people like you who make me not trust Bible Belt state governments to decide whether or not a large group of HUMAN BEINGS should be allowed to get married. We're a secular country. Deal with it."

My friend looked at me and smiled, and gave me a fist bump. The girl shortly left after that.

I was infuriated by that event. The arrogance of people like her drove me insane. I felt so bad that she had been force fed religious propaganda like that and she didn't try to think for herself.

Over Christmas break I started having some more realizations. I used to be offended when people made jokes about God, and now I actively seek them out. I listen to music that blatantly tells me religion is wrong and I find influence in it. I did not feel bad for liking what I liked and thinking what I thought. I kept telling myself I needed to let go of religion, and after a while I think I did to an extent. I told many of my closest atheist friends how I felt and they helped me through my transition, so to speak.

I caught wind from a friend that is still in high school that some kids were holding a prayer rally in January outside of their school, to get "God back in schools". What a load of crap. My in-highschool friend is openly gay, a socialist, and a devout, devout atheist. On facebook the two guys running the event invited him to enjoy a new experience to get closer to God, and he kept joking towards them and telling them how God didn't exist. I used to want to defend them. Instead I egged him on.

They kept comparing being homosexual to being a murderer, and kept telling him to "end your wretched ways". It was funny, because I saw older adults who were ganging up on my one, 17 year old friend, telling him he was going to suffer for all of time after he died. I didn't join in, but he has such a sharp wit and facts to back him up that he kept destroying their arguments.

It is not February and I am 19 years old. I'm still in freshman year, and I've made a close friend who does not believe in religion. We talk all the time about how we think aliens exist, the vastness of space, and psychological wonders like astral travel and the like. I have nearly completely given up on the Christian ethic. I do not completely not believe in a god or higher being, but it is definitely not the Christian God. Having so many ideas with my friends about life in the rest of the world and different planes of existence and evolution make me feel so free to believe whatever I want and seek out truth in reason, rather than being shackled by the illogical chains of a belief I can't even believe in.

I am so afraid to tell my parents. I may wait until I am older. If any of you have advice for how or when to tell my parents, that would be much appreciated. I was planning on telling my dad this week, because I believed he would be more accepting, but after he gave me shit about believing in aliens, I decided I would wait.

I feel so happy to have been able to share all this to people who might actually listen. My friends help me so much but sometimes I truly worry about how my parents will take it, especially my mother. I don't want her to be sad and think I've been lost forever, but she's more reasonable and accepting now (She supports gay marriage now).

I've been holding this in for years, and finally I was able to share it. Religion was a step in my life that I look forward to moving past with eyes on the future. Thank you for your time. :)


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