It has been almost five years since I relinquished my attachment to religion, Jesus and god. It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of time, effort and pain. I was a Catholic. Then I was a Christian. Followed by I was unsure. Then I was an atheist. And that period went from when I was 14 and ended when I was 19. At 19, I became free.
However, let me go back and describe me before the catalyst. I was 13/14 and I was a very good Catholic of sorts, went to church with the family every Sunday and I believed. I was an altar server and when I prayed, it was sincere and with loving trust in God and Jesus.
Now since I was maybe 11 or 12 I had been aware that I had attractions to other boys. But I just pushed them to the back of my mind. Because I believed they were wrong and sinful (although at the time I didn’t know exactly what sinful mean I just knew it was bad). But when I was 14, those thoughts rushed forward to the front of my mind because I fell in love with one of my best friends and he introduced to the world of gay sex.
The “Homosexual Lifestyle”
Now for a 14-year-old Catholic who was discovering his homosexuality, this was terrifying. I was committing what I saw at that to be one of the greatest sins of all. I mean just think every day we see different Christian leaders criticising the “homosexual lifestyle” and I struggled with that. And I mean seriously struggled. I prayed every day to forgiveness. Even maybe like an hour after having sex with him. Sometimes in the bathroom immediately after. I was racked with the horrible guilt that plagued me for years.
It didn’t help that during my Religious Education lessons I discovered that almChristianhristian denominations, particularly Catholics, Anglicans and Methodist see the act of homosexuality as a sin against God. This drove me insane. I was not only lying to all my friends and family about what I was doing, but also being told that the love I was feeling (and still denying at that age) was a crime against the God who was meant to love me. This sent me on a very dark and downward spiral that resulted in four years of hell that was filled with betrayals, fights, heartbreak and close to depression.
All of this mental regressive self-torture resulted in one of my first realisations(albeit a false one). Organised religion has nothing to do with God. Now this revelation helped me recover slightly from the mental torture I had been inflicting upon myself because of the Catholic raising I had experienced. I decided to split God from the religion of Christianity and Catholicism. This meant that I could be one to one with God without needed to go to church, or read the bible or listen to any homophobic preacher say I was being a sinner. Because I was able to persuade myself that God loved me and had created me so why would he create me to then be hated for what he made me.
Except this didn’t last for long. Maybe a year. But it was at university that I realised that I had been moronic. The idea that God of the bible could exist outside of organised religion is foolish. Now I could take the view that there is some supernatural power and become a deist. But for me it was either I believe in the god of my parents or I find another path. And that is when I had my epiphany.
I discovered a great man. He made me realise that I was forcing myself to believe in a God because my parents had raised me so. But my reading his work and watching him speak and debate and basically destroy any religious supporter who challenged him, I realised that I no longer had any belief that god existed.
Atheism saved my life
I have said this before and I will continue to say it until I die. Christopher Hitchens saved my life. Atheism saved my life. Because if I had remained a christian, it would have clashed with me being gay, driven me further into depression and taken me to place I never want to go.
When I realised I no longer believed in God, I felt free. I’ll use the cliché that a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Since then I have become exceedingly comfortable with who I am and what I believe in ways that I would never have achieved if I had remained chained to a religion.