Your Religion No Longer Bothers Me.
Every human being to ever walk the earth has wondered, “Why am I here? What happens hereafter?” Some of us follow one cosmology or another, some of us reject them all.
We fight over what’s right and what’s true.
Who’s to say what should be believed? Our search for meaning is universal. It’s crucial for a species that does not inherently know the answer. It’s frightening and tragic. We find solace in our own understanding. Without it, we can feel lost, confused, and alone.
Consider that each one of us must embark on this journey. Let us recognize how delicate and personal that journey is. We should show compassion, not criticism.
I spent a great deal of time searching for my truth while simultaneously trying to destroy the truths of others. I became hypocritical, naïve, and hateful.
It took me far too long to realize that dissension is not caused by religion itself, but by those who are unwilling to leave the beliefs of others alone.
I grew up Roman Catholic. I went to church every Sunday and gave up something each year for Lent. I read the Bible and prayed by my bed. I dressed in altar-boy attire and kept a shiny rosary in the back corner of my top drawer.
Still, I envied my friends who were just Catholic enough to go to church during Christmas and Easter holidays. My father’s response was always the same, “When you turn 18, you can decide for yourself.”
As if to rub it in his face, I remember telling him to leave without me the first Sunday after my birthday.
The waning of my own faith
It wasn’t until after high school that I began to question my religious upbringing in its entirety. A history degree in university taught me a thing or two about religious impact on the past, and, though historical accounts may be biased, it did open my eyes to a timeline beyond the Catholic scope.
I began digging deeper, in my own search for understanding, reading books from well-known atheists and watching documentaries of the anti-religious sort.
I remember the exact moment I stopped believing in God.
was sitting in my car, picking up a friend. I had been thinking about God-knows-what (no pun intended) when suddenly a thought flashed through my mind. It was not so much a thought as a declaration. Because of what I believed to be true, it was only logical that there could be no God. Thus, there could be no Heaven or Hell. Thus, when we died, that was it. My life was suddenly pointless!
That scared the shit out of me. My stomach churned, my heart sank. The realization ate my soul and left me wondering if I’d ever had one at all. I wasn’t sure what to do. I barely noticed my friend get in the car.
Years later, I’m as far from Catholic as I could ever be. My search for truth and meaning has been long and puzzling, and one I will elaborate on no further. What’s worth discussing are the realizations I’ve acquired from clashing swords with the religious type.
My battle against religion
The more I strayed from Catholicism, the more hostile I became. The problem was that I couldn’t stop talking about it. How could I? My life had turned upside down. At first, I needed validation, comfort, consensus. But it didn’t stop there. My arguments grew scary eyes and sharp, poisonous teeth. I wanted to let the world know that I knew better, and they could too.
I made no progress in my quest. My assaults on their faith were met with stone-hard defiance. Any discussion of it in my household easily led to vicious disputes. I certainly did nothing to convince the poor couple giving out brochures at the flea market. I realized it was futile to convince people of my truth. I became angry at them and frustrated. I judged them for being so close-minded.
Eventually, I realized how irritating I’d become. Instead of helping people, I chased them away. Instead of spreading my message, I screamed my point of view. My truth was set in stone.
In my fighting days, I’d accuse religious people of two things. The first was of how naïve and narrow-minded they could be. The second was of their crude agenda: pushing their beliefs on people who didn’t ask for it. I hated religion because of it. But as I sit here today, writing this, my perspective has changed.
I do believe those criticisms have merit. I believe some people embody them almost entirely. But what I discovered is that the things we hate about others are generally things we are guilty of ourselves. We all have our own truth. Sometimes that truth changes, sometimes we adopt new truths. Regardless, that truth is ours alone.
This is not absolute, but there does seem to be some conception amongst atheists that they’re the victim, the little guy, fighting against the oppression of the evil religious tyrant. It’s crucial, to them that any and all religious authorities stop trying to force their dogma down our throats. And you know what? They might be right. Perhaps there is truth in that, and perhaps we need to be aware of it.
But we also need to be aware of the hypocrisy in ourselves.
I put my sword down a long time ago. I came to accept that all people, religious or not, believe certain things about the world, and that’s okay. My hunch is that, more often than not, those beliefs aren’t hurting anyone. We are all on our own journey to understand the truth of life and ourselves.
Our need for purpose and guidance is universal and personal. It is such a delicate thing, and unless we are seeking answers, it should be left alone.
Justin Bedard is a freelance writer in the cold depths of Alberta, Canada. He writes to blab, and to blab is his nature. He’s a hedonist, an idealist, and lives for the aha moments. You could contact Justin via his website.